Southern Research’s unique high-altitude HD video recording system provided NASA with dramatic close-up images of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft as it descended through Earth’s atmosphere for a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean in March.
The Airborne Imaging and Reconnaissance System (AIRS), mounted on a NASA WB-57F research aircraft flying at 18,000 feet, recorded the unmanned spacecraft on its March 8 return after a critical test mission to the International Space Station.
Tony Casey, engineering project leader for Southern Research, said the AIRS cameras filmed Crew Dragon’s descent for 12 minutes, capturing key moments such as when its drogue parachutes opened to slow the craft after reentry.
In addition, images recorded by the system’s infrared camera will allow NASA to estimate temperatures of various parts of the vehicle, he said.
“The high-definition video and infrared images captured by the AIRS platform on the WB-57 will help fill in the overall picture of how the spacecraft performed on a mission that could shape the future of the American space program,” said Casey, who is based in Houston, home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Since the AIRS technology debuted in 2005, it has played an important role in many missions for NASA and other government agencies, said Michael D. Johns, vice president of the Engineering Division at Southern Research.
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