A digital video camera system has been qualified for use in flight on the NASA supersonic F-15B Research Testbed aircraft. This system is capable of very-high-speed color digital imaging at flight speeds up to Mach 2. The components of this system have been ruggedized and shock-mounted in the aircraft to survive the severe pressure, temperature, and vibration of the flight environment. The system includes two synchronized camera subsystems installed in fuselage mounted camera pods (see Figure 1).

Each camera subsystem comprises a camera controller/recorder unit and a camera head. The two camera subsystems are synchronized by use of an M-Hub™ synchronization unit. Each camera subsystem is capable of recording at a rate up to 10,000 pictures per second (pps). A state-of-the-art complementary metal oxide/semiconductor (CMOS) sensor in the camera head has a maximum resolution of 1,280×1,024 pixels at 1,000 pps. Exposure times of the electronic shutter of the camera range from 1/200,000 of a second to full open. The recorded images are captured in a dynamic random- access memory (DRAM) and can be downloaded directly to a personal computer or saved on a compact flash memory card. In addition to the high-rate recording of images, the system can display images in real time at 30 pps. Inter Range Instrumentation Group (IRIG) time code can be inserted into the individual camera controllers or into the MHub unit. The video data could also be used to obtain quantitative, three-dimensional trajectory information.

The first use of this system was in support of the Space Shuttle Return to Flight effort. Data were needed to help in understanding how thermally insulating foam is shed from a space-shuttle external fuel tank during launch. The cameras captured images of simulated external tank debris ejected from a fixture mounted under the centerline of the F-15B aircraft. Digital video was obtained at subsonic and supersonic flight conditions, including speeds up to Mach 2 and altitudes up to 50,000 ft (15.24 km). The digital video was used to determine the structural survivability of the debris in a real flight environment and quantify the aerodynamic trajectories of the debris.

This work was done by Stephen Corda, Ting Tseng, Matthew Reaves, Kendall Mauldin, and Donald Whiteman of Dryden Flight Research Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Electronics/Computers category. DRC-05-16

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
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Very High-Speed Digital Video Capability for In-Flight Use

(reference DRC-05-16) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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