Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Becky with the Good Launch

The 2018 HAB team, Disco Becky 44, has logged a successful launch and recovery!

Thursday night we spent a late night in the DSBF putting the finishing touches on the payload with the goal that we'd be able to roll up in Hickory, hit a switch, and be ready to go.

Alas, the best laid plans. We weighed out payload to get a quick final mass and submit our CDR and we were gloriously and inexplicably overweight! We couldn't figure out what we'd done wrong and doublechecked our previous mass budget. All was accounted for except....tape.

Somehow we'd put 270 g of tape on the payload.

Somehow we managed to pack up everything in the DSBF and get on the road by 12:30. We had a two color tote packing system:
Pink for all the things we knew we'd need.
Clear for weird stuff we might want to grab in a hurry.
Blue for if things went horribly wrong.

After getting into the hotel to freshen up we went to CVCC for the banquet and our FULL ENGINEERING CHECK-IN that this time we were ready for. The judges, some familiar faces, didn't go easy on us but every Becky did her best!

Man, the judges look extra smug this year. Where do they find these guys?

Wake Tech had some technical difficulties so we stepped in to go early. We ALSO had some technical difficulties but Memes is a champ and just kept the witty banter going until it was resolved.

I know I'm a total pageant mom but they nailed their presentation. They also asked GREAT questions when the other teams presented. 

After the presentations we were free to go with only a tiny bit of work between us and sleep! We stopped in to buy the essentials: snacks, hotdogs and a tarp.

Then we all got back to work. It seeeeemed like our GPSs weren't working. Now, this is a big deal because even if you successfully send something to space you kinda wanna be able to get it back. Dan and Shakeia worked on the Big Red Bees while Seth waited for the go ahead to mount them. Destiny and Ruthie went over the balloon fill checklist one last time. Kevin and Oliver got sent out into the rain for a few hours to walk around with the GPS units and try to get signal. Citllali stayed up to offer moral support because all of her work was done.

We could read the GPS on the Kenwood but it wasn't on APRS. We were connecting with the SPOT but it wasn't staying connected to track. At one point everyone was googling.

At about 1:30 AM, with bellies full of miraculous hashbrowns from Ollie, we all went to bed.

Meanwhile....SOME people were having a better night. 

We were told to be at CVCC at 7 AM OR ELSE so every Becky had to be checked out and in the lobby by 6:40 AM or else they were going to live at the Sleep Inn forever. Everyone was in the minivan by 6:45 and we got to the Tarleton center and it was a GHOST TOWN. The lights were on but no one was home. 7:00 AM comes and goes...then finally people start trickling in!

We took a group photo and then it was time to get down to business.

Our payload this year has some great features. First of all one easy access switch turns on the whole thing and one green LED tells us if it's all working. The Canon was hacked to record photos and video. The TTL camera was terrible so I don't care about it. Our SPOT GPS dangles from the payload in a smaller box called Space Cat. In it is a 3D printed gyroscope that Seth designed to hold the SPOT in the perfect position. No matter how we land Space Cat always lands on her feet. Our secondary science was the BABI from GOAT with some power upgrades to make her into the BECKI. We were all a little curious to see if it would work. It worked in testing!

We were super excited when we realized our lane for filling was under a DISCO BALL! 

After one last check in we were ready to fill the balloon. Ruthieruthieruthieruthie rockin' everywhere read off the Balloon Fill Checklist and we checked our supplies.

Then it was time for the rubber (latex) to hit the  road (payload.)

Two exciting things happened while we were filling.

1. The balloon popped off the nozzle because it was WEIRDLY floppy compared to our regular balloons and Dan straight up caught it like he was a ninja Batman.

2. Our balloon was filling v-e-r-y-s-l-o-w-l-y.

Which resulted in us chilling out and telling campfire stories until we realized it was because our tank was running out of helium! 

But then finally the balloon was up and the payload was slathered in balloon tape and we were ready to rock.

The Tarleton Center is a relaxing place to fill a balloon when the weather isn't ideal but it's always stressful making that last crawl out the door with all of the pointy bits.

The rest of the launch was smooth like butter. Everyone teared up a little when we saw our little payload zipping off into the clouds!!

Luckily (?) for us our GPS issue was that our hotel was in a dead zone and all of our telemetry performed perfectly on launch day. It seems like all of the balloons popped pretty low this year. Our payload decided to conveniently land on our route home. The Womeninstemmobile followed the SPOT to the site and rejoined the Despacitowagon for the recovery. I saw the chute in the trees immediately so we knocked on a few doors until we got permission to check out the back yard and then LO AND BEHOLD THE PAYLOAD WAS JUST SITTING THERE.

Something had cut out during flight or landing so we weren't able to get all of the data we wanted. We're going through the rest.

 Another interesting science fact? We hid a hotdog in our payload by our pump. It got so hot that it COOKED and it was STILL BLAZING HOT when we got to DSBF. We cut it into sections and ate it. SPACE HOT DOG.

Another interesting thing that wasn't really all that surprising? Our pump sucked moisture into the BECKI.

And we're still really pleased with our cooler. Everything came out intact with not even a dent in the thing.

I am super duper proud of my Beckies. They were sweet to each other and patient with one another all weekend. They worked hard, followed instructions, exceeded all expectations, and kept a great attitude even during the most stressful bits.

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