“CHALLENGE TO SPACE – Create the unseen future with the power of technology – Presentation on THETA, jointly developed by RICOH and JAXA, to be mounted on the outer hull of the ISS (International Space Station)” was held in Shibuya, Tokyo on Wednesday August 28, 2019.
On the day of the event, we welcomed Mr. Kazuyoshi Kawasaki, Deputy Director for JAXA Space Exploration Innovation Hub Center, and Mr. Hirotaka Sawada, Senior Researcher for JAXA Space Exploration Innovation Hub Center, and held a presentation and panel discussion to talk about the details of the joint development as well as future initiatives.
The presentation began with Yoshinori Yamashita, President and CEO of Ricoh Company, Ltd., giving a presentation about “What Ricoh imaging technology brings to space”.
He stated that “Outer space is a region that is still unknown to mankind. Thoroughly investigating the value of capturing images of space as part of this challenge has the potential to expand its application, for example, as the “eyes” of the International Space Station and its astronauts, and as the “eyes” that look from a satellite or a rover as it travels over a planet’s surface. The possibility of its application as “eyes” can also be expanded above ground, not just space. For example, monitoring transportation infrastructure and the manufacturing process in factories. Automated driving of vehicles. It can also support a safe and secure society by being the “eyes” that watch over a city. In this way, I believe that this current project that utilizes imaging technology encourages the imagination and is a huge step towards transforming the future.”
“Ricoh has taken the “RICOH THETA”, a compact spherical camera made for the market, and dealt with any problems encountered so that the camera can withstand the environment of space.
Specifically, the camera’s outer casing was manufactured from an aluminum alloy to withstand such factors as the temperature in outer space, radiation, and vibration at the time of launch. Together with JAXA, we jointly developed a spherical 360° camera that can be used in outer space. It became the world’s smallest 360° camera that can be used in space.”
“I believe that this current project that utilizes imaging technology encourages the imagination and is a huge step towards transforming the future. It gives me pleasure to see the anticipation for what kind of value this project, which includes our message, will bring to space.”
Following on from this, Mr. Hirotaka Sawada, Senior Researcher for JAXA Space Exploration Innovation Hub Center, talked about the details of this current project, the difficulties faced during development, and the possibilities in outer space.
He stated that “There are severe restrictions particularly on weight and size in the world of space exploration. Therefore, we needed to select a camera that could be used in space from among consumer product cameras to ensure it would be compact and lightweight. Under these circumstances, we became interested in RICOH THETA, which was released in 2013.”
“THETA was compact and thin, and had the potential for application in space even under such severe constraints. Several technical problems exist when capturing spherical images in outer space so we were introduced to the people in charge of Ricoh through people affiliated to the Exploration Innovation Hub Center.” In the beginning, developers at Ricoh were also perplexed as to how we could support the unknown environment known as space. However, we moved forward with development while sharing specific technical problems and THETA’s potential.”
After both presentations had finished, we held a panel discussion on the behind-the-scenes story for development and future possibilities together with Wataru Ohtani, Corporate Officer at Ricoh Company, Ltd., and Mr. Kazuyoshi Kawasaki, Deputy Director for JAXA Space Exploration Innovation Hub Center.
Mr. Kawasaki said that “It is important that future space exploration robots are compact and lightweight, and they need to obtain the maximum amount of information under such circumstances. Compact spherical cameras can provide a solution to this. If we can deploy compact spherical cameras to the outer hull of the ISS and artificial satellites, it will be helpful to understand the status of when a failure occurs or when debris and similar objects collide with the hull.”
Wataru Ohtani said that “I was anxious about whether or not THETA would be able to support outer space. However, I decided that it was worth trying. We responded to various technical issues involved in mounting the camera on the ISS and we would like to use the knowledge we gained in future product development.”
At the end there was a photo session.
From left is Mr. Kawasaki and Mr. Sawada from JAXA, Yoshinori Yamashita and Wataru Ohtani from Ricoh
After this, the party of 3 people, Akihiro Yoshida, Development 3 Group Leader of the RICOH THETA Development Department, who was actually responsible for the current joint development with JAXA, along with Yoshinori Yamashita and Wataru Ohtani from Ricoh answered questions from all the reporters attending the event.
The spherical 360° camera that can be used in outer space will be mounted onto KOUNOTORI8, a spacecraft used to resupply the International Space Station, to be launched on September 11, 2019. The camera will be mounted onto “KIBO” on the International Space Station and is scheduled to capture and send 360° spherical still images and video back to Earth.
Video will be available for viewing >here.
Enjoy the video of space captured by THETA. (Ohara)
<Photos of the venue>
Ricoh news release