For heavy packing astronomers on the go

Based on the familiar Nissan Navara pickup truck, the Dark Sky concept is a mobile astronomy lab equipped with a state-of-the-art telescope mounted in a bespoke off-road trailer. Unveiled at the Hannover Motor Show in Germany, the Dark Sky concept was developed in the U.K. in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA).

The concept car showcases how a truck like the Navara could support the ESA’s intense efforts to map the stars by helping astronomers conduct follow-up observations from hard-to-reach locations. Of course, the Dark Sky concept won’t become a production model, but Nissan will donate the telescope "to pass on the spirit of exploration and adventure, and to inspire and educate future generations." In addition to the bespoke trailer, the Navara also boasts unique features and technology that’s not available on the production truck. Find out more in the review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept.

Exterior

  • Revised grille
  • Heavy-duty winch
  • Redesigned roof
  • Roll bars
  • Unique 20-inch wheels
  • Off-road tires
  • Cosmos-inspired paint job
2018 Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept Exterior
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While it remains similar to the standard truck, the Dark Sky Concept features many upgrades, most of them added for enhanced practicality.

Up front, Nissan added reinforced over-riders to the grille, while a new front chin guard gives the truck a more purposeful look. Inside the guard, there’s a winch to get the astronauts out of trouble when needed. The roof structure was strengthened to carry bags, supplies, and equipment, and it now extends back over the bed to incorporate new roll bars and a transmitter.

Each wheel arch extension features lashing points for extra practicality, while the 20-inch alloy wheels, which are unique to this vehicle, are wrapped in off-road tires. Both the rear bumper and the side step were restyled, while the taillights have a darker tint.

2018 Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept Exterior
- image 795971

Exterior lighting was a major concern for Nissan, which added red night lights at the corners, high-intensity white lights on the roof, and more red lights behind the roof to illuminate the bed. Most lights are red because this color affects human night vision least. This also helps astronomers make better observations of the sky during the night.

The concept truck also uses no fewer than four radar units that keep the driver posted on the surroundings through the infotainment system.

It also enables the driver to move the trailer into the best possible position for night sky observations. Additionally, the truck rides higher than usual to give the driver go-anywhere capability.

2018 Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept Interior
- image 795958

The paint scheme is also special. Although the color is very dark, the rear doors feature nebula motifs using parametric patterning, while the bed is painted in a somewhat lighter shade of grey with a blueish tint. Nissan says that this paint scheme takes inspiration from the cosmos.

The bed boasts a number of upgrades too, starting with three integrates storage areas for smaller items and lashing points integrated into the top edge.

It also has a bed liner made from heavy-duty polymer and brushed aluminum rollers for easier loading and unloading. Nissan also added two portable battery units, spare parts for the trailer and telescope, and an integrated tool storage unit.

Interior

  • Dark blue upholstery
  • Orange accents
  • Reflective piping
  • Wider armrests
  • Luminescent floor mats
2018 Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept Interior
- image 795961

The cosmic theme continues inside the cabin, where the upholstery has "the deep hues of the night sky" and "orange shades of a setting sun."

In simpler words, the seats, the center console, and part of the door panels are wrapped in dark blue cloth, highlighted by bright orange piping and stitching.

The piping is actually made from reflective material, which removes the need for white lights that would disrupt the astronomer’s night vision.

Nissan also added wider and flatter armrests between the front seats, which now doubles as a workstation. The integrated strap on the armrest secure a laptop or large table while driving, while the luminescent floor mats aid night-time visibility inside the vehicle.

Trailer

  • Aerodynamic design
  • Integrated telescope
  • Refrigerated atmosphere
  • Radar units
  • Portable EV battery packs
  • Off-road wheels
2018 Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept Exterior
- image 795972

The trailer looks somewhat futuristic thanks to its aerodynamic design, but that’s to be expected given its purpose. The shell is finished in the same paint scheme as the truck, while the rear section mimics the tailgate above the waist. A thin strip of red LED lights stretches across the entire width of the fascia.

But it's what's under the shell that makes this trailer special. Its main feature is an ultrahigh-power PlaneWave telescope.

Described as the world’s first observatory-class telescope, it has a complex optical system, the latest features in the industry, and it can cost in excess of $20,000 depending on specifications. Using a 40-centimeter mirror, it has the ability to give detailed views beyond the rings of Saturn, to distant galaxies, nebulae, and even supernovas. Pretty cool!

2018 Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept Exterior
- image 795975
For safe transportation of the telescope to remote areas, the trailer also incorporates a special refrigerated atmosphere.

This allows the high-precision instrument to remain stable and calibrated at the optimum temperature. Once taken to the desired location, the trailer’s mechanized roof can be opened to focus the telescope on the night sky.

Just like the truck, the trailer has radar units at each corner. These send information about the vehicle’s surroundings to the driver through the NissanConnect infotainment. It also features portable EV battery packs with the company’s tried and tested battery technology. When docked in place, the battery packs are constantly in charging mode and ready for use when required.

The chassis is built from sturdy box-section steel for practical off-road use and rides on 16-inch wheels fitted with off-road tires, just like the truck pulling it.

Drivetrain

  • Standard drivetrain
  • 2.3-liter diesel
  • 187 horsepower
  • 332 pound-feet of torque
2018 Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept Exterior
- image 795956
While most concepts showcase powerful drivetrains from the future, usually fully electric or hybrid, the Dark Sky was equipped with a standard Navara powertrain.

