Waiting to Launch

Drizzly sunset After our scrubbed launch attempt a couple weeks ago, we have not had another opportunity. Since then we have tweaked and tested BIT. But there’s a limit to how much non-invasive change can happen while maintaining launch-readiness. People also took a field trip to Houston one day and we all went home last week. […]

Attempted Launch

Group photo! Friday was a marginal launch opportunity. We arrived a little before noon to get everything ready and do some “final” systems checks. Excitement and hopes were high, group photos were taken, I’s dotted and T’s crossed. We proceeded as far as taking BIT out to the launch pad, hoping for a safe gap in the weather. Sadly, there was too much chance of a storm to risk laying out the balloon and proceeding with launch. Late in they day, BIT was brought back to the highbay. To try again another day. […]

Night Shifts, Arts and Crafts

Steven and Aldous add more bling Most of this week, to me, has been a blur of sleep-deprived night shifts. During this time, Javier, Mathew, and Barth work furiously to test and fix code. Bill, Richard, Tim, and I help while trying to stay out of the way. Meanwhile, the day team has been finalizing the little details and arts and crafts to get BIT ready to fly. […]

BIT Hanging Out in the Sun (Pre-Compatibility)

Hanging in the air Sunday was a big day for BIT. Starting in the morning, a big team was in for pre-compatibility tests. Before we fly, we will need to show that all our things work, and that they are compatible with NASA’s electronics for communication and balloon control. Pre-compatibility is a trial run to check for any problems before the final test. Overall it went quite well. One slightly sad note is that the old and loved launch vehicle, Tiny Tim, has been replaced due to needing increasingly frequent repairs. The lifts were smooth, but lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. After the tests, we had our first clear night in weeks. This gave us an opportunity to finally test the telescope and guidance systems with real stars. The afternoon was spent preparing, and then the late shift spent the night testing. […]

Together again

End of the day With fixes and upgrades complete, BIT was ready to be reassembled. Because this is (hopefully) the last time, lots of arts arts and crafts have started to get ready for flight. Mainly covering things with foam and aluminized mylar to keep them cool during the day and warm overnight. Javier’s mom, Kleina, joined us during this time. It was good to have non-scientist company, and she kindly cooked several excellent meals for us. My birthday also happened these days, and Bill got me a surprising present. […]

Falling Apart

Site of magic smoke release No field campaign is complete without its share of minor catastrophes. In this case, once assembly was finsihed and testing underway, a short circuit in a power wire cause some other circuit boards to release their magical black smoke, thus becoming non-functional. Stormy weather also made it impossible to looks at stars at night (needed to test the gondola’s pointing/tracking system). So we proceeded with a more complete disassembly to fix other issues like the heaters inside the telescope baffle. […]

Coming Together

Screwing it down While I was away on my day-trip to Fort Sumner, assembly of the telescope into the gondola structure was started. The goal was testing it in its flight configuration…and eventually flying. Asmebly continued over a couple days, with intermixed stretches of testing. […]

Flying to Fort Sumner

My sweet ride Yesterday I got to take a side trip to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. I was helping set up a a command/data ground station there, which, depending on the winds, can be used to extend BIT’s flight. I flew out of Palestine airport, just around the corner from CSBF. I took their plane, and the balloon facility in Fort Sumner location is at the airport. There was some worry that the bad weather in Palestine would mean we couldn’t fly back, but the pilots found a way. […]

Slight Lack of Focus

Up a tree Over the past few days work has been going on to get the telescope focused and aligned. And to have it stay that way, which is proving to be the challenge. While a small group works on that, others keep themselves busy. […]

Optics box, SIP, and zoo.

Pelicans being fed Since I’m back after a short absence from the field, I should catch up on posting old photos from before I left. The main work on the telescope was assembling the optics box and preparing for focusing/alignment tests. While that goes on, others have been working on gondola assembly, including the local Texans installing their electronics. After a long initial week of work, most of us took some time to visit the Caldwell Zoo nearby. […]