Since getting the bug of trying to perfect a way of capturing launch pad images and video about 2 years ago we have been refining our equipment and procedures. We are still on a learning curve and it seems to be far more of an art than a science.
Our camera was positioned just a few hundred feet from the rocket at launch. The video contains a short clip of the launch followed by a 1/8th speed slo-mo that lets you see both the power of the shock waves vibrating the camera which was staked down on a solid tripod, and the build up of the exhaust clouds as the rocket blasts off.
This is however a challenge we embrace and the technique improves with each launch. Of course you cannot have a manned camera within a few hundred feet of a rocket launch so everything needs to be done with timers and sensors. It is made somewhat more complex with the development taking place across continents and time zones. But it is an exciting project that will continue to evolve.
The most recent Atlas V carrying the MSL with Mars Curiosity rover saw the introduction of the new GoPro Hero2 HD into our arsenal. From the video you will see that we didn’t get it quite right as the camera was activated by sound and took about 3 seconds to start up. In that time we missed the initial engine firing but caught the rocket as it soared into the sky.
Our next outing will show further improvement as we will have new microprocessor controllers specifically designed to control the GoPro cameras and SLR cameras. We have also been developing a sound activated trigger from an Alan Walters design specifically for SLR cameras. This was used very successfully on it’s inaugural outing to capture the still images of the launch as seen in our Atlas V-MSL launch report.
I keep promising myself that I will write an article documenting the evolution of our capture systems and the technology, and ingenuity in some cases, that we devised along the way.