Fifth launch attempt

11:00 PM: Less than 12 hours after the previous attempt got called off, we are heading back to LDB to try again…

12:10 AM: We’re rolling out, and Brent and I remembered to start the playlist! The Boss is about to pick us up.

12:45 AM: We just heard from CSBF that the winds are looking pretty good. We should be heading to the flight line soon. Though that’s great news about the winds, I think we’re all a little afraid to get our hopes up again…

1:45 AM: We’re heading to the flight line! CSBF claims they are “cautiously optimistic”. The winds are staying fairly consistent, so they’ve decided which way to lay out the balloon. Hopefully the wind direction doesn’t change too much.

COSI and the Boss heading to the launch pad

COSI and the Boss heading to the launch pad

This little trailer brings the parachute out to the launch pad

This little trailer brings the parachute out to the launch pad

2:00 AM: Each science group gets to use one of the mules during their balloon launch, so that we can easily get out to the launch pad and back. Brent, Carolyn and I went to go pick it up and park it right next to the weather port.

Brent and Carolyn were really excited about getting the mule

Brent and Carolyn were really excited about getting the mule

The back seat wasn't set up properly, so I rode in the back

The back seat wasn’t set up properly, so I rode in the back

IMG_2433

2:10 AM: The helium trucks are heading out to the launch pad. Now it’s just the balloon that needs to get picked up.

3:20 AM: Winds are looking too high, again.

4:00 AM: The low level winds look perfect, but the surface winds keep oscillating between being too high and being fine. The balloon got taken out of the weather port and is heading towards the launch pad. This doesn’t mean it will get taken out of the box. A current idea is to wait until the surface winds go down again, and then immediately start inflating, hoping that they stick to the pattern of being down for about an hour and a half. This sounds pretty risky, so CSBF hasn’t decided yet if that’s what we’ll be doing.

It's been a long night, and a long week! Brent and I decided to nap. Unfortunately we only have one cot, but thankfully the big red is pretty comfortable.

It’s been a long night, and a long week! Brent and I decided to nap while we waited for CSBF to come pick up the balloon. Unfortunately we only have one cot, but luckily the big red is pretty comfortable.

Now that the balloon is out of the weather port, we have a ton of space. Carolyn decided to lie down right in the middle of the building, something we haven't been able to do in quite awhile.

Now that the balloon is out of the weather port, we have a ton of space. Carolyn decided to lie down right in the middle of the building, something we haven’t been able to do in quite awhile.

5:40 AM: We’re still waiting for the surface winds to die down.

8:40 AM: They’ve taken the balloon out of the box! This means they’re being very serious about the launch. However, as we learned during launch attempt 2, it doesn’t necessarily mean the launch will happen.

9:10 AM: They’re starting inflation! More updates to come later, video here: http://www.csbf.nasa.gov/antarctica/ice.htm

10:20 AM: And we’ve launched!

The balloon during inflation, the parachute, the Boss, and COSI

The balloon during inflation, the parachute, the Boss, and COSI

Me in front of the balloon during inflation

Me in front of the balloon during inflation

The Boss about to release the payload. My camera wasn't really good enough to handle it.

The Boss about to release the payload. My camera wasn’t really good enough to handle it.

There was this awesome rainbow going on right after launch

There was this awesome rainbow going on right after launch

Go, COSI, go!

Go, COSI, go!

One of the Spider guys took this pretty sweet video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WT6tnEPUQts. The balloon goes in front of the sun, which looks awesome!!

12:18 PM: COSI has launched and the ascent is looking good!!! Pictures of the launch are pending, for now, here are some pictures captured by the CSBF cameras on the gondola during and after launch:

Looking up at the balloon immediately before the gondola was released from the launch vehicle.

Looking up at the balloon immediately before the gondola was released from the launch vehicle.

Looking up at the balloon sometime after launch and after emerging from the low level clouds.

Looking up at the balloon sometime after launch and after emerging from the low level clouds.

launch0005

A view of Mount Erebus as COSI emerges from the clouds.

A view of Mount Erebus and Mount Terror from above.

A view of Mount Erebus and Mount Terror from above.

launch0180

Not sure how high the balloon is at this point, but yes, you can see the atmosphere and the dark space above. How wicked is that?!

1:15 PM: COSI is officially at float altitude. We’ll be spending the next couple of days using the line-of-sight telemetry link to monitor the instrument. All looks pretty good so far! 

Advertisements

Fourth (real) launch attempt

Lately, the weather hasn’t been so great, but we’ve been asked to show for launch attempts anyway. Sometimes the weather has been so bad we haven’t even rolled out! The rationale behind showing anyway is that we really don’t want to risk missing a launch opportunity. I think today is the fourth actual attempt, depending on how we count them.

