The HYTHIRM team has also supported the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas. The COTS office was responsible for NASA’s support of unmanned resupply missions to the International Space Station by commercial companies such as SpaceX and Orbital Sciences. The HYTHIRM team provided thermal imaging capabilities similar to what had been done with the Space Shuttle to image the reentry of the SpaceX Dragon capsule during the C1 mission flown in December of 2010. This mission provided NASA with additional information pertaining to the performance of the capsule under reentry conditions, and adds to the overall database of aerothermodynamic knowledge. In addition, the HYTHIRM team planned and coordinated the flight of a telemetry aircraft (from the same US Navy squadron that provided the imaging aircraft) to enhance the telemetry reception during key phases of the spacecraft reentry. Both the SpaceX and the HYTHIRM mission were successful.
In the future, the SCI-FLI team has plans to continue supporting the COTS Office by imaging the ascent for multiple missions of the SpaceX and Orbital Sciences launch vehicles. Additional discussions are ongoing with a number of customers about thermal, visual and spectral measurements during ascent, cruise and reentry of both spacecraft and atmospheric vehicles.