This is Nissan’s Navara Dark Sky Concept, unveiled at the 2018 Hannover Motor Show, and one for the space geeks in all of us.
Developed in the UK, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), the concept vehicle functions as a mobile astronomy lab, featuring an observatory-class telescope on a bespoke off-road trailer.
ESA is mapping the stars using the Gaia satellite and Nissan says the 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 night-time glow of urban areas.
As the latest embodiment of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the vehicle comes with ProPILOT driver assistance technology, which has been upgraded to make for safer and convenient towing.
And that is useful, for 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 Dr 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.”
Since red light affects human night vision least, both the vehicle and trailer exclusively use red lighting to avoid visual disruption during observations.
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 mechanised roof can be opened to focus the telescope on the night sky. Using a 40cm (primary) mirror, it can give detailed views beyond the rings of Saturn, to distant galaxies.
Aside from the amazing star-spotting equipment, the Dark Sky Concept has plenty of upgrades and features to meet the needs of commercial vehicle customers:
- ProPILOT enhances the driver’s control by combining Nissan’s Intelligent Cruise Control and Steering Assist technologies.
- 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.
- 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 manoeuvre to align with the trailer for easy hook-up
- Nissan’s portable battery packs use electric vehicle technology from the Nissan LEAF to ensure auxiliary power supply, no matter how remote the location.
A secure towing hitch combined with a ladder-frame cha0ssis; a 2.3-liter, 190ps (187hp) twin-turbo diesel engine, and 450 Nm of torque ensure performance on rough terrain.
The Navara and trailer both feature portable EV battery packs and 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.
The Nissan Intelligent Mobility systems enable the Navara to manoeuvre the telescope trailer into prime position. – radar sensors and cameras scan the terrain for the right location to park and stabilize the trailer.
It’s pretty cool stuff!