Jeff DuVernay sets up a terrestrial laser scanner to make detailed 3-D image of launch complex 14 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (PHOTO: Red Huber, Orlando Sentinel)
It doesn’t look like much driving by, but a weathered version of America’s first blast-off site still stands at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in eastern Florida. The 52 years that have passed since John Glenn and the Friendship 7 Mercury capsule launched have taken their toll on Launch Complex 14, as well as six other historic rocket sites and three additional launch complexes, but these landmarks for man and mankind are now getting some overdue attention.
Though the sites were not built to last, the Air Force has secured a generous grant to preserve and conserve these sites to the best of our technology’s ability.
Scientists from the University of South Florida are now using sophisticated 3D imaging technology to survey and map these launch sites to create digital heritage interpretation videos and other documentation to share with present and future generations.
Similar digital feats are often conducted these days, from the preservationist activities at Cape Canaveral to artistic visualization modules to investigative forensics and more. 3D scanning and modeling systems like 3D Systems’ Geomagic Solutions are stepping up in big ways, capturing hundreds of thousands of data points in an instant and giving preservationists and researchers the ability to examine tiny details with full faith in accuracy.
Lori Collins, one of the lead researchers on the Air Force project, says traditional methods to achieve the same results used to take months, with hand measurements, photographs, and the tedious gathering of point-by-point elevation data. “Now we can shoot it in half a day, and this is far more accurate,” Collins says.
If all goes well with funding, the 3D surveys will inform the stabilization and restoration of the launch structures. Either way, the surveys bring value by creating digital archives of a local heritage that is disappearing.
To see scanning in action, check out this video. Click here for further reading on the overall project.