This development is a follow-up to a first R&D study that has been conducted between the two partners in 2015. It will be held over 14 months, and flight models are expected to be available beginning of 2017.
The camera module will feature a 4Mpixel colour CMOS sensor, of high resolution-enough to provide good data while staying within a reasonable communication budget for power-constrained space applications. 3D Plus will receive the space qualified CMOS sensor from the CNES (who will perform thermal cycling from -55 to +125ºC, radiation exposure and vacuum tests) and integrate it with an FPGA, memory, power supply and custom circuitry, all previously space qualified, into its signature cubic form factor.
The whole module will then go through another space qualification process, which the company admits represents the longest part of the development for such products. But it hopes to offer the final module off-the-shelf and competitively priced, designed to be universal enough to find its way into other space applications such as for example star trackers on board small satellites.
For the Mars 2020 rover mission, the camera module will be installed in the SuperCam scientific instrument developed by Los Alamos Laboratory and IRAP (CNRS / Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France). It will provide imaging, chemical composition analysis and mineralogy in rocks and regolith from a distance. The module will also be deployed on-board EYE-SAT, a nanosatellite developed by the CNES for earth and zodiacal light observation.
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