Camera, Large Format


Display Status:

This object is on display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Camera, Large Format

Collection Item Summary:

Flown on shuttle Challenger in 1984, NASA designed the Large Format Camera (LFC) as a demonstration for acquiring high-fidelity reference mapping data of the Earth’s surface. Interest in such data spanned a range of governmental actors (including NASA, Department of Energy, and US Geological Survey) and, especially, companies that might take up this technology as a market opportunity.

That latter emphasis of the program represented a 1970s/80s shift in policy to move space-based applications projects from government to market auspices—and of the shuttle’s role in facilitating such policy.

A key objective of the LFC program was to demonstrate that the camera could acquire images to produce maps at the standard cartographic scale of 1:50,000. To achieve this result, the camera optics needed to provide 10-15 meter resolution, with a film format of 9 x 18 inches--hence the terminology "large format" to describe the camera.

This object is the original camera flown in space. NASA transferred the LFC to the Museum in 2017.

Collection Item Long Description:

Inventory Number


Credit Line

Transferred from NASA


Country of Origin

United States of America


Aluminum, glass, copper, plastic


3-D: 130.8 × 113 × 221cm, 308.9kg (4 ft. 3 1/2 in. × 3 ft. 8 1/2 in. × 7 ft. 3 in., 681lb.)

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum

Restrictions & Rights

Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum