A mobile, rapidly deployable ground-based system to track and image targets of aeronautical interest has been developed. Targets include reentering reusable launch vehicles as well as atmospheric and transatmospheric vehicles. The optics were designed to image targets in the visible and infrared wavelengths. To minimize acquisition cost and development time, the system uses commercially available hardware and software where possible. The conception and initial funding of this system originated with a study of ground-based imaging of global aerothermal characteristics of reusable launch vehicle configurations. During that study the National Aeronautics and Space Administration teamed with the Missile Defense Agency/Innovative Science and Technology Experimentation Facility to test techniques and analysis on two Space Shuttle flights.
f FOV GPS IR ISAFE ISTEF MATrIS MDA M∞ MVSP MWIR NASA RA RLV TPS ε Θ'
f/number (focal length/aperture) field of view, degrees global positioning system infrared Infrared Sensing Aeroheating Flight Experiment Innovative Science and Technology Experimentation Facility Mobile Aerial Tracking and Imaging System Missile Defense Agency freestream Mach number motorized video surveillance platform mid-wave infrared National Aeronautics and Space Administration relative aperture reusable launch vehicle thermal protection system emissivity exit angle
A primary design driver in any reentering spacecraft is the thermal protection system (TPS). Reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) need a robust and typically reusable TPS with minimum mass in order to maximize performance and payload. Peak heating and exposure time near peak heating are key factors in TPS design. Hypersonic boundary-layer transition can cause peak heating to increase by a factor of two or more. Thus, early boundary-layer transition can have a dramatic effect on peak heating, exposure near peak heating and, ultimately, TPS design. Because of unknowns in hypersonic boundary-layer transition,