Today we want to tell you about the REXUS 25/26 launch campaign. We arrived in Kiruna on the 4th of March. Because eight members of our team are taking part in the campaign, we had two separate travelling groups – one sponsored by the organisers and one supported by our university. This meant that one half of the team arrived during the day and the other one arrived at midnight. They were greeted with an outside temperature of -21°C.
On the next day, we started to unpack our module and to prepare it for the upcoming bench tests. We also did some more tests to make sure everything worked. During these tests we discovered that we were jamming our GPS signal with our transmitting antenna after optimising it before the campaign. Obviously, we were working hard to find a solution for that problem from that point onward. The GPS data is needed to construct the flight pattern of our glider and therefore the data is very important to us. Fortunately, we were able to solve the problem by reallocating the GPS antenna to the back of the glider and bending it as shown below. In addition to that, the GPS antenna was now orthogonal to our transmitting antenna. With this setup we were even able to get a GPS signal after the nosecone had been attached.
All the transmission tests we did before the launch were only possible because of the help of the MORABA team. As they would be tracking our glider after the ejection and relaying the transmitted data to us, we wanted to test our transmission and groundstations beforehand. This is why we used their tracking antennas as soon as we started testing. To make sure they would also be able to track our small glider while it was on the move (and not stationary on our workbench), we took a drone with us to Kiruna. Of course, that drone tracking test was a lot of fun and we took the recorded snippets and made them into a video that you can watch below.
After the tracking test, we had a bench test on our own as well as bench tests together with the other teams. For us everything went well and we were ready for launch. To make sure that the procedures during the launch were clear for everyone, we made a checklist for the people at our groundstations. The remaining team members went up to the radar hill to watch the launch and of course that was also trained the day before.
The next day it was time for launch and everyone was excited. The team split up – four people were in the science center on the groundstations and four people went up to the radar hill. We also had a special visitor. One of the professors, who supported us during the whole project, came to Sweden to watch the launch with us. Professor Dienerowitz arrived just in time on Sunday evening and went up to the radar hill as well. When the countdown reached 20 seconds everyone went silent and then 10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – LIFT OFF sounded out of the speakers. The rocket launched and it was – for the lack of a better word – flipping awesome! We held contact with the team in the science to get information on the status of the experiment and everything went well for us. The TV Channel transmitted the ejection of our glider beautifully and of course we made a video out of all the footage we got from the flight.
There will be another blog post on the analysis of our data and the video footage. So stay tuned for that!