Optical cameras are among the most valuable technologies used in space. From visual navigation systems to remote sensing, cameras play a key role in a wide array of applications. Many of today’s endeavors, however, demand improved camera technologies enabling higher capabilities, lower costs, and increased efficiencies and robustness.
We plan to build a breadboard model of a camera that combines, for the first time, a large single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) sensor with a novel energy-efficient, AI-on-chip algorithm capable of achieving high-dynamic range, ultra-fast imaging, and real-time, on-board image recognition and processing. This project will help us bring the technology from a TRL3 (proof-of-concept in lab) to a TRL5 (breadboard model in representative environment) in preparation for a potential in-orbit demonstration mission and a lunar mission planned for late-2024. We plan to validate the technology using quantum burst photography for in-orbit pose estimation, a potential application of our technology critical in today’s endeavor against increasing orbital debris.