PROMONTORY, Utah - While thousands turned out to watch NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) recently complete a full-scale test of a booster for the most powerful rocket in the world, few knew that another major test was occurring simultaneously. NASA’s High Dynamic Range Stereo X (HiDyRS-X) project, a revolutionary high-speed, high dynamic range camera, filmed the test, recording propulsion video data in never before seen detail.
NASA says that the HiDyRS-X project originated from a problem that exists when trying to film rocket motor tests. Rocket motor plumes, in addition to being extremely loud, are also extremely bright, making them difficult to record without drastically cutting down the exposure settings on the camera. Doing so, however, darkens the rest of the image, obscuring other important components on the motor.
Traditionally, video cameras record using one exposure at a time, but HiDyRS-X records multiple, slow motion video exposures at once, combining them into a high dynamic range video that perfectly exposes all areas of the video image.
The massive booster test served as a rare opportunity to test the HiDyRS-X hardware in a full-scale environment. The Qualification Motor 2, or QM-2, test was held at Orbital ATK’s test facility in Promontory, Utah, and was the second and final booster test before SLS’s first test flight in late 2018 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The camera recorded several seconds of the two-minute test before the power source was suddenly disconnected. In an unanticipated series of events, the sheer power of the booster shook the ground enough for the power cable to be removed from the power box.