Monday, October 11, 2010

Deployment & Vibration Testing

Although I got a vacation on Sunday, Friday and Saturday were very very long days (14.5 and 12.5 hours respectively). However, we got a lot done (by NASA standards at least) - we went through all of the vibration testing and some of the deployment testing. For the vibe tests, they mount the rocket on a vibration table:
Wayne in the padded room
Then they vibrate it at various frequencies in different directions. They do the x, y and z (or thrust) axis and the do random patterns too, to try and determine inherent resonant frequencies of the payload. I watched one test... it got pretty loud when the vibration went up to 2,000 Hz (that's 2,000 vibration cycles a second!) and luckily nothing went too wrong with our instruments. Although we did find out later that perhaps one of our integral screws worked its way out during the tests. Uh oh. It's easy to fix though. Most of the time, I can't really watch the tests. I'm stuck in another room watching various screen and strip charts for our instrument read-outs. Here's an example of what I stare at part of the day.
Looks like the future!
Between vibration tests we did a few deploy tests. This is to check that every piece that ejects off the payload will do so nicely without effecting our instruments too much. Saturday we did a nose cone deploy test, where they hang the payload upside down in a padded room (first picture) and then "fire" the nose cone eject V-bands. They pop off at an amazing speed and the nose cone falls into the pile of cardboard boxes below -- really high tech stuff. I took a video from the upper mezzanine, looking through a plexiglass shield down into the padded room. Check it out, it's kind of fun.

Here's the nose cone after they've ejected it from the payload. The remainder of the tests will be done without the cap on.
Poor little nose cone
Overall the tests have gone well and the news is good, all except for that errant screw. Today was a semi-long day... we're still here at 9pm and not going home any time soon. But we weren't allowed to come in until noon since it was a safety hazard while they were doing pyro stuff. Tomorrow is mag cal testing and the final post-vibe sequence test. I may get to go home eventually! Tonight I will leave you with a most excellent packaging label. I want a whole roll of these stickers.
Critical! We're serious!

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