Nikon announced their flagship Nikon Z9 full-frame FX-format mirrorless camera was delivered by NASA to the International Space Station in January 2024.This camera is to help NASA astronauts capture impressive images of Earth and space in high quality and clarity. The Z 9 will be the first Nikon mirrorless camera used by the ISS crew, and this marks an important achievement for the Nikon Z series.
Multiple Nikon Z9 bodies and NIKKOR Z lenses were sent aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket during NASA’s and Northrop Grumman’s 20th commercial International Space Station resupply service mission under contract with NASA, launched on January 30, 2024. It was launched from Launch Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, and sent to the International Space Station.
Nikon already sent the “Nikon D6” digital single-lens reflex camera (released in May 2020) onboard on the ISS along with the “Nikon D5” (released in March 2016). These two cameras will be replaced by the Z9, the top of the line in terms of mirrorless technology from Nikon.
Since the Apollo 15 mission over 50 years ago, Nikon cameras and lenses have been used on a variety of NASA missions and in space exploration aboard the Space Shuttle. The Nikon F5 film SLR camera (released in October 1996) and NIKKOR lenses have been used on the ISS since 1999 for scientific research, maintenance, and for astronauts to capture iconic images of the Earth, the sky, and beyond. Part of the testing also looks at the cameras’ performance no only inside the ISS, but also in the vacuum of space, using special protective covers developed by NASA. Furthermore, in 2008, the “Nikon D2XS” digital SLR camera (released in June 2006) was introduced, and in 2013, 38 “Nikon D4” digital SLR cameras (released in March 2012) and 64 NIKKOR lenses were released. was delivered to the ISS crew.
Since its release in 2018, mirrorless cameras with the Nikon Z mount system have continued to evolve with the latest technological innovations, continuous firmware updates, and a rapidly expanding lineup of NIKKOR Z lenses. The Z9 is Nikon’s flagship full-frame mirrorless camera model, and is said to be highly praised for its robustness, professional reliability, and state-of-the-art technology. The Z9 is the first camera in its category to be without a mechanical shutter, maximizing durability by minimizing moving parts. The hardware of the Nikon Z9 camera used inside the International Space Station has not been specially modified for space missions, so ISS crew members will be able to use a camera of the same quality as commercial products used by users on the ground. This means that it is also used in outer space. This proves that the Z9, which was developed using Nikon’s technology, can be used in the harsh environments of life in zero gravity and space exploration.
The camera hardware for the Nikon Z9 is the same as commercially available products, but in collaboration with NASA, custom firmware was developed to suit astronauts and the space environment. This includes expanding the scope of noise reduction to include high-speed shutters, taking into account the cosmic radiation that crew members and equipment are constantly exposed to on the ISS. In addition, changes have been made to file naming rules, initial settings, and operability in order to optimize the system for use on the ISS or while wrapped in a protective cover during extravehicular activities. The team also made changes to the FTP communication controls within the camera to simplify astronaut workflow, increase efficiency and reduce power consumption when transmitting images from space to Earth.
New cameras and NIKKOR lenses used on the International Space Station (ISS)
The items delivered this time were 13 Z 9s, over 15 NIKKOR Z lenses including super telephoto lenses and micro lenses, and 15 FTZ II mount adapters.