Monday, February 13, 2017

The day before the window!

Our window of launch opportunities opens Monday night (13-14 February)!  Both of the Isinglass rockets are on the rail and we hope to go vertical sometime on Monday.  We did a practice count last night, stepping through the sequence of events in our countdown plan which we will exercise each night until we launch.  Over the past week we have been working through all the details leading to  this point.  The payloads were assembled in the Payload Assembly Building:

and then put on carts and rolled outdoors for the GPS rollout test.  For this, they are wrapped snugly in their blankets (it's pretty cold out up here...)


(V Gsell photos)

Then they get taken to the rail and mounted to the horizontal rail along with the motors.

 Later this past week we did the "boom test", which is a turnon check of all systems in the full-up configuration, mounted on the rail (not exactly sure why it is called this, much speculation);  at any rate we had two good boom tests.  Thus on Saturday night we were able to run through a practice count on one of them and this week we can move into the proper launch window phase.

The science team has been setting up our center at the top of the hill, from which we can watch the aurora and collect information from many different instruments fielded across Alaska and beyond.  On Friday part of our team went to Venetie Alaska to field an array of auroral imagers and a GPS receiver:

(D Hampton photo)

Two of the students on the team will stay up there this week to control the cameras each night and to report back to the science center what they are seeing;  the Venetie site is under the rocket trajectory apogee so cameras there have the best view of the auroral activity we will be measuring with the rocket.

We're all very excited to start the window!  On Monday evening, a NASA PR team will be monitoring our activities for a SnapChat sequence (see @nasa there), so you can see more about our preparations there.  We are sharing our window with another mission, which also has two rockets (their two will be launched together, so, two rockets in the air at once), so there's lots of activity and much to do.  I'll write more tomorrow about our science preparations and how we monitor the auroral activity and decide about launching.  In the post below, Rob Clayton has assembled some photos from Poker Flat, Fairbanks, and the (beautiful!) drive in between;  the address of the rocket range is "30 Mile Steese Highway" because we are 30 miles north of Fairbanks....

We had a group dinner Sunday evening with both missions:

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