NASA's Stennis Space Center (SSC) will always be recognized as the center that tested and proved flight-worthy the rocket engines and boosters that were safely used on the lunar space mission that brought "a giant leap for mankind." For over 40 years, SSC has been involved in testing rocket engines and parts for various missions such as those for the Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs. Having been involved in testing for such a long period, the space center recently began updating much of its rocket engine test equipment, including its video systems. This includes the Apella video recording system that NASA acquired from Video Technics.
The decision was made to move into digital recording where cameras in blast-resistant housings film the testing of rockets to provide a record of the testing events. The cameras on the test stand provide surveillance for the entire facility, but are also used during rocket testing, which has a test cycle that ranges from once or twice a week to once every two weeks. During a test, cameras feed video to the 24 video server inputs provided by Video Technics' six Apella SDS eight-channel (four in, four out each) networked servers for a total of 24 record and 24 playback channels.
The Apella is a highly scalable, feature-packed media server built on an IT-centric foundation. Designed with open architecture and nonproprietary file formats, VT's innovative software systems are future-proofed and flexible for a variety of applications. Native support for AVI, MOV and MXF file formats; real-time simulcast capability for HD and SD standards; closed captioning support for 608/708 standards; and transparent redundancy and failover are just a few of the server capabilities. The Apella SDS offers seamless workflow solutions for content management and automated multichannel delivery and can be easily upgraded to HD. The Apella is designed to work with the VT Proxy Editor application that provides frame-accurate low-resolution desktop editing functionality and the ability to render these sequences as new media files on the server and export them to be completed in a NLE.
VT Record software is used to apply custom metadata to each record session and gang multiple channels together using house time code. A test at Stennis is recorded for its entire duration, then the servers are stopped and the video is reviewed to allow the test team to determine if anything untoward occurred during the test. If the test was considered successful, the engineers would use VT Proxy Editor to trim a sequence and then drag and drop the timeline with media from the video server to an NLE so that they could add titles and export the video in a variety of formats. The Apella SDS servers are HD- ready and the software codecs can be easily upgraded with a simple software update.
Rocket engine tests can be expensive and sometimes impossible to repeat, therefore, it is necessary to run the system in parallel by recording the same camera feeds to multiple channels. This flexibility in user configuration provides more redundancy and greater security when needed. In fact, during a recent test of a new rocket engine, the J2X, which was tested for 500 seconds, the VT system recorded the video from all of the cameras, and captured all of the digital video.