Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Robyn's Trip down to the Ice

This was the most comfortable trip I've had down here! It was still pretty long, but check out the view from my hotel! It was right on the square in Christchurch, NZ, and the weather was gorgeous. Too bad I didn't get stuck there.

When I picked up my cold weather gear, they informed us that we were taking the Australian Airbus down to the ice. I don't mind the usual C-17 or C-130 flight down, but the airbus was pretty nice. I got business class seats. They had a movie screen so we could track our progress.

The best part about it was the windows!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Personnel on the Ice

Robyn Millan
Professor at Dartmouth College
Physics and Astronomy Department
3rd time in Antarctica

Brett Anderson
Graduate Student at Dartmouth College
Physics and Astronomy Department
2nd Time in Antarctica

Saturday, November 20, 2010

More about BARREL

BARREL stands for "Balloon Array for Radiation-Belt Relativistic Electron Losses."  It is a NASA funded Mission of Opportunity for the Radiation Belt Storm Probe (RBSP) NASA Satellite mission, set to launch on May 18, 2012.  The Principal Investigator (PI) of BARREL is Robyn Millan, a professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Dartmouth College.

For more information on BARREL, see the first entry in blog from the 2009 BARREL Antarctic Campaign:

In addition, a new BARREL website is currently under construction.  Check it out now, and then come back soon to see new additions!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Status Updates

This post shall be a compilation of the BARREL Status Updates for this campaign.

I have dated this post such that it will always remain at the very end of this blog, but I will update it with new Status Updates as Robyn sends them out.

Peruse at your leisure!


BARREL Status Update #11

BARREL Flight #1 is currently located at 66.5 S, 167.5 E at over 108,000 ft altitude, and continues to head north. All systems are functioning nominally.  We are very pleased with the data we have obtained on the Suncat solar panels so far. They have performed well for three days in environmental conditions similar to those that led to failures after roughly one day of flight last year. 

The stratospheric wind map for this altitude indicates that the payload will continue to move north before finally getting pushed westward, possibly when it gets as low as 50 degrees South. If it does go that far north, it will hit Disappointment Island, which would be...disappointing. The balloon is now far enough north to start seeing a day-night cycle and we don't know how long it will stay aloft if it does continue northward. 

Actually, from a science standpoint, the location is very favorable. We are currently located at IGRF L=6.3 and will move to even lower latitudes. We saw some X-ray activity yesterday and the day before, which is probably X-ray aurora (though that needs to be confirmed).  So, if nature cooperates, we are well positioned to see some relativistic precipitation. This wasn't a requirement of these engineering test flights, but would be very cool!

Since we have now met our minimum success requirements for Flight #1, we are preparing to launch our second payload. A Flight Readiness Review will be held this afternoon, and the weather looks promising for a launch tomorrow morning. However, the CREAM payload is also showing to launch and they have priority. If they cancel, we will be ready! 

The earliest we could launch BARREL is 7:30 am Saturday local time (11:30 AM Friday PST). 

-- Robyn


BARREL Status Update #10(b)


Flight #1 Status
As you have already heard, we had our first successful BARREL launch yesterday!  Payload B was launched on Dec. 13 at 2144 UT. Many members of the BARREL team have been looking at data as it comes down real-time. Many thanks and great job to all of our Mission Monitors. A special thanks to Warren for keeping everything running smoothly!!

The balloon did not reach the expected float altitude (~120,000 ft), but otherwise seems to be performing normally near 110,000 ft. It is possible that a small hole near the base of the balloon vented some gas on the ascent. We are not sure how long it will stay up but are hopeful that we'll get a few more days out of it. 

The primary purpose of these test flights is to test solar panels and some minor modifications to our power system. So far, everything looks great! All other systems are currently performing nominally. 

There will be a possible launch attempt for the CREAM payload on Saturday. If they cancel or if their launch process is not too long, we could have a chance for launching Payload A as early as Saturday (Friday for y'all back in the states). I will send out another status update when I am more certain of a launch attempt. 

