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NASA Langley Team to Track Rocket Launch from North Atlantic

Thu, 05/17/2012 - 11:40am -- WCVE

A team from NASA’s Langley Research Center will have its eyes, cameras and telescopes trained on the skies for the launch of the first commercial spaceflight carrying cargo to the International Space Station.

The SCIFLI (Scientifically Calibrated In Flight Imagery) team, based at NASA Langley, is preparing to capture visual and thermal snapshots of the SpaceX launch as the Falcon 9 rocket and its Dragon capsule climb through the atmosphere on their way to the ISS.

WCVE Public Radio’s Charles Fishburne has this Science Matters Special Report:

The team will have sophisticated optical systems stationed on the ground in northern Florida and for the first time ever on board a ship, the Freedom Star. The Freedom Star and its sister ship, Liberty Star, originally built to recover space shuttle solid rocket boosters, will also monitor the spacecraft during the mission using NASA diagnostic radar systems. Both ships will be off the coast of the northeastern United States. They are normally home ported at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station adjacent to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA will train the two imaging systems at the spacecraft to help monitor its performance and capture key events during ascent, including release of the Dragon capsule and solar panel deployments. This will be the first use of a ship-based high definition visual and infrared imaging system to support Commercial Orbital Transportation System (COTS) project flights. The COTS project is part of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program, led out of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The launch is scheduled for Saturday, May 19th.