Ritual Unicorn Sacrifice

Looking cool in his glasses Yesterday was a double-occasion: Suren’s birthday, and the first time that we filled the cryostat with liquid nitrogen. To celebrate, and to appease the temperamental cryogenic gods, we performed the ritual sacrifice of a unicorn (pinata). The liquid nitrogen is used to pre-cool everything before we switch to the even colder liquid helium. In the week leading up to this point, we had to test for leaks in our vacuum vessel (and had no leaks!), pump it out to thermally isolate the different temperature stages, and test all of our cryogenic gear. Outside of cryostat progress, we also completed the second run of the Bemco thermal/vacuum test chamber, built the gondola frame that will carry everything in flight, and started testing some of our calibration equipment. […]

Closing Lloro

It's full of faces! With the lab set up, our first big task was to get our cryostat Llorothaag (aka Lloro) ready to do science. She both holds Spider’s six telescope inserts, and allows the detectors to reach the extremely cold temperature they need to operate with high sensitivity. Lloro has layers nested within that get progressively colder: starting with the vacuum vessel at ambient temperature that allows the air to be removed inside like a vacuum flask; then two layers of vapour cooled shields (VCS) before reaching the main liquid helium tank and the smaller superfluid helium tank, and finally the closed cycle helium-3 adsorption fridges. To get ready to operate, these layers need to be disassembled, before the science instruments can be installed inside, and then all closed again. We also had a trickle of new people arriving throughout the week. First Elle and Simon arrived, followed Johanna and Jared, then Bill, and finally Jason and Sho. We also lost Sherry, who left to start her new job and be reuinited with her puppy. Bye Sherry, we’ll miss you! […]

(Un-)Packing and Beginnings

Progress Spider-2 finally has a chance to go to the field! After a short notice decision that we’d have a chance to fly this year, we jumped into action spending a frantic month packing. I include a few photos from this time in Princeton, mainly of our cryostat (named Llorothaag, or Lloro for short) going into her box. First we go to Palestine, TX, and the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility. There we will reassemble and test Spider, and integrate with the NASA electronics. Lloro’s trick arrived on May 27, the first wave of people arrived on May 31, and I came with another wave the day after. Much of the time so far has been spent unpacking and organizing our work area, but we’re also starting on some work and assembly that will take a while: preparing Spider’s six telescope inserts to do science, and preparing to test all of the ambient temperare electronics in the Bemco. The Bemco is a big thermal/vacuum test chamber used to simulate the environment of a balloon payload in the stratosphere. […]

Full Fake Solar Panels

Front On June 13, 2017 we dressed bit in all of her fake solar panels to do some scan testing. Because bit needs to point so precisely, very small disturbances can totally upset the system. For this reason, even though we’re flying for a single night and don’t need solar power, BIT flies with fake solar panels to experience the same amount of wind and floppy parts as it will have with real solar panels. I took the opportunity of having BIT fully dressed to take a bunch of photos. […]

Taping and Testing

Night testing With BIT’s pre-launch compatibility test finished, we spent June 8-12 of last year taping up the outside for its final shiny/thermal treatment. We also spend nights testing the telescope, while there are stars to observe. […]

BETTII launch

BETTII The first experiment to launch last year (June 8, 2017) was BETTII (Balloon Experimental Twin Telescope for Infrared Interferometry). We took a break to go and watch. […]

Compatibilty (last year)

Hanging out It’s been almost a year since the disappointing summer/fall of not launching SuperBIT in 2017. I have recovered enough to finally post the photos. We’re also in the field with SuperBIT getting ready to launch again, and I don’t want to get lapped. Plus I’m being pestered/motivated to share these for documentation purposes. On June 8, 2017 We did our pre-flight compatibility test. This means rolling out the highbay as though we would launch and putting everything together. Then we test our system and the CSBF antennas and commanding, and we roll back inside. […]

Reassembly, Shinification.

Javier scacles BIT With upgrades to the experiment complete, it’s time to start putting everything back together. In addition to basic reassembly, it’s time to start giving the experiment its final thermal treatment. This means covering things with various combinations of foam and shiny aluminized mylar. And lots of tape. […]


The telescocpe and I On my return to BIT-land (after needing to spend a few days in Princeton) I find everything disassembled in preparation for upgrades: mainly to the rigidity of the mounting of the inner frame, the telescope inside the inner frame, and the optics box on the backside of the telescope. Plus installing some electronics like the new heater control box, fine guidance controller, and shiny new gyroscopes. […]

SuperBIT Test Flight 2017: The Beginning

Susan fits in the boat, which makes for more convenient alignmnet scoping I arrived in Palestine about a week later than the Toronto crew (professor: Barth, grad students: Javier, John, and Susan, undergrads: Bryce and Michael). They had unpacked and tested everything in the thermal vacuum chamber and were starting to set up. I forgot to pack my camera, but I snapped a few photos on my phone. Most were for technical purposes, but a few are (maybe) of interest to people other than me. […]