Saturday, December 5, 2009

Video of our first launch

Amanda here again. We are going to be documenting each of our launches and I have finally processed the video from our first launch. Enjoy!

Video of our launch

Friday, December 4, 2009

We launched our first payload!

Greetings! This is Amanda, a Master's student from the University of Washington working for Michael McCarthy and a member of the BARREL team. Two days ago, on Dec. 2nd (Dec. 1st for those in the US) we successfully launched our first payload! It was an exciting day that we want to share with you.

As Robyn said, CREAM was supposed to launch first at 1 AM that day and we were scheduled to launch at 1 PM. After some weather delays, CREAM actually did not launch until 10 AM, so we were all able to witness it. Here is a brief look at their launch:

It took 50 minutes to fill up the 900-foot-tall balloon with helium.

The payload flies right over our heads, on it's way to 100,000 ft.

After watching their successful launch, we were hoping to continue the trend later in the afternoon. Our whole operation is much smaller than CREAM. Their payload was thousands of pounds, whereas our payload is only 40 pounds. Our balloon is also only 80 ft. tall and takes about 5 minutes to inflate. Luckily we had two payloads ready because one began to malfunction, so we moved to our back-up.

Here we are moving the payload out to the launch site

The payload is ready and the balloon is being laid out

Inflating the balloon

The balloon begins to pick the payload up

Launch successful!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Antarctic Landscape

Note: This was written last night, but never posted!

I finally have a chance to post another entry here. They're trying to launch the CREAM payload at 1am so I'll be out here all night! It's been a busy week. We managed to get two payloads flight ready and got out to see some of the local sights. Here is our first flight-ready payload during a system test (left). You can see Mt. Erebus in the background.

There is me with some Emperor penguins! These pictures were taken by Henry Cathey who is here with NASA's superpressure balloon payload.

Finally, I wanted to say a few things about our daily commute. We often ride to work on a vehicle called a Delta (left). I guess it is designed for the snow, and it does do pretty well. But, it doesn't move too fast and gives a bumpy ride! We leave at 7:30 am and it takes about 40 minutes to get to our work site. I actually kind of like taking the Delta because I listen to music while gazing out at the Ross Ice least until the windows fog up!

After that, I look around and see everyone around me sound asleep, and usually follow suit.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Settling into a routine....

I knew I wouldn't be very good at posting to a blog. We've been pretty busy the last few days, so haven't had much time for it. I expect things will slow down once we have a few payloads ready to launch!

Yesterday, we had a brief period of decent weather, so Max and David were able to get outside to test all the solar panels. Here is Max checking out one of our payloads, and David in the background load testing the batteries for our termination system (above).

We work on the mezzanine of a high bay and have a nice view down to the NASA Superpressure balloon (SPB) payload. The red thing in the huge box (left) is their balloon! Well, the balloon isn't red - that's just a protective plastic sleeve.

The days seem a bit long so far - 24 hours of sunlight really does mess up your schedule. I don't even wear a watch at home because I have a pretty good sense of time. Here, I am totally screwed up. Yesterday, I checked to see if it was time for lunch and it was only 9:30 AM! We work seven days a week with the same schedule every day, so it is also hard to keep track of what day it is - especially when it is a different day than it is back home! Friday is my assigned laundry day, so I guess that should help me keep track. But, we're settling in and making good progress.

Ever wonder what a port-a-potty looks like in Antarctica? Here is a picture of one of ours (the thing that looks like a blue icebox). Ok, so they did actually install a flush-toilet out at our worksite this year. But, I don't really mind the port-a-potty. There's no line!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Arrival in McMurdo

Three BARREL team members (Max Comess, David McGaw, and Robyn Millan) arrived in McMurdo on Tuesday, Nov. 17 after a one-day delay in Christchurch, New Zealand. We spent the rest of Tuesday getting our dorm room assignments, picking up linens, picking up our checked luggage, and attending an outdoor safety briefing. 

On Wednesday, we went out to our work site - the "LDB site" near Williams Field. It is located on the permanent ice shelf, about 10 km from McMurdo. Things are a bit different compared to my last trip to the ice (1999/2000). The LDB facility includes two huge new payload buildings (right).  The old "pig barn" where we used to prepare payloads for launch is now almost completely buried. There is also a new galley and we have our own chef. The food is fantastic!
     Our work area is located on the mezzanine in one of the payload buildings. Yesterday, we unpacked and set up our workspace (right) and managed to get halfway through testing of payload 1.  Not bad for the first day!

But...this is Antarctica! Today, we are stuck in McMurdo town (which is why I had time to write this blog!) There are really high winds here, and especially out on the ice shelf. They have called "Condition 2" which means wind speeds of 48-55 knots, wind chills of –75F to –100F, OR visibility of less than 1/4 of a mile. Hopefully the winds will let up soon so we can get back to work!

- Posted by Robyn
(pictures by David McGaw)


Welcome to the BARREL 2009/2010 Antarctic balloon campaign!!

BARREL is a balloon experiment to study Earth's radiation belts. The project is supported by the NASA Living With a Star Program. Read more about the BARREL science objectives.
     The BARREL science team consists of personnel from Dartmouth College, University of Washington, U. C. Berkeley, and U. C. Santa Cruz. The project is managed by the NASA Balloon Program Office.
     This season, we are launching five prototype balloon payloads from McMurdo, Antarctica. Campaign operations are supported by the  Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility and the National Science Foundation.

Each BARREL payload is 2' X 2' X 2' and weighs about 50 lbs.  A 300,000 cubic foot helium-filled balloon will carry each payload to about 30 km altitude.
    The primary instrument is a sodium iodide scintillator to detect X-rays produced by radiation belt electrons as they enter Earth's atmosphere. Each payload also carries a magnetometer, GPS receiver, and an Iridium satellite model used for telemetering data to our ground station at U. C. Santa Cruz. Power is provided by solar panels, taking advantage of the 24 hour Antarctic sun!