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XCAM Ltd  

Northampton, 
United Kingdom
http://www.xcam.co.uk

Brands: XCAM uses a NewSpace approach and designs and manufactures CCD and CMOS digital imaging cameras for CubeSats, sub-orbital rockets and small satellites.


 Press Releases

  • Following successful trials of a prototype sensor, space-tech company XCAM is working with ESA to develop a flight-ready device that monitors dust contamination on payloads during and shortly after launch.

    The device will provide data to demonstrate whether or not precious cargos – such as Earth-observing satellites – stay clean on their way into space.

    Payloads are protected from the elements within a secure capsule in the upper part of launcher called the fairing. Once outside the Earth’s atmosphere, the fairing separates, exposing its contents to space.

    The fairing is at the top part of this Vega rocket

    Cleanrooms protect spaceborne equipment from contamination during assembly, but vibrations and shocks during launch may shake up residues in the fairing that can affect how the payload operates.

    Dust particles can contaminate optical surfaces, such as those found on Earth-observing satellites, as well as affecting the performance of sensitive mechanical equipment.

    XCAM’s sensor keeps track of contamination remotely to provide continuous measurements in real-time.

    XCAM’s prototype monitoring device

    The company is now working with ESA to develop a device that will be used in the fairing of the European Vega-C launcher. The gadget must be able to withstand the mechanical loads of launch such as acoustics and vibrations – and then survive in space for long enough to relay data back to Earth for analysis. 

    It will enable satellite launchers to provide evidence to their customers that payloads are kept spotless on their way into orbit.

    “It was fantastic for XCAM to work on such an exciting project with ESA at the prototype stage, but to have been able to go beyond that, and win the contract to develop the flight qualified system is even better,” says Karen Holland, chief executive of XCAM.

    “Following these achievements, XCAM has recently received several highly prestigious awards nominations for our work in the field of digital imaging systems. As a very small company of just 15 people, we are very pleased to be recognised by the awards judges.”

    “Because of the very peculiar contamination mechanisms it presents, and the lack of monitoring inside the fairing, the launch phase is somewhat of an unresolved question for contamination engineers – which makes control of particulate very challenging,” says Riccardo Rampini, technical officer for the XCAM project.

    “With the development of a novel sensor capable of operating before and during launch, which will provide real-time information on the particulate inside the fairing of a launcher, ESA will soon provide a solution to this problem.”

    See the full ESA press release covering the item.

  • A cold atom cloud suspended in a magneto optical trap (MOT) has been successfully imaged by XCAM’s C3D CubeSat camera system. The captured image shows the cold atom cloud as the bright spot at the centre of the image, produced using the University of Birmingham’s miniature MOT system, with XCAM engineers working alongside a team from the UK National Quantum Technology Hub in Sensors and Metrology. The cold atom cloud is formed from rubidium atoms held within a vacuum chamber using a combination of lasers and magnetic fields to cool and trap the atoms. This represents an initial milestone for collaborators of the Cold Atom Space Payload (CASPA) project, led by Teledyne e2v, which aims to reduce the size, weight and power of such a system such that it is compatible as a 6U CubeSat payload.

    The experiment controller board developed by XCAM for the CAPSA cold atoms cubesat payload project was successfully delivered to the QT Hub for Sensors team at the University of Birmingham by XCAM engineers Friday. The experiment controller was fully functional upon its first iteration with all control modules and current sources operating as intended.

    This signifies another key milestone achieved by XCAM in relation to the Teledyne e2v led, Innovate UK-funded project. Other key subsystems which will eventually make up the cold atom payload are under development, to be integrated with the XCAM controller soon. Therefore a series of operational tasks were performed in order to simulate the signals from the other subsytems and test the experiment controllers ability to read back the measurments and acquire images via XCAM’s existing TRL9 C3D imager (successfully delivered previously in the project), as if the cold atom experiment were fully operational. Teledyne e2v engineers were present to witness the testing and brought an ion pump controller along which the experiment controller was successfully able to operate and return a pressure value for.

