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Center Independent Research & Development: SSC IRAD

Improved Rocket Test Engine Video Recording with Computational Photography and Computer Vision Techniques

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

High energy processes such as rocket engine flight certification ground testing require high-speed, high dynamic range video imaging in order to capture and record essential information for NASA. This need is particularly true in the event of a mishap, when investigations into the underlying cause ensue. Standard imaging technologies available with consumer grade digital cameras do not meet the requirements for imaging these types of high energy processes.  The test bed project will develop a high-speed High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging capability suitable for integration into the NASA SSC test facility. This project will also lay the foundation for other Rocket Propulsion Test (RPT) high-speed recording initiatives as well as rocket engine and launch initiatives.

High-speed video recording of rocket engine tests has several challenges. A single image frame contains both extremely bright and extremely dark regions. In many cases the bright regions are due to plume emissions and the dark regions are weakly illuminated physical structures. Commercially available high-speed video cameras do not have sufficient dynamic range to properly expose both bright and dark areas without partially saturated. Saturation on the bright side will wash out all bright areas making it impossible to distinguish bright detail and likewise saturation on the dark side will blacken out all dark areas making it impossible to see into the shadows and distinguish any dark details. In addition, rocket motor testing contains high-speed transient events that require high frame rate cameras. The scenes also contain complex three-dimensional test articles and plume formations that are difficult to capture with a simple two-dimensional image. The test bed project will develop a high-speed HDR imaging capability suitable for integration into the NASA Stennis Space Center (SSC) test facility.

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A final report document may be available for this project. If you would like to request it, please contact us.

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