|Posted on Feb 20, 2013 02:42:34 PM | Maria Navarro | 0 Comments ||
Day 34 to 36: First Science Flight!
Aircraft: in runway!
ATTREX team members: ready to go!
Power up…vehicle is moving…
YES!, On Tuesday Feb 5 around 7:52 am (PST) the Global Hawk 672 took off from Edwards Air Force Base heading to West Pacific Ocean. I was extremely excited, my heart was beating fast and my hands were sweating…it was amazing to see the aircraft finally in the air!
Two minutes after take-off, I started to warm up my instrument (pumps were on!), and 15 min later I started to take our first sample…Yes, so far so good!!!
I kept sampling for several hours, but suddenly, when I was ready to draw some air inside canister 33, the pressures in my instrument dropped…uh oh!!! What is going on…PANIC!!! This never happened before. I was glad that our instrument PI (principal investigator) was next to me, so he figured out that one of our pumps just stopped working.
Well, no more sampling from this flight (bummer!)…I was really disappointed, not only because I would miss the fun of the sampling collection, but also, because I felt like I letdown all my ATTREX team (In this kind of campaign, the data collection is really valuable from other instrument teams since they can compare and validate their results)…but everybody kept telling me, and I knew, these things happen, and it is part of the science, which is based on precision and not on perfection (otherwise it would be so boring!).
Anyway, the worst part of this event was to know that we would have to stay in the Operation Center until the end of the flight, yes, 24 lovely hours doing almost nothing…just turning our instrument on (to keep it warmed) and turn it off for descending (remember, AWAS takes most of the power from the aircraft, and they need it during descending.)
Yes, what a night! I was only waiting for the aircraft to land to get inside it and determine the reason why my instrument had an unsuccessful flight.
A view of my instrument screen before pumps failed
Day 37 and 38: A little surgery for the pumps!
Ok, so my team had access to the aircraft, and we found that indeed one of our pumps died during flight. We took it out, opened it and found a frozen bearing. This is something feasible, since temperatures at high altitudes are really cold. Thus, we replaced the pump with a spare one (lucky that we packed it before coming to Dryden) and reinstalled inside the aircraft.
To avoid further problems and to verify our cold temperature suspicions, we decided to add a thermistor to monitor the temperatures of the pumps for our next flight (yes, we scientists love to know the reason for everything!)
Now, we are ready to go on ATTREX’s second science flight. Preflight is done. Science meeting was held, and aircraft will be in air on Saturday, February 9th . Wish us luck!
GWAS pumps outside of aircraft. (pump # 1 guilty as charge!)
A little test before installing the new pump inside the Global Hawk
Day 39 and 40: Second Science Flight: Here we go!
Yes, it is the weekend, but science never stops. Besides, someone told me that Global Hawk stands for Global Holiday And Weekend Killer (LoL!) and I’m starting to believe its true. Thus, are we ready? Let’s Fly…
It is Saturday, Feb 9th, the Global Hawk 672 took off from Edwards Air Force Base heading to West Pacific Ocean and South to the Equator. I felt the same excitement as I felt on Tuesday, although I was also worried about the behavior of my pumps.
Well, this time I waited until the aircraft reached 40,000 ft. to start the pumps. So far so good, the pressure reading was right, and temperatures were warmed. After 10 min, I was ready to sample our first canister, so, I enabled the button to start my sequence, but I did not see any response in my ground computer. At the same moment I noticed we lost communication with the satellite, thus, I waited a few minutes for it to recover. Then, communication came back on, but my instrument was still in stand-by. Looking at another screen I noticed there were no current values in our aircraft zone…uh oh AGAIN!!!, AWAS died one more time. But, this time was even worse since I was not able to collect any sample. My frustration reached a boiling point…how could it happen? Did I miss-connect something during pre-flight? I wondered if the new pump thermistor working fine? Ohhh no!!! What a mess…
I decided to leave the Operation Center. I went back to the hotel with tears in my eyes…I exercised, went out for a walk, talk with everyone about the problem just to try to vent my frustration, but it seems like it did not work…I knew it was not the end of the world, but for me it was…Then I realize what the problem was: I LOVE my job! And I care so much about it that I want it to do it well.
Well, here I am waiting for the Global Hawk to land. The pressure is on. We will only have two days to figure out what happened with our instrument and fix the problem before our Third Science flight. Stay tuned.
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Tags : ATTREX