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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Imaging and The Discovery Shuttle

Ecliptic Enterprises Corp. (from NASA video)
This photo shows more detail as to where the foam came off, where it hit the shuttle and where it went.
Ecliptic Enterprises Corp. (from NASA video)
The circled area shows where the foam debris came off the Discovery.
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On July 26, NASA launched the shuttle Discovery with more than 100 cameras watching. The camera that captured the image of insulation falling off the external tank that was the RocketCam video system from Ecliptic Enterprises Corp. (Pasadena, CA).

Ecliptic, which has worked on more than 40 rocket or spacecraft projects, provided the camera and, inside the tank, an avionics unit about the size of a hat box that included batteries, a transmitter, turn-on circuitry and the cables that went to and from the camera and antennas. A signal was broadcast down to Earth on a S-band frequency.

The broadcast-quality NTSC color video was operating at 28 frames per second, says Rex Ridenoure, CEO of Ecliptic Enterprises. "The camera itself has extremely good automatic gain control for exposure on the chip," says Ridenoure. "The signal is digital on the chip, then is converted to analog and NTSC video inside the camera before being sent to our avionics box and then to the S-band transmitter."

A 3.5 millimeter lens provided a near wide angle shot. "It is not a fisheye (lens), but it does offer a wide angle," Ridenoure says.

"The principal reason the system was put on the launch is to monitor any significant pieces of foam or ice that go by the tank," says Ridenoure. "The objective was to capture anything. Even a small piece of foam from the tank could require a sequence of checks of the Shuttle's fragile tiles.

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