XCAM To Develop Earth Observation Camera Systems For UKSA

5th Oct 2023
XCAM To Develop Earth Observation Camera Systems For UKSA

XCAM has received £200,000 of funding from the UK Space Agency (UKSA) to design Earth Observation camera systems. UKSA’s Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI) gave the green light to develop a “New Space ultra-low-light camera” for a range of UKSA and commercial EO instruments. 

XCAM is having a good year, funding-wise. The CEOI go-ahead arises after an ESA contract was granted for a particle contamination monitor. They also received a prior £279,000 from UKSA to develop in-space imaging solutions. For the CEOI project, XCAM has received considerable backing from BAE Systems, who will create the sensors for the imaging system. 

XCAM CEO Karen Holland said in a press release: “we welcome this valuable grant funding and the partnership generated with BAE Systems which will lead to an increase in sales for our unique specialist camera systems into our global export markets.” 

Creating Camera Systems for UKSA’s CEOI

XCAM will develop an imaging instrument for CEOI that will offer a range of EO capabilities. This includes mapping the polar ice caps, tracking thermospheric wind speeds, and monitoring the effects of solar induced fluorescence. XCAM said the camera system will pave the way for further developments in multispectral imaging instruments with “very high resolution”. CEOI will have the capacity to integrate the ultra-low-light cameras with various EO satellites in order to capture visible and near-infrared wavelengths. 

Collaborating With Bae Systems & Open University

Accompanying technology from BAE Systems will also be developed, including a high frame rate sensor. Open University’s Centre for Electronic Imaging will also radiation test the up-screen technology to ensure its ready for in-space application. Whilst working on the CEOI system, XCAM is simultaneously developing an X-ray instrument in collaboration with Open University and ISRO. UKSA pledged the grant funding for the joint project as part of their International Bilateral Fund.

Past & Future In-Space Applications

For future space application, Holland said: “[with UKSA funding] our camera system will transform the performance of compact space imaging cameras leading to new ways of monitoring our planet from space.” Over recent years, XCAM has been actively developing a CMOS detector for Michigan Aerospace Corporation’s EO missions. Jane Pavlich, president of Michigan Aerospace Corporation, said the detectors: “will measure neutral winds in the thermosphere from a 6U CubeSat.”

The UK-based camera developers are also playing a part in NASA’s Wind Cube project. XCAM previously collaborated with Penn State University on an imaging service for their sounding rocket. Holland told Orbital Today: “it’ll be in space for about 200 seconds, maybe collect a thousand photons and it’s testing out a new type of diffraction grating that’s never been tested in space before.”

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