How does SpaceX get such clear and detailed imagery and footage of its rocket launches? Here’s a 5-minute video from Primal Space that answers that question.
With a rocket moving at over 3,000mph (5,000km/h) at a distance of perhaps 37 miles (60km) away from the camera, it can be very difficult to get clear footage that tracks the rocket through its flight. You’d need a focal length of about 10,000mm to fill the frame with a 70-meter high rocket from this distance.
Not only that, but the camera needs to track in perfect sync with the rocket itself. The smallest movements by the camera would result in huge shakes and wobbles in ultra-zoomed-in footage from that 10,000mm lens.
So what’s the answer? Well, the launchpads are all surrounded by specialist tracking cameras that were originally designed to track missiles for the military.
In the past, these were manually operated. Nowadays they are almost all automatic (or at least semi-automatic).
The footage recorded by these cameras can be used to provide insights for rocket companies about their launches. By using infrared cameras, as well as high frame rate cameras, rockets can be improved based on the information gleaned from these images.