We launch on the 27th !!!

Good day rocket enthusiasts*,

A new version of the launch campaign plan has been announced yesterday and our rocket, REXUS 15, has the earliest hot countdown opportunity on Tuesday the 27th. It all depends mainly on the weather and payload readiness but chances are pretty high things will go as planned! A communication test between our rocket module and the service module is planned for today, with a bench test following up tomorrow. 

We are now in our second day at the ESRANGE Space Center getting our experiment ready for flight! In the morning there are quick meeting briefs with all the teams present and Alex Kinnaird who takes us through the day’s plan. Yesterday we also attended a presentation about the safety regulations of the compound where DOs and DON’Ts where discussed. Unfortunately, riding the rocket in a cowboyish fashion is not allowed during the hot countdown.

The daily working program is from 08:00 to 18:00 and the people here are really strict about it because after dinner there are things like sauna, nature and various games to enjoy. Yesterday for example we took a short trip up to “Radar Hill”, a very good spot to get a feel of the surroundings and appreciate the beauty that is Norrland. Here’s what we saw:


” In the background you can see the balloon launch area and the rocket launch area. The blurred bits are not image artifacts only ‘randomly’ scattered satellite dishes of which we are not allowed to take picture of 🙂 “

Monday we had the chance to do some sightseeing on our way up here. We checked out Sweden’s most beautiful public building (voted by the Swedish people in 2001) simply called Kiruna Church and the already melting Icehotel in the village of Jukkasjärvi:






(I formally apologize to Audrey for not having the time to photoshop her into the pictures but I promise we’ll take more when she arrives next week.)

It’s almost time for lunch, all the screws in the module are tightly secured with loctite and the electronics guys fixed a frustrating and annoying problem we had with the RMU board since yesterday. We are in good spirits; so here are some more pictures of the team members attending the campaign: 


“Here’s Ruslan trying to slow down the inevitable collapse of the Icehotel. “



“Jorge taking advantage of a hibernating bear.”


“A selfie of myself.”


“And Georg ‘leading’.”

We will post a live feed of the launch as soon as one will be set. Stay tuned!

Good day!*


* Appropriate greeting since we have 21 hours and 29 minutes of daylight and a soft twilight transition between days up here


We’ve got a rocket module!

After months of waiting and countless back and forward emails with technical drawings and specifications our rocket module has finally arrived on Swedish soil. The module is our ride ticket in the REXUS rocket and it will carry our experiment to the edge of space. You can catch a glimpse of the funky fellow below.

And they also had it in our favorite color - KTH blue!

And they also had it in our favorite color – KTH blue!

The grids supporting our experiment units inside the module also arrived the week before Christmas. Talk about timing…

Here you can see a picture of how the experiment will look inside the rocket module.

RxSU standing proud of it's aperture hole!

RxSU standing proud of its aperture hole!

TxSU showing off it's IR lamp and a couple of LEDs.

TxSU showing off its IR lamp and a couple of LEDs

As everything fits just like in the CAD all that is needed for the ejection tests are a few parts which we are to manufacture ourselves. Unfortunately for our beloved experiment people tend not to work too much during holidays 😀 but alas, we are almost done partying and we shall return with high hopes and rejuvenated spirits.

Interesting times ahead my fellow ISAAC-ers as we approach the finish line in May. I’ll be waiting for you all to return safely to Stockholm, to share stories, joy and, of course, some of that well renowned French/Swiss cheese 🙂

Happy holidays and a Happy New Year to all,


Our workshop and IKEA have something in common…

…they both lack windows. No windows – no sunlight, no sunlight – no track of time. At IKEA you buy spoons, as Bill Bailey so intuitively pointed out on QI (a show which I highly recommend), but in our workshop you clamp, you mill, you lathe, you file…

With the EAR (Experiment Acceptance Review) around the corner — most likely next week on the 19th — all of ISAAC is working double shifts (except french people who, as always, chose to party instead…) in order to be as prepared as possible and of course show off. As you have seen in the previous post the electronics guys are working around the clock soldering and testing the little flat, green slices of magic that are the PCBs. We (the mechanical team), on the other hand, spend our days with oily hands and rolled up sleeves tinkering with milling and lathing machines. In just about 2 weeks we’ve gotten very far in terms of “what does this button/lever do” and now we have the confidence to tackle manufacturing issues just like …ah, I’ll let the .gif do the talking. 

So we started up easy, focusing on the Aluminium parts, while we got accustomed to the machines (see previous post by Audrey), but now we’ve moved on to “reshaping” steel into trickier parts. Just today we fiddled around with this:


A part which its designer so originally named “14.008 Corner Rounding”

Doesn’t it look cute and cuddly in the CAD ? Well, in reality it’s a nasty beast. It took us about a day to lathe the groove and cut it to its specified dimensions, losing 2 or 3 pointy, sharpy, golden tools in the process (weep not for I am sure they are in Tool-Valhalla with all their relatives and brave ancestors). Then again today, we battled for about 5 hours to cut it in half. And millimeter by millimeter we conquered it! But we’re only half the way through, with it needing to be a quarter of a cylinder and all…


Half clamped, half flying off!


Do I look content or what ?

Tomorrow we start before sunrise! And by Odin we shall slice it again!

Bending and cutting

With our fearless team leader exploring the wonders of the two biggest countries in the world (wrt area) and our outreach wizz showing around Stockholm to old friends, the responsibility of bending in cutting landed on my shoulders. And so since Monday I have made countless trips from the library (4th floor) to the workshop (deep deep under) and be, amazed, this is all I came up with. It doesn’t look like much but a lot of work and frustration went into those little things, half of which are not even in their final state.

