The countdown is running

Hej everyone!

We had a first launch attempt on Tuesday, but the countdown was interrupted due to a problem in the Service Module. Right now the countdown is running for the second time, and so far everything looks fine! If you would like to see the launch check out the livestream on http://esrange.insupport.se/, and we are also posting live updates from the science centre on our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/isaac.rexus.

The launch is scheduled for 12:00 CEST (UTC+2), so don’t miss it!

Below is a photo of this morning’s rollout to the launch pad.

IMG_6313

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It’s been a while – an update from ISAAC

Hej everyone!

We, that is Vlad, Ruslan, Jorge and me (Georg), have just arrived at Esrange Space Center for the launch campaign, and it’s high time to revive this blog. A lot has happened since the last post, and I want to give you a summary here so you all have an idea what we’re working with in the next days. For the launch campaign, which is the next two weeks, we plan to post at least a short blog post every day.

The most important news is that we had to reduce the scope of the experiment. Despite the hard work we did not manage finish all the parts, and in the end we decided not to fly the free-falling units (FFUs) at all. As you may remember, the FFUs are made up of two parts, the common unit (CU), responsible for collecting basic flight data (accelerations, GPS) as well as recovery (parachute, localizaiton), and the specific units (SU), which perform the actual scientific experiment. We had a good deal of progress with both, but when it was time for the final decision none of them was completely ready to fly.

However, we do have the fully functional rocket mounted unit (RMU), which we are very proud of, and it will fly and eject dummy FFUs. Compared to earlier designs, such as MUSCAT or RAIN, our RMU is capable of ejecting much larger and heavier FFUs, and is able to time the ejection very precisely in order to eject the FFUs into a predefined direction, despite the rocket spinning at about 3 rotations per second. Furthermore, the ejection system is completely redesigned with several improvements, such as a much lower force in the retention cables.

This RMU with the new ejection system will be tested in flight to demonstrate it’s capabilities. We have a camera on board, and we hope to capture the whole flight and in particular the ejection sequence, in order to find out just how well the system performs and how precisely the directional ejection works. Of course we will also share the video with our followers, so stay tuned for more updates in the coming two weeks!

Oh, and I case you wondered: the launch date is not fixed, as it depends on the campaign progress and the weather, but it should most likely be between 27th and 31st of May.

Greetings from Kiruna!

Dipping a toe into interstellar space

Did you hear the news of last week?

Obviously there’s a lot of stuff going on down here on Earth, but that’s now what I want to talk about here. Something else has happened, about 18 billion kilometres away. Right on the edge of the Solar System.

Last week, NASA announced that their Voyager 1 space probe has entered interstellar space. This is the first man-made object to leave our Solar System! That is amazing news, not only for scientists and space enthusiasts. I’m very excited about what Voyager will discover – even though I’m not an astrophysicist and don’t know much about all that plasma and whatever else is around there.

Some of you may not know what Voyager is, so here a short description: Voyager 1 is a spacecraft that was launched in 1977 to explore the outer Solar System. It passed by Jupiter in 1979 and Saturn in 1980, and after that the mission was extended to explore the outer regions and boundaries of the heliosphere – the region in space that is dominated by our Sun. It is still working and gathering data – although some parts have been shut down because the battery of course doesn’t have the initial power levels anymore. And the communication must be quite tricky: at that distance, it takes over 17 hours for a signal to arrive at the spacecraft, and of course another 17 hours for the answer to come back.

Among all the interesting data gathered by Voyager, one thing stands out: a photograph taken in 1990, titled Pale Blue Dot, which is the most distant picture of the Earth ever taken – at a distance of 6 billion kilometres.

The Pale Blue Dot

The Earth is barely visible in this picture taken by Voyager at a distance of 6 billion kilometres.

There would be lots to say about Voyager, but I’m going to stop here. If you’re interested, here are some links:

“Shit just got real!”

With the critical design review just ahead of us (it will be held next Tuesday at the DLR facilities in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany), the design phase is coming to and end soon. But nonetheless we have already ordered some components, and just this week the pillars, which are one of the main structural elements of the TxSU have arrived. It’s becoming real!

Just to remind you how the TxSU looks, here’s a picture of the CAD model:

Image of the TxSU assembly

The design of the TxSU. The pillars that are around the circumference (there’s 18 of them) have just been delivered this week.

If you’d like to know how this design evolved I recommend this old post: The Flying Christmas Tree

So the pillars have arrived, and just for fun (and to show you how it looks), I tried to arrange them roughly how it will look, together with a battery, an IR source and a small PCB with two LEDs. Of course a lot of stuff is missing, but together with the CAD image from above you can get an idea of how it will look in the end.

Components of the TxSU

Some components of the TxSU, loosely arranged to give an idea of how the assembly will look.

The pillars themselves are quite small, the outer dimensions are 31x14x8.3 mm, and their mass is less than 5 g. And in that small volume are as many as 7 screwholes, 3 to attach the pillars to the rest of the structure, and 4 to attach the LED boards to the pillars. I can tell you, it was some headache to make that fit. But now it feels really good to have the part, that for months just existed on the computer screen, and to be able to look at its shiny aluminium surface.

The pillars

The pillars – aren’t they shiny?