Ruggedized camera system for aerospace environments

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  • Publication Date:
    September 07, 2021
  • Additional Information
    • Patent Number:
      11115,569
    • Appl. No:
      16/998837
    • Application Filed:
      August 20, 2020
    • Abstract:
      A ruggedized camera system provides high-quality optical data signals while operating in harsh environments and includes a housing having an electronics housing section and a lens housing section. A light-ring circuit is attached to the lens housing section. A diffuser ring is attached to the lens housing section and covers the light-ring circuit. The camera system includes camera electronics that process optical data captured by the camera optical lens. The camera electronics are secured within a camera electronics holder that is located within and attached to the electronic housing section and which minimizes vibrations to the camera electronics. A power circuit is inside and attached to the electronic housing section and provides power to the camera electronics and the light-ring circuit and receives serial command data being transmitted to the camera electronics. The housing tightly integrates the camera optical lens, the camera electronics holder, the light-ring circuit and power circuit.
    • Inventors:
      United States of America as represented by the Administrator of NASA (Washington, DC, US)
    • Assignees:
      United States of America as represented by the Administrator of NASA (Washington, DC, US)
    • Claim:
      1. A ruggedized camera system for aerospace environments, comprising: a housing comprising an electronics housing section and a lens housing section attached to the electronics housing section, the electronics housing section having a rear side, a forward side and an interior region for the placement of electronic components, wherein the forward side has an open region adjacent to the lens housing section; a cover member attached to the electronics housing section so as to cover the interior region; a camera electronics holder positioned within the interior region of the electronic housing section and attached to the housing, wherein the camera electronics holder comprises a rear portion, a pair of opposing side portions that are contiguous with the rear portion and an open front, wherein the camera electronics holder is positioned within the interior region so that the open front of the camera electronics holder is situated within the open region of the forward side of the electronics housing section, the rear portion and side portions defining an inner space that is configured to receive camera electronics and prevent movement of the camera electronics when the camera system is subjected to vibrations or physical shock, the rear portion having a plurality of openings therein that are in communication with the inner space of the camera electronics holder; camera electronics positioned within the inner space of the camera electronics holder, wherein the camera electronics are secured to the camera electronics holder and extend through the open front of the camera electronics holder, the camera electronics including a plurality of signal connectors, wherein each signal connector is aligned with a corresponding opening in the rear portion of the camera electronics holder; a lens assembly positioned within the lens housing section and comprising a lens interface rotatably attached to the lens housing section such that the lens interface is rotatable in a clockwise direction and in a counter-clockwise direction, a lens holder attached to the lens interface and an optical lens secured within the lens holder and in optical communication with the camera electronics; a light-ring circuit attached to the lens housing structure and extending about the optical lens; and a diffuser attached to the lens housing structure and configured to cover the light-ring circuit.
    • Claim:
      2. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 1 wherein the camera electronics comprises electronic circuitry to process optical data provided by the optical lens.
    • Claim:
      3. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 1 wherein the electronics housing section further comprises an interior side within the interior region and an exterior side and wherein the ruggedized camera system further comprises: a plurality of electrical connectors attached to the exterior side of the electronics housing section; a semi-flexible electrical circuit located within the interior region of the electronics housing section and comprising a plurality of rigid circuit boards and a plurality of flexible circuits, each flexible circuit being located between and in electronic signal communication with a pair of rigid circuit boards; and wherein a first one of the rigid circuit boards is attached to the interior side of the electronics housing section and a second one of the rigid circuit boards is in electronic signal communication with the plurality of electrical connectors and a third one of the rigid circuit boards is in electronic signal communication with the camera electronics and the light-ring circuit.
    • Claim:
      4. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 1 wherein the light-ring circuit comprises: a circular circuit board; a plurality of light-emitting devices mounted to the circular circuit board; and driver circuitry mounted to the circular circuit board and in electronic signal communication with the plurality of light-emitting devices.
    • Claim:
      5. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 4 wherein the plurality of light-emitting devices comprises a plurality of light-emitting diodes.
    • Claim:
      6. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 1 wherein the lens housing section comprises a lens cover structure having a substantially cylindrical shape, an interior region and a front opening that is in communication with the interior region of the lens cover structure and which provides a field of view for the optical lens.
    • Claim:
      7. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 6 wherein the lens cover structure further comprises a distal end portion that circumferentially extends about the front opening and wherein the light-ring circuit comprises a circular circuit board that is positioned on the distal end portion.
    • Claim:
      8. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 7 wherein the diffuser is attached to the distal end portion and covers the circular circuit board.
    • Claim:
      9. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 6 wherein the lens housing section has a longitudinally extending threaded bore that is in communication with the open region of the forward side of the electronics housing section and the interior region of the lens cover structure.
    • Claim:
      10. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 9 wherein the lens interface comprises a cylindrical portion having threads thereon and wherein the lens interface is threadedly engaged with the longitudinally extending threaded bore.
    • Claim:
      11. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 10 wherein the lens assembly further comprises means to produce tension on the lens interface so as to cause firm contact between the threads of the lens interface and the threaded bore.
    • Claim:
      12. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 1 wherein each side portion of the camera electronics holder is configured to have an opened region such that the camera electronics is visible.
