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NASA Looks to Thermal-Imaging Camera in Space

Sept. 21, 2023
The miniature Boson thermal camera imaging module from Teledyne is being modified by NASA for takeoffs from Earth and measurements in the void of deep space.

Engineers at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center have learned to adapt a thermal-imaging camera for use in deep space and then survival upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. The miniature Boson thermal camera module from Teledyne FLIR provides accurate temperature measurements of thermal energy, even in the vacuum of deep space.

By performing clever packaging modifications, NASA’s engineers have enabled the module to survive the vibrations of liftoff into space and then the high temperatures upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. The Boson thermal imaging system is capable of 640- × 512-pixel thermal resolution.

NASA is modifying the thermal camera module to withstand shock, vibration, high radiation, and extreme temperature cycling as found during placement beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. The module has been exhaustively tested and qualified to technology readiness level number 8 (TR8) and may be a candidate for thermal imaging in applications within harsh environments on Earth, including in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

In its first test, the module (see image above) will be part of a NASA low-Earth-orbit flight test of an inflatable decelerator (LOFTID/IHAD), testing the unit’s inflatable heat shield during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. The module will be mounted behind the heat shield to measure heat generated in the infrared (IR) spectrum as the shield descends back into the Earth’s atmosphere.

About the Author

Jack Browne | Technical Contributor

Jack Browne, Technical Contributor, has worked in technical publishing for over 30 years. He managed the content and production of three technical journals while at the American Institute of Physics, including Medical Physics and the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology. He has been a Publisher and Editor for Penton Media, started the firm’s Wireless Symposium & Exhibition trade show in 1993, and currently serves as Technical Contributor for that company's Microwaves & RF magazine. Browne, who holds a BS in Mathematics from City College of New York and BA degrees in English and Philosophy from Fordham University, is a member of the IEEE.

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