Sunday, October 19, 2008

Day 3, Part 2: Flight Commissioning, Bench Test & Aurora

As promised, here is part 2 of today's activities at Esrange. Range officials of the Swedish Space Corporation joined us today for the first "Bench Test" of the Rexus 4 systems and experiments. "Bench Testing" essentially means wiring up all components without actually assembling the rocket. Hence, it was an important static test which enabled us to test all systems not just separately, but in relation between MIRIAM's systems and the rocket itself. Before that was to happen, Hannes initiated a sequence of tests to commission MIRIAM for flight. Flight commissioning turned out to be quite eventful. The good news was that the CamCon error has been fixed yesterday. However, a version conflict resulted in some non-conformant behavior of the Service Module. After repeating the flight commissioning tests and analyzing the results, the errors were lastly fixed or worked around through the hard work of our software engineers, Daniel and Kevin. This enabled us to resume with flight commissioning and complete the bench test by the end of the day.

Trouble-Shooting MIRIAM at the preparation building.

In the control room, Daniel (back) and Kevin (front) are in constant communication with the preparation building while monitoring MIRIAM's mission control interfaces.

At last, MIRIAM is GO for flight commissioning.

The atmosphere during the bench test was quite charged. But in the end, while there is still some data to be evaluated, we can confidently confirm that MIRIAM has mastered the test successfully, transmitting images and sensor data without problems.

Christian is manning the TV control room during the bench test. While receiving imagery from MIRIAM, his job is to switch to the best image according to polarization and receiving station.

An overview of the control room during the bench test.

Speaking of charged atmosphere, it seems like the elements conspired to reward us for our efforts. After our dinner, a few of us discovered a faint glow in the sky while setting out a freshly baked cake to cool. Sure enough, a dazzling display of green Aurora Borealis ensued. Having checked the space weather reports in hopes of seeing this phenomenon, we knew there was a slight but better-than-usual chance to see them tonight, but it was still a surprising event. The event didn't last much longer than half an hour, with ever changing intensity, so the timing was perfect. We did manage to take a few pictures, albeit without stabilization in (obviously) low-light conditions. This was certainly a moment to be savored with our own eyes, and the pictures do not do them justice.

Aurora Borealis over Esrange

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