See a NASA Camera Get Roasted By Fire During a SpaceX Rocket Launch
That image of the unfortunate NASA camera spread pretty far, but not all of the details did. The camera belonged to veteran NASA photographer Bill Ingalls, who was a safe distance away when he set it up outside the perimeter of the rocket launch at the Vandenberg Air Force base in California. He had six cameras, with a second remote camera outside the perimeter and four more inside the perimeter.
@NASA photographer Bill Ingalls is one of the best. He tries to get his remote cameras as close to the launch pad as possible for great results. This would illustrate the unfortunate result of an attempt at an extreme closeup. Not sure this is covered by warranty. pic.twitter.com/Lpb0kRHiCw— Peter King (@PeterKingCBS) May 23, 2018
Interestingly, the four cameras inside the supposedly dangerous perimeter were totally fine. Because even though the Falcon 9 didn't directly toast the camera, the launch did start a fire in the area, and this is what came upon and ultimately melted the hapless camera as it sat a quarter mile away from the launchpad.
But it wasn't completely destroyed - it was sturdy enough that the memory card managed to survive the flames, and the camera recorded the fire the entire time. Anyway, here's the camera's POV during the incident:
There's a first time for everything!— NASA (@NASA) May 25, 2018
Earlier this week, a remote camera set up a quarter of a mile away from the launch pad MELTED following our #GRACEFO launch. Get the full story from @nasahqphoto: https://t.co/e46h1ySmIF. pic.twitter.com/Xi0oJ5ewQF
The launch itself otherwise went well, successfully sending up two NASA Earth satellites and five communications satellites for Iridium Next. NASA frequently partners with SpaceX for rocket launches, although most of them have been unmanned. SpaceX is pushing for NASA to send astronauts to the International Space Station on Falcon 9 rockets, but that hasn't happened just yet.
A big obstacle SpaceX faces there is their "load and go" fueling procedure, which is seen as highly risky because even though it allows them to stuff more propellant into their rockets, they have to load the fuel just before launch and this can lead to an increased chance of dangerous explosions.
Those explosions have only happened sparingly, and had nothing to do with the fire started here. That was just normal rocket fire, and it's good to know NASA has cameras strong enough to handle that. Or, mostly handle it.