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NASA Astro-Converted Cameras

Updates and Status for Nikon DSLR camera modifications performed for NASA

Image courtesy: NASA Johnson Space Center.

In early 2011 we had the honor and privilege to work closely with NASA specifically to convert and modify two Nikon digital SLR's for use on the international space station (ISS).

The first camera was used for prelaunch and on earth testing and validation purposes. The second camera was used for launch/flight to the International Space Station (ISS). It has been used and is currently in use by Astronauts on board the ISS for many months and even years of low earth orbit/space flight photography. We continue to work closely with NASA engineers and Astronaut Donald Pettit, the requesting astronaut, with detailed assistance in regards to camera performance and functions.

No other conversion provider has more proven experience in this field.

If NASA trusts Spencer's Camera & Photo, so can you!

(International Space Station Astronaut Don Pettit works with two still cameras mounted together, one of which is an astro-modified still camera, modified by Spencer's Camera & Photo of Alpine, Utah. Photo credit: NASA)

21 Jan. 2012 --- NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, Expedition 30 commander, uses still cameras to photograph the topography of a point on Earth from a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station. One camera is an astro-modified still camera modified by Spencer's Camera & Photo of Alpine, Utah. Photo Credit: NASA

During the prolonged testing and modification process we developed many improvements for digital SLR imaging specifically for astrophotography and survival of extreme environments including launch/flight onboard the Space Shuttle or Russian Soyuz system. We soon realized the developments and modifications used for NASA would be beneficial for nightscape and astrophographers on earth as well. The improvements developed by Spencer's Camera & Photo will improve the image quality and overall performance of your camera by lowering digital noise when shooting the long exposures needed for astrophotography. Also, successive or rapid exposure shooting (ie. time-lapse, sports photography) and Video digital noise buildup will be lessened as well. Many of the developed improvements are used in our standard astro-conversion service.


NASA/ISS Astroconverted Cameras - Status and Updates

December 23, 2011

The International Space Station is now fully staffed with a six-member crew. Expedition 30 Flight Engineers Don Pettit, Oleg Kononenko and Andre Kuipers were welcomed aboard the orbiting complex when the hatches between the station and the Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft were opened at 12:43 p.m. EST on Friday. They docked to the Rassvet module at 10:19 a.m.

They launched at 8:16 a.m. (7:16 p.m. local time) on Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers are scheduled to live and work aboard the orbiting laboratory until May.

The new trio joins Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin who have been living and working on the station since Nov. 16.

After a safety briefing, the station’s newest residents will begin a series of ongoing orientation activities to begin the process of familiarizing themselves with their new home aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Over the holiday weekend, the six station residents will continue regular maintenance duties and ongoing scientific research. They also will perform their daily physical exercise routines, enjoy some off-duty time and have an opportunity to speak with family members.

Source - NASA

Image of NASA Astronaut and member of ISS Expeditions 30 & 31 Don Pettit surrounded by much of the camera and photographic equipment available onboard the ISS, including the astro-converted camera modified by Spencer's Camera & Photo of Alpine, Utah (Held in his left hand). Image credit: NASA.

December 21, 2011

Expedition 30 Flight Engineers Don Pettit, Oleg Kononenko and Andre Kuipers launched at 8:16 a.m. EST on Wednesday (7:16 p.m. local time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The three new International Space Station crew members launched in their Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft beginning a two-day trip to the orbiting outpost.

They are set to dock to the station's Rassvet mini-research module about 10:22 a.m. on Friday. Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank and Flight Engineers Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin will welcome their new crewmates aboard the station a little while later when they open the hatches about 1 p.m.

Pettit, Kononenko and Kuipers are scheduled to live and work aboard the orbiting laboratory until May. They will become members of the Expedition 31 crew under the command of Kononenko when Burbank, Shkaplerov and Ivanishin undock in their Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft in March.

NASA Expedition 30

Source - NASA

November 2, 2011

The Russian resupply craft, ISS Progress 45, arrived at the International Space Station at 7:41 a.m. EDT Wednesday, November 2, 2011. The ISS Progress 45 docked to the Pirs docking compartment after a trip to the station that began Sunday, October 30th, from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

The crew opened the Progress hatches to begin the transfer of 1,653 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen, 926 pounds of water and 3,108 pounds of maintenance gear, spare parts and experiment hardware, including the Nikon DSLR astroconverted camera. Once the station crew members have unloaded the cargo, Progress 45 will be filled with trash and station discards, then undocked from the station in late January.