The manufacturing phase has started already, at least according to the project plan, so what my intention with these baffles and straps was was to get accustomed to the workshop and the tools for when the more complicated parts will need to be manufactured. In both FFUs we have a couple of parts, like stepper motors, IR optical tubes and sensors, a camera lens and a few batteries, which need to be strapped into their respective positions. You can see below what my amazing bending skills produced.

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Straps. Various shapes and sizes (a lot more of them are in storage)

As for the baffles, they will prevent any stray light, that finds its way into the RxSU, from reaching the optical sensors. Cutting an aluminum 0.5 mm thick sheet with a cutter and a metal shears is not an easy task, but by the end I was surprised to see that, within a fairly reasonable margin of error, the part looked the same as it did in the CAD.

2013-10-23 18.23.36

One of the baffles that will make light behave!

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A close-up view of the baffle.

This is what keep me busy the past three days and hopefully by the end of the week we will start working on more serious parts. Nonetheless, it has been fun cutting and bending, but for the next time I’m definitely getting some help from one or both of these guys:

bender lasercutvision

“Test what you fly, fly what you test.” – NASA

So here we are, a little behind schedule but in good spirit preparing for the next phase of our epic journey: testing!

With most of the design fixed in place and fewer and fewer parts to be ordered we’re heading straight towards it! The electronics guys have already started tweaking and testing their “little toys” and have come up with a sturdy test plan this week. Our balancing expert, Ernest, has been working on his balancing setup and just a few days ago me and Audrey helped him cut the bars from which our beloved units will be suspended. Progress has also been made on other fronts as well and a nice feeling of convergence loomed in the library where we work the past couple of days.

We enjoyed designing our experiment and gathering ideas around the main concept but now it is time to see if everything we came up with fits and works nicely together as is does on paper. Stay with us for updates, pictures and videos! It shall not be disappointing!


RxSU design updates


Parts, parts, parts everywhere! They’re coming in every day; a small bearing, a few gears, even motors for testing!

As the mechanical design approaches its end phase and we’re crossing into the testing phase we can definitely feel the enthusiasm grow with every working hour. With our IPR (Interim Progress Review) on Thursday 12th we’re trying to fix as many loosen ends as we can. So the past few days have been packed with short meet-ups with our supervisors followed by intense design retouching.

Regarding our beloved RxSU major changes took place since my last post dedicated to the little buddy. Just a quick reminder, the unit is supposed to capture the incoming light of the TxSU and direct it towards its IR sensors and camera. In order for it to do so two stepper motors will control a mirror and the orientation of the unit. You can see an overview of the unit below.


I know, it looks pretty crowed and packed. And it is! We’ve put stacks of PCBs, sun sensors on the side, IR tube assemblies holding lenses and sensors, a camera, a battery, and frames and supports for all the parts. In some specific areas it comes down to millimeters in finding the best fit for everything. Just to give you a taste of how complicated designing is (and I don’t even want to think about manufacturing) here’s a photo of just the RxSU case:

ImageNow, let’s try and see what will happen to the light once it goes in through the aperture hole we’ve cut out on the side of the case.


The light beam will be entering, just like it is shown in the picture above, from the lower left side and it will hit the mirror which is actuated with a small stepper motor and a gear train (in red). The blue rectangles sitting at a 90 degree angle with each other are the beam splitters. The first one will divide the light into two wavelengths, the visible one will go straight on through to the other side into the camera while the IR light will continue its way towards the second beam splitter. Here the light will be separated again, before entering the IR optics assemblies and hit the IR sensors.

The pictures taken by the camera and the sensors reading will be stored on flash memories right on those green PCBs for post flight analysis and also for the in flight control algorithm.

So keep close the final design is days away and it will be spectacular to see all the units assembled, even if only in CAD.

We’ve come a long way and it’s been a hard one, but hopefully in the end (which mind you, is not that far away), when everything comes together and the picture in the puzzle starts to take shape the countless hours of work will have paid off.

This is it for tonight. Keep in touch,


ISAAC around the world

Hullo everybody,

Holidays are upon us and I’m hoping all is well with your summer plans and that things are following their precise schedule. I will pick up on this opportunity to write an outreach article rather than focusing on the work being done to finish up the FFU’s design or the tweaking of our SED.

There are many perks to being part of a team of international students but I won’t be spending time describing them since I deem it impossible to envelop such an experience in a few rows. So for the curious ones I’ll just say: go ahead and take the bull by the horns, you won’t regret it.

What I want to focus on instead is the one drawback: summer break hits and everyone scatters around the globe on vacation, back home or to places still void of the wonder we call internet. Everything seems to slow down and communication between members is reduced to a bare minimum.

In consequence, the head of our “outreach department” came up with the splendid idea (on which our “electronics wizard” improved); since we’re all going to be travelling to different places we should take pictures of us wearing the ISAAC t-shirt in front of, on top or anywhere near a monument, building or a place that is representative for the city or area we find ourselves in, in order for our followers to guess.

We’ll try to make it fun, interactive and challenging. To start it off here’s a picture of me relaxing on a nice patch of grass in front of 47 flags.

ISAAC around the world, location one

ISAAC around the world, location one

More pictures from other members and the “unveiling” of the prize to come.

So I’ll just leave you with this: “Where’s ISAAC?”