NASA LANGLEY SCIFLI TEAM TO TAKE IMAGES OF SPACEX C2 LAUNCH
HAMPTON, Va. -- A team from NASA's Langley Research Center will have
its eyes, cameras and telescopes trained on the skies for the launch
of the first commercial spaceflight carrying cargo to the
International Space Station.
The SCIFLI (Scientifically Calibrated In Flight Imagery) team, based
at NASA Langley, is preparing to capture visual and thermal snapshots
of the SpaceX launch as the Falcon 9 rocket and its Dragon capsule
climb through the atmosphere on their way to the ISS. The launch is
scheduled for Saturday, May 19.
Click to enlarge
A NASA Langley team will capture long range images of the SpaceX
launch with the help of a sophisticated camera and telescope system
that's on a gyro-stablized tracking mount.
Credit: NASA/Cory Huston
Click to enlarge
The Freedom Star, a former space shuttle solid rocket booster recovery
ship, is now a floating high tech camera and radar platform that will
be stationed in the North Atlantic to track and capture images of the
first commercial spacecraft carrying cargo to the International Space
The team will have sophisticated optical systems stationed on the
ground in northern Florida and for the first time ever on board a
ship, the Freedom Star. The Freedom Star and its sister ship, Liberty
Star, originally built to recover space shuttle solid rocket
boosters, will also monitor the spacecraft during the mission using
NASA diagnostic radar systems. Both ships will be off the coast of
the northeastern United States. They are normally home ported at the
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station adjacent to Kennedy Space Center in
"We're looking at getting very high spatial resolution, high
definition quality visual imaging during the launch as well as high
spatial resolution thermal imaging from an infrared camera," said Tom
Horvath, SCIFLI principal investigator at NASA Langley.
NASA contracted with Celestial Computing Incorporated in Boston,
Mass., to equip the Freedom Star with a special gyro-stabilized
tracking mount and hardware -- turning the ship into a floating
high-tech radar, camera and long-range telescope platform.
"This ship-based imaging capability is unique," said Horvath. "NASA
does not possess a shipboard gyro-stabilized tracker with the large
aperture/long focal length optics coupled to state-of-the-art
NASA will train the two imaging systems at the spacecraft to help
monitor its performance and capture key events during ascent,
including release of the Dragon capsule and solar panel deployments.
This will be the first use of a ship-based high definition visual and
infrared imaging system to support Commercial Orbital Transportation
System (COTS) project flights. The COTS project is part of the
Commercial Crew and Cargo Program, led out of NASA's Johnson Space
Center in Houston.
This may be the first time NASA Langley has used a ship to try to
capture images of a spacecraft in flight, but it's not the first time
the SCIFLI team has trained its sites on fast moving objects. The
SCIFLI team builds upon the success of what used to be the Hypersonic
Thermodynamic Infrared Measurements (HYTHIRM) team, which has had a
history of capturing challenging thermal images at speeds as high as
Mach 18. The project successfully recorded the space shuttle heat
signature during re-entry on seven different Shuttle missions, using
ground and airborne systems.
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