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View of the Earth from AlSat Nano satellite
View of the Earth from AlSat Nano satellite

XCAM blasts off with space image sensor controllers

Case Study – Long-term collaborative relationship with Open University drives development of next-generation image sensor controllers for XCAM

How The Open University has collaborated with XCAM to drive the development of its next-generation image sensor controllers for space

XCAM blasts off with space image sensor controllers

XCAM specialises in providing innovative Charge Coupled Device (CCD) and Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS)-based solutions for challenging high-performance imaging applications.

One of the company’s strengths is in providing bespoke CCD camera systems using its library of camera system sub-assemblies combined with wide ranging expertise related to the design of the cameras. The company particularly specialises in the design and manufacture of cameras for vacuum applications and large-area, multi-detector solutions.

Product development for space satellite missions

Back in 2011, the Open University was awarded the opportunity from the UK Space Agency to build an experiment for the UK’s first cubesat, UKube-1. The University and XCAM, based in Northampton, collaborated to develop the experimental imaging system. XCAM designed and built the camera controller and students and staff from the Open University built the rest of the instrument (called C3D – the Compact CMOS Camera Demonstrator), performed qualification testing and it was launched by the UK Space Agency in 2014.

Following on from this, as part of an education programme at the University of Surrey Space Centre, a 3U CubeSat, AlSat Nano, was designed, built and launched in 2016, again by the UK Space Agency. After the success of the first mission, the Open University again turned to XCAM to upgrade the camera controller for the 2nd generation of the camera, dubbed C3D2.

Benefitting from University engagement

Karen Holland, CEO of XCAM Ltd, says: “Since we initially worked on C3D, our long-term relationship with the Open University has created a new business area for XCAM and has driven our development of next-generation space image sensor controllers. The work on C3D and C3D2 gave the first launch opportunities for XCAM’s systems, providing ‘in-orbit demonstration’, or IOD, for XCAM’s products.

“They’ve introduced us to new customers and we’ve generated a great deal of interest for our CubeSat imaging systems. As well as securing some significant orders, we’re now bidding to develop image sensor controllers for a range of global customers, including NASA-funded projects.”