We’re hopeful for this one, mostly because the weather guy predicted very good weather for today, but also partly because of the penguin we saw at LDB yesterday. Why is the penguin relevant? The day before ANITA launched, there was a penguin wandering around LDB. So, if there was a penguin here yesterday, maybe that means we’ll launch today!

IMG_2405

IMG_2408 IMG_2410 IMG_2414 IMG_2417

Anyway, we left McMurdo at 3 AM and are aiming for an 11 AM launch. Updates will come…

5 AM: We’ve rolled out and are hanging from the Boss.

IMG_2428

COSI getting hooked up to the Boss

6:00 AM: Winds aren’t looking so great right now. We’re on a weather hold for a bit.

9:30 AM: Still waiting for the weather to improve…

11:30 AM: And it’s been scrubbed. The winds are just too high. We’re trying again tonight.

Second Launch Attempt

We’re aiming for a launch around 7AM – 8AM this morning. I’ll try to update here periodically!

12:00 AM: We all met at McMurdo to head out to LDB (except for McBride, who has spent the past two nights on the cot at LDB for some reason). We were supposed to sleep all afternoon, but I’m not sure how well any of us did…thankfully, everyone seems pretty awake thanks to a combination of adrenaline and coffee!

2:30 AM: We’ve rolled out! The gondola is now hanging from the launch vehicle, and we’re doing our telemetry checks.

The riggers rolling the gondola out. Brent made sure to play the song Roll Out, on our playlist just for this occasion!

The riggers rolling the gondola out. Brent made sure to play the song Roll Out, on our playlist just for this occasion!

Derek getting ready to hook the gondola up to the Boss

Derek getting ready to hook the gondola up to the Boss (the launch vehicle)

Attaching the gondola to the Boss

Attaching the gondola to the Boss

IMG_2334

Carolyn and Brent waiting with the back panel while the riggers finish

Carolyn and Brent waiting with the back panel while the riggers finish

Everyone working on or looking at software: the GSE, the distributor, or the GRB monitor program

Me, Brent, McBride and Alex working on software: the GSE, the distributor, or the GRB monitor program

3:30 AM: ANITA planned to send up a little balloon, called HICAL, to help calibrate their instrument. Because the balloon and instrument are small, they can launch it without the Boss. We went out to see them launch, but unfortunately there was a mishap with the balloon: it leaked! Right after getting launched, it fell back down. The CSBF guys had to wrestle it to the ground.

The ANITA team watching the HICAL launch

The ANITA team watching the HICAL launch

A close-up of the HICAL balloon

A close-up of the HICAL balloon

The payload had just dropped to the ground

The payload had just dropped to the ground

Two CSBF guys chasing down the payload

Two CSBF guys chasing down the payload

The riggers trying to wrestle the balloon back down

The riggers trying to wrestle the balloon back down

Hopefully their calibration instrument is okay! They have a backup balloon, so they’ll be able to try again.

Meanwhile, we’re still testing telemetry. Chris is testing out the parachute and balloon terminate commands.

COSI hanging on the Boss

COSI hanging on the Boss

There’s a live stream here: http://www.csbf.nasa.gov/antarctica/ice.htm. Click on Operations Video to see it. That being said, it’s probably not that interesting until the actual launch…

5:30 AM: We are on the flight line! The Boss is on the launch pad, and the balloon is heading there now.

The riggers getting the balloon out of the weatherport

The riggers getting the balloon out of the weatherport

The super pressure balloon is giant and took up almost our entire weather port! The normal balloons are much smaller than this one.

The super pressure balloon is giant and took up almost our entire weather port. The normal balloons are much smaller than this one.

COSI on the flight line!

COSI on the flight line!

Brent was really excited about the prospect of driving around in the cart

Brent was really excited about the prospect of driving around in the cart

They're bringing out the spool. The spool is to hold the balloon down while it's inflating.

They’re bringing out the spool. The spool is to hold the balloon down while it’s inflating.

5:45 AM: Apparently the winds are currently a little too high for the super pressure balloon. We’re proceeding for now, but it sounds like the winds will have to come down for this launch to happen.

7:45 PM: The launch is on! CSBF is laying out the balloon. Inflation is starting imminently!

The parachute, the Boss, and COSI

The parachute and the Boss

CSBF hooking up the parachute

CSBF hooking up the parachute

LDB from the launch pad. It looks so far away!

LDB from the launch pad. It looks so far away!

IMG_2363

COSI hanging

Carolyn and I headed over to check out the balloon. It was really cool to see it get unpacked and laid out.

