Compatibility / The End of Texas

Group photo! This post is very late: my site had server issues that have finally been resolved. I post this just before heading out to join much of the rest of the team already in Antarctica! After successfully cooling down and testing Spider’s detectors, the final thing to do was our compatibility test. For this, the payload gets completely assembled and we roll outside to test that the NASA satellite communication (and everything else) works properly. This requirement is the primary reason that we go to Palestine in advance of Antarctic flights. This was the end of my stay in Texas, since I had to leave early to attend a conference. Though I missed the first couple days to stay for compatibility. Oops, sorry, I only missed packing. We were also joined by a few Princeton undergrads: Zakiya, Andi, and Shannon. Extra hands were very welcome in the final crunch, and hopefully they enjoyed a bit of science before the packing. Lots of balloon science is just packing and unpacking anyway. […]


Testing the liquid helium scale We’ve had a very busy couple of weeks since the last update. First, we performed the lift operation to marry the pre-cooled cryostat with her supportive gondola. This made the Spider payload functionally almost complete, except for the sun shields and solar panels. After the lift/marriage we could start filling Lloro with liquid helium so that she could cool our detectors down to the very cold temperatures at which they operate. For the cryo nerds, we also then use a capillary-filled pumped helium-4 bath to get below 2 K and closed-cycle helium-3 adsorption refrigerators to get down to 0.3 K (around -273 C). Once we had cold detectors, our goal was to do all the science we could with the limited time and liquid helium that we had available, by conducting a battery of different tests on Spider’s six telescopes. We split into two shifts to manage Lloro’s needs at all times of day, and to efficiently get lots of testing done. Detector experts Jeff and Sasha joined us for this time. Though we also lost Sho to exam studying. […]