    • Claim:
      13. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 1 further comprising means for securing the camera electronics to the camera electronics holder.
    • Claim:
      14. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 1 further comprising means for attaching the camera electronics holder to the lens housing section.
    • Claim:
      15. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 3 further comprising potting material disposed within the interior region of the electronics housing section such that the semi-flexible electrical circuit, the camera electronics and the camera electronics holder are encapsulated in the potting material.
    • Claim:
      16. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 1 wherein the lens interface comprises an M12 lens interface.
    • Claim:
      17. A ruggedized camera system for aerospace environments, comprising: a housing comprising an electronics housing section and a lens housing section attached to the electronics housing section, the electronics housing section having an interior region, a forward side and a rear side and wherein the forward side has an open region adjacent to the lens housing section, the lens housing section comprising a front side portion and a lens cover structure extending from the front side portion, the lens cover structure having an interior region and a front opening that is in communication with the interior region of the lens cover structure, the lens housing section having a longitudinally extending threaded bore in communication with the interior region of the lens cover structure and the open region in the forward side of the electronics housing section; a cover member attached to the electronics housing section so as to cover the interior region; a camera electronics holder positioned within the interior region of the electronic housing section and attached to the lens housing section, wherein the camera electronics holder comprises a rear portion, a pair of opposing side portions that are contiguous with the rear portion and an open front, the camera electronics holder being positioned such that the open front is situated within the open region in the forward side of the electronics housing section, the rear portion and side portions defining an inner space that is sized for receiving camera electronics and preventing any movement of the camera electronics when the camera system is subjected to vibrations or physical shock, the rear portion having a plurality of openings therein that are in communication with the inner space of the camera electronics holder; camera electronics positioned within the inner space of the camera electronics holder, wherein the camera electronics are secured to the camera electronics holder and extend through the open front of the camera electronics holder, the camera electronics including a plurality of signal connectors, wherein each signal connector is aligned with a corresponding opening in the rear portion of the camera electronics holder; a lens assembly positioned within the lens housing section and comprising a lens interface having a threaded surface that is threadedly engaged with the longitudinally extending threaded bore in the lens housing section such that the lens interface is rotatable in a clockwise direction and in a counter-clockwise directions, a lens holder attached to the lens interface and an optical lens secured within the lens holder and in optical communication with the camera electronics; a light-ring circuit attached to the lens housing structure such that the light-ring circuit extends about the front opening of the lens cover structure; and a diffuser attached to the lens housing structure and configured to cover the light-ring circuit.
    • Claim:
      18. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 17 wherein the electronics housing section further comprises an interior side within the interior region and an exterior side and wherein the rugged camera system further comprises: a plurality of electrical connectors attached to the exterior side of the electronics housing section; a semi-flexible electrical circuit located within the interior region of the electronics housing section and comprising a plurality of rigid circuit board sections and a plurality of flexible circuits, each flexible circuit being located between and in electronic signal communication with a pair of rigid circuit board sections; and wherein a first one of the rigid circuit board sections is attached to the interior side of the electronics housing section and a second one of the rigid circuit board sections is in electronic signal communication with the plurality of electrical connectors and a third one of the rigid circuit board sections is in electronic signal communication with the camera electronics and the light-ring circuit.
    • Claim:
      19. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 18 further comprising potting material disposed within the interior region of the electronics housing section such that the semi-flexible electrical circuit, the camera electronics and the camera electronics holder are encapsulated in the potting material.
    • Claim:
      20. The ruggedized camera system according to claim 17 wherein the lens cover structure has a substantially cylindrical shape and a distal end portion that circumferentially extends about the front opening in the lens cover structure, the light-ring circuit comprising a circular circuit board that is attached to the distal end portion.
    • Patent References Cited:
      7133608 November 2006 Nagata
      9007520 April 2015 Azuma et al.
      2002/0067424 June 2002 Brunner, Jr.
      2005/0151876 July 2005 Karr
      2007/0242134 October 2007 Zernov
      2009/0189994 July 2009 Shimonaka
      2017/0230548 August 2017 Costa
      2020/0341227 October 2020 Tsujikawa
      108073017 May 2018
      2531022 April 2016
      WO 2009046513 April 2009



    • Other References:
      Proceedings of SPIE: “Micro-cameras For Space Applications”, Presented at SPIE Defense and Security Symposium, Orlando, Florida, Apr. 15, 2008. cited by applicant
      Technical data sheet for “MCAMv3 Digital Space Micro-Camera”, Micro-cameras & Space Exploration SA Data sheet available on-line at least as early as May 2020. cited by applicant
      Technical data sheet for “ECAM-C30, Color CMOS Camera, 3 Megapixel”, Malin Space Science Systems, Copyright 2013. cited by applicant
      Technical data sheet for “Cheetah C5180 CMOS 25 MP Camera”, Imperx Industrial Cameras & Imaging Systems, Copyright 2019. cited by applicant
    • Primary Examiner:
      Hsu, Amy R
    • Attorney, Agent or Firm:
      McGroary, James J.
      Galus, Helen M.
    • Accession Number:
      edspgr.11115569