One of the primary missions of the Johnson Space Center (JSC) is planning and operational support for human spaceflight. In the realm of human exploration beyond low earth orbit, the three NASA Programs charged with that mission are the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), Space Launch System (SLS), and Ground Systems Development and Operations (GSDO). The MPCV program is based at JSC in Houston, TX, SLS is based at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, AL, and GSDO is based at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) near Cape Canaveral, FL. The direct support to each of these programs from Astromaterials comes in the form of Imagery Integration.
Imagery Integration is the organized effort to define operational concepts, requirements, and mission support plans for the integrated engineering imagery system across all three Centers (JSC, KSC, MSFC) and all three Programs (MPCV, SLS, GSDO). To accomplish this, the Joint Engineering Team for Imagery (JETI) has been established to coordinate the engineering imagery needs for all three 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.
Engineering imagery is the class of high-quality imagery (both motion, and still) that is collected for the specific purpose of monitoring the performance of the integrated system. In this case, the system comprises Orion (spacecraft and crew systems), SLS (launch vehicle), and GSDO (launch pad and ground support systems). 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. The Challenger accident was detected and diagnosed with imagery. The Columbia accident was 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 any number of other unforeseen events. 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 gathered by imagery systems, Imagery Integration (as with JETI for Orion, SLS, and GSDO) is the process by which a consolidated, systematic story - synthesizing all elements across a human mission - can be communicated to mission management.