Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Day 5: The Anticipation Rises....


Sorry, no pictures today, as the anticipation and stress for all of us has been rising. Hopefully though, the next pictures you will see here will be of a rocket streaking to the sky. During the MORABA/SSC briefing today, we were informed of the critical situation regarding the launch prospects. Due to some glitches on the side of the launch providers, such as a "non-conforming fin," and weather, the schedule has been pushed and squeezed. The two rocket stages were mated and the stabilizing fin was fixed, but one had to ensure it had been fixed "to specifications." As the ever-calm SSC campaign director put it, "it is easier to bend steel than paper." What's more, this also meant the practice count-down had to be postponed, while at the same time, we only have a very small launch window on Wednesday due to wind. Weather is expected to only deteriorate thereafter. Should we not launch this week, launch may still be possible, but with a greatly reduced team (as most will already have left Esrange) and increased work-load. The decision was reached to postpone the practice count-down to Wednesday, at 5am, at a potentially accelerated pace in order to resume the "hot" count down not much later that day. This is thought to give the greatest chance to launch within the unbendable safety regulations.

This meant that the rocket was fully assembled tonight, while MIRIAM was partially pressurized with Helium and secured at the top of the rocket. The rest of the pressurization will happen tomorrow, most likely between practice and real count downs (necessitating special security passes for the team members handling MIRIAM on the launch pad). MIRIAM needs to be pressurized in two stages, as the gas under pressure is heated, and thus expands, and needs to be allowed time to cool down before "toping it off."

Luciana and I also held our trajectory briefing later in the evening, after the launch-prep team had secured MIRIAM on the rocket. After programming and ironing out our trajectory visualizations and calculations for most of the day, I think the briefing gave everyone a good idea of the series of events and flight paths of the MIRIAM components during the mission. Now, all we can do is hope it all goes as planned, and the very first purpose-designed inflatable atmospheric entry vehicle will be deployed in space tomorrow.

Crossing fingers,


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