This morning’s flight requirements meeting with CSBF was smooth. Alice Springs looks like a great place to fly from–the size and emptiness of the continent allow for long flights before cities or the coast force a cutdown. Unfortunately, we’re unlikely to be able to take full advantage of the space due to the timing of the campaign. Our primary targets are up at night, when the balloon cools and drops lower in the atmosphere, making it harder to see. After a couple of nights, we’ll exhaust our ballast and may not be high enough to continue productively. We would (and hopefully someday will) get more data from a fall campaign.
This is probably a good point to revisit some projections I made after the last flight for the shape of this campaign. We had planned for a long-duration, around the world flight departing from Alice Springs, but safety clearances restricted us to a conventional turnaround flight of 1-4 days. As discussed above, the spring campaign makes a longer flight irrelevant anyway.
One simplification of the shorter flight is that we can power ourselves on batteries alone. Since our solar panels were a source of major problems in the last flight, we feel a lot more comfortable. We’ll fly a couple of small test panels to prepare for future flights, though; Alfred arrived today to start work on those.
Our New Mexico flight also featured pointing problems due to our rotor; after the flight, we tracked the problem down to a bubble under one of the strain gauges that measures the torque on the rotor. Its irregular output kept the pointing feedback loop from working. With a new gauge glued in, the rotor has been rock solid.
For me at least, the flight requirements meeting also was a reminder that our target readiness date–cued to the winds–is fast approaching. We’ve got a lot of systems to check out and check off! For the next few days our focus is on making sure the detectors are performing correctly; as more systems are added, making modifications becomes increasingly difficult. We also started checking the large BGO shield pieces that help reduce background from outside the field of view. Determining the dependencies for the tasks to be completed is challenging–maybe it’s time for a Gantt chart!