Sunday, August 23, 2015

New status update from the PI

BARREL Status Report #12
August 22, 2015

Payload 3E was launched on Friday, August 21 at 0705 UT. The balloon survived the night and is currently back up at 36 km altitude. It's currently drifting slowly towards the border with Finland so will likely be terminated later today. 

We have one more launch planned for the campaign. Right now, it looks like Tuesday will be the next opportunity. 



Thursday, August 20, 2015

Video of a launch

... Well part of a launch.

We finally got some good video's of a launch! Thanks to Greg's go pro you can see some of the inflation and the release  of the payload 3C launch. We're working on getting the video up for the balloon floating away as well.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Status update from the PI

BARREL Status Report #11
August 19, 2015

Payload 3C was terminated on August 18 at 0333 UT. As expected, the balloon started to drop in altitude after sunset. As the sun rose a few hours later, it began to heat the balloon. We hoped the balloon would rise again as happened during our late-season Antarctic flights. It was a real nail-biter, but alas, the balloon was low enough that the cooling due to the surrounding air won the battle over solar heating; it continued to sink and had to be cut down. Thanks to the Esrange ops team for giving it a fair chance to pull through!  It was a bit heartbreaking to see the balloon come down but I will say that it was a fantastic flight and our longest yet. The payload came down very close to Kiruna about 2 km from a road, so was recovered in excellent condition today. 

Payload 3D was launched this morning, August 19 at 6:02 UT. Unfortunately, the balloon was drifting too far north and close to a large town in Norway. So, it was terminated at 12:50 UT. Despite the short flight, very intense precipitation was detected for several hours.  

The next launch attempt is planned for Friday morning.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Status report from the PI

BARREL Status Report #10
August 17, 2015

The third BARREL payload (3C) was launched today at roughly 1208 UT. Just a reminder that you can track the payload progress at the BARREL SOC website:

Click on "Maps" to see the payload track (shown in green - the previous flights are in blue and red).  The Data Browser allows you to plot real-time summary data if you're interested. 

Geomagnetic activity has been increasing over the last few days and we are currently experiencing a moderate geomagnetic storm. The payload is not following the predicted trajectory but is moving relatively slowly for now so we are hoping for a flight at least as long as the previous one (fingers crossed!).

Also, you may have noticed that I didn't send out a status report for the past few days. The weather was not favorable for a launch yesterday so there was nothing to report, and I didn't think you needed me filling up your inbox with nonsense. Since we are only launching every few days, I will only send out status reports when there is something to report. 


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Update from the PI

BARREL Status Report #9
August 13, 2015

The second BARREL payload (3B) was launched today at 04:30 UT. Shortly after the balloon reached float altitude, geomagnetic activity increased (Kp=4) and we began to detect precipitation. Later in the day, we also captured another excellent conjunction with the Van Allen Probes. We're excited to look at the data more closely after the CDF files are processed!

The payload is currently on its way down. It was terminated at 17:18 UT because it was starting to drift towards the mountains. This payload carried one of Univ. of Houston's student piggyback experiments. Their data are all recorded on board so we are anxious to recover this payload!

We are targeting the next Van Allen conjunction on August 16 for our next launch. As always, launch will depend on surface conditions. But, the upper level winds are slowing down and should be favorable for even longer flights. 


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Status update from the PI

BARREL Status Report #8
August 12, 2015

The first BARREL payload (3A) was recovered by helicopter in the morning on Tuesday, August 11.  The magnetometer boom was bent out of shape,  but the payload was otherwise in good shape and functioning. 

The BARREL team is aiming for another launch tomorrow morning (Aug. 13) at 0600 local time. Here's to low winds! 


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Status update from the PI

BARREL Status Report #7
August 10, 2015

Well, it's been a busy and successful day for the BARREL team! After a successful flight compatibility test and launch dress rehearsal this morning, we held a Flight Readiness Review with Esrange and everything was GO for launch.

Payload 3A was launched at 1550 local time (1350 UT). We expected a short flight because of the upper level winds, but were able to capture a near-perfect conjunction with the two Van Allen Probe spacecraft. The payload was headed towards some large lakes and mountains, so was terminated at 23:18 local time (21:18 UT). Recovery looks promising. 

Attached is a picture from shortly after the launch that Alexa posted on our blog.  
The next launch opportunity will not be until at least Wednesday.

All for now!


Monday, August 10, 2015

3A launched!

We launched our first payload, and I'm sure Kathryn will have many more great photos to share, but I wanted to let you all know. 3A is up at float altitude and doing well. We were originally thinking that we may only be able to get a 4 hour flight if we were lucky. However, it's just sitting there and we seem to be getting some fantastic data!

Hopefully it will still be up when we wake up tomorrow morning!

Have a good night!


Weekend Flight Preparations

The BARREL team had an action-packed weekend of launch preparations and payload testing.

We set out four payloads over the course of beautiful Saturday and had them complete their comprehensive tests.

Greg sets out a Pelican case to support a fourth payload outside.

