65th International Astronautical Congress | UrtheCast To Select Providers of ISS Cameras Soon

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TORONTO — A Canadian company that operates two cameras on the Russian segment of the international space station said Sept. 30 it will soon select a provider for optical and radar instruments it plans to install on a U.S. space station module in 2017.

Wade Larson, president of Vancouver, British Columbia-based UrtheCast, said the company is in the final stages of evaluating proposals for the system. “We will be announcing the contractor team in two to three weeks,” he said at a press conference the company held at the 65th International Astronautical Congress here.

One of the instruments in the system will be a camera capable of taking images and video at visible wavelengths at resolutions as sharp as 0.5 meters. The other is a synthetic aperture radar that can operate at L- and X-band wavelengths simultaneously.

UrtheCast announced in July plans to install the optical and radar instruments on the station. The company is working with Houston-based NanoRacks, which will be responsible for arranging the launch and installation of the cameras on the station’s Node 3, or Tranquility, module.

As planned, the instruments will be delivered to the ISS in the unpressurized cargo trunk of a Space Exploration Technologies Corp. Dragon spacecraft. The station’s robotic arm will then install the instruments on an unused docking port on the Tranquility module. Much of the instruments’ electronics will be accessible from inside the station, Larson said, limiting their exposure to the space environment and making them easier to repair.

UrtheCast installed two optical cameras, offering medium- and high-resolution images, on the Russian segment of the ISS early this year. The medium-resolution camera is working well, but the company delayed commissioning of the high-resolution camera because of issues with the camera’s pointing platform.

Larson said that problem is being corrected by using the camera’s gyroscopes to improve its pointing accuracy, and that the camera will begin commercial service in December.