The last night at Andøya Rocket Range (ARR) was short, and even non-existent, for a number of the NUTS team members who were working hard to get the payload ready for action. The scheduled balloon launch on wednesday didn't go as planned, and we were given a final shot at launching the balloon if we could get it all ready by noon. The level of excitement and enthusiasm therefore got a tremendous spike when the tests were completed and all systems were found operational. By the time everything was set for launch the sun glimpsed between the clouds and the weather conditions were almost perfect.
The NUTS payload was strapped to the balloon cord and its operation was verified via the ground station in Andenes. Then the PTU sonde, measuring valuable meteorological data and providing back-up GPS tracking, was activated. The sonde was placed well below the NUTS payload with another string. However, shortly before launch the PTU signal was lost. Luckily, a replacement was easily found and activated and we were go for launch.
Prior to launch, the NUTS prototype was given the unofficial name "GaffaSat" by the NUTS team. These pictures may provide answers to why that was done.
The balloon was successfully launched and all three radio channels on UHF/VHF frequencies were found operational. Soon the ground station was able to confirm two-way communications and the PTU probe provided valuable information on the balloon. We were all very happy and excited to see that the NUTS communication system is fully functional.
The tracking and recording continued well after 2 pm local time. In addition, to our own radio link also other amateur radio stations tried to record the signal of the payload. In fact it was picked up by several Norwegian and Swedish ground stations with more than 100 km distance using the standard APRS VHF frequency and packet format to transfer position data in real time. This shows how research and ham radio can go hand in hand. We will use the amateur radio frequencies in the future to transmit and receive data of the satellite. In this way, the payload test gave us valuable experience in working with other ground stations of amateur radio operators to maximize availability of the NUTS CubeSat.
After the long day of hard work a couple of nut-job students, probably suffering from sleep deprivation, made the very rational decision of taking a swim in the ice-cold sea at ARR.
Before taking our flight back to Trondheim we were lucky enough to explore the recently build Spaceship Aurora – a multimedia installation at the ARR, which takes you on a virtual mission to space. It was great fun and we were glad to be among the very first to see and use the facilities before it will be officially be opened by the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg later this month.
We left for the airport during the late-afternoon and all team members returned to Trondheim by night time. Now it is time for the post-flight analysis of all data and deducing the lessons learnt by this NUTS prototype test. A mission de-briefing is planned for Tuesday, April 8, 2014.
Finally, the NTUS team would like to thank the the ARR and NAROM personnel for a perfect and wonderful stay at Andøya Rocket Range and for the successfully conducted balloon campaign.