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Beauty in controlled explosions

Animation of footage from NASA's HiDyRS-X camera. Footage grabbed from official NASA video.

Animation of footage from NASA’s HiDyRS-X camera. Footage grabbed from official NASA video.

A few days ago, NASA released a video of their successful solid rocket booster test – dubbed QM-2 – showcasing the capabilities of their new High Dynamic Range Stereo X (HiDyRS-X) camera.

Normally, a camera’s exposure settings are configured to get detail in either the brightest areas, or in the darker areas, of a subject. This would force one to decide between capturing valuable visual data in one area, while effectively ignoring visual data in another. Or setting up redundant equipment, with each composed to capture different types of detail. Neither situation is optimal, and can lead to costly equipment deployments.

HiDyRS-X, though, can capture both simultaneously. The three-minute video clearly shows detail in the booster’s blindingly bright exhaust plume, while still decently exposing the aft end of the booster itself – something that would normally be difficult, if not impossible, to do with a single device. HiDyRS-X is able to capture both bright and dark areas concurrently, and combine them into a single high dynamic range (HDR) video. The results are quite incredible.

NASA was not the only one to release unconventional footage of their hardware in action. SpaceX produced a montage video, replete with a suitably techno soundtrack, of some slow-motion shots of their Falcon 9 rocket in various stages of its flight, and landing, profile.

Both videos are outstanding, and show the power and beauty in some of mankind’s powerful creations.

Close-up of the aft end of the Falcon 9's first stage, with a single Merlin 1D under power, as it comes in for a landing. Credit: SpaceX

Close-up of the aft end of the Falcon 9’s first stage, with a single Merlin 1D under power, as it comes in for a landing. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX conducts full-duration static fire on recovered booster

SpaceX conducts test fire on recovered booster. Image grabbed from SpaceX video.

SpaceX conducts test fire on recovered booster. Image grabbed from SpaceX video.

July 28, 2016 – SpaceX successfully conducted a full-duration test fire of the Falcon 9 booster recovered from a launch earlier this year. Not intending to re-fly the JCSAT 14 booster – it’s designated a ‘reference vehicle’ by SpaceX – the company hopes to put the launcher through a variety of tests in order to determine the viability of re-using recovered stages.

This particular booster experienced significantly greater re-entry and landing stresses as its flight profile was for a payload being delivered to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO), as opposed to the booster recovered from the recent CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station (ISS), which is in a much lower orbit.

SpaceX asserts that reusability is a key to lowering the cost of getting cargo and crew to orbit, and this is the first step in achieving that goal. SpaceX’s Elon Musk has said that they plan to launch a recovered booster later this year. Notably, communications satellite company SES has indicated a willingness to be the first to fly on a recovered booster, though there’s been no public announcement from SpaceX about the customer for that historic launch.