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Week 14b: The Rocket Range Diaries, Day 3


And so it came to pass that the great H1N1 panic, which I blessedly avoided to great extent while in Norway, made its way to our tiny little rocket range on the wee island of Andøya. Lise, poor Lise, awoke with a few symptoms that prompted a swift quarantine order from the range staff. There was to be no fooling around in such a small environment – though I and a few of our groupmates made certain to have dinner and visit with her when we could. During dinner, Lise remarked that she felt the whole thing had been rather exaggerated, and time did tell her to be right – luckily she was cleared to resume participation the next day.

The day’s scientific programming was a blast. The telemetry group was kept busy learning the ins and outs of rocket communication for our crucial role on launch day. We began by using an exceptionally cool piece of software (Satellite Toolkit) to both analyze orbits and indentify which of the major European satellites were orbiting over Andøya Rocket Range at that moment. We then trotted over to the main telemetry station and were able to track these satellites as they passed by, using the very signal transmitted from the satellite. We even employed the quadrupole autotrack, a nifty tracking technique that automatically moves the antenna towards the quadrant with the strongest signal. Unfortunately, ESA was not kind enough to provide us with the signal decoder, so we weren’t able to download the satellite data.

Preparing for Launch

The afternoon was spent working with the other groups to prepare for the launch. This was our first taste of multi-team project dynamics, as we were forced to alter and adjust to fit other team schedules. The Experiment team and Payload team having jointly ensured that the rocket payload was functioning and mounted properly, they mounted it on one of the test benches for the all-important “spin test”. As the rocket would be spinning at a high rate for the duration of the flight (stability considerations, primarily), it was important to ensure that it could function under these forces AND that it was properly balanced.

Of course, one of the necessities of “functioning properly” was the transmit/receive capability. I may not have mentioned this explicitly, but our rocket was to be launched directly over and into the Arctic Ocean. There was no plan (and no hope) of recovery – thus, the only way to retrieve the data from our rocket was by radio. If the telemetry failed, all we had was a very expensive (and rather boring) firework.

Thanks to our exceptional Payload and Experiment team, the test went off without a hitch. And, to celebrate, the Rocket team showed us their day’s work – scale models of our launch in hobby-rocket form. As much as I would love to say that these were a roaring success, a few parachute malfunctions spoiled the landings – but as the Rocket team was quick to point out, the parachute was not a part of our mission proper and so was not of great concern. Plus, they were able to absolutely knock our socks off with the Hybrid Rocket demonstration later that evening.

Hmm… it seems to me I’ve forgotten to mention the fifth group of students involved in the launch. Latecomers to the party, Professor Jøran Moen and five of his upper-year atmospheric scientists formed the fifth group, the aptly-named Science group. It was their job to act as PI (Principal Investigator) for the mission, to give the formal go-ahead for “optimal science conditions” and to be ultimately responsible for the commissioning and results of the mission. Plus, they had the coolest room by far – in the same outbuilding as the Student Telemetry, but with way more monitors, much larger chairs, and a plush blue interior that was every bit as nice as Launch Control itself. It was a pleasure for the four of us from Tromsø to interact with a few other students who’d had some instruction in the ways of the Force-er, ways of the Rocket (the majority of the students from Oslo were in their first year), and they were a welcome addition to the range.

Everyone Loves Pizza

The cafeteria being booked for an ARR “Joint Chiefs of Staff” meeting (Prof. Brekke from Cosmic Geophysics among them), the students gathered back in the classroom for some pizza and merriment. For the life of me, I can’t remember what it was we did, but I know we had an absolute blast doing it. This was followed, of course, by more Crud – with some Canadian-imported Trail Mix to keep the stomachs full and the faces smiling.

On one final note, I would like to mention that today was Remembrance Day. Even an ocean away from home, the Canadians were able to take pause during the day and recall the sacrifices of our countrymen, both in the past and to this very day. In particular, I was able to give thanks that we Canadians and Norwegians could work alongside our Austrian and German colleagues with no animosity whatsoever. I was able to learn a fair bit of the Norwegian experience during the occupation in the Second World War, and it has further deepened my respect for their efforts and those of my countrymen. May we forever hold the torch high.


Posted by adamvigs 12:20 Archived in Norway

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