A high sensitivity satellite-borne television camera has been developed to measure such faint light sources as auroras. A secondary electron conduction (SEC) television camera tube is used as the image sensor. In the present application for the Rice/NASA satellites code-named Owls, the tube is exposed by the application of a high voltage pulse of 0.1 sec or 0.2 sec duration. The picture is scanned for about 19 sec, and the video is digitized in synchronism with the satellite PCM system. The television data are then telemetered to the ground either real time or stored in one of the tape recorders. The optical system super-imposes star images on the picture for azimuthal aspect reference. The sensitivity of the slow scan camera was measured; it agrees with the sensitivity of a camera scanning at normal scan rate. Comparison was made of the relative sensitivity of the camera at the wavelength of the three most important auroral components. The camera has sensitivity comparable with the dark-adapted human eye. The weight of the system is 3.9 kg, and the power dissipation is 3.9 W.
S. B. Mende and B. J. O’Brien, "A High Sensitivity Satellite-Borne Television Camera for the Detection of Auroras," Appl. Opt. 7, 1625-1634 (1968)