Over the summer of 2007, I was selected for an internship with the NASA Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP) to work with a civil servant at NASA Langley in Hampton, VA. During the internship, I investigated a potential problem with the upcoming ARES I-X experimental rocket launch. There was some concern that the ARES I upper stage rocket nozzle would impact the lower stage during the separation event. The ARES I-X rocket used a dummy upper stage with a mass simulator instead of a rocket nozzle. My goal was to design a photogrammetric camera setup which could successfully map the relative position between the upper and lower stages during the first 35 ft of the separation event.
To accomplish this goal, I used a combination of simulation and mock up testing. I had to work among a variety of NASA engineers to determine the latest design for ARES I-X, then use that design to determine camera & retroreflective target placement to minimize sensing error. Once I was comfortable with the simulation results, I created a full-scale mockup using the same equipment that would be used on the flight mission. My design also accounted for the effects of image compression, which would be necessary to transmit the data from the rocket to the ground.
The ARES I-X flight took place October 28, 2009. However, the constellation program (including ARES I) was cancelled in 2010.