Archive for May, 2008
I’m pretty jazzed. Two vehicles flown to over 100,000 feet within an hour of each other.
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).
We flew Away 36 and 37. Away 35 was to fly in the third position. Filming took so long that we were outside our launch window when Away 35′s turn was up. We’ll be back in the desert soon for Away 35.
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. The images are stunning. Unfortunately everyone will have to wait for the documentary to be out in the fall before it can be seen.
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.
We’re still poring over the data from the experiments. The results will all be in the documentary. We used several pieces of new ground equipment for telemetry. The mission was accomplished but the new gear worked badly. We’ll be tweaking it and will get a chance for another shakedown with Away 35.
This was the first mission for several of our members. All the newbies looked like old hands and our old hands made it all look easy. Great job folks.
We’re sending three to 100,000 feet. The team is packed and only waiting for me to finish this post.
These are the most sophisticated high racks we’ve every flown. It’s a big tech leap for us. A documentary film crew will be with us.
Wish us luck!
Anny Hong of the local CBS news station heard the story on the radio yesterday. They want to do a story on the space ads. They will be here with a camera crew at 2:00pm (two minutes from now…..).
Tomorrow, Tuesday at 2:00pm Pacific time I’ll be on the air waves. Tune in to National Public Radio, I’ll be a guest on the “Insight” program with Jeffrey Callison. In the Sacramento California area it’s 90.9 on the dial. We’ll be talking about Airship to Orbit, PongSats and the “Floating to Space” book.
You can listen on the web at:
Let me know if you heard it. I would love any feedback.
At this time today we should have made three runs to 100,000 feet and have recovered the vehicle and eating raviolis at Brunos. However 24 hours before liftoff got a call from London. Fifteen of the mission participants are stuck at the airport in London. They were close, yet five hours sitting in the airplane on the runway didn’t get them any closer to taking off let alone making it to Nevada.
They past day has been spent moving permits, canceling clearances and rescheduling rental equipment. The team is all trying to talk their employers into understanding and switching vacation days.
We have a little over a week to regroup. We’ll use the extra time to conduct additional tests, smooth out the checklists and get some training in. The team is bummed. They were wound up and ready to punch stuff into the sky. Oh well, it’s part of the game.