Estonian stereo cameras heading to moon with NASA

Estonian company Crystalspace, partnered with Tartu Observatory of Tartu University and Krakul, has been selected by Maxar Technologies, a trusted partner and innovator in Earth Intelligence and Space Infrastructure, to build two cameras that will act as a stereo pair to monitor the operations of a robotic arm that will collect regolith samples from the Moon.

The Crystalspace cameras will be part of Maxar‘s robotic arm called Sample Acquisition, Morphology Filtering, and Probing of Lunar Regolith (SAMPLR). Maxar’s SAMPLR robotic arm will be the first United States-provided robotic arm operated on the surface of Earth’s Moon since the Surveyor missions more than 50 years ago. SAMPLR is one of 12 externally-developed payloads that NASA selected in 2019 as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) project, which allows rapid acquisition of lunar delivery services for payloads like SAMPLR that advance capabilities for science, exploration or commercial development of the Moon.

“During take-off and the entire mission, the cameras will be subjected to extreme conditions and temperatures from -173 to +100 degrees Celsius that occur on the Moon,” said Jaan Viru, founder of Crystalspace.

Estonia became a space nation with a human-made object in space when the nanosatellite ESTCube-1 reached orbit in 2013, and many of the Crystalspace developers were working on the ESTCube-1 Cubesat mission.

“We are now most excited to combine our years of experience with space cameras to deliver a stereo camera system that will enable the exploration of the Earth’s Moon,” said Viru.

Crystalspace will develop the camera solution together with Tartu Observatory of the University of Tartu and Estonia’s leading IoT and autonomous systems development company Krakul.

“Sending one’s development to the Moon is every engineer’s dream. Krakul’s solutions can be found on Earth, in space and the depths of the seas, and now also on the surface of the Moon,” said Jaan Hendrik Murumets, CEO of Krakul.

CrystalSpace was part of the European Space Agency Business Incubator (ESA BIC Estonia) 2017-2019.


Cover photo: Rendering showing regolith sample extraction using the SAMPLR robotic arm, showing also the CrystalSpace cameras. Author: Mihkel Pajusalu, Tartu Observatory, University of Tartu, based on data from NASA VTAD and LROC digital terrain model.