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Away 36 and Away 37   Show Business!

On May 13, 2008 we flew two mission for the Discovery Channel Project Planet Series.       

           Launch Take 2            Launch!

The Discovery Channel was putting together an episode on space based electrical power plant. The objective of the missions was to test the performance of advanced solar cell  systems above the atmosphere. The idea was to replicate the space environment. Two vehicles flown to over 100,000 feet within an hour of each other.
           Looking Down      Down 2             

There were almost more cameramen, producer, directors and mysterious film people then there were of us, and we had a pretty big crew. The JPA team was smooth and were complete pros. Both vehicles were really complex and even with film crews everywhere and in everything the launches were among the best we’ve ever done. It was a very different experience for us and was a lot of fun. The documentary team was great (hey they bought dinner the night before in Brunos, they must be OK).

Away 36 and 37 carried five high definition cameras to near space. I believe this may be the first time the near space environment has been recorded at this resolution. 

             107,000 feet       Roll  

             Both Away 36 and Away 37 did a roll after balloon burst.             

Away 37 flew within a few yards 106,000 feet. From the climb rate and descent horizontal position we know that Away 36 went higher however, it suffered system problems and we didn’t get the peak altitude.

Recovery was an adventure. Away 36 landed in a saddle near a peak. Paul and Kevin were the first on the scene with Paul getting the first sighting. Way to go Paul! One team member had a fall and had to be carried out by two other team members. A great big thank you goes out to Kevin who doubled as Flight for mission control and as rescue personal for this mission. All is well, the x-rays are in and no broken bones. Even though they landed within 12 miles of each other the recoveries were very different. We had to mount a second expedition to Nevada a day after our return to go after Away 37. On Away 37 our last fix was 5,000 feet above the ground. We actually got to that fix on the same day as launch. However it wasn’t there. When we got back we analyzed the flight data and threw out the last few GPS points do to poor satellite locks and replotted. With a rough fix and a directional antenna on the beacon frequency we headed back out. It took a nine and half hour hike though the desert to recovery Away 37, but it was there this time. When we found it she was laying on iher side. However, looking at the video we can see she made a prefect upright landing. The wind had blown her over later.

There were over 400,000 data samples from the mission.  It generated a great deal of information on techniques for doing this type of research in addition to the actual experimental results. All that made it on TV was "look, power goes up!"  Oh well, that's show business.

 Away 37 Solar Experiment    JPA Team

Scanning Solar Cell Experiment                                        Team JPA and the Discovery Channel Crew                           


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This page was last edited on June 30, 2009
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