I was hoping to be able to offer good news on the rotor situation at this point, but no dice. The engineers at SSL have done heroic work with it, and we’ll get it back tomorrow. It’s not clear that will be soon enough to keep us from slipping to last in the flight queue, though–we have to check it once it gets back.
Flying last would likely mean poorer science. The “turnaround” winds that allow balloons to hang in place over New Mexico only last a couple of weeks. We’d like to get a 36-hour flight to be able to observe the Crab Nebula twice, but flying after turnaround, we’d be fortunate to get 24 hours before the balloon flew towards major metropolitan airspaces and had to be cut down. The other major disadvantage to flying last is sticking around here for longer, and your correspondent is starting to miss the comforts of home rather severely.
That said, on Tuesday we got to see our first balloon launch! The payload flying was CREST, which just wanted to have a short engineering flight and hence didn’t need turnaround winds. We got up at six am, checked the webcam, and went out to take a look.
It was an incredibly cool experience watching the launch! CREST had a successful eight hour flight and returned quite near Ft. Sumner. Wednesday they had their truck packed to head back home! Hopefully that’s an auspicious sign for the rest of us…