The MPCV and DSG programs are based at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, SLS is based at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Alabama, and EGS is based at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) near Cape Canaveral, Florida. The direct ARES support to each of these programs comes in the form of Imagery Integration.
CAPTURING LAUNCHES FOR IMAGING ANALYSIS: Ground based tracking platforms, like the one pictured above, are utilized on launch day at the Kennedy Space Center to monitor the liftoff and ascent of the integrated vehicle (SLS+Orion) and are specially designed to collect high-resolution long-range imagery in multiple formats, such as high speed, video, film, stills, etc. Credit: NASA.
To accomplish this, the Joint Engineering Team for Imagery (JETI) has been established to coordinate the engineering imagery needs for all four programs in support of the Cross Program Integration Team (CPIT), based out of NASA HQ. Cross program integration is vitally important to ensure synchronization in this new era of exploration where each program manages its own schedule and budget.
Imagery may be in native digital format or acetate film that is later digitally scanned to facilitate detailed measurements. The purpose of making detailed measurements (i.e., photogrammetry) from imagery is to ensure proper operation of the integrated system and verify the safety of the crew and success of the mission.
A question is often asked, "Why use cameras to make measurements? Why not just instrument the vehicle?" The key advantage of engineering imagery is capturing the unexpected events - the unknown unknowns.
Both the Challenger and Columbia accidents were detected and diagnosed with imagery. In either case, you could never have installed enough strain gauges, temperature sensors, or other means of collecting direct measurements in a cost effective way to catch every possible booster burn-through, debris release, or miscellaneous system anomaly.
Cameras and high quality imagery systems allow you to collect time-correlated data over a wide range of locations on the vehicle. And to report all that information, Imagery Integration is the process by which a consolidated, systematic story - synthesizing all elements across a human mission - can be communicated to mission management.
MISSION SUPPORT FROM START TO FINISH: Imagery Integration is much more than a pre-flight planning effort. During the mission, imagery experts monitor vehicle operations, discuss potential anomalies, and report findings that may impact the success of the mission or safety of the crew to mission management. Credit: NASA.