Space-borne imaging systems derived from commercial technology have been successfully employed on launch vehicles for several years. Since 1997, over sixty such imagers - all in the product family called RocketCamTM - have operated successfully on 29 launches involving most U.S. launch systems.
During this time, these inexpensive systems have demonstrated their utility in engineering analysis of liftoff and ascent events, booster performance, separation events and payload separation operations, and have also been employed to support and document related ground-based engineering tests. Such views from various vantage points provide not only visualization of key events but stunning and extremely positive public relations video content.
Near-term applications include capturing key events on Earth-orbiting spacecraft and related proximity operations.
This paper examines the history to date of RocketCams on expendable and manned launch vehicles, assesses their current utility on rockets, spacecraft and other aerospace vehicles (e.g., UAVs), and provides guidance for their use in selected defense and security applications.
Broad use of RocketCams on defense and security projects will provide critical engineering data for developmental efforts, a large database of in-situ measurements onboard and around aerospace vehicles and platforms, compelling public relations content, and new diagnostic information for systems designers and failure-review panels alike.