Tuesday, December 31, 2013

From the ice: BARREL Status Update #12

The last day of 2013 turned out to be an exciting one for the BARREL team. The Halley team launched Payload 2I at 1144 UT. The balloon reached float altitude of 38 km at 1344 UT.  One member of the SANAE team acted as ground station for Halley while the rest of their team set up to launch their first payload. At 1735 UT, the SANAE team launched Payload 2W, with Halley acting as their ground station. The balloon reached float altitude of 38 km at 1930 UT. Both payloads are working nominally and have been transferred to the UCSC MOC. Payload 2T continues to move around the continent, maintaining an altitude above 35 km. Some weak precipitation was observed by it earlier today despite the fact that geomagnetic activity was quite low. We are looking forward to a possible increase in activity in the next few days due to a coronal hole coming into view on the sun. Fingers crossed! We don't anticipate another launch tomorrow. The winds are predicted to be high for the next day or two.

Happy New Year to all of you!


Launch of 2I

This morning the Halley team was able to launch 2I. Now the big question will be does this year's 2I outlast last years? 1I was our longest lasting payload last year and was up for 38 days. It was a huge outlier but one never knows.

SANAE also may have a launch. We should hopefully know more by the time of the telecom today.

Monday, December 30, 2013

From the Ice: BARREL Update # 11

Hi all, 

The Halley team got Payload 2I flight-ready today and were set up to launch, but had to cancel yet again due to the surface wind conditions. Today was expected to be a bit marginal anyway.  I'm sure our luck will improve soon! The Halley forecast for tomorrow looks more favorable, so I hope to have better news for you then. The SANAE team are also ready to launch, so just waiting for better weather.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

From the Ice: BARREL Status Update #10

Hi all,

    We got the rest of our cargo today including flight batteries! So, we got Payload 1I assembled and bench tested. We expect to have it flight ready early tomorrow if ground conditions are good. We have a possible launch opportunity at Halley in the afternoon Monday. The SANAE team is flight ready and are now just waiting for some good weather. The winds are expected to be too high for a launch there tomorrow.

Payload 2T continues to look good and is now well past  the Antarctic peninsula. Everything is working nominally and the altitude profile looks great. We actually detected a gamma ray burst early in the morning and some very weak precipitation later in the day. Nothing too exciting yet, but it's great to see that things are working well.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

From the ice: BARREL Status Update #9

Payload 2T continues to look good and is now halfway across the Antarctic peninsula. Everything is working nominally and the altitude profile looks good so far.

At Halley, we are hoping for another launch opportunity tomorrow morning. Payload 2U is ready to go.  The winds are expected to be low again in the morning, so we plan to set up first thing and launch before noon if the weather holds.

The SANAE team have checked out their inflation system and have their first payload just about ready to go.  However, they have 20 knot winds predicted for tomorrow so we don't anticipate a launch from SANAE tomorrow.


Friday, December 27, 2013

From the ice: BARREL Status Update #8

Today we had our first launch from Halley. Payload 2T was launched at 1208 UT. The payload reached float altitude (~38 km) at 1410 UT. So far the balloon looks healthy and the payload is working nominally. A small photo is attached.

As a reminder, you can view the data live at http://soc2.ucsc.edu. The default view is our "live data" screen which may not be your favorite way to view data. But, you can click on the buttons near the top to view a map, or make plots. Quicklook plots of the x-ray count rate will also be posted once per day.  Other plots of mostly housekeeping data can be viewed at: http://earthweb.ess.washington.edu/mccarthy/BARREL/2T

We don't plan to launch another payload tomorrow. The SANAE team expects to have a payload ready Sunday and the Halley team has a possible launch opportunity Sunday. I'll provide a weather update in tomorrow's status.


Hi, this is Alexa. I've taken Robyn's photo and tried to point out some of the different components of our payload that can be seen. The image is below. 

Launch of 2T

This morning we had a successful launch of payload 2T! It was launched from Halley at about 12:00 UT and reached float altitude at ~14:00 UT. Congrats to the Antarctic teams.

From the ice: BARREL Status Update #7

Hi Folks,

  We had another launch attempt at Halley today, but as soon as we got things set up, the winds increased and stayed right around 10 knots with gusts to 12 knots throughout most of the day. So, we cancelled today, but things look better for tomorrow. Third time's a charm, I hope! The SANAE team got their sensitive cargo off the ship today, including flight batteries. They've been working on getting their first payload ready in addition to waiting for us to launch all day. I hope I have more exciting news for you all tomorrow!


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

From the Ice: BARREL Status Update #6

Quick update on the weather here. We have a possible launch opportunity starting at around noon on the 26th of Dec. at Halley. We'll be setting up in the morning and assessing the surface wind conditions. The winds are expected to be decreasing through the day so we may be on hold for quite a while. 

Merry Christmas to everyone!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

From the ice: BARREL Status Report #5

We almost had our first launch today at Halley. As predicted, the winds were low enough in the morning, but by the time we got everything set up, the winds had picked up and were on the rise. We decided to cancel, but it was a great chance to do a dry run. SANAE acted as our ground station during the whole process as planned and that also worked well. Tomorrow doesn't look very good but we are hoping for another chance Thursday morning.


