Sep 11, 2009

The GLXP Panorama in One Shot

White Label Space team member Nathan Britton recently undertook a research project at our Partner the Tohoku University Space Robotics Lab in Japan, on the design of a panoramic camera system for our Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) rover. Panoramic cameras use a curved mirror to capture a full 360 degree image. An example of such a mirror and the image it produces is shown below.

This approach is a more mechanically simple configuration than a camera system that incorporates pan-tilt mechanisms. Mechanical simplicity is highly desirable on space missions since it reduces the number of failure modes and the effort during design and test of the hardware, ultimately reducing the cost of the GLXP mission.

The objective of Nathan’s project was the preliminary design of a panoramic camera system that can fulfill the GLXP mission requirements for a full 360 degree panoramic still shot at peak resolution and at least 60 degrees vertical with minimum peak spatial resolution of 0.3 milli radians/pixel.

In order to satisfy the spatial resolution requirement with a mirrored panoramic camera an imager with a resolution of over 75 Megapixels would be required. A commercial supplier was identified for a space certified, ultra-HD CCD with 9216x9216 resolution.

A commercial supplier was also identified for a curved mirror to take full 360 degree panoramic shots with a 75 degree vertical window.

Using these two hardware options, the (average) spatial resolution can be calculated as;

150deg * (_/180) = 2.618 rad
2.618 rad / 9216 px = 0.000284 rad/px
0.000284 rad/px = 0.284 mrad/px

This combination of hardware therefore exceeds the GLXP requirement for spatial resolution (0.3mrad/px).

Nathan, pictured in the image at the right, has a double bachelors degree in Information and Computer Sciences and Japanese from the University of Hawaii, and has now completed his Master of Space Studies degree at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. His research interests are Artificial intelligence developer for robotic exploration vehicles, Human-Computer Interaction and Game Programming. He is fluent in the Japanese language and is currently studying French and Russian.

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