Nighttime at Cape Canaveral Space shuttle launch

©PCO AG

Nighttime at Cape Canaveral Space shuttle launch

Did You Know…

…why NASA Space Shuttle Launches Are Filmed Using High-Performance Cameras?


Nighttime at Cape Canaveral. The countdown is running: …3, 2, 1 – we have liftoff!
Each of the more than 100 space shuttle launches was filmed to document the procedure exactly and detect any potential problems. The high-capacity cameras used for this have to perform flawlessly.

For example, these cameras have to be capable of recording several hundred images per second during a night launch. The lenses and digital image sensors – or film – therefore need to be especially light-sensitive. The ignition of the rockets and the burning fuel suddenly make for daylight conditions – as well as the reflections that go along with them. Despite the extreme differences in illumination, the cameras have to capture even the finest details at all times, such as individual plates from the heat shield falling off or the behavior of thin wires. And all this from 300 meters away.

Since a rocket launch generates vibrations too massive for standard lenses to tolerate, it is essential that the cameras be particularly robust. In addition, they have to be able to handle considerable fluctuations in humidity and temperature throughout the day. Once the camera has been set up, no one is allowed near it for security reasons, even if the launch date is repeatedly postponed. Until now, only analog cameras have been able to meet these requirements. However, the ZEISS Makro-Planar T* 2/100 ZF in a digital high-speed camera from PCO in Kehlheim, Germany, has now demonstrated that it even exceeds the quality levels obtained for night launches to date.


8 February 2011

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