SPIDER emerges into the sunlight

Zigmund Kermish

Zigmund Kermish

Last week was an eventful one for SPIDER, myself, and for the Long Duration Balloon (LDB) facility here in Antarctica. The first launch of the season happened this Thursday, with a beautiful launch of the first of the three balloon-borne instruments that are launching from LDB this year, ANITA. The shuttle schedules and my shift schedule made it so I wasn’t at LDB during launch myself, but many of my colleagues were there and able to get some excellent photos. See the animated gif below I made from John Ruhl’s photos.

ANITA balloon launch

Animated GIF of ANITA’s launch (photos by John Ruhl). The winds changed direction after the balloon was already laid out on the launchpad, so you can see the Boss (vehicle) driver had to make a quick correction to end up with a beautifully smooth launch.

The next morning, I took part in a video chat with the 3rd grade classes of Hoover Elementary in Palo Alto, CA. Thanks to my friend Ms. Elsa Chen for setting it up. The students had some excellent questions and seemed pretty excited when I showed them our telescope and the view of Mt. Erebus outside our door. I had a great time talking to them and I hope they enjoyed learning a little bit about our work and research life in Antarctica.

Video-chat with students

Video-chat with students

Since one of the students asked how long it takes me to get to the lab, I figured I should post a video I made a while back of the drive out to LDB (condensed from the 45 minute drive to a 3 minute time-lapse video).

SPIDER also made some great strides to near flight readiness this week. We installed our ‘wall of power,’ a four by six array of light-weight solar panels that will keep our batteries charged in flight. We then rolled the instrument outside to test the solar panel array throughput and looked at the Antarctic sky for the first time through our telescopes. Of course, with all that progress on integrating the systems, we discovered yet more issues and bugs to fix, but that’s to be expected. We’re making lots of progress on all the issues we’ve uncovered, so we’re hoping to be on schedule for a launch soon enough!

SPIDER, nearly ready to leave the hangar

SPIDER ABB (All But Baffles…and a few other finishing touches) in the highbay. The solar array on the right of the photo is the big addition. This was also the first time this campaign we’ve had all 6 telescope apertures open to the room, in preparation for looking at the Antarctic sky. We usually close them off with curved metal plates to reflect light back into the telescopes for lower loading and to shield the detectors from radio-frequency interference (RFI) found in the room.

Rollout of the solar array

SPIDER ABB rolled out onto the deck of our highbay, getting some sunshine for the first time! The reflections off the aluminized mylar sun shields is pretty intense.

Rollout of SPIDER

Another view of SPIDER ABB on the deck, showing the highbay behind it.

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