The payload we intend to fly on Monday (today!) is 2S, now renamed 3A as the first payload on the third campaign. 2S is special in that it carries its magnetometer on a long boom. All payloads in previous campaigns had this attachment, but this campaign is primarily keeping the magnetometers sealed within the payload box itself. Its backup payload is 2H, which has no such boom.

Sunday saw worse weather, but we successfully completed flight preparations by weighing the payloads/flight trains for 2S, 2H, and 1Z, an alternative back up.

Following tests on Sunday, we went out into Jukkasjärvi, the small town that houses Esrange.

A beautiful lake in Jukkasjärvi.

We drove through sunset on our way home — this time at 9:57 pm! We've been gaining eight minutes of darkness each day.

As of Monday morning, we have passed Esrange's Flight Compatibility Test and had our required NASA Flight Readiness Review. Monday afternoon we are go for launch of payload 2S/3A! Stay tuned for the post-launch update, including photos from the FCT and pre-launch preparations.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Status report from the PI

BARREL Status Report #6
August 9, 2015

Quick update from the BARREL team: The weather Monday morning looks favorable for our compatibilty test with Esrange. A brief FRR will be held after completion of the test.  If no issues arise and if the winds remain low enough, we will have our first launch attempt. 

Because of the upper level wind direction (west), the flight is predicted to be somewhat short (~10 hours) but will allow us to capture a very nice conjunction with both Van Allen Probe satellites. 


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Glad Fredag!

It's been a whirlwind of a Friday!

We took our payloads outside for our launch "Dress Rehearsal"...

Payload 2S on the launch pad next to the balloon ground cloth.
...only to have it start raining the minute we got out there.
Greg, Robyn, Arian, and Brett take the payload inside under a tarp.
 The rain didn't stop us from testing, however.
Greg ponders what to do behind payload 2S.
We ran three payloads under cover of the warehouse while the rain played out.

Suddenly, the sun came out, and we got the perfect weather we had hoped for.
Payloads 1Z, 2J, and 2H.
Payloads 1Z, 2J, and 2H all completed their Comprehensive Tests. We were also able to weigh the flight train for payload 2S — the first payload we hope to launch this week!

As we wrapped up our tests, we discovered that we had completely 'buttoned up' all six payloads. The weather was beautiful, and it was time to celebrate by going into Kiruna after dinner.

A rainbow celebrates with us over the launch pad.

Greg, Nick, and Brett in Kiruna, Sweden.
We wandered the town, looking at the shops and brightly colored homes. Most things were closed after 6 pm, so we occupied our time with walking as much of the town as possible.

Beautiful homes and store fronts in Kiruna.
As it got late, we walked to an overlook to watch the midnight sunset.

Greg points out the terraced iron ore mine around which Kiruna is built.
Tomorrow we will finish the Comprehensive Tests for the remaining payloads, and weigh the flight trains for the payloads which are ready to launch!

Hej då!


Friday, August 7, 2015

Status update from our PI

BARREL Status Report #5
August 7, 2015

Today our launch dress rehearsal was again delayed due to rain, but we closed out all action items and have been given Approval to Proceed from NASA. Monday morning, we'll conduct a launch dress rehearsal and compatibility test with Esrange equipment, as well as the Esrange FRR. If all goes well, and weather permitting, we will proceed with launch Monday late morning/early afternoon.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who worked so diligently over the last few days to get everything in order for our first launch!


A wild day today

I'm sure Kathryn will update you on much of what made this a wild and crazy day, but...  We saw a moose today while working on HiT&MIS as well as a rainbow once it stopped raining.

BARREL Status from the PI

BARREL Status Report #4
August 6, 2015

It's been rainy all day today which delayed our launch dress rehearsal until Friday. However, we were able to do an indoor walk through of procedures with SSC/Esrange personnel. We also got two more payloads (1Z and 1H) tested,  buttoned up, ready for final CPT.  

Gar Bering from UH arrived today with his students and began checking out their VLF instrument which will be integrated with Payload 2U in a few days. 

The BARREL FRR/ATP was also held today with NASA. A few safety-related procedural items with hazops were identified, having to do with slight differences in how NASA and SSC conduct operations. After working with SSC and NASA safety, we have identified solutions and expect those action items to be closed out Friday afternoon. 

If the launch dress rehearsal goes smoothly on Friday, and NASA safety is satisfied, we will go through our final FRR with Esrange. Our  first launch opportunity could be Sunday (rain is predicted again for Saturday). Esrange will be providing updated predicted launch trajectories to us on Friday so tomorrow's update will be more definitive about our first launch attempt.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Rainy Day in the Arctic Circle


Today was a long, busy day, full of exciting new tests and preparations. It was also the day we took five 'buttoned-up' payloads outside for their final comprehensive tests!

Payloads 2S (with magnetometer boom) and 2U gaze longingly outside.
Just kidding. Rain kept our payloads inside, so our final outdoor tests will take place tomorrow.

