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How RocketCam Works

Other RocketCam Projects
Here, RocketCam (left) mounts to the XCOR Aerospace EZ-Rocket plane. On the right is the view from that RocketCam in flight.
Here, RocketCam (left) mounts to the XCOR Aerospace EZ-Rocket plane. On the right is the view from that RocketCam in flight.

Although most famous for its use on space shuttles and other space launches, RocketCam also hitches rides on other kinds of projects.

Ecliptic provides the RocketCam for use in testing of experimental aircraft. For example, it has been included on flights of the XCOR Aerospace EZ-Rocket, an innovative rocket-powered plane. This plane takes off on rockets, can restart its engines in midflight, and to land, it simply makes a dead-stick glide (meaning without the use of propulsion) to the ground [source: XCOR]. Ecliptic also provides RocketCams to the rocket suppliers that launch spy satellites for the National Reconnaissance Office, a government intelligence agency, for classified projects [source: Ridenoure].

The RocketCam has been involved in high-altitude balloon projects, such as one demonstrated at a Global Space League event to encourage educational projects in aviation. In this project, a RocketCam captured the trip of a high-altitude balloon carrying a transmitter developed by Santa Clara University. In addition, the RocketCam has been involved in the attempts to fly the QinetiQ1, an ambitious high-altitude balloon. Engineers behind the project wanted to break the world record for high-altitude human flight by using a helium-filled balloon spanning 9 acres (392,040 square feet or 43,560 square yards) to carry the pilots up to 25 miles (40 kilometers) high [source: Cooke].

In 2003, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of aviation, engineers constructed a replica of the original Wright Flyer II, the plane that made the first powered flight (though with a more stable design). RocketCam was included on test flights of the replica.

But the RocketCam isn't just for the air, either; it has worked as a situational awareness and research aid for land and water projects as well. Most notably, the North American Eagle car, which could break the land speed record, has been equipped with the cameras [source: Ridenoure]. (Read more about this project in our article, How the North American Eagle Works.) In addition, the RocketCam has even been taken out on a military marine project. Using infrared technology, the cameras have helped measure the accuracy of laser beams in boat target practice.

Overall, it's obvious that the role of the RocketCam has become increasingly important in space exploration as well as aviation and other projects. Take a look at the next page to find out more about space shuttles and rockets, and to view more RocketCam videos.

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