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Nissan unveils mobile space observatory: the Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept

September 21, 2018
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Nissan unveils mobile space observatory:  the Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept

Nissan has unveiled the out-of-this-world Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept at the 2018 Hannover Motor Show, proving that the sky is never the limit.

Developed in the UK, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), the concept vehicle functions as a mobile astronomy lab, featuring a world-leading, observatory-class telescope on a bespoke off-road trailer. As the latest embodiment of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the vehicle comes with ProPILOT driver assistance technology, which has been upgraded to make it the most capable pickup for safe and convenient towing.

ESA is mapping the stars with unprecedented precision using the Gaia satellite, which has already observed more than a billion stars. The Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept supports this project by helping astronomers conduct follow-up observations of the universe from hard-to-reach, so-called “dark sky” locations – away from the nighttime glow of urban areas, which decreases visibility.

“The Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept is a brilliant example of Nissan serving as an authentic partner, empowering our customers to go anywhere,” said Ashwani Gupta, senior vice president of Nissan’s light commercial vehicle business. “Through Nissan Intelligent Mobility and ProPILOT, we are creating the best solutions for the next frontiers of business, no matter how complex the commercial need.”

The vehicle includes an array of smart features that have been upgraded to meet the needs of commercial vehicle customers:

  • ProPILOTenhances the driver’s control by combining Nissan’s Intelligent Cruise Control and Steering Assist technologies. This maintains the distance with the vehicle in front while keeping the car and rig centered during single-lane driving – even on curves.
  • The Intelligent Around View Monitor system has been upgraded to support towing, giving the driver a bird’s-eye-view around the vehicle and rig and making parking easier.
  • Blind Spot Warning has been enhanced to highlight objects in blind spots within the trailer range
  • Intelligent Towing Hitch Alignment lets your car take control of steering, acceleration, braking and shifting, so that it can automatically maneuver to align with the trailer for easy hookup
  • Nissan’s portable battery packs utilize electric vehicle technology from the Nissan LEAF to ensure auxillary power supply, no matter how remote the location

At the heart of the trailer is the ultrahigh-power PlaneWave telescope. The upgraded Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies allow the telescope to be transported to wild, remote dark-sky locations.

“The Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept allows observations to take place in very remote places, avoiding light pollution, while also transporting telescopes safely and easily,” said Fred Jansen, ESA’s senior mission manager for Gaia. “Telescopes like the one in the trailer are needed in studies of planets and stars in our galaxy, allowing Earth-based follow-up campaigns enabled by the Gaia data.”

The design of the Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept takes its inspiration from the cosmos. The dark exterior color scheme features nebula motifs using parametric patterning, and the interior brings together the deep hues of the night sky with the orange shades of a setting sun. Reflective orange piping on the seats also provides visibility inside the vehicle, negating the need for white lights that would disrupt the astronomer’s night vision.

Since red light affects human night vision least, both the vehicle and trailer exclusively use red lighting to avoid visual disruption during observsations.

Working closely with ESA, the trailer module also incorporates a special refrigerated atmosphere, allowing the telescope to remain stable and calibrated at the optimum temperature in transit to any location.

Once at the desired, often hard-to-reach destination, the trailer module’s mechanized roof can be opened to focus the telescope on the night sky. Using a 40-centimeter (primary) mirror, it has the ability to give detailed views beyond the rings of Saturn, to distant galaxies, nebulae and supernovas.

The Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept is robustly engineered to put business needs at the forefront. A secure towing hitch combined with a sturdy ladder-frame chassis; a 2.3-liter, 190 ps twin-turbo diesel engine; and 450 Nm of torque enable the Navara to tackle rough terrain in remote areas and easily handle the telescope module’s weight.

The Navara and trailer both feature xStorage ROAM battery power packs, putting to use the brand’s tried and tested electric-vehicle battery technology. When docked in place, the battery packs are constantly in charging mode and ready for use when required.

Additional smart features include Wi-Fi, a laptop station and UHF transmission to relay data instantaneously, anywhere in the world. Eight combined radar units, on each corner of the vehicle and trailer, update the driver on the vehicle’s surroundings through the NissanConnect infotainment touch screen on the dashboard.

These Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies work together to make the Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept the most intelligent pickup in its class for towing.

World-class Nissan Intelligent Mobility systems enable the Navara to maneuver the telescope trailer into prime position. Radar sensors and cameras scan the terrain for the right location to park and stabilize the trailer. Compared with the standard Navara, the overall ride height of the Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept has been raised, creating extra ground clearance to enhance the vehicle’s “go anywhere” capability.

Following the Hannover Motor Show, Nissan will donate the telescope to pass on the spirit of exploration and adventure, and to inspire and educate future generations.

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