New Nikon's for space program

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by darren_cokin, Aug 5, 2007.

  1. Was reading Keith Cowing's NASA Watch blog, and saw an article about a recent NASA procurement request. They want seventy-six Nikon D2Xs cameras, all manufactured in the same lot. Forty-eight of these should be manufactured with braycote grease instead of whatever lubricant they typically use. (Braycote is commonly used in vacuum and other harsh environments. The other 28 cameras are probably just for crew training, or conventional photography use on the ground.) Also, sixty-four SB-800 flashes, 33 of them with braycote. twenty-seven 12-24mm f4.0 DX lenses, twelve 10.5mm DX fisheye lenses, 225 EN-EL4A batteries, and twenty EH-6 AC adapters.

    He also shared a link to this recent photo from the space station:

    I see two D200's with vertical battery grips, four flashes, at least 3 of which are SB-28's (which is odd, because they're not fully compatible with D200), a bag of memory cards, and two very long lenses. Anyone recognize the models? They use those for earth observation mostly.

  2. gy


    As I know, Nasa has been using Nikon gear since the film days..
    But for the time being, its strange that when everybody is praising for Canon's better quality
    images, Nasa chooses to go with Nikon.. Im sure they have good reasons for that ;)..
  3. And I thought I had "NAS"! What a shopping list!
  4. I notice that list doesn't include any long lenses. It quite probable that NASA is continuing with Nikon as they already have a lot of long telephotos that have either already been optimized for space flight or have special optics for UV or infrared photography. Maybe there are already some very specialized mvery expensive telescopes that have Nikon F mounts? And there's also the form factor for existing protective casings.
  5. Ellis, how about simply the overall quality of the Nikon equipment? The original reason for
    NASA to choose Nikon was the overall build quality of the equipment and Nikon's willingness
    to work with NASA on customizations. I see no reason why this would have changed. Just
    because Canon packs in a few more mega-pixels on its top of the line sensors does not
    mean this makes a better camera for space applications. If there are any differences in image
    quality (I haven't seen any) they are minute. Probably user controls and overall reliability are
    far more important to NASA.
  6. The D2Xs btw has a higher pixel density so for telephoto work it may just be the best camera in the world.
  7. NASA can afford to use the best, and certainly they have experise to know what is the best for them...regardless what people brag about...
  8. I have to agree with Ellis, if you have the lenses you need and like you stay with the camera brand that works with them. No doubt they are still happy with the quality of the pictures.
  9. You gotta wonder what's wrong with Nikon's marketing. I was already aware of NASA's use of Nikon cameras, but why is it insider info? Everyone knows Canon is the "official camera" of practically everybody.
  10. Both Niko nand HAsselblad have and continue to use their connection with space exploration in ads and marketing materials. If NASA is now purchasing D2X cameras for use in space they are being bought to replace their fleet of Kodak DCS 760 cameras which are Nikon F5 based.
  11. NASA not using Canon... It may be conspiracy or just that they have many lens... I don't think it has anything to do with quality. They better put all their Nikon telephotos on ebay and start to buy some Canon. ;-D

    Now, some Leica users may come by and talk about the benefits of a rangefinder wearing a space suits. Ha ha. ;-P
  12. This is a more detailed description of the procurement:
    my thoughts:
    NASA has traditionally been carefully conservative about the equipment it puts in space. For instance, I remember when the Hubble space telescope was getting a new processor a decade or so ago they were installing something like a 25MHZ CPU (equivalent to a 80486 25MHZ). This was when consumer computers were crossing into the 100's of megahertz realm. They explained that whatever goes into space has to work - the newest isn't always the most reliable. So, even if Canon were the camera of choice for the space agency I don't think they would necessarily goes with the newest "Best", but rather the equipment that has proven to be reliable over a given period of time.
    That and Nikon has been the vendor of choice up until now (along with Hasselblad) so it doesn't seem surprising that as long as they guarantee their quality and flexibility that they will remain the vendor of choice (for 35mm).
  13. this information on the ISS: from
    The International Space Station (ISS) has an average altitude of 407 km (220 nautical miles) with an orbital inclination of 51.6?. The U.S. Laboratory Module on the ISS will have a window, with a clear aperture 50.8 cm in diameter, which will be perpendicular to the Earth?s surface most of the time. The window?s three panes of fused silica give it ?optical quality.? Instrumentation for Earth observation will include, but not be limited to, Hasselblad, Linhof, and Nikon hand-held cameras, plus sensors and imaging systems still to be developed.

