Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Launch 2018

It's been over a month since my last blog! We've had back to school, big moves, social events, a hurricane and launch!

Dan was excited to make sure that RAM was still working after being shipped to the Fort.

And it kinda wasn't. They'd wrapped one of the cables on the back of the arm in Mylar tape and it wasn't acting right. Once they stripped the tape off the error vanished and we integrated. 

This time, because we had such a long trip planned, and so much time before launch, we stayed in Santa Rosa, NM. There they have at least a couple of hotels and more food variety; most places were diners that served Mexican food. We also ate at an Indian (as in "sub-Asian continent") restaurant in a gas station.

Another good thing about this trip was that we had time to be tourists. We took in the scenery, drove to Blue Hole, Lake Sumner, and other local attractions. 

Jimmy ate three slices of pie in one sitting!

We met acolytes of Space Cat at the La Quinta.

And visited Meow Wolf...which is basically the coolest thing that ever happened to me.

But we also enjoyed the space tourism of being at CSBF and working with the other HASP teams again. This year was a much more unified experience and we felt more kinship with the other teams. 

And we had a lot of time to chat with Dr. Guzik.

Jimichael came out towards the end of the week and we were hopeful that he had come just in time for the hang test and launch. 

The weather briefings were grim. The outgoing meteorologist gave his predictions with glee: we had a few marginal shots at a launch but the odds were not in our favor. However, we had a small window very early on Saturday morning.

When we rolled up to CSBF it was overcast and windy but the show was on. Everything was put on hold for nearby storms to clear and we all waited in the hangar. At one point we heard this tremendous rush of noise: rain. Everyone sprung up from their tables and ran to the edge of the building to watch it pour. We did some anti-rain and -wind dances with some of the other schools.

The rain cleared up with the dawn, and we still had a chance to launch, but the wind remained high and operations stalled.

Dan was fed up.

But the clouds were spectacularly otherworldly! We saw the most amazing clouds on this trip.

Unfortunately, they had to scrub the launch; there were no opportunities until Wednesday, the day after we were slated to fly out. We were told to leave our shipping boxes and warned that with the torrential rain coming in that the roads might flood and we should get out of town. Changing our flights but it was too expensive. We decided to switch locations, be tourists for a bit, and fly out as scheduled on Tuesday. Everyone was disappointed to miss launch.

On Monday we were 2.5 hours away in Santa Fe, making plans to see a movie and kill our last night in town, when we got an email that said we had a sliver of a chance at a launch early Tuesday and they were going to 'show' in case it proved fair. The email welcomed back any teams that were still in the area. We went to Meow Wolf to have dinner and take the team's pulse. Dan was back in Colorado and ready to run a command center out of his house. James, James, and I didn't even really need to discuss it. It was wild, we'd be knackered, the drive to the base would be terrible, the drive to the airport even worse...we were universally, totally, and completely in.

I had a migraine the night before and didn't sleep a wink. We got in the car at 3:30 AM and skidded into CSBF before they locked the gate.

The wind was a little bit active so the morning ticked by slowly. James and I talked a lot about frozen pizza, which is a weird thing to be craving at 7:30 in the morning. 

But then, miraculously, we launched.

This creation that we'd been plotting and scheming over for a year went zooming into the sky. I hope I never get used to it. It's marvelous and disorienting. It doesn't help that I'm always approaching it on no sleep, but it always feels very dreamlike and surreal to see the project finally GO.

Once the arm made it to space we were nervous to see if it would work. Jimmy and Dan were itching to start commands but we wanted to make sure we were truly at float, like we had said in our documentation, before getting started. We had a couple of hiccups at first but then the arm worked like a charm! 

We were lucky to have the HD camera on it with crisp and gorgeous live streaming video so we could see every ripple of the sun and bubble in the tape. Our moms and other fans were keeping the YouTube comments lit, and it was gratifying to see words of support from the student's other mentors.

All too soon we had to flee to the airport (3 hours away) and Dan Koris manned the helm until cut down.

The Sheffield team went on the chase and we appreciate that they took time out to send us some photos of our payload. It looked pretty fantastic all things considered!

RAM is in Colorado, safe and sound. We had a meeting tonight to discuss the future of tUR and the science report. More on that later.