NUTS - NTNU Test Satellite, a Norwegian CubeSat Project

Design & Test of Camera Module NUTS

Written by: Magnus Haglund Arnesen
Published: 19.11.13

The goal of the NUTS project is to take images of earth with an infrared camera. If we don’t succeed in time with the infrared camera the backup plan is to have a visual camera. 

The primary goal for the NUTS project is to bring a payload with an infrared camera. If this fails the backup plan is to use a visual camera to take pictures of earth.

The first assignment in this project has been to find a suitable camera for the project. It was a lot of requirements, some of them were:

  • CMOS, for low power
  • Low weight
  • Image size
  • Transfer protocol
The camera is a small and compact VGA (640x480) resolution camera. It supports JPEG compression on the module and Truecolor (RGB24) in raw format. The interface of the camera is SPI, which is compatible with the On-Board computer (OBC) in the satellite.

From research we have concluded that the CMOS image sensor is the most suitable, because of the low power and decent picture quality. CCD uses more power, but can take a bit better pictures, and because of a strict power budget CMOS is the best choice. The transfer protocol needs to be a known and efficient protocol to minimize I/O pin usage. Due to a slow communication link we need to have image size that is not too big to transfer down to earth. The JPEG compression can minimize the data even more, and we could probably get more pictures down at once.kamera
Figure 1: The camera

By programming the OBC to capture images we have been able to display the images on a computer. 

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Figure 2: The first picture ever taken with the camera, RAW RGB24 image

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Figure 3: The second picture taken with the camera, JPEG image