Integration at NASA Wallops Flight Facility

In preparation for the launch of the SPID (smoke particle impact detector) in january 2019, our team from UiT traveled from Tromsø to Wallops, Virginia, to integrate our instrument on the front deck of a terrier-mk12 improved malemute sounding rocket. Our goal is to measure meteroic smoke particles in the winter mesosphere. Considering the small size of these particles (less than a few nanometers in diameter) conducting in-situ measurements of these is a daunting task. Hopefully our probe will serve as a proof-of-concept, paving the way into a further understanding of our atmosphere.

The following is a series of pictures, taking us through the process of integration at Wallops Flight Facility.

Day 1; Check-inn of each team's instruments. Check-inn consists of each team running an individual test on their instrument, making sure everything is in order before actually moving it onto the flight-deck.

Special testing equipment, courtesy of NASA. Our instrument showed a slight offset on one of the five data channels. This was due to a faulty amplifier-board at the base of our instrument. A quick fix in the software, changing the data-route to a spare channel on the other amplifier-board solved this issue.

Birds-eye view of the SPID. Here we see 2 silver-wire grids, each with an induced electric potential, to shield off and measure flux of charged particles. At the bottom is a grid consisting of concentric circles in stainless steel. MSP's will induce a current on this grid through triboelectric effect, allowing us to measure them. Further below are 2 more silver grids with their own electric potential, allowing us to measure flux of charged particles before and after impact.

Preparations being made by master student Henriette.

Meanwhile, the people at Wallops were preparing for another launch the following day, leaving us to working on decoding the signal we aquired through the first day of testing.

On day 3, Wallops was conducting the launch of the RockSat-X mission, which we got to see close up. Needless to say, it was heckin' cool.

Video from NASA's point of view:

Video from our point of view:

After the launch, the payload was retrived from the ocean, and work could begin on integrating our payload.

The payload that was launched. 

Some of the experiments on-board took a beating on the way home from space.

Integration of the new payload, while the launched payload is being disembarked in the background.
Over the next days, several tests were being conducted. Sequence, vibration, balance and fall tests all showed positive results, concluding our work at NASA. Next up is shipping the rocket to Andøya in Norway for launch in january 2019.

The SPID alongside a Japanese experiment on the front-deck of the payload.

The payload, with our SPID majestically sitting on top.

Installment of the nose-cone. The nose-cone is set to detach at about 50 km altitude, allowing us to take measurements in the 50-100km range.

The team that conducted this journey consisted of the students: Erlend Restad, Rikke Hedelund Hansen, Tinna Lif Gunnarsdottir, Henriette Marie Tveitnes Trollvik and Markus Floer. Phd. student Tarjei Antonsen, engineer Sveinung Viggo Olsen & prof. Åshild Fredriksen accompanied us as supervisors. 

The SPID is an instrument developed and built at the University of Tromsø, with students from campus Narvik and engineers in Tromsø participating in the process.

If you're interested in launching an experiment on-board a sounding rocket yourself, a link has been attached where all the design reviews are located in order to get a closer look at how a sounding rocket mission is conducted.