NASA demonstrates Mini AERCam

Engineers at NASA‘s JohnsonSpaceCenter are making progress on a tiny spacecraft that holds major promise for future exploration.

The volleyball-sized Miniature Autonomous Extravehicular Robotic Camera, or Mini AERCam, is designed to help astronauts and ground crews see outside a spacecraft during a mission.

During ground-based testing, the device, which is just 7.5 inches in diameter and weighs 10 pounds, was able to work with a docking system that serves as an exterior home base for housing and refuelling the nanosatellite.

NASA believes that the Mini AERCam could provide beneficial on-orbit views that can’t be obtained from fixed cameras, cameras on robotic manipulators, or cameras carried by space-walking crewmembers. For Shuttle or International Space Station missions, Mini AERCam could support external robotic operations by providing views of spacewalk operations to flight and/or ground crews and carrying out independent visual inspections.

Inside the craft is a rechargeable xenon gas propulsion system, a rechargeable lithium ion battery, custom avionics based on the PowerPC 740/750 microprocessor, and  “camera-on-a-chip” imagers with video compression and micro electromechanical system gyroscopes.