On Sunday May 1st we send Away 120 to the edge of space. This was our 184th mission.
Away 120 carried PongSats, MiniCubes, a balloon valve experiment, a plasma rocket engine experiment and a new solar panel for the Ascender. We had high winds all during prep and launch making things a bit more exciting. We recovered the vehicle three hours after landing. The team is all back safe and sound. We’re now diving into the data and sorting PongSats.
We conducted our third fully sealed life support system test Saturday. It went much smoother than before. We had updated the software, replaced the several power regulator with bigger ones, changed the scrubber blowers, added a sensor and completely replaced the circulation system. The test took about five hours with three hours in the sub and two and a half hours with the hatch sealed. We still have a lot more to improve but it’s really moving along.
Getting ready to be closed in for the test.
Jack and Kevin are attaching the aft magnetic emergency drop weights. They are not directly involved in the life support test however we wanted the sub to be in full operation load configuration. This put the electronics is a realistically loaded condition.
The view from inside.
Kevin on checklist keeping me safe.
Just talking to the AI. She likes to be called Bell.
After 90 minutes with the hatch sealed the test is done and it’s time to get out.
Natalie was behind the camera making us look good.
90 minute in the sub and lived to tell the tale. The test went really well. We learned more in that 90 minutes then the last two years of studying life support systems. We now have a pile of data, pages of note and a huge list of mods to make.
Big test tomorrow.
We will be conducting the first fully closed life support test in the submarine. There’s about an hour of checklists then the hatch will be closed on yours truly. We’ll be monitoring CO2, Cabin O2 percentage, pressure, temperature, O2 tank pressure, humidity, and on me blood O2 levels and pulse. It’s a completely closed system.
The goal is one hour for this first test, but really after the first 15 minutes we’ll see how the scrubber and O2 replenishment system are balancing and we’ll likely need to open up and adjust. The submarine is the test bed but we will be using the same system for our airships and spacecraft. The big risk is not too little oxygen but too much. Too much O2 is a fire hazard. To keep that from happening we directly measure the O2 levels. Also any cabin pressure increase would indicate to increased O2 level (a drop in cabin pressure is a hints of a problem with the carbon cycle). Also the team will be standing by to get me out.
It’s going to be fun to breathing on air that we made.
The heart of our life support system is the scrubber. We just completed our first generation scrubber for the submarine, airship and Dark Sky Station. It will get coupled with the dehumidifier, circulation and O2 bleeder systems. We’re about three weeks away from a fully sealed with crew life support system test. These first tests will be aboard the submarine.
MiniCubes on Rockets! The compact size of a MiniCube allows it to be launched on model rockets. The idea is to get students flying MiniCubes on their own rockets and when they are ready for the next step up, they can send their cube to us for a flight on balloon to the edge of space.
To test it we bought a Estes Maxi Alpha III rocket from the hobby store and put a MiniCube on it. After the Away 118 and 119 flights we sent the rocket and MiniCube skyward. It flew great.
We’re in this months issue of Sactown Magazine! It’s a great article and they put in some of our best pics! As they say, on news stands now.
Check it out. Here’s a link to the teaser.