Happy Holidays

Monday, December 23, 2013

From the Ice: BARREL Status Report #4

The SANAE team finally arrived on station Sunday! Today (Monday),
they set up their ground station and conducted a test of it by calling
one of the Halley payloads. The Iridium downlink and terminate
commands were successfully exercised.

At Halley, we finished bench testing Payload 2U and buttoned it up.
We'll take it outside for a full up system test tomorrow morning. Dave
continued to collect more calibration data on the mags.

We also completed our ATP/FRR today and received the official go ahead
to proceed with launching. Thanks to all the NASA folks for calling in
so close to Christmas! We are ready to launch as soon as the surface
weather looks good.

The winds are expected to be low enough at Halley to launch tomorrow
morning but predicted to be variable in direction. We are going to
look at it in the morning to assess whether we have a launch
opportunity. The winds are expected to increase for the next couple of
days after that.


Quick update

The SANAE team has reached the South African Base! They are expecting that their first launch date will be on December 26th if the ground weather is good.

We'll keep you posted as we get some more news.

Happy Holidays,

The BARREL Team.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

First daily update up on the dedicated science blog

As we are getting close to our first launch for the 2nd BARREL campaign, we are starting our daily updates again. However this year we have a specific blog for these updates. Check us out on the BARREL science blog. You can find the link on the right hand side of the header.

Don't forget to bookmark the new page if you are interested in keeping up to date with the running of the BARREL campaign.

See you around,


From the ice: BARREL Status Report #3

Today at Halley, we took Payload 2T outside for a full system test. We also did some additional magnetometer testing. So far, all looks good though we'll need to examine the data more carefully to declare this payload flight-ready. Payload 2U (formerly 1F)  is now on the bench and we've begun bench-testing.

The upper level winds look great so we should be ready to launch as soon as we complete our ATP/FRR on Monday.  The surface weather prediction looks marginal for the early part of next week. There is a slight chance that we'll have a launch opportunity late Monday but the wind is expected to pick up on Tuesday.

We finally got in touch with the SANAE team today. Unfortunately, they are still stuck at Novolaverevskaya, with 60+ knot winds. No chance for flying out of there is expected until at least Christmas Eve.


And a photo from last year's campaign. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

From the ice: BARREL Status Report #2

Today at Halley, we finished bench testing of Payload 1T (formerly
Payload 1P) and assembled it into flight configuration. The weather
has gone from glorious yesterday to cloudy with 20 knot winds today.
So, we'll have to wait to get the payload outside for its final
full-up system test.

In the meantime, we also visited the "maggie shaft" which is an
underground tunnel that houses the Halley magnetometer. We collected
some test data with one of our magnetometers, and will be going back
to collect more data with all of our mags. This will allow us to
compare our measurements with the Halley measurements as a test of our

Thanks to CSBF for the stratospheric wind maps. They'll be providing
these to us regularly so we can monitor the upper level winds.

Finally, just a reminder: There is a tab near the top of the page that will link you to our
science blog if you are interested in the nuts and bolts of things
like burst coordination with Van Allen Probes instrument teams or
geomagnetic conditions.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

From the Ice: BARREL Status Report #1

BARREL Status Report #1
December 19, 2013

Hello from Halley! This is the first of daily status reports for the
2013/2014 BARREL Campaign. I'm using the email list from last year, so
please let me know if you would like to be removed from the list.

The Halley team arrived yesterday in record time. We left the SANAE
team at Novolaverevskaya, the Russian base that we flew into from Cape
Town. We haven't heard from them yet, so are hoping they'll make it to
SANAE soon!

Good progress was made at Halley today. The launch site had been
groomed and helium tanks placed before we arrived, so we were able to
checkout the entire inflation system and launch equipment today. We
also set up our lab space and started checkout of our first payload.
Our Flight Readiness Review has been scheduled for Monday, December

All for now...


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thursday at AGU - reminder Data workshop

It has been a long week and although I've tweeted more than I ever have in my life, I haven't been able to blog like last year. I blame the slow internet and the battery life of my computer. However those are bad excuses.

As with every year AGU seems to be getting bigger and bigger and busier and busier. Sunday was of course Mini GEM which is always great and fun, but even that was busier. They scheduled meetings through lunch. They were great meetings and we were rewarded with ice cream and coffee, but I have expect that next year or soon we'll start having a two day session on Saturday and Sunday.

Monday was incredibly productive as we had our BARREL Burst Coordination meeting with the Van Allen teams as well as with Cube Sats and ground based researchers. We now feel ready and that we have a solid plan for this years campaign which could start within the next few weeks depending on ground based weather.

Tuesday of course was the day with most of the BARREL talks. It was fantastic to see all the types of research done with our data! Some of it has been presented before, but quiet a bit of it was new or extensions of those previous topics.

Yesterday was a few posters and there seemed to be quiet a bit of interest. I kept wanting to get to the oral sessions, but instead was caught up in the poster session talking with people and seeing some amazing research. As always there is too much great stuff to see at AGU and it's hard to get to everything one wants to see.