Meanwhile, you can still monitor the progress of our first flight:

And follow our blog where Brett has posted some pictures:


-- Robyn


BARREL Status Update #10


Sorry to bombard you all with emails. As you heard already, we had to cancel our first launch attempt today due to higher than desirable winds. The good news is that the weather looks favorable for tomorrow. We are going to make another launch attempt with target time 10:30 am local (Monday at 1:30pm PST, 4:30pm EST). I will send out another update if we do launch. 

You can also follow operations using the live video feed on the CSBF website:

If you click on "Real Time Video", you can watch live, but only if Operations are in progress. I am not sure if the webcam will be able to video the actual launch.

If you click on "BARREL", it will take you to a map of the trajectory. If we launch, the altitude will no longer read 0ft!

-- Robyn


BARREL Status Update #9

There will be a BARREL launch attempt tomorrow at 11am local time (Sunday 2PM Pacific Standard Time). 

The weather briefing was very favorable today. The current upper level winds at 5mbar show that the payload should go east and then south. The circulation is expected to set up in a few days, so the payload would then get caught up in the normal pattern. We are confident we have a good chance of staying over the continent and getting good data on the solar panels. Surface conditions are forecasted to be good starting at about 11am local time tomorrow, giving us a few hour window for launch. I will send another update if conditions change.

I will be sending another email to UCSC MOC personnel shortly to coordinate the schedule.

-- Robyn M. Millan


BARREL Status Update #8

The BARREL Flight Readiness Review was completed on 12/9/10. BPO has their final meeting in a few hours to get the approval to proceed with launching. As soon as conditions are favorable, we are ready to go! 

The models show that the upper level winds at 5mbar are still not well organized. CSBF is hoping to launch a pathfinder today, so we will have a better idea of the trajectory after they do that. If it looks acceptable (not headed straight out to sea), we will launch at the next opportunity. I will send out another update later today (after the weather briefing) with a more specific projection of launch date/time. We should have an opportunity in the next couple days, but it will not be today. 

-- Robyn M. Millan


BARREL Status Update #7


The Wallops team is still working hard on finalizing safety procedures and getting approval to proceed with launch. I'm told that the review they held yesterday went very well. There will be a final meeting on Friday 5PM EST and everyone is confident that we will get a green light. This means that BARREL has a possible launch opportunity Friday night (in the states) or probably more likely on Saturday. It will also depend on the upper level winds which are still not quite set up. As long as our payload does not go north over the ocean, we will consider launching before the winds are completely set up.

We are continuing to run the payloads while we are at work, and the minor modifications Warren was making to the SOC software are complete. If you would like to practice being a Mission Monitor, you can go to the SOC website at any time between 11:30am and 7:30 pm PST. Note that while we have the payloads indoors, the solar panel voltages, temperatures, and terminate housekeeping will not read correctly (since those systems are not connected while indoors). We will post a message on the Wiki if the payloads will be off during this time for any reason.

Brett set up a blog a little while ago and we have finally posted some stuff to it. 

These status reports can be found appended to the end of the blog in case you want to reference them at a later time.

Robyn & Brett


BARREL Status Update #6

I apologize for the radio silence, but there is really not much new to report. Wallops personnel will participate in a review tomorrow. If they get the green light, we will hold our Flight Readiness Review tomorrow also. However, we are still waiting for the upper level winds to set up. At 3mbar, the stratospheric circulation is set up but not quite centered on the continent and a little weak. At 5mbar, closer to BARREL altitudes, circulation is still a little disorganized. But, it is looking better every day, so we are still hopeful that we'll get a launch off this week.

Surface weather is gorgeous today, after a several day stretch of 30-40 knot winds. They managed to dig most of the buildings and vehicles out this morning. Weather for the next several days is expected to be very nice also and probably good launch weather if we can see an improvement in upper level winds. 

I'll send the next update as soon as we have more news!

-- Robyn M. Millan


BARREL Status Update #5

No change here. Both payloads are still ready to go. We had the payloads running most of today through the UCSC MOC. We did find that the battery temperature was steadily increasing on both payloads due to foam enclosure and the fact that we are in a pretty warm corner of the building. We removed the foam plugs and current limited the bench supplies to 300 mA (just enough to keep the battery charged) and this stabilized the temperatures. So, this is something to add to the lessons-learned document (keep an eye on temperatures when running indoors if the foam box is sealed up, and limit the battery charging under these conditions). 

