The SCRAP experiment has flown

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The climax of the SCRAP experiment has undoubtedly been during the last two weeks, when the experiment was due to be launched with the REXUS rocket from Esrange in Kiruna. All the work, the one and a half years of it, boiled down to a couple of weeks, ending in a couple of minutes of flight.

There she is. Isn't she a beauty?
There she is. The REXUS 17 rocket all assembled and ready to fly. Isn’t she a beauty?

The experiment was launched on the 17th of March at 10.15 Local Time (09.15 UTC). The experiment flew for about five minutes, not including the time it spent gliding down to earth under parachute. The apogee (highest point) of the rocket was 87 km and it landed about 30 km away from the launch ramp at Esrange.

The experiment was fully operational before flight and all values were nominal up until the FFUs were successfully ejected from the RMU. The radar operated flawlessly and the SCRAP team successfully managed to communicate the position of the rocket apogee to the radar operators at the EISCAT radar in Tromsö who managed to precisely aim the radar at the intended point of the rockets trajectory.

Meanwhile in Tromsö, Norway. I'm just imagining the Fonz... Eyyyy!
Meanwhile in Tromsö, Norway. I’m just imagining the Fonz… Eyyyy!

Unfortunately the experiment had an unknown problem during flight. The FFUs were both fine for the entire duration of the rockets ascent and were still operating nominally when the FFUs were ejected from the RMU and the communication was broken as planned. However, the FFUs did not broadcast their position to the ETAG receivers at Esrange or the Orbcomm satellites for post-flight recovery as intended. After a stubborn and valiant attempt by the helicopter recovery team the FFUs unfortunately had to be declared MIA. Visually finding a small 25 cm in diameter object in the snowy forests of Kiruna from a helicopter is not an easy task. As a bit of salt in the wounds the RMU GoPro camera did also not record the flight for some unknown reason. This means that the proper dispersion of the copper particles could not be confirmed.

They really did try. If you think you can make a better job then try it yourself. No, seriously.  Rewards will be handed out to whoever finds them ;)
Helicopter search pattern. Noone can blame them for not trying 🙂

However, all is not lost! The data from the radar has not been analyzed yet. Ultimately the scientific data will come from the radar back-scatter data recorded at Tromsö. Furthermore, regardless of the failure of the recovery system on the FFUs the mission could still be a success, due to the fact that the FFUs are made from two separate halves; the CU responsible for recovery and localization of the FFUs, and the SU responsible for carrying out the mission, e.g. dispersing the particles and recording the spectrograph data. Even if the CUs failed the SUs might very well have managed to correctly fulfill their tasks. What we need to do however is to find the FFUs…

True, that is a bit of a challenge (if you’ve ever been in the wilderness of Kiruna you would know), but we didn’t manage to get this far by backing down from challenges! Some previous experiments that lost their FFUs, and with them all of their scientific data, actually managed to get them back several years later with the data still intact!  Most often it’s the native Sami people of northern Sweden that find them and return them to Esrange for a reward. In a somewhat poetic way we must therefore put our hope in the ancient people of the cold tundras of Lappland to help us recover the science of the 21st century, and all of us in the SCRAP experiment wish them the best of luck in doing so.

Another note that should be made is also that the biggest success of this experiment has already been confirmed, and that is the education of the next generation of space engineers in order to contribute to projects far greater than the SCRAP experiment. All of us in the SCRAP team have gotten invaluable  experience from the project, and that is knowledge that all of us will someday apply in other projects that might have an even greater scientific impact than the experiment that we have now spent so much time on building. An old, but not always so comforting, but still very true cliche is that the human race has the fascinating ability to learn from their mistakes, often even more than from their successes.

On a personal level we also have to admit that this experience has been more valuable than any of us could have imagined. For example, the author of this article can testify that he would not be close to the same person today if it weren’t for the SCRAP experiment. The REXUS programme, a collaboration between SNSB and DLR, supported by ESA, is more valuable than many people might think. This is truly the best way of educating future engineers, because after participation in this programme the limits of what we in the team are able to do have been pushed far beyond what we could have ever done before.

Cheers to you guys!
Cheers to you guys! It’s been a true honor working with you.

The SCRAP experiment team would also like to give some acknowledgments to the organizations who enabled this experiment to become a reality:

SNSB
DLR
ESA
SSC
Eurolaunch
MORABA
ZARM

Before we end this rather long post I would however like to remind all of you that the experiment is still not completely over. In June the results of the experiment will be presented during the 22nd annual PAC conference for small rocket and balloon experiments and then the final revelation about the experiments findings will be presented; and who knows, maybe we might even have gotten a couple of frozen and lonely FFUs longing for home back by then. All we can say is:

God speed Sami people, God speed.

