Friday, February 17, 2017

a lovely night but no launch yet

We had an excellent night, with lots of lovely aurora and two healthy rockets.  We started the night with some additional turnon checks to verify a slightly different turnon procedure, which seems to mitigate some instrumentation kerfuffle we were dealing with last night.  That worked nicely, and our vertical checks (a practice run through the countdown procedure which we do every night before the window opens;  the rocket is vertical, thus the name) went smoothly.  The other mission is "prime" early in our shared window (they get dibs 7-10 pm and we have control 10-1 am), so we had some good science discussion among our group in the early part of the evening.
     We have a (large) number of cameras installed in a small village called Venetie, north of the range.  These cameras will take movies of the aurora at different wavelengths and with different fields of view, throughout the window and in particular during the flight.  A major part of this mission will be the assimilation of these groundbased observations (plus from the various radars) with our observations from onboard the rocket(s).  Thus, if it is cloudy at Venetie, we can't launch, as those cameras can't see.  So tonight, we had clear skies at Poker, but it was cloudy at our downrange site at Venetie.  So while we could watch the aurora, we couldn't launch.  So we had a good time watching the aurora and running a few "practices" where we (the science team) decide when is a good time to "drop the count", and see if we get it right.  (We are sitting at a 10 minute hold throughout the night, which means that at any time, if conditions are right, we can launch within 10 minutes;  when we drop the count, it means we bring things to a 3 minute point, from which we can either launch within 5-10 minutes, or recycle back to 10.)
   So all in all a good night;  we hope for a repeat tomorrow of the healthy rockets and the good aurora, but without the downrange clouds.
   Here are some pictures of the aurora that Anthea took from outside the science building:

and here is a picture of the Lidar facility (an instrument which looks at the mesosphere by scattering a  laser off neutral metal atoms in the upper atmosphere, PI Prof Rich Collins UAF/GI)

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