    This represents a significant achievement for the XCAM team having successfully delivered a complete working system in just six months since the specification for the CASPA payload was finalised. The work XCAM engineers undertook included drawing up a circuit schematic, getting the PCB circuit board designed and manufactured, testing, and integration with the existing C3D imager controller. The C3D imager controller will also undergo further development to a new version based on the previous system flown on the AlSat Nano CubeSat mission, and will be deliverd in 6 months time with the final system delivery. These developments include updated components, increased on-board memory, a USB 2.0 interface for fast and easy lab testing, and a faster SPI over LVDS interface which will allow C3D to capture and transfer images in video mode.

    The CASPA project aims to develop a 6U cubesat payload capable of producing and maintaining a cold atom experiment in space with the potential to measure tiny changes in Earth’s gravitional field. Read more about the CASPA project in our previous article here.

    For more information about XCAM’s C3D cubesatellite imager please visit the C3D product webpage, or visit the contact us page to submit an enquiry.

  • A bespoke headboard, designed by XCAM to drive a custom CCD image sensor for the Ultraviolet Visible Near-infrared (UVN) instrument aboard the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-4 satellite mission has been successfully delivered to ESA. The mission aims to monitor trace gas concentrations and aerosols in the atmosphere from a geostationary orbit above Europe, in order to support the provision of real-time air quality and climate monitoring as part of the European Commission (EC) and ESA's Earth Observation Programme, Copernicus.

    Following intial discussions between XCAM and ESA to understand the scope of the work, a proposal was generated outlining the specifications and work to be undertaken by XCAM for successful delivery of the headboard.

    The work which was carried out began with XCAM designing, in conjunction with ESA, the mechanical format of the headboard, the technical specification and requirements of the headboard, and the associated cables required to interface to the cryogenically-cooled test chamber and the Archon controller which was to be used. Next XCAM drew up the headboard circuit schematic, and after approval from ESA, designed the printed circuit board layout for the headboard. After manufacture of the headboard and all cables, XCAM used a grade 5 detector, loaned by ESA, to design the sequencer program which operated the clocks of the detector, and to test that all aspects of the system were fully working. The system, once fully tested, was delivered to ESA with a test report detailing operation of the system.

    The delivery of the Sentinel-4 headboard represents a continuation in the design and supply of bespoke image sensor headboards for space applications by XCAM, following previous successes such as headboard design for ESA’s Euclid mission. Contact XCAM today to discuss how we may be able assist with your CCD- and CMOS-based imaging solutions.


 Products

  • C3D
    C3D is a 1,2 or 3 imaging sensor low-cost camera system for CubeSats and SmallSats. It can be used for PR purposes, Earth Observation or spacecraft deployment monitoring etc.
    Datasheet - http://www.xcam.co.uk/sites/default/files/MKPU-XCAM-MS-00011.pdf...

  • C3D Camera
    C3D is a TRL 9 CubeSat camera system with proven flight-heritage having flown on both the UK Space Agency’s UKube-1 and AlSat Nano missions. The camera configuration is highly flexible with the ability to operate up to three camera heads per imager board. Imaging options include near- and far-field imaging, in RGB colour or black & white. C3D may be customised to cater for customers’ individual requirements.
    • Space-flight heritage since 2014
    • Wide-field imager (WFI) camera optics
        ‒ Up to three cameras per imager board
        ‒ Cameras can be co-aligned cameras for stereo or to allow for different specifications
        ‒ Near- and far- field imaging capabilities
       ‒ Colour and black & white sensors available
    • Lossless image compression
    • Compatible with 1U+ format cubesatellites
    • Available as both engineering and flight models
    • Applications include earth observation and spacecraft deployment monitoring
    • Custom options available - enquire for more information 

    Datasheet - http://www.xcam.co.uk/sites/default/files/MKPU-XCAM-MS-00011.pdf  


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