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After recuperating from our previous journey, we thought it might be nice to take a quick jaunt to Palestine, Texas. (See also: Jaspaul's blog.)


Wed 2005-02-09 16:54:40 UTC
Barth waits for the Rental Car Shuttle. The state of the high-bay, Friday evening. Mark and Jeff prepare the new 500 micron bolometer array for insertion into the cryostat.
Monday and Earlier Apologies for not starting this earlier...

I flew to Dallas with Barth early Friday morning. We flew on a CRJ. The flight was boring. Once in Dallas, both Barth and I forgot to take out US cash from the US cash despensing device. We were, nevertheless, able to buy a much needed lunch employing credit cards. I also discovered I had nine dollars left over from the last time I was in the US. After obtaining food, we headed down the highway towards Palestine, arriving in the early afternoon.

After packing the truck in Toronto, we discovered that the driver was planning to be in Palestine Wednesday noon, not Friday morning like the trucking company had told us. This meant that most of us, who had booked our tickets earlier, would be late. Jaspaul and Marco, however, had driven down, and were present for unpacking, so they were there when Barth and I got there. Enzo was supposed to have arrived Thursday, but he got diverted elsewhere before then. Jaspaul and Marco had already unpacked most stuff and got the feet on the gondola by the time we arrived.

Gaelen, Matt, Mark and Marie also arrived Friday afternoon. By the time we left that evening, we had most of the gondola assembled, excluding the cryostat.

We went shopping Saturday to WalMart to pick up some essentials: speakers for the sound system, a coffee maker, blank CDs and desk lamps. Jeff arrived with the 500 micron array. It was installed in the cryostat and the cryostat closed up. The star cameras were mounted and in the evening we did a bit of motorless star camera pointing to check the alignment stability between the two cameras.

Sunday was a short day. The pivot and more of the gondola was wired up in preparation for motor and pointing tests. Cryostat cooldown started.


Thu 2005-02-10 00:13:01 UTC
Getting the battery ready for the vacuum test is a big job. Gaelen makes a withdrawal. Sun shields on the gondola
Tuesday: In the morning, one of the batteries was put in the Bemco (vacuum chamber) for low temperature and vacuum testing. It ran in there all day. The sun shields were assembled and mounted on the gondola, along with the pivot. The balance system was tested. The motors and pointing system were tested, using the sun sensor and fake sun as an azimuth sensor.


Thu 2005-02-10 22:27:33 UTC
Matt checks the cryostat. Spongebob paint? More star camera tests.  Note the star streaking due to windy conditions in the highbay.
Wednesday: Battery testing continued, as did cryogen filling. Marie worked on getting the transmitter relay box, the interface between our electronics and NSBF's transmitters, outfitted for the transmitters which we're going to get. Marco and Gaelen started working on the gondola thermometry. In the evening I tried more star camera pointing tests, but found it difficult due to the lack of a coarse azimuth sensor as well as wind blowing in the doors, past the gondola, induced by the temerature differential between outside and inside.


Fri 2005-02-11 15:54:00 UTC
Batteries venting electrolytes. Securing the secondary. Mark's new poncho? It's starting to look like a telescope.
Thursday: A bit of excitement when we arrived this morning. One of the batteries had exploded. It must have just happened before we arrived since Chris, one of the electronics guys, noticed a five foot jet of liquid errupting from the batteries shortly before. By the time we got there, they were just hissing and the bay doors were wide open to try to air things out. Chances are the power supply which had been left on overnight to charge the battery drifted up in voltage, causing the battery to overcharge. After finding the MSDS, we learned that the outgasing was a combination of hydrogen gas and potassium hydroxide. So, we probably weren't all poisoned. Proper clean up procedure involved buying a gallon or so of vinegar and wiping things down. Jeff put the batteries outside to cool off.

We took off the scoop and the star cameras and then mounted the primary and secondary mirror in preparation for doing a weigh-in on Friday. After doing this, we wanted a cover to protect the mirror, so Gaelen, Marie and I went off to Lowe's to try and figure out what we could use to make one. In the end we settled on water heater blankets, and bought five of them. Gaelen and Jaspual made it and tested it and then we lifted the scoop back on. We wanted to put the cryostat on as well, but tests with the 500 micron array delayed this and we decided to put it off until tomorrow. Instead we decided to go get dinner. We wanted to go to Giovanni's, but we got there too late, so we had to settle for Don Jose's again.