    James P. Jones
  14. screen cap: NASA image:
  15. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I can believe they are shooting through window glass. At least they should open the window when they are photographing .... :)
  16. James, if a central CPU runs into problems in space it is very hard to fix and it may even lose communications or ruin the mission. That's why the Space shuttle was designed with five redundant computer systems. Cameras are however not as critical and backups do not need to be hotswapped in realtime. Naturally, proven technology is good, but NASA can afford to be a bit more cutting edge with cameras than CPUs.
  17. I've heard and read reports that Canon DSLRs stop working on Aegis ships and in the server rooms of data centers whereas Nikon DSLRs work without problem in these environments, which suggests tht Canon cameras are affected by the electromagnetic rays more and should not be suitable for the use in space.

    Also, I've heard that newer and denser CPUs are generally more vulnerable to the cosmic rays, which should be the reason for the use of the outdated 25MHz CPU for the Hubble. The CPU used for the remote-controlled small rover vehicle of Mars Pathfinder was a ten-year-old one at that period of time. NASA engineers tested different CPUs and the ten-year-old one was the most resistant to the cosmic rays.
  18. "...NASA can afford to be a bit more cutting edge with cameras than CPUs."

    Well Oskar affordable is relative in the context of space travel. A D200 costs about $8,300 without a battery to put into orbit; a D2x costs about $10,700 without a battery to be put into orbit (based on $10,000 per kilogram). There have also been severe issues with returning garbage from space, so if something fails up there they are likely to write it off and just let it burn up on re-entry when the mission ends.
  19. When I worked for U.S. government at local branches I knew some folks who worked in logistics and procurement. A primary factor in deciding what to buy next year is ... "What did we buy last time?" The gummint is slow and relunctant to make changes.

    NASA has been using Nikons since, what, the F2? That's a good enough reason as far as purchasing officers are concerned. Spare them the details. They don't know or care about non-AI, AI, AI'd, AF-S, blah-blah-blah.

    Also, one influential personal may have one pet bit of gear in a cabinet - say, a 28/3.5 PC-Nikkor or highly prized and scare Micro-Nikkor. Sure, there are Canon equivalents, but unlike 20 or 30 years ago, he/she might have a hard time getting approval for the Canon (or other) brand replacement.
  20. Got to love being able to lightly hand hold that big glass!
  21. Lex -

    I've worked extensively with the national labs, NASA, air force, etc. on a variety of projects requiring cameras and video equipment. The end user writes the requirements on their purchase request, and sends that to the purchasing agent. In many cases, it's accompanied by a performance document, so that the manufacturer or vendor meets all of the users' requirements.

    It's the agent's job to find the equipment at the best price, not write the requirements for it. The idea that the purchasing agents are just buying what've they've always purchased is not how it works.
  22. The newer CPUs are more sensitive to radiation, a side effect of the very small conductors on the chip. A big reason, though, is that people who haven't done embedded development often don't realize how tight the power consumption requirements are and how much you can actually do with modern CPUs. A 100 MHz RISC chip is plenty, you can run around circles with that, so there's no point in wasting power and risking stability with some multi-gigahertz chip.

    But these cameras are the past NASA commissioned Zeiss to do some lens designs. This order is basically off the shelf stuff with some tweaks.
  23. Nikon has a long history of building cameras with custom features for NASA and that is probably the major reason why NASA is still buying Nikon. BTW, the forst Nikon in space was the F, not the F2. Anyone remember the so called "Apollo" version fo the F?

    I would expect that Nikon's response to this latest request would be "no problem". Odds are that this lot of cameras will be built in the R&D lab like Nikon used to do with some of their specialty lenses and all the previous cameras that they supplied to NASA. The simple fact is that the publicity is priceless. What surprizes me is that NASA didn't request that some of the cameras be built without the UV and IR filters so they could be used for special imaging tasks.
  24. Could be a number of reasons:

    Maybe Nikon is the lowest bidder?

    Maybe Nikon is more willing to build to NASA spec's?

    Maybe NASA has legacy equipment that is designed to work with Nikon?

    Maybe Nikon is more reliable under the space flight conditions?

    Maybe because NASA has NAS in their name?

    Maybe the person buying the equipment is a Nikon lover or maybe even a Nikonian?

  25. umd


    Maybe because NASA has NAS in their name?

    This was cool :), it should be the reason :)
  26. The kind of photography NASA does is a very specialized one. So specialized that I think few people actually know the reasons (techical or other) they bought those bodies and lenses. In general you buy the equipment you found reliable and that helped you the best in getting what you wanted. Maybe that was one of their reasons too :|

    Of course "the truth is out there" and we could all suppose some strange green little guys from Area 51 are responsible for all this, after all if Canon is the best and only system in the Universe!

    May the Force be with you :)

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