Wednesday, December 15, 2010

3-2-1-FIRE!



We launched! The RENU sounding rocket was launched in the morning of December 12th from Andøya Rocket Range. Dr. Marc Lessard, my boss and the PI, called the launch into a spectacular science event. After having some bad luck with winds (solar and atmospheric), we finally got a day where things were looking good. We were ready, stalled on the first smaller event, and fired into the awesome second one that came by - amazing launch call, Marc! We fired into a great situation: much ionospheric heating, lots of soft precipitation (red aurora) and ion upflow was seen in the radar beam. Everything we had hoped for!

During the launch, a few issues occurred with the payload. As it stands, there were definitely some anomalies but it is too soon to tell how all the instruments & hardware fared. During the coming weeks and months, we will start to sift through the data and piece together what happened when we had strange signals aboard the payload. This is a long, complicated process since massive amounts of data are transmitted during the short, 10 minute flight via radio signals to ground stations as the payload passes overhead. We had signal locks from all satellite ground stations, but there are always inevitable dropouts which have to be compensated for. In all, we may not get all the data we would ideally want, but I'm very excited to take a look at the data we do have. The payload team from Wallops included some extremely hard-working and dedicated people - I have no doubt that they will start getting answers very soon and do their best to put together the puzzle pieces.

Personally, I had a fantastic learning experience, unrivaled by anything in my graduate career thus far. I was fortunate enough to meet some incredible scientists from Norway and the US, give my very first science report over the intercom (like a real PI!!), discover a brand new (to me!) part of the world, and learn an incredible amount from Marc, my advisor. This rocket stuff can be tricky. It can be depressing at times, exhilarating at others. Frustrating, humbling, exciting, lonely and inspiring. But I think I'm catching on... :-)

I can't say it enough, I have worked with the most amazing people on this project. New friends and colleagues, old acquaintances - it has all been a blast. A special thanks for the birthday dinner in Andenes and to those who put up with me when I wasn't in the greatest of moods.

This is not the end! I have several more posts of rocket motors and assembly that I never got around to, so they will be posted posthumously (R.I.P. RENU). Stay tuned...



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