Nissan unveils mobile space observatory in a pick-up truck!

Car stuff, Gadgets

Developed in the UK, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, this mobile laboratory is billed as Nissan’s most intelligent pickup

Stand out from the crowd with your very own portable astronomy lab! Today (19/9/19) at the 2018 Hannover Motor Show Nissan unveiled its Navara Dark Sky Concept mobile observatory pick up truck.

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 the company’s ProPILOT driver assistance technology. This 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. Nissan claims its Navara Dark Sky Concept pictured above 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, which decreases visibility.

Says Ashwani Gupta, senior vice president of Nissan’s light commercial vehicle business:

“The Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept is a brilliant example of Nissan serving as an authentic partner, empowering our customers to go anywhere. 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.”


  • ProPILOT enhances 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 manoeuvre 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 ultra high-power PlaneWave telescope. The upgraded Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies allow the telescope to be transported to wild, remote dark-sky locations.

Explains Dr Fred Jansen, ESA’s senior mission manager for Gaia:

“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. 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.”

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-centimetre (primary) mirror, it has the ability to give detailed views beyond the rings of Saturn, to distant galaxies, nebulae and supernovas.

The Navara and trailer both feature portable EV battery packs. 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.

Nissan claims the design of its Navara Dark Sky Concept takes its inspiration from the cosmos. The dark exterior colour 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.

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


Chris Price
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