Starting to take the balloon out of the box

Starting to take the balloon out of the box

The balloon wrapped around the spool

The balloon wrapped around the spool

Laying out the balloon

Laying out the balloon

Laying out the balloon some more

Laying out the balloon some more

IMG_2376

The balloon laid out almost all the way

The balloon laid out almost all the way

The top of the balloon

The top of the balloon

Carolyn and I getting super excited!

Carolyn and I getting super excited!

8:50 AM: And it got too windy. Something went wrong with the tow balloon and they had to let it go. I’m not really sure what the plan is going forward.

11:40 AM: After a nap and some time to process, here’s a final update for today. CSBF put the balloon back in the box, and we will use the super pressure balloon for our next launch attempt. The weather probably isn’t good enough for a launch attempt tomorrow. I’m not sure when the next attempt will be.

6th time’s the charm!

ANITA had their 6th roll out this morning and after a few snags they made it out to the flight line and had a gorgeous launch! For many of us, on COSI and ANITA, this was the first balloon launch we’ve witnessed live. It was remarkable.

For safety reasons, spectators (but only those associated with LDB are allowed) need to stay over 500 feet from the launch pad. People that was deemed non-essential personnel, like ourselves, watch the whole process from just outside of our buildings. The balloon inflation takes about an hour to complete.

Some of the COSI, ANITA, and SPIDER groups waiting around for the inflation to be complete.

Some of the COSI, ANITA, and SPIDER groups waiting around for the inflation to be complete.

DSC_0298

I decided it was a good time for a snow angle.

DSCN2085

McBride, Brent, and Clio standing in front of the ANITA payload on the launch pad with the balloon fully inflated and ready for release.

DSCN2089

ANITA in the middle of the launch pad with the balloon inflating beside it. It looks tiny from here!

The balloon doesn’t swell up to its full size (over 400 ft in diameter) until it reaches its float altitude (110,000 ft).

DSC_0303

Right after the balloon was released. You could hear the whoosh/flapping of the polyethylene even from where we were. It was pretty surreal.

DSC_0309

The Boss maneuvers to stay underneath the balloon before the release of the gondola.

DSC_0313

The ANITA payload after launch. It’s just itty bitty.

GO ANITA GO!!!

First Launch Attempt

Carolyn and I have fallen a bit behind with the blog lately, mostly due to a lot of work and stress leading up to our compatibility test and hang test. These tests are to verify all the communications are functioning and make sure that our instrument is works as expected when put together with everything that CSBF adds. We passed those tests last Friday and Saturday, and are now ready to launch!

Over the weekend, we had heard that there would be bad weather until late this week, so we thought we had a few days to really calibrate before we would be asked to show. This morning at around 10am, we found out that tomorrow is a possible launch day in terms of weather, and CSBF told us we would be showing for a launch attempt. We’ll be rolling out at 3:30 AM on Tuesday, Dec 9 (McMurdo time, which is also New Zealand time).

Since this morning, we have been finishing up everything that absolutely has to happen before launch. Because we are rolling out so early, we’ll be starting to check that everything is completely ready to go at around 1am. We decided to just stay at LDB all night to make sure we finish everything.

We hooked up the pump for the cryostat's final pump down. Hooking it up when it's on the gondola is quite a challenge!

We hooked up the pump for the cryostat’s final pump down. Hooking it up when it’s on the gondola is quite a challenge!

Carolyn climbed up on the gondola for (possibly) the last time to permanently stick our temperature sensors in place with thermal epoxy.

Carolyn climbed up on the gondola for (possibly) the last time to permanently stick our temperature sensors in place with thermal epoxy.

McBride napping to prepare for the long night and day ahead. He made himself a bed out of foam and a pillow out of bubble wrap. Brent was using the cot, so McBride had to get creative!

McBride napping to prepare for the long night and day ahead. He made himself a bed out of foam and a pillow out of bubble wrap. Brent was using the cot, so McBride had to get creative!

Now that I’ve summarized the afternoon, I’ll be trying to update the rest of this launch attempt in real time (NASA will also be doing updates  here: http://www.csbf.nasa.gov/antarctica/ice.htm)

9:30 PM: Carolyn found the rest of the chocolate that Steve left for us. Brent started the awesome COSI playlist he made to get us all super excited about COSI and launch!

It was really exciting to realize how much chocolate Steve left us.

It was really exciting to realize how much chocolate Steve left us.

12:00AM: (written by Carolyn)
I stole Clio’s camera (She’s taking short nap on the cot. If you’ve seen Clio without much sleep then you’ll understand why we approve so highly of this.) because the view outside was breathtaking, as usual. What a nice day to try and launch!

