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Paper: Los Angeles Times (CA) Title: Tiny Camera to Give Close-Up of Big Liftoff The system, mounted to the side of the space shuttle's main fuel tank, will provide live video. Date: July 13, 2005

A miniature video camera attached to an external fuel tank should give TV viewers a rare live look at the space shuttle Discovery when it blasts off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The $100,000 camera -- about the size of a felt-tip marker -- is designed to provide 15 minutes of color coverage during the launch until the shuttle orbiter separates from the fuel tank. Discovery could lift off as early as today. The video device, called a RocketCam, is designed to survive temperatures from 180 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 72 during the flight and vibrations up to 50 times the force of gravity. This high-tech camera -- now standard equipment on space shuttle missions -- will provide real-time images to NASA engineers, allowing them to more quickly troubleshoot problems. It is part of NASA's new elaborate safety procedure for the launch of Discovery, the first shuttle to fly since the fatal Columbia mission in early 2003. The much-anticipated launch also could lift the prospects for Ecliptic Enterprises Inc., the Pasadena firm that developed the RocketCam. "You'll have a better view of the launch than the shuttle astronauts," said Rex Ridenoure, 49, a company co-founder and former engineer at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Bucket-size motion picture cameras bolted to rockets typically have provided dramatic footage of the violent nature of a spacecraft trying to defy gravity. But the film they used had to be recovered and developed after the mission, sometimes months later. Having live video could prove crucial in helping NASA avoid the disaster that befell Columbia when falling debris damaged the orbiter's wing during blastoff. A ground-based camera miles away captured the debris striking the wing, but the pictures were fuzzy and NASA engineers disagreed over the seriousness of the damage. Two weeks later, Columbia disintegrated as it was returning to Earth, killing all seven astronauts on board. This time, NASA will have more than 100 ground-based cameras, with telescopic lenses, pointed at the shuttle. But only one camera will be on the rocket with a live view of the orbiter's belly, considered a vulnerable area because it is lined with heatresistant ceramic tiles that can easily be dislodged. NASA has ordered eight RocketCams, which come with laptop-size electronic boxes fitted with battery power and highpowered transmitters. The NASA order marked a turning point for 5-year-old Ecliptic Enterprises, which has installed its cameras on 30-plus unmanned rockets. Most of the cameras were used by Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. as diagnostic tools during the launches of military and commercial satellites. Because of the surge in orders, Ecliptic expects to post its first profit this year on revenue of about $4 million. The cameras, made by Sony Corp., are placed in a special casing developed by Ecliptic and then connected by cable to an electronic box that contains a transmitter and a battery pack. Ecliptic engineers, using specialized assembly skills honed from putting together deep-space probes at JPL, take what is essentially a miniature video camera developed for televising sporting

http://infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/InfoW...67W56JJMTEzNTgzOTY1OC41NzMzNzI6MTo3OnJhLTUzMDg (1 of 2)12/28/2005 11:30:26 PM

Ecliptic Enterprises  

Space may be the next frontier. But back on Earth, start-ups often find it hard to reach warp speed—even if they’re powered by stellar engin...

Ecliptic Enterprises  

Space may be the next frontier. But back on Earth, start-ups often find it hard to reach warp speed—even if they’re powered by stellar engin...