Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project Update (LOIRP) 20 January 2009

At the start of a new year, here is a new formal report. A lot has happened since late December.

Funding

We finally got the funding in place and to us around the 17th of December that allowed us to pay vendors that were working with us on many parts. Their status as of today is as follows:

Heads

I just visited Video Magnetics in Colorado Springs, CO last week on another trip and they have made good progress. Here in figure 1 is a nice picture of Edwardo Lailao, the last guy in the world that still knows how to refurbish these heads:

Figure 1: Edwardo Lailao, VMI Rotating Head Engineering Lead

VMI has one head ready to go. Since the FR-900 heads are considerably different from the standard commercial Mark 10 and Mark 15 heads, there are some things that could not be verified with their existing test equipment. Therefore he is coming here to the lab next week with two heads, refurbished in slightly different ways, in order to determine which method is the best for our heads. They have one head completed and the second will be done this week. Both will be tested here on the FR-900 next week.

Motors (Capstan and Reel Motors)

Athan Corp, from south San Francisco is moving forward with the Capstan and Reel motor refurbishment. We are expecting the Capstan motors this week to be brought here for testing on the FR-901 second machine before it is integrated into the FR-900. The Reel motors are somewhat less critical and will follow within the next couple of weeks after that.

Demodulator

After the non performance of the first vendor, we had to go back to square one with another vendor to design and build a demodulator that also incorporates a second FM demodulator to conform to the original design specs as our engineering investigation determined was necessary. The requirement for the second demodulator resulted in a significant increase in cost but the engineering team that is doing this has proceeded rapidly and on Monday of this week we actually ran a tape with undemodulated data and was able to obtain video lines and a recognizable picture. Some of the video lines are shown below in figure 2:

Figure 2: Part of the Calibration Strip Captured from an Un-demodulated Original Tape

This is a major milestone in the project and gets us much nearer to the ability to play all the tapes. There are still some problems with the design that have to be solved in that one method of triggering part of the demodulation process we found is not workable. The engineering team at Wideband Video Labs has already identified what needs to be done and is modifying the design. It is expected that they will return by Friday of this week or Monday of next to try it again.

We ran undemodulated tapes from Lunar Orbiter 1, 2, and 5 and have verified that we can demodulate the data on the tapes, answering another major question about the quality of the recorded data on the tapes.

The team at Wideband Video Labs has accomplished in five weeks what the previous company was unable to do in five months, even though the engineer from the non performing company was from the original team that did the work in the 1980's to revive the drives.

Software

Gordon Woodcock, former Chief Scientist at Boeing is writing our production quality validation software from scratch in C++. He has replicated our work that we have done in IGOR in a manner that will be much faster than our previous efforts. We expect this to be an ongoing activity as we will be using this software as a quality check on our deliverables to the planetary data system.

FR-901 Second Drive

The second drive is up and running and is being upgraded and modified with the same parts and other changes that were necessary for the original drive. The machine is currently apart waiting for some parts that some were delivered today and more expected tomorrow. We have decided that this second machine, at least in the near term until we get our production process ironed out, will be our experimental drive that we incorporate design changes that after they are verified on that drive, will be incorporated into the first drive. We feel that this is the way to lower the risk to our known good primary drive as we don't want to do anything to it that would cause it to be non functional for a period of time.

Science Output

We have submitted a paper to the Lunar Planetary Conference (LPSC) for presentation in March of 2009. This paper will detail the process that we used to bring the first image of the Earth as seen from the Moon back to life and the first determination of its quality as compared to the Lunar and Planetary Science database image.

We have been contacted by Dave Gallaher of the National Snow and Ice science data center in Boulder Colorado concerning our work to line up the scan lines of our images. The early Nimbus prototype climate spacecraft used a method similar to our own to record and reconstruct images. If the Snow and Ice Data Center can reconstruct the Nimbus images from the 1960's this will push our satellite based polar icecap information from 1979 back another 13 years, providing a significant increase in the quality of climate data.

There is a possibility that the Nimbus spacecraft imaged the polar regions of the earth on the exact same day and near the same time as our now famous lunar orbiter image of the Earth as seen from the Moon. We have one image from them that is only a couple of weeks older than the August 23, 1966 image of the Earth that we have reconstructed. If the Snow and Ice Center has an image from the same day, the possibility exists to generate a global cloud cover image of the earth from that day, which would be the oldest image of this type. This will have a value to the science community as the mid 1960's was the depth of a global cooling climate interlude that is very sparsely known from the remote sensing and climate science perspective.

Big Image of the Earth as Seen from the Moon

We now have a much larger portion of the image that has been manually retouched and enhanced for publication. We are sending DVD's of this (it is a BIG image) to several folks this week.

Wrap Up

We have made a lot more progress than I thought when starting to write this update. We have hit a couple of critical milestones and we are looking to begin the transition to production as soon as the demodulator is verified to be working. We will use the second drive as a proof of principle for design upgrades to the primary drive until we get the primary drive to its peak performance.

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