Monday, February 27, 2012

Lots of publicity!

For some strange reason, we have had a lot of media attention over this rocket launch. Maybe not enough tragic death in the world for them right now? Who knows. But they latched on for a few seconds. Here are some of the more interesting links:

Local Fairbanks paper, the News Miner

MSNBC Week in Pictures - Picture #3

CNN video

Foster's Daily Democrat

Astronomy magazine

Pretty good stuff considering NASA didn't publicize this launch at all. (They never do, don't ask me why.)

Allsky image taken by a camera at Poker run by a Japanese group

Sunday, February 19, 2012

We actually launched

For real! The aurora was beautiful, the night was clear. We even saw aurora earlier that night at twilight, it was so bright. The science was pretty close to ideal, so they called the launch and here it is:

I'm worn out at the moment but sometime very soon I will post pictures on here that I took that night. I caught the launch (sort of) and the first stage motor burn falling out of the sky. And I have a bazillion pictures of aurora since it was my first time trying to photograph it. Some turned out quite nicely. Goodnight!

Friday, February 17, 2012

We *almost* launched!

Wow, Tuesday night was a crazy time, a whirlwind of chaos and activity that resulted in bringing the count down to T -00:34 (34 seconds to launch) before Science aborted the call. There was aurora all night long after that initial close call, although the PI (Steve Powell) ended up calling it "too much aurora". Sigh.

So the night began as I went down to the kitchen to call home and leisurely chat with Matthew on Skype. This is a common practice, since the beginning of the launch window is normally a pretty slow time. But Tuesday it was not. Someone came running in the room to tell me that Steve just picked up the count (which means he called in to start the clock at T -10 minutes), and so I had to slam my laptop closed and do the ridiculous rush to get my stuff together and bolt out the door to the car. I'm supposed to be down the hill at the TM (telemetry) trailer at about 5 minutes to launch to give a GO that our instruments are functioning properly before we launch (or a NO GO if they're not). So I careened down the icy hill in the SUV - - no sweet handbrake slides, alas. Ran into TM just in time to check the charts and give a GO on the ERPA instruments. Then at T -:60 I gave my final okay and ran outside with about half a dozen others to watch the rocket launch. We could see the launch pad all lit up and the rocket pointing upwards, waiting. We counted down in our heads... and nothing. Steve had aborted the launch, due to changing science conditions. But, man, was that adrenaline pumping!

So we recycled the count back up to T -10. The rest of the night saw a lot of other iffy situations where we almost dropped the count once again. I ended up camping out in TM all night long since we were usually on the verge of counting down. Aurora came and went; arcs appeared but then didn't move into the position we wanted, or ended up breaking up too soon. Three substorms (or maybe mini-substorms?) raged overhead at different points in the night. It made for a very pretty show for us here at Poker and the downrange sites, but for science conditions it just wasn't what we wanted. We needed a quiet, stable, stationary arc and just never got one. Steve "Too Much Aurora" Powell had a fun (read: frenzied and suspenseful) night though. After all that adrenaline, I dropped into the best sleep I've had since I arrived here.

Check out the light show we had!

Photo by Craig Heinselman

Monday, February 13, 2012

The View is Nice

Tonight was just observing for fun and for the science team to practice. And we've had a great night for aurora. Here is a shot taken by Craig Heinselman (our resident radar expert) just a little while ago. Standing in the foreground you see: Phil Fernandes & Dave Collins (Dartmouth) and Rob Micelli (Cornell).

See more of Craig's MICA photos here.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Payload assembled

It is my second day here on the range and most everything has been readied for us to open the launch window on schedule for Monday night. Hooray for this being a much easier payload to assemble than the last one.

Here is our payload with the nose cone ready to get fitted:

And here is a grand example of what happens when the payload is almost done and you're one of the people who has cause to still be working on something:

That's Phil in the limelight; there is a ring of photographers outside the visible group of spectators. I absolutely love the pose that Clay (one of the technicians) is striking.

And finally, the nose cone is mated, and Jay, our mission manager, is smashing a champagne bottle on the finished payload or something:

If you look carefully you can see yours truly gawking at the payload in all its glory.

Tonight (and tomorrow) the NASA Wallops support teams have off work but the science team is practicing observing from the science center and getting the hang of our optics and instrument displays in preparation of the big day.

All pictures in this post courtesy of Kevin Rhodes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Official MICA webpage

Here is the link to official UNH MICA webpage on our lab's website.

And here is the Dartmouth group's webpage on MICA.

The UNH page has a link to Field Campaign Updates, which you should watch once the launch window opens on the 13th. We will post daily (nightly?) updates on the progress and outlook for the mission. I'm heading out of NH in less than 48 hours, making my way to the AK.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Back for More

I'm heading back to Alaska in about a week and a half to participate in the launch of another sounding rocket: MICA (Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Coupling in the Alfven Resonator). This time I will be staying at the rocket range the entire time, instead of fleeing to some far-flung place during the actual launch. It seems this will not help me escape the nightmarish cold though, since Alaska is having its coldest January in over a decade. Fun for me.

So check back often, starting next week, and I will once again regale you with tales from the frozen north. Hopefully this will involve some games of Settlers, moose sightings, and snow tubing at the rocket range.