Looking towards the north at Black Island.

Looking towards the north at Black Island.

A view of the long drop and the launch pad. We should be out there in about 6 hours!

A view of the long drop and the launch pad. We should be out there in about 6 hours!

You can see how excited I am. Most of it is nerves and the rest is the lack of sleep.

You can see how excited I am. Most of it is nerves and the rest is the lack of sleep.

1:00 AM: (written by Clio)

1:00 AM means it’s time to start the going through the roll out checklist! The checklist is basically a list of things to do before rolling out to the flight line. We need to make sure that all systems are working properly, so we’ll do things like confirm everything is screwed in right, triple check for grounding issues, and check that everything can be turned on and off without problems.

Even though we aren’t rolling out until 3:30, we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to go through the checklist, as we’ve never gone through it as thoroughly as we want to for launch.

Before starting the checklist, Carolyn had to perform a crucial task: putting teflon tape lightning bolt shaped speed strips on the gondola. According to Steve Boggs, these are absolutely necessary for thermal reasons.

Before starting the checklist, Carolyn had to perform a crucial task: putting teflon tape lightning bolt shaped speed strips on the gondola. According to Steve Boggs, these are absolutely necessary for thermal reasons.

The checklist is very official. It has its own clipboard.

The checklist is very official. It goes on a clipboard.

Carolyn and McBride checking PDU and flight computer connections, as well as grounding issues.

Carolyn and McBride checking PDU and flight computer connections, as well as grounding issues.

2:30 AM:

The CSBF guys showed up and brought us pizza! We got an update from the weather guy: the weather doesn’t look promising, but for now we’re going to proceed anyway. It’s hard to forecast here, so I guess you never know.

Thanks for the good luck wishes, CSBF!

Thanks for the good luck wishes, CSBF!

Brent, Alan, Alex and McBride enjoying a quick pizza break

Brent, Alan, Alex and McBride enjoying a quick pizza break

McBride lays down his foam and bubble wrap bed for another nap, even though no one's using the cot. Why? Because cots are for wimps! Alex is amused.

McBride lays down his foam and bubble wrap bed for another nap, even though no one’s using the cot. Why? Because cots are for wimps! Alex is amused.

4:15 AM: We’re officially buttoned up to roll out. We put on the side panels and Carolyn taped the rest of the temperature sensors in place.

Carolyn attaching temperature sensors across the gondola from me

Carolyn attaching temperature sensors across the gondola

Chris, our payload engineer, getting his stuff all ready to go with help from Bobby and Mike (all from CSBF)

Chris, our payload engineer, getting his stuff all ready to go with help from Bobby and Mike (all from CSBF)

The last side panel is on! We are all buttoned up and ready to go!

The last side panel is on! We are all buttoned up and ready to go!

4:40 AM: We’ve rolled out and are checking to make sure all our systems are running normally. We had some issues with noise last week, so we are making sure they aren’t coming back. So far, it looks good!

The riggers rolling the gondola outside

The riggers rolling the gondola outside

The launch vehicle, called the Boss, getting ready to come pick us up

The launch vehicle, called the Boss, getting ready to come pick us up

Everyone watching the GSE: the software that tells us how the instrument is doing

Everyone watching the GSE: the software that tells us how the instrument is doing

5:40 AM: The Boss lifted up our gondola, and our gondola is going to be hanging there for the next 20ish minutes while we check some more things. We need to make sure that we’re still receiving data and can still send commands, in addition to anything else on the checklist that I’ve forgotten about (that’s why the checklist exists!). Chris has to check out some of his stuff as well. Once we confirm everything is ok, we’ll start heading over to the launch pad.

There’s still no weather data, because the weather stations around here are down. If we don’t ever get any data, then they will have to cancel the launch. We weren’t expecting to launch until 10am, though, so there’s still a chance.

I’m starting to feel pretty wiped out, as is everyone else. I feel like I’m having a lot of trouble forming coherent sentences (so hopefully this section of the blog makes sense…). Hopefully I’ll have the energy to keep posting! Maybe after a nap….

The riggers attaching the gondola to the launch vehicle

The riggers attaching the gondola to the Boss

The gondola all hooked up

Chris in front of the gondola, which has been all hooked up

The Boss is turning around so that the gondola is facing away from the weather port for Chris's tests

The Boss is turning around so that the gondola is facing away from the weather port for Chris’s tests

7:30 AM: During my nap over the past hour, the launch got called off due to weather. There might be another launch opportunity on Thursday, so we’ll see how that goes!