Today we again have a few posters and our summary talk. The talk should be a really great overview of all the current projects and the campaigns in general. It's at 9:30 am in Moscone West in session SA41C-07. We hope to see you there! Zan and Leslie will have posters in the afternoon session so make sure to find them. This afternoon we will also be holding a data workshop where you can come see our data and learn how to best view it. We'll be set up at one of the end tables in the poster session, hopefully close by to Zan and Leslie's posters.

Friday is the last day of AGU and a day to relax a bit. There aren't as many radiation belt talks scheduled, but instead I seem to have scheduled myself into a constant stream of side meetings. It will be another productive day. It's not often that so many of our collaborators can all get together, and although there are phone calls and e-mails, working side by side still seems to produce results in the most efficient way. Besides it is always nice to be able to sit and talk with our international collaborators. Phone calls to Europe are expensive and with the time delay e-mail conversations are long, not necessarily a bad thing as it gives you time to think, but not the fastest way to get research done.

Although AGU officially ends on Friday, there are other meetings going on this weekend in San Francisco. Saturday I think I might try to sit in on the THEMIS meeting. We are starting to get some great collaborations going with the THEMIS team so it would be good to catch up with them and see how their mission is going.

It has been a busy week and it's not even over yet. These conferences are a ton of fun and always a place where I come away feeling like I just too an intensive space physics course. I always seem to also have homework from these meetings...

Hope you all are having a great week too and if you are also at AGU hopefully we'll see you around!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wed. at AGU.

We had some great talks yesterday and now today we start the posters! 

Xinging starts us off by looking at Microburst Precipitation. You can find him at poster SM33A-2147.  The session starts this afternoon at 1:40. 

We look forward to seeing you there and keep up with what we're seeing and doing at the meeting via Twitter. If you want to see what else is going on at AGU just follow the hash tag #AGU13. There are also live feeds running at the AGU website. Virtual participates can even ask questions. So if you ever wanted to see a science conference, here is your chance!  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sorry I didn't write anything yesterday about the first day of AGU but it was busy. We had our Bust Coordination meeting in the morning and our BARREL lunch at noon. All throughout the day there were great posters and talks and of course great conversations. However today is the first day that we'll have BARREL data being presented!

A list of today's Talks with BARREL data

SM23C 3:10 - 3:25 Carol Weaver et al. Ground and Satellite EMIC wave Observations in conjunction with BARREL electron precipitation.

SM24B-05 Lauren Blum et al. New Conjunctive CubeSat and balloon based measurements to quantify rapid energetic electron precipitation.

SM24B 5:15 - 5:30 Alexa Halford et al. First results from BARREL 2013 Campaign; Observations of precipitation on drift echo timescales.

SM24B-07 Michael McCarthy et al. Temporal Characteristics of Impulsive Electron Precipitation Associated with Thunderstorm Activity.

See you all at AGU!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Quick updates of what's going on in the next few weeks.

Things are busy here so just a few quick updates.

FIREBIRD had a successful launch late last night and all things are looking good. We are excited to be working with another student run cubesat mission! REPTILE was wonderful and is still going. These two cubesat missions together will add even more excitement to this years campaign. We have one great paper out from the REPTILE collaborations (with hopefully more to come) and we hope to have the same great outcomes with FIREBIRD.  Also as a teaser, I'm getting the launch video at AGU so we'll be able to post it here. Let me just say it is awesome and I can't wait to share it.

1) Mini GEM - This Sunday is Mini GEM and we hope to have another great showing of BARREL data throughout the day. I know I am working on putting together some stuff on mapping and substorms. It's very interesting if I say so myself... granted I might be a bit biased.

2) AGU - AGU will be very busy as always. We have almost everyone from the team presenting on BARREL data. We also have a few collaborators presenting on BARREL data and BARREL events. I'll try to put a list and schedule up here in the next few days. We will be participating in the Van Allen data workshops so if you haven't seen our data yet please feel free to stop by and have a chat!

3) People start heading down to the ice. Since everyone is flying this year many are also going to AGU. However they have to leave from San Francisco thus everyone is packing furiously and even those of us not traveling to the ice are trying to help out.

4) Mission monitors - We've already had a few training sessions for the mission monitors. They are  comprised mostly of undergrads and we are so thankful for their help! Throughout the campaign they take 3-hour periods where they look through the data almost constantly and fill out reports every 30 mins making sure that the payloads are at altitude, preforming properly, and if there are any problems, contacting the duty scientists so that we can fix them. It's a bit of a tedious job but a necessary one and we are so thankful for their help!

5) Dry run with Van Allen Probes. Dec. 17th we will be holding a dry run of a day in the life of BARERL. It's been a little less than a year since the campaign so we figured we needed a bit of practice before the real thing. We'll have a daily e-mail update, I'll make some fake plots, we'll gather the SW data and go through the motions.

6) The start of the mission! In the days leading up to the first launch I'll start the daily e-mails back up. If you are not on the e-mail list and should be, please let me know.

This is just the short list. We are hoping to have more outreach this year during the campaign. We're hoping to put together a google hangout! We've added a twitter account and of course we are on Facebook.

Happy Holidays and if you are going to AGU we'll see you soon!