The truck is usually available with a selection of three engines and Nissan went with the more powerful version of the 2.3-liter, four-cylinder, diesel mill. The oil burner cranks out 190 PS and 450 Nm of torque, which converts to 187 horsepower and 332 pound-feet. While it’s not overly powerful, it’s good enough to enable the Navara to tackle rough terrain when combined with the increased ride height, the off-road tires, and the towing hitch.

Conclusion

2018 Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept Exterior
- image 795986

The Dark Sky concept is definitely a cool idea and would make a lot of sense as a production model. Not only does it showcase a cool way to customize the Navara, but it could actually help the ESA reach remote areas for high-precision mapping of the stars. And, while the trailer might not make sense as a production model since it would be a bit too expensive, it could become a limited edition for the European Space Agency. On top of that, Nissan could start offering some of the features seen here on the regular production truck. The Navara definitely needs more optional features, and the Dark Sky concept looks like a good start.

  • Leave it
    • No production plans
    • Expensive technology

Further reading

2015 Nissan NP300 Navara High Resolution Exterior
- image 555683

Read our full review on the 2017 Nissan Navara.

Nissan today 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.

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

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:

ProPILOT enhances 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 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.”

Paolo D’Ettore, head of LCV Business Unit, Nissan Europe, said: “In Europe almost a quarter of our Navara customers regularly tow. Using Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies, we wanted to construct the most advanced and capable pickup to meet their needs. The result is the Nissan Navara Dark Sky concept, and in future we intend to make towing a simpler and more confident activity for all our customers.”

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 observations.

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

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 portable EV battery 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.

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

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.

EXTERIOR UPGRADES

Additional exterior styling components made from robust heavy duty polymer
Eight red night light / sensor units, one in each of the four corners of the pickup and trailer
Lashing points on each wheel arch extension add extra practicality
Standard Navara grille enhanced with reinforced over-riders and new front chin guard creates a more purposeful and technical look
Front winch incorporated into the chin guard for additional peace of mind while off-roading
Roof structure extends back over the load bed, and incorporates roll bars and communication transmitter
High-intensity white lights in the front edge of the roof structure for additional illumination ahead of the car
Full-width red night light in the rear edge of the roof structure to illuminate load bed
Roof structure robust enough to carry bags, supplies and equipment for overnighting in remote location
Restyled rear bumper and side step, complete with ground illuminating red night lights with new three-slot design to echo wheel arch lashing points
Four-point projector-style headlamps with new interpretation of Nissan’s signature boomerang Daytime Running Light (DRL) design
Bespoke 20-inch alloy wheels, unique to this vehicle and fitted with off-road tyres

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

INTERIOR UPGRADES

Midnight blue and orange interior upholstery
Reflective orange piping on seats to help occupants locate interior features in low light conditions
Wider and flatter armrest between the front seats doubles as a work station
Integrated luminescent strap on armrest to secure laptop while driving
Luminescent floor mats to aid night-time visibility

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

LOAD BED UPGRADES

3 x integrated storage areas in side and front of load bed for carrying smaller items
Lashing points integrated into the top edge of the load bed
Bespoke load bed liner sculpted from heavy duty polymer
Load bed liner features integrated brushed aluminium rollers for easy loading / unloading
2 x Nissan portable battery units integrated into load bed. Spares to power trailer and telescope
Integrated tool and battery storage unit at front of load bed provides locking mechanism for battery units. Vehicle’s engine can be used to charge these when running

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

TRAILER

World’s first observatory-class telescope on a bespoke off-road capable trailer
Refrigerated interior to ensure calibration of telescope is maintained during transit
Motorised functionality for trailer opening and stabilizer leg deployment
Roof is light in colour to reflect light and heat
Rear-facing camera integrated into the light strip on the rear
Upper section is a laminate construction of bonded cabin fibre layers with insulated reflective liner to ensure the refrigerated trailer stays at the optimum temperature
Chassis built from sturdy box-section steel for practical off-road use, and fitted with 16-inch wheels / off-road tyres
Trailer powered by two integrated Nissan portable battery packs
Trailer opening via motorised two-stage action, splitting front to back, opening horizontally and then with a clamshell movement to allow the telescope to see the widest possible section of sky
Trailer functionality accessed via remote control

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

OVERALL DIMENSIONS

Overall length (Navara and trailer): 9,680 mm

Navara length: 5,400 mm

Navara height: 1,920 mm

Navara wheelbase: 3,198mm

Navara wheels: 20 inches

Trailer length: 4,060 mm

Trailer height: 2,060 mm

Trailer wheels: 16 inches

About Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. Nissan is a global full-line vehicle manufacturer that sells more than 60 models under the Nissan, INFINITI and Datsun brands. In fiscal year 2017, the company sold 5.77 million vehicles globally, generating revenue of 11.9 trillion yen. On April 1, 2017, the company embarked on Nissan M.O.V.E. to 2022, a six-year plan targeting a 30% increase in annualized revenues to 16.5 trillion yen by the end of fiscal 2022, along with cumulative free cash flow of 2.5 trillion yen. As part of Nissan M.O.V.E. to 2022, the company plans to extend its leadership in electric vehicles, symbolized by the world’s best-selling all-electric vehicle in history, the Nissan LEAF. Nissan’s global headquarters in Yokohama, Japan, manages operations in six regions: Asia & Oceania; Africa, the Middle East & India; China; Europe; Latin America; and North America. Nissan has a global workforce of 247,500 and has been partnered with French manufacturer Renault since 1999. In 2016, Nissan acquired a 34% stake in Mitsubishi Motors. Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi is today the world’s largest automotive partnership, with combined sales of more than 10.6 million vehicles in calendar year 2017.

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