Large Format Camera (LFC) Collection

The Large Format Camera (LFC), the central component of the Orbiter Camera Payload System, was a film-based camera consisting of two conjoined components: the lens cone assembly and the film magazine assembly. Developed by Itek in the late 1970s for a NASA contract, the LFC was turned over to NASA circa 1980, where it was kept in storage until it was flown for its first, and only, flight on space shuttle mission SST-41G. Originally developed for use in high-altitude aircraft, the camera took its name from its large format film (23 x 46 cm). This film size, in combination with the camera's special optics, allowed the LFC to capture in a single frame more than 60,000 square kilometers (23,400 square miles) with enough resolution to distinguish buildings and roads. The images helped in creating precise, detailed maps and aided in geological analysis, environmental monitoring, and urban planning, for a range of governmental agencies and private companies interested in the LFC technology. However, while the experiment was considered a success, due to high shuttle transportation costs and the limited market for selling LFC products, NASA was not successful in engaging other agencies or private companies in paying the costs to use it on the shuttle.