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Orbital ATK’s QM-2 solid rocket booster test, as recorded by a traditional video camera (top) and by NASA’s High Dynamic Range Stereo X (HiDyRS-X) camera (bottom).
NASA; Gif by Marisa Gertz for TIME

Earlier this summer, NASA performed a full-scale test of it’s Space Launch System booster. Thousands came out to the test facility in Promontory, Utah to watch the spectacular display from what will be the most powerful rocket in the world.

At the same time, NASA was testing another device, the High Dynamic Range Stereo X (HiDyRS-X) camera. As anyone who has tried to photograph a sunset knows, getting the perfect exposure with a traditional camera can be tricky. Expose for the bright sun, and the rest of your picture will be too dark; expose for the darkening sky, and you lose all detail in the highlights. NASA’s traditional camera footage of the booster test (on top), runs into that same problem. In order to keep the exhaust from the booster from getting too dark, the detail in the bright flame had to be sacrificed.

The HiDyRS-X solves this problem by recording multiple, slow motion exposures at once and then combining them into a single video. This technique allowed the team to see details that had never been caught on film before, such as vortices shedding within the rocket plume and the ground support mirror bracket falling to the ground.

Despite a few hiccups (the force of the blast from the booster shook the power cable free after several seconds), the test was considered a success and proof that the technology worked. “Failure during testing of the camera is the opportunity to get smarter,” said Howard Conyers, a structural dynamist at NASA’s Stennis Space Center. “Without failure, technology and innovation is not possible.”

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