JPL scientists ask industry for CubeSat camera able to take color images of near-Earth asteroid

PASADENA, Calif., 20 Feb. 2014. U.S deep-space researchers are asking industry for ideas on how to develop space-qualified cameras for CubeSat spacecraft. CubeSats, which will be launched on deep-space exploration missions, measure 10 by 10 by 10 centimeters, and are about the size of large softballs.

Officials of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., earlier this month issued a request for information (MJ-14-01) for the CubeSat-Sized Science Camera project, which is seeking potential electro-optical contractors to provide science cameras for a CubeSat for use on a future deep-space mission.

JPL is part of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and operates under a prime contract to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Washington.

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The JPL's CubeSat-Sized Science Camera project is trying to judge current manufacturing capabilities and get a rough order of magnitude cost and schedule estimates to develop a science camera for a CubeSat.

The primary goal of the project is to develop a CubeSat camera to take scientific images of a near-Earth asteroid. From the CubeSat camera, JPL scientists want geological mapping of the asteroid at regional and local scales, volume estimation, rotation characterization, and colors. Operational goals have not been released.

The CubeSat camera should be ready to demonstrate in space per a technology readiness level (TRL) of 6 or higher, and should be ready for low-risk flight mission qualification. The CubeSat camera also should have a nominal lifetime of 2.5 years, and be able to minimize geometric and chromatic distortions.

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JPL space scientists want a CubeSat camera that is smaller than half a liter, or no larger than the entire CubeSat, which takes up one whole liter. The camera's should be no longer than 13 centimeters, weigh no more than 1.1 pounds, consume less than 3 Watts, and have a field of view of at least 15 by 15 degrees.

The camera should be able to image in the 400 to 900 nanometer wavelength, take pictures at least as quickly as three frames per second, offer windowing capability, and have resolution at least as fine as 10 bits per pixel.

From companies JPL scientists want short descriptions of product candidates, mass, physical dimensions, preferred operating temperatures, raw data outputs, and any flight heritage.

Companies should email responses no later than 5 March 2014 to JPL's Michael Jacobs at Michael.H.Jacobs@jpl.nasa.gov, with Science Camera RFI Response in the subject line.

Email questions or concerns Michael Jacobs at Michael.H.Jacobs@jpl.nasa.gov. More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/NASA/HQ/OPHQDC/MJ-14-01/listing.html.

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