Please contact the SCRAP experiment on scrapexperiment@gmail.com if found!
Please contact the SCRAP experiment on scrapexperiment@gmail.com if found!

Best Regards,
The SCRAP experiment

Getting ready for the final test week

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Since Integration Week in Bremen are elapsed a couple of weeks by now but we haven´t forget you and want to give you an update – better late than never – on how things are going on! 😉

Although it was an exciting week in Bremen we came home with some additional work. During the vibration test our FFUs started moving within the RMU and the hatches were pushed outwards a couple of millimetres. Assuming that we could disturb the flight of rocket by extended hatches we were kindly asked to figure out some improvements.

So back in Stockholm our race against the time has started. The last weeks we modified some important components of the ejection system. But when we were starting to go for a second vibration test, we found out that there exist no adapter plate to combine our experiment with the vibration table we have in Stockholm. So we had to build our own one…

After some very stressful days we finally won the race – thanks to Simon and Rasmus for a great work!

Vibration test at Innventia

During the second vibration test fortunately no more failures occurred! So we could carry out some final tests, checking on how our FFUs are performing in vacuum and at temperatures between -30 and +60 degrees. But even completely frozen they are still performing very well! 🙂

Brrr … freezing cold in here

So since everything is working to our total satisfaction we are ready for the final bench test in Munich this week!

Extreme testing

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Last week the  electronics team set out to do some testing on a very vital part of the experiment – the ignitors.

To ensure safety and success of the experiment, it is important that these components work as expected. The experiments truly put the ignitors to the test, especially since we overlooked the fact that the wire of the ignitors and sand paper did not work very well together. Several ignitors were destroyed, so the team is really lucky to have Alexander who came in on a Sunday to make new ones before the trip to Bremen.

Thank you Alex, you are our angel!

sandpaper
Sand paper + kanthal wire ≠ good

 

Testing, shipment and last minute packing

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So after some weeks of silence (Yeah we know about that. Sorry, but rocket experiments have a tendency to steal a lot of time :p ) we would just like to give you an update of what is up for the coming weeks, and what has been going on for the previous weeks.

As you probably already know the design is done, and built. Look below for a sight that honestly is most welcome for the SCRAP team. 🙂 We also thought it might be fun for you to see a little comparison with the CADs, just to show you that indeed things turned out as planned.

Finally, there it is.
Finally, there it (she) is. The final result.
...and that's how it was supposed to look. Pretty close, huh ;)
…and that’s how it was supposed to look. Pretty close, huh 😉

But I think you’ve seen this before. So what else has been going on? Well, testing, testing and more testing. On Friday we did a spinning ejection test with great success. Earlier we also did a fun experiment. What happens if you put a fully loaded cartridge on a vibration table and shake it as much as the machines allow?

Ready to blow >:-)
Ready to blow >:-)

Well not much really…

...

True, there was some disappointment, but ultimately the fact that absolutely nothing happened during the test is actually the best result we could have gotten (Obviously Jan disagrees somewhat). Next week it’s down to Bremen to do the whole thing over again, and show them ESA folk that the SCRAP experiment is ready to fly!

Sincerely,

the SCRAP experiment

SCRAP goes to Tromsø!

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Good morning everybody!

As we are posting, three members of the SCRAP team are packing their stuff to go to Tromsø, Norway, were in the next two days they will perform tests and simulation with the EISCAT radar.

We want to recall you that the EISCAT radar, located in a valley close to the city of Tromsø, is the radar that we will use to investigate the interaction between the copper microparticles that our FFUs will release in the upper atmosphere, and the plasma of the environment.

Updates from the test campaign will follow!

Stay tuned 😉

Rosettas Philae is set to land on coment today

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Just as the SCRAP experiment will eject two free flyers ESA’s Rosetta will release its Philae lander (well, kind of similar) today to attemp the first landing on a coment ever! The lander will be released at about 10 o’clock. At about 5 o’clock the ‘YES, I MADE IT’ signal from the Philae lander is expected. Follow live updates on http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Operations/Live_updates_Rosetta_mission_comet_landing

Good Look BEXUS teams!

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This week, the sister programme of REXUS is launching. BEXUS stands for Ballon Experiments for University Students, and they launch their ballons experiments from Esrange space center, the same place as we will launch our rocket from this spring.

The SCRAP team wish all our friends in the BEXUS teams good look with their experiments!

bexus_launch-250.jpg

Read more about BEXUS at the REXUS/BEXUS webpage