Our enthusiasm didn't die, however, and we were encouraged by the beauty of the rain clouds over the forested mountains and the promise that they would be gone tomorrow.

Nick finishing up tests on the second to last (!!!) payload.
Being inside came in handy when we went to hang test our parachute and flight train with the new Esrange terminate and communications equipment.
The indoor hang test, featuring Esrange's orange-strapped box.

We also welcomed Professor Gar Bering of the University of Houston and two of his students to our team. Their experiment will be piggybacking on a couple of our payloads! Together, we all learned how to launch a balloon from Dartmouth's Brett Anderson.

Brett and Robyn discuss the use of the "Huch Clutch".
We've finished the basic testing for five out of six payloads, as well as the BARREL NASA Flight Readiness Review, with the final payload to be completed tomorrow morning. Tomorrow afternoon will be our outdoor comprehensive tests with both BARREL and Esrange scientists. Should be an exciting day!
A GPS antenna and an Iridium antenna stare wistfully off into the fog.
Vi ses imorgon!


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

BARREL Status Report #3 August 5, 2015

BARREL Status Report #3
August 5, 2015

Today was another productive day at Esrange. After a beautiful morning (during which we watched another group's balloon launch!),  we continued to get payloads flight ready: 

  • finished bench-testing Payload 2S and buttoned it up into its final flight configuration. 
  • finished bench-testing Payload 2U.
  • started bench testing Payload 2H.
  • compiled an updated list of magnetic conjunctions between Kiruna and Van Allen Probes, MMS, and the FIREBIRD NSF cubesats.
  • conducted our first daily burst telecon with representatives from Van Allen Probes, MMS, THEMIS,  FIREBIRD, Aerocube-6 (two Aerospace cubesats), and the AARDVARK and EISCAT ground-based instrumentation groups. 

We're hoping for good weather tomorrow so we can do our final compatibility test and launch practice with Esrange. Our Flight Readiness Review is also scheduled for tomorrow. 


God eftermiddag från Sverige!

God eftermiddag från Sverige!
My name is Kathryn, an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, and I'll be your blogger for today.

Today we buttoned up another payload and are preparing for the Flight Readiness Test tomorrow.
Greg is hard at work testing payload 2H behind three almost-completed payloads.

Our big excitement from today was seeing a British group launch a payload on a balloon a bit larger than ours. It was inspiring to watch and gave us some extra energy for the day.

Unfortunately, rain squashed our enthusiasm. We attempted to create a 'tent fort' to protect payloads outside from the rain. Needless to say, it didn't work.

The remnants of our fort stand sadly in the rain.
Tomorrow we hope to have two payloads launch-ready running outside, using their final flight batteries and antennae to pass the last Comprehensive Test.

Yesterday's beautiful weather with two payloads — hopefully what we will see tomorrow!
We also had a huge surprise last night — JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is packing up their 5-year-long test and heading home... and left a ton of equipment! The extra tools, tarps, and electronics are helpful, and we were all very excited about the barely-used camping equipment left behind for poor-wind days. Running on low sleep, Nick and I had a little too much fun with their painter suits, telescope domes, rubber boots, and rainbow tape.

That's all for now! Hopefully it stops raining soon...
Tills imorgon!


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

BARREL Status update August 4th 2015

Things are moving along here under the Dome here at ESRANGE. Today, we got a lot accomplished:
  • discussed the recovery plan with the recovery lead here at Esrange
  • successfully completed a preliminary compatibility test with the Esrange transponder and secondary tracking system. 
  • completed testing of the UCSC ground station with two payloads simultaneously transmitting with their flight iridium system.  This also included a test of the SOC web interface which allows us to see data remotely.
  • bench tested two payloads and began getting two payloads into their final flight configuration. 
We should have two payloads flight-ready tomorrow in time for a launch dry-run with Esrange on Thursday morning.

Today we had blue skies and weather that was almost good enough for a launch! Let's hope it stays this way.



Journey to the land of the (almost at this time of year) midnight Sun.

Although this is a much shorter and easier journey than getting to Antartica, it is a bit of a trek. But it's easy enough to get to that ESRANGE is in some books. From the states, it's just a quick plane ride or two and then a bit of a drive to your final destination. As always I would suggest sitting on the Northern side of your plane in the hopes of catching a flips of the Northern lights.

This time I wasn't able to follow my own advice, but there wasn't much darkness at this time of year anyway and I caught a thunderstorm instead. It was actually pretty cool from the plane! 

Once we landed, it was a quick trip through customs and then the long layover. At least there was coffee to try to help keep me awake. The views from the plane ride up north were beautiful, even through a smudged window. 

It was a very short drive to ESRANGE from the airport. We did see a herd of raindeer but I was unable to get photos of them. It was beautiful though!

We saw some reindeer in the woods but as you can see I missed the photo opportunity. 

By the end of a long first night we had most of a payload ready for launch and the first HiT&MIS instrument put together. Today is more of the same, getting all the instruments ready for our first possible launch date of August 7th. 

And with that I should get back to work...