Sat 2005-02-12 21:15:54 UTC
Inserting the cryostat. Um, Mark rides the ISC? Victor hangs BLAST on the crane scale.
Friday: Fixed the pointing bug that prevented us to point on Wednesday. We mounted the cryostat and related electronics today in preparation to do a weigh in. While mounting the cryostat we ran into a little problem: it wouldn't fit with the new mirror in place due to a flange on the back of the mirror interfering with the bolt circle on the cryostat. After some discussion on what to do to fix it, Mark decided to dremel the offending bit of the mirror off. That done, the star cameras and then the sun shields were put back on. Then Marie balanced the inner frame. After this a bunch of random other stuff was heaved onto the flywheel cover in preparation for the weigh in.

In the afternoon, Victor, our NSBF crew chief, showed up and supervised the weigh in. Our weight was 3300 pounds, which was not unexpected, given the changes made since the last test flight. Barth and Enzo arrived from Toronto. Ed arrived later, while we were having dinner. In the evening, we sent Barth and Enzo back to the hotel since they weren't looking very good and then we prepared to do some pointing tests; the sky clouded over, however, so we weren't able to do much. We also wired up the DAS and reciever to monitor the cryostat while it is on the gondola.


Sun 2005-02-13 21:55:04 UTC
Gaelen finds the scientifically best dessert at lunch: apple pie and candy corn. A view of the parking conundrum from the roof of the other high bay.
Saturday: Barth spent most of the day doing pointing tests, with my assistance. Ed and I started looking at the schedule file stuff, and also whacked away at more star camera bugs. The sun shields were removed, the GPS antenna attached, and the shields remounted. Scan synchronous noise tests were done with the bolometers. Since it was Mark and Jeff's last day here, we went to the Ranchhouse for dinner.


Mon 2005-02-14 17:31:37 UTC
Looking outside. Twilight. Food! Yay! (And beer.)
Sunday: Mark and Jeff left early this morning. Barth continued to do pointing tests. I took a nap on the grass outside. For supper we had a barbeque on the base. Greg arrived in the evening. After that, Enzo, Ed and I tried to do more star camera scan tests, and after several annoying hours, we had something eventually working.


Wed 2005-02-16 03:06:16 UTC
Enzo rescues the turtle from the path of an oncoming truck. Forking BLAST into position. Mounting the first array.
Monday: Having stayed late last night, Ed, Enzo and I decided to come in a little later today. We stopped off at the town bakery for breakfast on the way. On the highway, we discovered a turtle on the highway. We felt obligated to rescue it from an oncoming tractor-trailer. A busy day today. We rolled out to test the differential GPS, which we can't do inside, because we can't see any sattelites. We were first going to go out on the crane, but discovered that it couldn't go slow enough for us, so in the end the NSBF riggers took us out on the fork lift. We encountered some difficulties with the GPS array, and eventually came back in because the LDB guys wanted to install the SIP.

Once the SIP was installed, I worked with Chris (one of the LDB guys) to get commanding working via the SIP instead of the SIP simulator which we had been using since the test flight. Meanwhile, everyone else worked to assemble the solar panels. During the assmebly, they discovered that we were missing the support struts for the arrays. Barth deputed Carrie in Toronto to look for it there. The first solar panel was mounted and then Ed, Enzo and I tried some more scan tests with the star cameras since it was a clear night. The rest of the collaboration went back to the hotel to get an early (6 am) start at mounting the second solar array tomorrow.


Thu 2005-02-17 06:25:39 UTC
Enzo cuts a trace. Mounting the TDRSS antenna.
Tuesday: The hang test for today was scrubbed due to wind. We'll try again Thursday since Wednesday is supposed to be cloudy. Barth, Matt, Enzo, and I worked to modify the charge controllers and associated electronics and software in order to better control the charging the batteries, something that we decided we needed after the explody battery incident. My part included adding some software pipelines for control and rewiring the ACS for the charge regulators. I also worked with Ed on the schedule file redesign. In the evening we had another barbecue.


