Status Report

NASA Solicitation: Visible and IR Camera Systems For Low Earth Orbit, GEO, and Interplanetary Spaceflight

By SpaceRef Editor
May 5, 2014
Filed under , ,

Synopsis – May 02, 2014

General Information

    Solicitation Number: NNG14FA94RFI

    Posted Date: May 02, 2014

    FedBizOpps Posted Date: May 02, 2014

    Recovery and Reinvestment Act Action: No

    Original Response Date: May 23, 2014

    Current Response Date: May 23, 2014

    Classification Code: A — Research and Development

    NAICS Code: 541990

Contracting Office Address

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 210.S, Greenbelt, MD 20771


NASA is seeking broad information to update its market research regarding previously flown camera systems, systems currently in development for other non-NASA missions, as well as future camera technologies that are relevant to spacecraft missions in A) Low Earth Orbit (LEO), B) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO), and C) Interplanetary Orbits (IO).

In accordance with FAR 15.201(e), the information requested is for planning purposes only and is not intended to bind the Government.

1. Background:

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) has undertaken several studies to identify the required technologies to complete satellite servicing endeavors at a variety of orbital destinations (LEO, GEO, and IO). Of particular interest in these studies is the availability of visible and infra-red camera systems suitable for long-term space missions. Early results of the various studies have shown that a visible-light camera with a pre-defined interface, a large focal plane array, and a commercial lens mount can become a flexible camera system used across a spacecraft for several different applications. These applications include robotic tele-operations, long-range vehicle inspection, rendezvous proximity operations (RPO), localized situational awareness, as well as close range vehicle inspections. Similar applications for infrared camera systems exist, however the limited availability of large format focal plane arrays and commercial lenses makes this generalization less applicable. NASA GSFC is therefore seeking information regarding current visible and infrared camera systems that may serve as a flexible camera platform with a minimal size, weight, and power envelope that could serve NASA’s interests at all desired orbital destinations. Additionally, NASA seeks information on miniaturized camera technologies that could serve a unique role in close-in, localized vehicle inspection in a future satellite-servicing mission.

This RFI is an intermediate step in identifying relevant and interested industry partners for developing various camera systems to meet on-orbit requirements and performing subsequent testing to ensure that the requirements are met. The main intent of this RFI is to solicit responses from industry on the current state-of-the-art in regards to spaceflight cameras.

2. Camera Systems:

For purposes of this RFI, NASA is interested in the following types of camera systems.

* Visible Camera: NASA GSFC seeks a flexible, visible wavelength camera system that may contain a low-noise, large format focal plane array with a greater than or equal to 1k x 1k pixel resolution. A commercial lens mount, or equivalent function, will allow this camera to accept a large variety of lenses with varying focal lengths that will yield a camera system capable of reconfigurable imaging properties. NASA GSFC desires a focal plane array available in both monochrome and Color Filter Array (CFA) variations. NASA understands that currently available visible camera products may require modifications to meet any specific hardware requirements that may eventually flow out of NASA GSFC (changes in physical layer interface, video protocol, focal plane array (FPA), etc.)

* Infra-Red (IR) Camera: IR camera systems are useful for various scenarios when lighting conditions are non-ideal for visible wavelength cameras. NASA GSFC is aware of several 640 x 480 pixel Uncooled Focal Plane Arrays (UFPA) with sensitivities in the 8-14 micron wavelength region that have flown in LEO. NASA has an interest in pushing the development of these detectors into the greater than or equal to 1K x 1K pixel range. Respondents are encouraged to propose current IR camera systems regardless of detector resolution, however GSFC is particularly interested in roadmaps to improve the resolution of IR cameras.

* Miniaturized Camera: With the upcoming launch of NASA’s Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) Visual Inspection Poseable Invertebrate Robot (VIPIR) Vision System to the International Space Station (ISS), NASA GSFC will demonstrate the feasibility of flying a miniaturized 1.2mm diameter visible camera system. This camera system, along with an integrated light emitting diode (LED) array and light diffuser, will serve as a tool for close-in inspections of space station infrastructure. NASA GSFC wishes to further push the boundaries of this technology and develop additional generations of these miniaturized cameras. The intent is to provide miniaturized cameras capable of providing high-quality video at very short focus (object) distances. Specifically, NASA is interested in miniaturized digital cameras with increased pixel sizes and focal plane array resolutions that result in HD-quality imagery.

3. Generic Technical Specifications:

If NASA acquires any of the cameras described above, it will assess them based upon numerous criteria including, but not limited to, cost, Technology Readiness Level (TRL), spaceflight heritage, developmental lead time, delivery schedule, and applicability to the specific orbit destination. The cameras in which NASA is interested shall meet the following general specifications:


* General: GSFC is interested in flying camera systems that are already in development or have a successful flight heritage (extremely important). This is necessary for applications where no significant development time is available.

* Camera Emulator(s): Can be available 6 months After Receipt of Order (ARO).

* Engineering Development Units (EDU): Can be available 12 months ARO.

* Flight Unit(s): Can be available 24 months ARO.

Operational Lifespan:

* NASA is investigating various mission concepts including a twelve-month LEO mission, a five-year GEO mission, and a multi-year interplanetary mission. NASA seeks existing designs that can meet these various lifespans with little to no modifications, that is, one design compatible with all of these mission scenarios.