We will run both payloads inside (using the Iridium antennas on the roof) for a good part of the day tomorrow so Warren can do some updates to the SOC. When Warren is finished with his testing, we'll let you all know so Mission Monitors can practice their monitoring. 

 Surface weather is expected to deteriorate tomorrow and especially into Thursday. The rest of the Wallops personnel are expected to arrive tomorrow so we hope their flight will get in. If it does, I think we can push for a Flight Readiness Review on Friday or Saturday assuming the weather isn't too bad to get out to work. 

Upper level winds are shaping up slowly. At this point, it doesn't look like we'll have acceptable conditions until Dec. 8th. But, things can change so we are still planning to stay ready! 


Due to a very fortunate coincidence, Mark Clilverd (our British Antarctic Survey Co-I) and Craig Rodger happened to be in Antarctica this past week. I met them over dinner at Scott Base the other night and they were able to come out to the LDB site this afternoon. Brett gave them an overview of the payload and walked them through our launch video from last year. This gave us a chance to talk about some of the Halley Bay logistics, and gave Mark a chance to see what the payloads look like and the kind of space we need to check them out. They are supposed to leave tomorrow, so it was really great that we were able to arrange this. 

On a less exciting note: Documentation Updates

- Jill and I completed a flight termination procedure and it is currently being approved by Bill Stepp. After he signs off on it, I will send it out to everyone. It should be posted in the MOC. Like last year, BARREL will be the primary terminate (from the MOC) except in case of emergency termination. 

- Brett updated the Pre-launch Checkout Procedure to include mounting the solar panels (new from last year) and some other minor improvements we came up with after working through the procedure this weekend. 

-- Robyn M. Millan


BARREL Status Update #4
(sent on 11/28/10)

Both payloads were moved outside for a "hang test" which is a full system test in flight configuration. The payloads were suspended with the entire flight train attached, and were also balanced and weighed.  See attached photos.

After hanging the payloads, they were left running outside on the deck for about 3 hours. During the test, The CSBF MIP was also running on BARREL power. Data for Payload A was collected through the UCSC MOC and can be found on the SOC. For Payload B, we collected data through our local GSE so data can be sent to you on request. It was a beautiful day, so we were able to run in full sun for most of the time. This allowed us to  see the payload operate under condition where the battery is  fully charged. We also disconnected the solar panels to partially discharge the battery and then reconnected them to see the battery charge up to full charge again. Finally, we conducted a terminate test through the full flight train.  For Payload A, the terminate command was successfully sent from the UCSC MOC computer.
Payload weights (including MIP but not flight train)
Payload A: 45 lbs
Payload B: 46 lbs (Suncats, with scintillator and TCM)

Because of workspace constraints, the solar panels must be attached after moving the payloads outside. We will have to do this again on launch day, so this was a good dry run and gave us a good estimate on how long that procedure would add to our pre-launch checkout.

I forgot to mention before that we have a weather briefing every day, led by the CSBF meteorologist.

Surface weather is beautiful today. There is a possibility of a storm mid-week. 
The stratospheric circulation is still slow setting up  but the models are accurately representing the progress. At this  point, the models do not show it setting up until ~Dec. 5 or later.  

Flight requirements review was held  Friday. A flight readiness review will be held once Wallops folks are available. The payloads  are flight ready so once this review is held, we are readyto go.

-- Robyn M. Millan


BARREL Status Update #3

Note to BARREL team: If you have any status information you would like me to include in these reports (for example MOC items), feel free to email it to me. Otherwise, I'll just report the items I know.

UCSC hosted two training sessions for Mission Monitors yesterday. Many thanks to Warren for teaching twice! 

A MOC NAS test was conducted today using a flight payload to send real data. The MOC passed! From David Smith, "If the MOC NAS is disconnected in mid-call, MOC will keep running and writing to its local drive. Furthermore, if NAS comes back on line, it will start receiving data again at the start of the first new call once it's back."

Payload B:
- CSBF MIP was mounted below the main payload. The extra CSBF temp sensor is on the BARREL Iridium modem.
- All cables were routed and taped in place and the foam enclosure was put in place.
- Solar panel mounting structure was added to the payload and checked for cable lengths. (Thanks to Karl and Nick and Julianna for all their hard work with the design modifications!!!! It is MUCH easier now!)