Thu 2005-02-17 17:49:11 UTC
Barth tries to figure out why he can't read the solar array voltages properly. Enzo makes a right ascension/declination globe.
Wednesday: Barth worked on getting the charge control commanding working. I continued to work on the schedule file redesign. Ed started working on figuring out the necessary mathematics for an Right-Ascension/Declination rectangular scan mode. I worked with Marie and the NSBF guys to get the data and video tranmitters working. Enzo reinstalled lambda, our groundstation computer. In the evening we mounted a laser on the secondary and tried to see it with the star cameras when we bounced it off the water tower. In terms of a proof-of-concept test it worked. Later Enzo did some more bolometer noise tests.


BLAST in the News: Swedish Space Corp. Press Release | Associated Press Story

Fri 2005-02-18 22:38:49 UTC
The road out to the pad. The cross road is the circumferential road which rings the launch site. Size reference for Tiny Tim. Ed still needs to work on wardrobe co-ordination.
Thursday: Transferred helium in the morning. Barth decided the resisters which had been put into the charge controllers didn't give enough dynamic range, and so they had to be changed again. I finished the schedule file code and attemped to test it by tricking one of the flight control computers into thinking it was May. Barth continued to work on charge controller code. Ed continued to work on the ra/dec scan mode. In the afternoon, while the charge controllers were being rewired, I took a walk around the lauch pad.


Sun 2005-02-20 22:57:49 UTC
Girl guide cookies. Jaspaul lines up his shot.
Friday: A slow day. Barth finished up the charge controller code. In the evening we went to the bar across the street from the Ramada to play some pool.


Mon 2005-02-21 00:33:56 UTC
The Texas state Capitol. Another view of the dome. Marie's big shot.
Saturday: Our day off. Matt, Marie, Jaspaul, Gaelen, Marco and I hopped in Matt's Imapala and headed for Austin. Enzo, Barth and Ed decided to stay behind. The original plan had been to go to Dallas for the day, but Jaspaul learned from some locals online that the best thing to do in Dallas for a day was to drive to Austin. After some thought, we decided it would be even better to short-circuit things and head for Austin directly. From these same sources, we learned that anything we wanted to do in Austin could be done on 4th, 5th, or 6th Street.

We gathered around 9:30 and headed to Eilenberger's bakery for breakfast. After obtaining our supplies, we headed back to U.S. 79 and away from Palestine. The road was uninteresting, although an impromptu stop in New Baden broke up the monotony somewhat. We arrived in Austin in the early afternoon and began thinking about lunch. After a brief walk around the area, Marco accosted a local who recommened Hut's Hamburgers. We found it without trouble but were surprised at how busy it was. Despite the pandemonium in the restaraunt and the number of people waiting in the doorway, we were able to secure a table quite quickly. All their burgers were offered with optional vegetarian patties, which appealed to our non-carnivorous half. The sandwiches were inexplicably good, and the popularity of the place in retrospect was no surprise.

After a successful lunch, we stopped at a local Starbucks just in time to find a man unconcious and not breathing. After a few tense minutes, the paramedics were able to revive him. After that, we decided to head up Congress Avenue and take a look at the State Capitol. We wandered all through it, braving the "uneven historical steps" and even managing to get to take a look at both the House and the Senate, where we unexpectedly found the Texas DeMolay Government Day in session.

Having seen everything we could, and being unable to get to the top of the dome due to some strategically placed velvet ropes, we walked back down Congress to a billiard hall to pass the time playing pool and shuffleboard. A good time was had by all. For dinner we went back up Congress to a mediterranean restaraunt called Marakesh, which also turned out to have great food. For coffee afterwards, the restaraunt staff recommended a place just a little further up the street called Little City. Marco declared the cappucino the best he's had in North America, zero people required paramedical attention, and everyone left satisfied.

Next we headed back down Congress yet again to a jazz club which had been recommeded by several locals we talked to called the Elephant Room, where a latin-inspired band was playing. We left the club shortly before midnight since we didn't want to get back to Palestine too late. Getting ready to leave, however, did require one last trip up and then back down Congress to get more coffee from Little City. We got back to Palestine after three in the morning.


