A tiny satellite with a GoPro Hero 7 action camera mounted on a ‘selfie stick’ took its first self-portrait in space, with an immersive view of the Earth in the background, US-based company NanoAvonics said Tuesday. Lithuania, which develops space equipment.
The 12-megapixel photo and 4K resolution video show the MP42 microsatellite, launched in April aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, flying 550 kilometers over the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef along Australia’s far northeastern tip.
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“The reason for taking photos and video clips with the Great Barrier Reef in the background is partly symbolic. We wanted to highlight the vulnerability of our planet and the importance of observing satellite Earth, especially for monitoring the environment and climate change,” explains Vytenis J. Buzas, co-founder and CEO of the company.
NanoAvionics explained that they had chosen consumer cameras because typical aerospace engineering cameras lacked sufficient resolution, were expensive, took months to develop, and could not always provide an in-depth view of Earth. For a GoPro to work in space, it has to be disassembled ‘to the bone’: engineers build housings for electronics, build ‘selfie sticks’ and develop control electronics and special ‘software’ for communicating with systems from satellites. They also tested it to show that it could withstand the harsh environment of a rocket launch, as well as a vacuum and enormous temperature changes.
In addition, NanoAvionics uses cameras to test and verify the operation of its new satellite and payload controllers, which are designed to optimize downlinks for applications requiring onboard processing of large data packets.
“In addition to receiving telemetry and technical reports, being able to access live images and video from satellites is useful for visually confirming the deployment of antennas and other usable structures, and for ongoing fault detection,” said Ernestas Kalabuckas, chief technology officer. “Comparing selfie images over time also allows the detection of visual clues about possible material degradation or micrometeorite impacts,” he added.
Specialists note that satellites in low Earth orbit can detect and monitor chemical spills, illegal fishing, forest fires, plant growth, as well as track and ultimately help save endangered animals.
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