Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Payload Assembly

Rocket missions require a lot of patience. There is always a waiting game going on, which was the case when I first arrived here. The whole first day was off for experimenters, so I went with some colleagues to the great metropolis of Sortland, Norway. The views along the coastal drive were outstanding. After finally receiving all the shipped boxes and unpacking the instruments, we installed them into the payload. Here is Steve Powell and myself, hard at work as always.

Below is the aft end of the payload, showing the UNH Imager poking out the bottom, as well as some other gadget I'm not familiar with. The imager baffle (like a long shade you can see on the end of some camera lenses) has the end covered in this picture by a piece of black plastic and a rubber band. This cover comes off before flight, and is just there temporarily to shield the CCD from light and dust.

The next picture shows the forward end of the payload or the side that will be pointing "up" for the duration of the flight. The two small black tubes (one on the far left and one towards the middle front) are UNH instruments. One is the Star Sensor which is a spare IBEX satellite instrument that we are flying to see if we can align with the distant stars as an attitude control system. This is the first time a star sensor has been flown on a sounding rocket. The other is the PMT (photomultiplier tube), probably the integral instrument for my PhD thesis. I'll explain more about that later. The bigger black tubes are the Aerospace PMTs. I like the very clear "Remove Before Flight" tags - so professional!

The final picture is of Dave Collins from Dartmouth, checking out the HEEPs and BEEPs instruments on the main payload. You can see the nose cone to the left, which has not been put on yet. David Olson, from University of Maryland, can be seen in the background doing the most common activity of our days here: trying to stay busy until it's your turn to do some instrumentation. Things are very organized and go so smoothly, mostly thanks to the wonderful Wallops people who know how to run the show.

The workdays have been long... we start at 8am and go until 5-7pm. But it's not all too bad - we got two days off last weekend and did an epic 8 hour road trip to Tromso where we spent two nights at the SAS Radisson and had a blast. This week we've done some sequence testing so far and others have been working on telemetry and getting the motors prepped and on the rails. I only have four more days in Andenes. Then it's off to snowy, dark Longyearbyen on the arctic island of Svalbard!

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