Tue 2005-02-22 20:35:08 UTC
Barth and Peter talk shop. David regales Ed, Jaspaul and Vjera with an anecdote.
Sunday: Another slow day. We were originally thinking we would roll out today to test the solar arrays in the sun, but weather prevented that. I slept in because of this and because I was tired. I got up around two. David Hughes had arrived in the morning and was discussing science targets with Ed. Barth was still working on the new pointing modes. Everyone else was doing not much. Later in the day, Peter Martin and Vjera arrived from Toronto.


Tue 2005-02-22 21:06:35 UTC
At the meeting. After a long morning in the meeting, Jeff gets some excersize. Waiting for pecan waffles and grits at the Pitt Grill.
Monday: We had our flight planning meeting today. Many of the more theoretical persons on the collaboration showed up to attend. It being Presidents' Day, the NSBF were off playing golf, but they let us have the run of the place for our meeting. The morning session was mostly focused on reviewing the current status of the telescope and what needed to be done before flying in Sweden. Lunch was to be catered by Shepp's, but they arrived early, found no-one around to receive the food (since the base was closed due to the holiday) and then left. We managed to track down our lunch back at Shepp's. Matt and Mark went to get it. It was far too much food and very tasty.

In the afternoon, because the day was the first clear one we'd had in a while, Barth and Enzo decided to take the gondola outside to test the solar arrays. The rest of us, minus various people giving random assistance to the gonoda crew, continued with the second half of the meeting which was concerned with determining the targets for the Sweden flight. The meeting was quite productive and ran smoothly. After we adjourned, we all headed back to the staging area to spectate and then we went to Taquiera Mexicano for dinner. After that, Barth, Ed and a few other went back to the highbay to run some scan mode timing tests. The rest of us went to Matt's room for some beer and tequila. During this, we learned of the pecan waffles served at the Pitt Grill, so the seven of us piled into Matt's car and headed down the road to sample them. They were good, although the amount of margerine on them was staggering.


Tue 2005-02-22 22:03:58 UTC
Manouevering the gondola into place. Getting ready to hang.  Note the large, cubic crush pads. BLAST from port forward.
Tuesday Morning and Afternoon: Compatibility day. The weather forcast was for rain all day today, so we wondered if we'd even get it done. However, there was no rain in the morning so we rolled out after all. Compatibility is a rather tedious process where NSBF has to methodically check that their electronics and telemetry and our electronics are happy working together. We have to be outside, hanging from the crane so that NSBF can hook up their solar arrays, crush pads, ballast hoppers and everything else that's required for flight. For me, it involved a fair bit of sitting around, occasionally trying to send a command or see if something that was supposed happen did or not. Many pictures were taken, a lot of standing around outside next to the gondola also took place. The solar array struts which were forgotten in Toronto, lost, found, discovered impossible to ship, declared unnecessary, and shipped anyways arrived today, so a few of us took some time to cut some of the stuts to length. Compatibility went smoothly despite some annoyances in the TDRSS software. Most of the people who had arrived for the meeting left this morning or afternoon, except a few stragglers.


Thu 2005-02-24 05:07:26 UTC
Enzo takes a nap after a frustrating day of debugging the TDRSS. Mark plays the BLAST alpenhorn. Removing the primary.
Tuesday Evening and Wednesday: Enzo continued to work on trying to fix the TDRSS Tuesday evening, until we had to take in the telescope. Enzo scheduled some more TDRSS time for Wednesday to continue debugging. Compatability done, it was time to start taking the gondola apart and packing up the lab. Most people starting doing this Tuesday evening, but Barth and I had some last-minute code work to do.

Wednesday morning the NSBF thermal guy came around to take to Jaspaul about his thermal model, which went smoothly. However, this meant that we had to wait until later in the day before we could start taking apart the gondola. Once we started, dismantling went smoothly. The sun shields were removed and the inner frame was emptied save for the gyroscopes, which Enzo wanted to stay on for a while so he could take the data necessary to orthogonalise the gyros. The SIP also was removed, putting an end to Enzo's TDRSS tests. In addition to dismantling, we started getting things ready for packing in the crates.


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