* Radiation: GSFC has yet to choose a specific radiation model, but many models exist in the literature to provide a starting point for both the LEO and GEO environments. NASA seeks designs that ensure the survivability of the optics, optical coatings, detectors, and accompanying electronics in the radiation environment for the orbital lifespan.

* Survival Temperatures: Camera specifications must account for the thermal limitations of the environment in which the camera will fly. Internal camera components are likely to set the survivability temperatures for the cameras themselves. For example, temperature limits for both survival and operation may be held by internal camera heaters or thermal blanketing depending on the final temperature limitations of the hardware. Power used for internal heaters in a cold environment must be included in worst-case maximum power numbers.

* Launch Loads: Standard GSFC General Environmental Verification Specification (GEVS) for a generic expendable launch vehicle shall apply.


* Standard flight-qualified physical (RS-422, LVDS, 1553, etc.) and logical interfaces (UART, SpaceWire, HDLC, etc.) are preferred.

4. Disclaimer

It is not NASA’s intent to publicly disclose vendor proprietary information obtained during this solicitation. To the full extent that it is protected pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act and other laws and regulations, information identified by a respondent as “Proprietary or Confidential” will be kept confidential.

It is emphasized that this RFI is NOT a Request for Proposal, Quotation, or Invitation for Bid. This RFI is for information and planning purposes only, subject to FAR Clause 52.215-3 titled “Solicitation for Information or Planning Purposes”, and is NOT to be construed as a commitment by the Government to enter into a contractual agreement, nor will the Government pay for information submitted in response to this RFI. No solicitation exists; therefore, do not request a copy of the solicitation. If a solicitation is released it will be synopsized in FedBizOpps and on the NASA Acquisition Internet Service (NAIS). It is the potential offeror’s responsibility to monitor these sites for the release of any solicitation, synopsis, or related documents.

The Government reserves the right to consider a small business or 8(a) set-aside based on responses hereto.

All questions shall be submitted in writing to the points of contact listed below. As part of its assessment of industry capabilities, the NASA-GSFC may contact respondents to this Request for Information (RFI) if clarifications or further information is needed. Respondents will not be notified of the results of the analysis of the RFI responses.

5. Instructions to Respondents:

Respondents may submit separate responses to any number of the items of interest described above. Respondents are not required to respond with information for all camera types. NASA appreciates responses from all capable and qualified sources including, but not limited to, NASA Centers, universities, university affiliated research centers, federally funded research and development centers, private or public companies, and government research laboratories.

RFI responses shall include the following information for the respective camera systems being described:

* Summary of the camera system and how it could be used in a system/mission context and its flight heritage/history.

* Mass of unit.

* Bounding box dimensions (length, width, height).

* Nominal and peak power draw.

* Power on in-rush current.

* Command, telemetry and video interface: both physical and logical protocols

* Maximum commanding bandwidth (where applicable).

* Maximum telemetry bandwidth (where applicable).

* Maximum video bandwidth.

* Operational & survivability temperature ranges.

* Detector Type, pixel resolution, pixel size, optical format, signal/noise (S/N) ratio, maximum full frame rate and Region Of Interest (ROI) capabilities (where applicable).

* Optics description & specifications (lens effective focal length, f/#, focus distance, FOV, DOF, geometric distortion, lens mount type).

* Previous flight mission applications.

Respondents shall also address the following programmatic items:

* Name of corporate point of contact, telephone number, full mailing address, and e-mail address. * Corporate competencies and past performance experience with regard to the development and production of similar camera systems.

* Respondent’s previous experiences in building flight hardware for NASA, DoD, or private firms.

* Respondent’s ability to conduct functional acceptance testing of camera units prior to delivery, and ability to provide relevant test plans, procedures, and the results of these tests at the time of the flight unit(s) delivery. This includes both functional performance testing and environmental qualification tests such as thermal vacuum and vibration testing. Such activities would be required under any future award call.

* Respondent’s ability to provide relevant camera system specification documents including, but not limited to, system drawings, parts lists, electrical, optical, and software Interface Control Documents (ICDs). This documentation is needed for parts analysis as well as the development of high fidelity simulations for camera control algorithm development and testing. Such documentation would be required under any future award.

* A Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) cost estimate for each individual camera system.

* Delivery lead times for the various camera hardware deliverables (emulators, EDUs, flight) from the date of any potential ARO.

6. How to Respond:

All final submissions shall be submitted via e-mail to both points of contact listed below no later than May 23, 2014, 5:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Files may be submitted in Microsoft Word or Portable Document Format (PDF). All responses shall include an executive summary of no more than five (5) pages. A page is defined as one (1) sheet 8 1/2 x 11 inches using a minimum of 12-point font size for text and one-inch margins. There is no limit on supporting documentation.

Responses must properly mark proprietary information.

Reference NNG14FA94RFI in any response. 

Point of Contact

    Name: Ashley N McQueen

    Title: Contracting Officer

    Phone: 301-286-1423

    Fax: 301-286-1773


    Name: Dean S Patterson

    Title: Procurement Manager

    Phone: 301-286-8085

    Fax: 301-286-1670




SpaceRef staff editor.