Tuesday, June 13, 2006

ULDB Launch!

After showing at 9:00 p.m. for what we thought was going to be a marginal weather chance, we launched the balloon at 3:23 a.m. local time.

The launch and climb out were very good. The balloon ascended pretty much like our preflight computer models told us it would for that time of day. We reached float altitude and pressurized as predicted. Unfortunately, the balloon's shape was not right so we could not go out over the ocean with it. We did a shortened version of our test plan. Even though the shape was not perfect, the balloon performed VERY well. If we did not have cameras looking up at the balloon, we would not have had any indication that it was not a perfect balloon. It went through all pressurization steps very well and even exceeded the maximum design pressure with no problem. After termination, we watched the parachute come down and surveyed the landscape below with the onboard cameras.

After working since 8:30, the previous night, we found out that the helicopter to the payload was not going to be available the next day so we had to go out that afternoon. Eventhough I was bone tired, I still enjoyed my first helicopter ride. We saw several moose and a couple of very large herds of reindeer. The landscape is so beautiful and sparcely populated. I imagine it is very much like Alaska.

The payload was in pretty good shape.

After removing and securing the loose items such as solar panels and antennas, the helicopter took it away to the waiting truck 10 miles away.

We had about a half hour to relax and look around. We were out in the higher elevations, so the trees were smaller and the vegetation was more tundra-like on the ground. All the rocks wer covered with moss and lichens. Since it is early spring here, small flowers are starting to pop up.

The ground is 100% covered with some sort of vegetation. It looks like there must be 50 different types of plants in a square yard of ground. I've never seen anything like it.

After our little break, we climbed back into the helicopter. During the twenty minute ride (my second ever in a helicopter) over this beautiful landscape . . . I fell asleep.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Norway Day Trip

The Fjords of Norway are one of those sights that no photo or video can prepare you for. No matter how majestic a photograph is, it cannot convey the feeling of actually being there. Imagine being in the green hilly parts of western Pennsylvania.

Now add rocky, snow covered mountains . . .

With LOTS of waterfalls . . .

It is early spring here and the massive amount of snow on the mountains is melting and pouring down the sides of the mountains. Any one of these waterfalls would have a state park built around it in the States and there was one around every corner here.

Take all this beauty and put it in a sea side setting . . .

. . . and you have the Fjords of Norway.

We drove to the town of Lodingen and took a one hour ferry down to Bognes and had a nice lunch on the ferry. We then took a 25 minute ferry across to Skarberget. After dinner in Narvik, we headed back to Esrange.

Here I am on the Ferry.

The weather was a little gloomy, but if the weather is nice, we should be out launching, so we just have to take what we get. On the way to Narvik, we came across this really beautiful view.

I'd love to come back here and do some hiking when the weather is better. I'm guessing I'll never get a chance to come here on a vacation. I've never been anywhere that is so expensive - even New York City. Our dinner at a pizza place in Narvik for four people was about $80. The same meal at home would have been $25 at the most. This was in a small city in rural Norway. I can't imagine what it costs to eat out in a city like Stockholm.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Midnight Sun Again

We are still out here on the hang test. Right about midnight, the sun peeked below the clouds and I got my midnight sun photo. In this photo, the sun is due north of me and at its lowest point in the sky during the day. Instead of rising in the east and setting in the west, the sun makes a big tilted circle in the sky. The sun is highest in the sky at noon and is directly south of us and at about 45° above the horizon.

Launch Preparations

We are in the process of making the final preparations for launching our balloon. We are running the "Hang Test" in which the integrated payload is hung from the launch vehicle and tested out under its own power. We are running the test at 11:00 at night and, yes it is daylight outside.

That takes some getting used to. Another strange thing is how cold it is. When we were launching the Aesop balloon on Friday morning, I thought I was going to freeze to death! It was in the 30's. I don't think I will complain about the heat this summer when I get home.

We ate at a Chinese restauraunt in Kiruna last night. We could have had the exact same meal in Sulphur Springs except no fortune cookies. I'd love to know what Chinese food in China is like.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Aesop Launch!

This group was ahead of us in the flight cue. Now we are next. I was assigned video duty for this flight. We arrived at the launch site at 10:00 p.m. and the launch was at 4:08 the next moring. The sun never got below the horizon so we never had to work in the dark. That was nice. Inflation started at about 3:00 a.m. It wasn't broad daylight, but it wasn't dark either.

Here is a photo of the inflated balloon just before launch. The Esrange telemetry station is up on the hill in the background.You can track the progress of the flight on the Sweden Campaign web site in the links area.

Doing Laundry

When you go on the long campaigns to different countries, you get more of a feel for living there than when you are on a regular business trip or a vacation. You get to do things like drive cars, go to the the grocery store, and do laundry. Those seemingly simple tasks are suddenly more difficult when you're functionally illiterate like you are here. Doing laundry is a challenge when you can't read the instructions. This washer looked more like programming a VCR than doing laundry.

The washing machine was a sleek modern thing with a lot of buttons on the front. It used very little water and tumbled the clothes to wash them. I think I have seen this type in appliance stores. The way cool thing was the spin cycle. It literally got up to 1200 rpm! It sounded like a jet engine spooling up! If one of those things came apart during the spin cycle, it could kill someone . . . in the next building! Look at this thing go!

Mind you, this washer was full of clothes. They are all about 1 mm thick in this picture.

Drying was also another adventure. Take a look at this control panel.

I'm guessing the word "slut" means something different in Swedish. After the dryer had stopped, I could not figure out how to open the stupid door! There was no handle and no latch. Finally, I just started pushing buttons. See my choices below.
The "lucka" button turned out to be "lucky" for me since the door unlocked to reveal . . . dry clothes. I pushed the right button to start the thing. I was really afraid I had pushed the pantyhose button or something and all my clothes would be drip dry. So after the adventures in guessing at the meanings of Swedish words, I carried my load of laundry up to the room and tucked in away in my Ikea wardrobe. Just another chapter in the exciting adventures of Stratodude!