The remainder of Payload B preparations require us to move the payload downstairs and outside. If we have sun tomorrow, we'll move it outside, attach the solar panels, and do a full system test in flight mode. 

Payload A: 
- magnetometer was checked out. MIP is ready to be mounted. We're ready to start buttoning up Payload A. 

Both terminate boxes have been checked out and delivered to Vic for mounting in the parachute.

 Surface weather was cloudy with light flurries today. This is expected to taper off tomorrow and we should have partly cloudy skies tomorrow afternoon that may be acceptable for an outdoor test. 

The stratospheric circulation is still slow setting up. The upper level winds are not expected to be set up for the large payloads until Dec. 8-10. We will watch it closely and may be able to launch before then as long as the payload won't go north. 

Flight requirements review will be held tomorrow or Friday. A flight readiness review will be held once Wallops folks are available. We are still planning to be ready for a Dec. 2 (Dec 1 in the states) launch if we have an opportunity. 

-- Robyn M. Millan


BARREL Status Report #2
Monday, Nov. 22, 2010 

Our activities for today:
Completed electrical integration of CSBF MIP with each payload.
Conducted a brief initial MOC test. U. C. Santa Cruz used the MOC to downlink data from both payloads simultaneously.
Conducted terminate test with each payload. Payload A terminate command was sent through the UCSC MOC.
Diagnosed Scintillator Unit 1 which sustained damage at some point. 

Took solar panels outside and checked out all but three of them. Will finish the remaining panels tomorrow. 

Tomorrow: we have two scheduled SOC training sessions at 5:00 PM eastern and 8:00 PM eastern time.
Time permitting, we will also try to get the solar panels and MIP mounted to at least one payload and possibly move it outside for a system test.

Surface weather is expected to be nice tomorrow (sunny, ~20 deg F, 5-10 knots). Wednesday, we may get some flurries.
The upper level winds have not set up yet but are starting to progress. 

WFF safety officers and Dave Pierce are scheduled to arrive Dec. 1. No launch operations will occur until they are here, so this delays our first possible launch date by a few days. Our Flight Readiness Review will probably be early next week, depending on Wallops availability. 

-- Robyn M. Millan


BARREL Status Report #1
Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010 

This is the first BARREL status report of the 2010/2011 campaign! I plan to provide an update email every day unless I am too busy, too tired, or there is nothing to report. So, if you do not want to receive regular updates, please let me know and I will remove you from the list.  Also, this is a large email list that includes many different people. Please do not "Reply All" to this list. If you have a comment or concern, please send it to me only and I will forward it if I think it is appropriate. 

The time change is a bit awkward since we are a day ahead of you. These reports will use local McMurdo time because it is hard to use UT to talk about what we did each day! For your reference, McMurdo time is Eastern time minus 6 hours (but plus one day) - in other words, we are 18 hours ahead of Eastern time. 

Brett Anderson arrived in McMurdo on Nov. 15 and I arrived yesterday afternoon (Nov. 19 local). Today was my first trip out to the LDB site and I was pleased to find a fantastically organized workspace set up by Brett! 

Before my arrival, Brett had unpacked everything, set up a nice ESD-free workspace for each payload, and built part of the solar panel mounting structure onto each payload. See the attached pictures provided by Brett.

Checkout of the Payload B core structure (everything housed inside the foam) is complete. The system was tested through a local Iridium connection (our local GSE). Payload A DPU, power system, and magnetometer have been checked out.  Jill completed checks of both MIP units today as well.

Monday, we will complete Payload A core structure checkout, electrically integrate the MIP with each payload, and test each terminate box. By the end of Monday, we should have both payloads ready for a MOC test (in time for a planned MOC/SOC training Tuesday our time - Monday in Santa Cruz).

Time and weather permitting, we will also take the solar panels outside to check them out before integrating with the payload. 

Surface weather is nice, but windy. Tomorrow is expected to be the same. The upper level winds have not set up yet and are not forecasted to set up for at least another week. We will watch it closely. If the winds are not quite set up but will take us south over the continent, we will launch anyway.

-- Robyn M. Millan