Networking Benefits in Harsh Environments

Pleora video interface technology provided networking and cabling benefits in the Orbital Boom Sensor System (OBSS) used to monitor the structural integrity of the NASA space shuttle.

The OBSS was mounted at the end of a 50-foot robotic arm that inspected the space shuttle’s thermal heat shields. The OBSS allowed crew members to visually inspect and measure potential defects in heat tile areas located on the shuttle’s nose cap, wings, underside and crew compartment after each lift-off and before each landing.

The OBSS system included multiple high-resolution Camera Link cameras and Pleora’s Camera Link to GigE Vision external frame grabber. The external frame grabber converted the video feed from multiple cameras into a GigE Vision-compliant image stream. The high-resolution, uncompressed images were streamed with low latency — along with power and control data — over a single Ethernet cable directly to a laptop used for image processing and display inside the shuttle.

Employing Pleora’s video interface technology helped designers deliver a highly reliable, easy-to-use imaging system. The flexible, extended-reach Ethernet cabling could be used in the rotating robotic arm. Streaming video directly to an existing port on a laptop reduced component requirements and eliminated complex system set-up. Crew members controlled the OBSS imaging system via Pleora’s eBUS software.

The enclosed camera and external frame grabber imaging system was designed to meet strict performance requirements from NASA, and underwent rigorous temperature, shock, and vibration testing before it was approved for use in the mission-critical inspection application.

The OBSS was first deployed on the Discovery Space Shuttle’s July 2006 mission and was flown on every mission until the retirement of the fleet in 2011. During the Space Shuttle Endeavour mission, the OBSS imaging system captured more than 1500 high-resolution images to assess damage after a piece of insulation gouged a heat tile on the underside of the orbiter during lift-off. Following an in-orbit repair the shuttle safely returned to Earth.


A diagram of Pleora's In-orbit Inspection application


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