Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hang tests

We are currently conducting our hang tests. We want to make sure that the payloads hang evenly when they are aloft. This is perhaps one of the most fun bits of putting the payloads together. Everyone  comes together to help and we take a "field trip" to Fairchild tower (the tallest place indoors on campus where we can hang out payload) and quite literally hang the payloads. 

This test accomplishes a few things. As we stated above this allows us to make sure that the payloads hang evenly, but we also take the weight of the payload as well. Knowing the weight helps us determine how much we need to fill up the balloons with helium. We don't want too much helium as that could either burst the balloon or have us flying at too high of an altitude, and we don't want too little as then we might not get up to the correct altitude or may come down too early. 

This is also one of the last things we do before shipping the payloads off to storage so having the hang test means we're getting closer to the finish line! 

Here you can see the payload sitting on the cart and the parachute up on the second floor

One of the most important jobs, just like when climbing, is the  belaying. We don't want the payload to fall either on us, or just to the ground and break!

At the end of the test we remove the terminate box (the instrument that cuts the rope between the balloon and the payload) and roll up the parachute all ready to pack. 

Since the set up for this test is a bit cumbersome we try to do it for multiple payloads at a time. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Photos from the lab

As I stated earlier, we've had a visitor to the lab! It's been so nice to have him around and I'm sure that he's going to have a ton of fun down on the ice this next Jan and Feb! Yesterday I forgot my camera, and I did today as well, but thankfully my phone was charged and also happens to be a camera.

Tomorrow we are going to be doing a hang test. It is just what it sounds like, we hang the payload. We make sure that it is hanging level and then also weigh the payload and flight train. This gives us an idea of how much helium we need for it to fly at a specific altitude, a useful thing to know. The hang tests are always fun, lots of down time, but fun.

You can see our payload sitting there. That big black wire is the iridium cable. It goes out the window on the left and up to the roof top where we have some antennas.  We make sure to test the modem and our ability to be able to talk with the payload. This last winter we also used the antennas to talk with the payloads down on the ice and get our data back from them. 

You can almost see my office (the observatory) in the background there. You can also see all the styrofoam boxes which we enclose the payloads in. This helps us regulate (a bit) the temperatures. Instead of a black box, we have a white box! 

In the front of the payload you can see a cylindrical bit of foam, our magnetometer hides out in there. Once everything is attached, we put the magnetometer on a boom (stick) which sits a ways away from all the other electronics. This helps limit, but does not remove all, magnetic signals due to the electronics from the payload. 

Rainbow over the building and CMEs

While we have our esteemed visitor here with us, we were hoping to get a roof top test done. The roof top test is where we put the payload up on the roof and test the batteries ability to charge off of solar cells as well as the solar cell connections. However this week (and the last few it seems) have been cloudy and rainy. Last night however when on my way home I looked back and saw a rainbow over the building... perhaps that is a sign that things are clearing up? Probably not, but it was pretty to look at.

While looking for a good site that had information about rainbows I instead found a great video on fire rainbows by the weather channel. 

Note: Sorry the link/embed code seems to be broken so it's not going to the fire rainbow video. I'll fix it ASAP (which really means once it's fixed on the weather channel site and I notice... if you Google weather channel and fire rainbows though it's one of the first ones and well worth a watch). 

The video that came up right afterwords was on Solar Flares and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), something much closer to what we study with BARREL.

BARREL looks at some of the effects of CMEs and solar flares on our magnetosphere by looking indirectly for particle precipitation due to solar storms. One might compare our measurements to that of a rain gauge, just like a rain gauge estimates how much precipitation occurred during a thunderstorm, we're looking at how much precipitation occurred during a geomagnetic storm.  However, instead of collecting rain drops, we collect x-rays which are a byproduct of electrons hitting our upper atmosphere. The x-ray counts are then a proxy for how many electrons precipitated into the atmosphere.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Today's google Doodle

Today's google Doodle celebrates the 66th anniversary of the first Roswell sighting of a UFO. This UFO was a weather balloon with really cool out of this world science, but it was only as off worldly as the ionosphere. The project that these balloons were from was Skyhook and was from the Aeronautical research division of the General Mills company. Yes, the cereal company General Mills. Eagle Speak has a great article on Skyhook, and David Darling has a nice short explanation of the UFO sightings.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Science telecoms are starting back up!

This Monday we will be starting our bi-weekly telecoms back up. This coming week Jan will be presenting on some of his modeling efforts to look at January 17th. It should be a great discussion. If you are not on the BARREL e-mail list and would like to be, please contact either Robyn or myself.

As a random bit of science, Jan before coming to Dartmouth modelled the magnetosphere of Mercury. Here is a picture of him looking very thoughtfully towards the sun in his simulation with Prof. Robert Rankin.

And because movies are always fun. Here is a movie of the their simulation. 

Have a great weekend

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th!

Happy Fourth of July. There are actually a few of us in here at work, but I did get a chance to wander into town and see some of the festivities. Of course tonight there are the fireworks which are always the best bit of the day. 

I hope you all get a chance to enjoy some beautiful weather, a nice BBQ, and some amazing firework shows (even if it is just snakes and sparklers, they were always my favorites).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A visitor this morning, and another next week

One of the great things about living in a small town like Hanover is that there is wildlife right out side your door. Normally the wildlife is bees, mice, chipmunks, or squirrels. However this morning we had a very tame deer stop by the office. 

Perhaps she will stop by next week as well when we have another visitor Reinhard from LANL. He will be working at SANE IV this coming January and February and will be helping us launch our balloons. Next week we hope to build up a few more payloads so he can become familiar with putting one together to help the guys out. It should be lots of fun!