Aerospace, Articles | April 17, 2023

Capturing Combustion: High-Speed Cameras for Aerospace Applications

Have you ever wondered what happens when you ignite a matchstick, press the gas pedal or launch a rocket into space? These are examples of combustion and thrust, fascinating phenomena that occur in just a fraction of a second. Such fast events can be recorded and studied with high-speed cameras. In this blog post, we’ll explore how scientists use high-speed cameras to analyze combustion and thrust with precision and accuracy.

Introduction: What are High-Speed Cameras?

High-speed cameras are designed to capture fast events that would be otherwise invisible to the human eye i.e., rocket engine firing, a matchstick ignition, or high-speed collisions. Thus they are heavily used in a variety of fields, such as scientific research, engineering, manufacturing, and entertainment.

These interesting devices typically record images at several 100’s frames per second and up to million frames per second. The faster the event being captured, the higher the frame rate needs to be to capture enough details of the phenomenon under scrutiny. For example, Chronos high-speed cameras have been used to observe and study rocket launches such as the Masten Space System Launch in conjunction with the University of Florida.

Benefits of High-Speed Cameras in Aerospace Applications

High-speed cameras are a valuable tool for analyzing the performance of aerospace propulsion systems. By capturing high-quality images at very high frame rates, they can provide detailed information about the behavior of thrust and combustion processes.

Moreover, they can also be used to investigate other aspects of aerospace engineering. For example, to study the aerodynamic characteristics of wings and airfoils, or to examine the effects of wind and turbulence on aircraft structures.

High-Speed Camera for Thrust and Combustion Analysis

The ability to shoot video at high frame rates leads to advances in combustion diagnostics. Thus the measurement of velocities, temperature and concentrations can be more precisely conducted[1]. Enhanced temporal and spatial resolution provided by high-speed cameras is crucial to provide more precise data to computer-based, CFD, models. The theoretical models can be used to gain further insight into key topics such as fire control or flame burning efficiency, for instance. A brief discussion about CFD and High speed cameras can be seen here.  

Combustion research is also conducted in space[2]. Reduced gravity conditions help in the measurement of fuel droplet and flame evolution[3]. Yet the event is sufficiently fast, thus high frame recording rates are required. 


High-speed cameras have revolutionized the way engineers analyze thrust and combustion, allowing scientists to capture images of events that were previously very challenging to observe. From capturing jet engines to recording the rapid expansion of flames, high-speed cameras are enabling us to gain insight into how aerospace combustion works like never before. With the use of these powerful tools, we can unlock greater levels of efficiency and performance from existing propulsion systems – paving the way for a future filled with faster and more efficient aerospace applications.


Sick, V., 2013. High speed imaging in fundamental and applied combustion research. Proceedings of the Combustion Institute, 34(2), pp.3509-3530.

Ross, H.D. ed., 2001. Microgravity combustion: fire in free fall. Elsevier.

Dietrich, D.L., Nayagam, V., Hicks, M.C., Ferkul, P.V., Dryer, F.L., Farouk, T., Shaw, B.D., Suh, H.K., Choi, M.Y., Liu, Y.C. and Avedisian, C.T., 2014. Droplet combustion experiments aboard the international space station. Microgravity Science and Technology, 26, pp.65-76.

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