Source - NASA

October 30, 2011

Progress 45, carrying the Nikon DLSR astroconverted camera modified by Spencer's Camera & Photo of Alpine, UT, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:11 a.m, Sunday, October 30, 2011 to begin its journey to the International Space Station. Less than nine minutes later, Progress 45 reached its preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas.

The unpiloted ISS Progress 45 cargo ship is scheduled to dock with the station Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. EDT. It contains 2.8 tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 29 crew, including 1,653 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen and air, 926 pounds of water and 3,108 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware and other supplies.

The Pirs docking compartment was vacated for the arrival of the new Progress by Saturday’s undocking and deorbit of the trash-filled ISS Progress 42 cargo ship. The unpiloted Progress 42, which arrived at the station in late April, was deorbited for a destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere a few hours after undocking.

Source - NASA

October 28, 2011

Update - Dr. Donald Pettit, NASA astronaut (, rescheduled for flight on December 21, 2011 to ISS (expedition 30) onboard a Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft. The earlier flight was delayed while the Soyuz spacecraft system was reevaluated due to a main engine component failure earlier this year.

Source - NASA

June 11, 2011

The Nikon DLSR astroconverted camera modified by Spencer's Camera & Photo of Alpine, UT, launch delayed due to priority equipment needs. Rescheduled for approximately October 2011.

Source - NASA

Press Release:

March 25, 2011

Alpine, Utah – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Johnson Space Center located in Houston, Texas, has contracted with Spencer’s Camera & Photo ( of Alpine, Utah, to perform specific custom camera modifications for purposes of astrophotography and infrared photography on board the international space station.

A Nikon D3s digital SLR camera will be specifically modified for added visual sensativity of the infrared and visible portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The modified camera is scheduled to be included as part of the payload on the Space Shuttle Atlantis scheduled to be launched as the final space shuttle mission (STS-135) before the shuttle program is permanently retired in the summer of 2011.

STS-135 – The final mission of the shuttle fleet to launch in the summer of 2011 is scheduled for the Space Shuttle Atlantis' 12-day mission to the International Space Station. This mission (STS-135) will deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module filled with supplies, including the camera modified by Spencer’s Camera & Photo, and spare parts to sustain station operations once the shuttles are retired. The modified camera is scheduled to be part of the International Space Stations permanent equipment inventory and is expected to be in low orbit use for up to 5 years.

The requesting NASA Austronaut, Donald Pettit (PH.D.), is listed as a primary member of the Internationl Space Station Expedition 30 crew scheduled for launch on or about November 30, 2011 from Star City, Russia. Dr. Pettit will be aboard the international space station for a period of approximately 4 - 6 months and plans to use the modified camera extensively during the mission. Uses include infrared photography of earth for agricultural and erosion monitoring purposes; Infrared and visible photography for astronomical research purposes.

Source - NASA



Wow, working with you is just like working with my crew space support group at NASA.  I love working with can-do people.   Thanks for the follow up info here.  It all looks good to me and I know we will put together the best camera produced.  It is a pleasure to work with such dedicated people.  Let me know if you have any issues/questions in dealing with NASA.

Again, it is a pleasure to be working with you.

Don Pettit (PH.D.)– NASA Astronaut
ISS Expedition 6 Crew Member; Space Shuttle STS-126 Crew Member; ISS Expedition 30 and 31 Crew member.

Dear Clarence,

I got a standard Sony NEX-5 camera and found it’s a single shot colour images quite good. However I was not satisfied with the red colour spectrum in the deep space images and decided to get a conversion done. It was a pleasure to deal with Spencer’s Camera and my new kit arrived quickly. What a difference it made! The colours are rich and there is less visible noise. Thanks for the high quality service!

Alex Cherney
Amateur astronomer and photographer

Image Copyrighted - Alex Cherney 2011

Spencer’s Camera,

I must admit, I was a little skeptical to use your company for the first time for my astroconversion but the quality workmanship has proven to be worth it.  We finally had clear skies for the past week and the conversion has proven to be wonderful.  All my images are clear of dust and the digital noise is noticeably lower than my earlier camera.  I am confident in shooting very long exposures knowing the results will be great.  Astrophotography is a uniquely difficult hobby and having good equipment makes all the difference.  There is nothing more frustrating than equipment limitations especially poor camera quality.  The time and effort you have invested in developing your astroconversion is well worth the results.

Thanks again for the quality work!
Stephen Sykes

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