After one year of development, it‘s time to go the last step. Yesterday we were traveling to Esrange Space Center in Kiruna for launching our experiment with the stratospheric research balloon. We went straight to our working place to stating the preparation of our experiment, after the important Safety Meeting. Thankfully our experiment was already there, and so we could start to unbox it. It was a good decision to use ZARGES Boxes for the transport because they are very solid and the experiment fits perfectly in it. Since we have shipped the experiment two weeks before launch we could get some time for recreation with the knowledge that our experiment is protected by these boxes. And after nearly 3000km from Würzburg to Kiruna everything was as expected in best conditions. Now it‘s time to prepare the experiment. After the recreation time the team is very motivated and in a good mood to finish the last step. Stay tuned!
Today begins the last but most important step in our project: The launch week in Esrange.
Our experiment was sent three weeks bevor our arrival to Sweden – Esrange. Therefore, three groups of us had make their way from three different city’s to Sweden by bus, train and plane.
In the afternoon, all three groups of us met at Stockholm airport at the same gate for the flight to Kiruna. At this time it was unclear if its possible to land at Kiruna airport because of heavy fog. Until the last minute bevor take off, the pilot had to decide if it could be possible to land in Kiruna.
Finally, we made it to Kiruna and arrived savely. But that wasn’t the end of our trip to Esrange. After landing we were brought to Esrange with a bus which take us another 45 minutes. Arrived at Esrange, we got our badges to get at the area. At that point we all know that it would be a short night for all of us…
After a short night, we had breakfast. After that we had a morning meeting and also a security introduction for the Esrange area.
The to do for today were unpacking and the assembly of our experiment after its transportation. We had to mount the whole hardware to test the electronic components and the the software to be prepared for the following days. We worked till evening to get everything done to be prepared for the next days.
Like every morning, we had breakfast and after that a morning meeting.
Today’s plan was to pass the individual test. It includes to mount the experiment on the gondola and to connect the current and network plug. After that we tested different scenarios like switching from grid operation to battery operation, sudden loss of current, network connection and loss of signal. Because of our correct groundwork we passed the individual test!
For the following tests the next days we have to coordinate the software with the electrical components, but we are confident to get it done.
After assembling most of the components it was time to sho them to the advisors from DLR. Since we are in time and the parts are well engineered, we had no reason to worry about this review beforehand. Everything went well and we got a pass for the next step of our journey. In the following post you can see some impressions from the IPR at our university.
Even today many companies like to use plain commandline interfaces for their groundstation. We tried it for QUEST and the picture above shows how it could look like.
As this experiment is to design a framework the software is an essential part. The software is divided into three main parts.
The first is the sensor part. Each sensor has its own processing unit. To reduce programming effort for future missions which use the same design and to ensure a functional and consistent communication between the sensor processing units and the main processor, we are designing a framework to handle data collection from and commando delivery to the sensor units.
The second part is the main-processor. This part is only once in the system, but an interface must be designed for an easy use of algorithms.
The third part is the OBDH (OnBoard Data Handling). This is not part of the framework, but essential for the experiment as it’s responsible for ground communication and data storage.
Since the system is flying a longer time and nobody knows what is happening exactly with the system, a HKS seemed very useful. Collecting data from our system and sending them to the ground and store them on the used microSD cards can be used for real time analyses and post flight analysis. Because a lot of different electronic components are used, a standardized HKS seemed to be a good choice. The HKS exist out of a small processing unit called µduino. The µduino measures periodically the voltage and current on the input of each board and the Power Distribution Unit. (Title image by https://www.crowdsupply.com/uduino/uduino. You should support their campaign, they are awesome!)
The experiment is composed of two main boxes. Inside the gondola there are all electronic components: An Onboard Computer, an Onboard Data Handling Unit, a Power Distribution Unit and for each camera a preprocessing board. On the outside there is the sensor box including a near infrared camera, a visual light camera and a mini spectrometer and their redundant counterparts. Those will be mounted separately, but in the same configuration. This shifted box is necessary to provide an unrestricted field of view downwards.