Thermal-Vac Test Today

The integration deadline was 5 pm Tuesday.  Payloads had to pass several checkpoints before being fully integrated onto the High Altitude Student Platform (HASP) including:

  • Current draw
  • Weight limits
  • Verification of commands sent
  • Verification of data down link
  • Verification of a proper data record

Once teams were cleared, they were allowed to integrate onto HASP.  Ten of the 12 teams passed the check out and our currently in the thermal-vac chamber.  The thermal-vac chamber allows for a full systems test under simulated stratospheric conditions.

This is our plan

  • Pumping down the chamber to a few millibars
  • Back fill with dry N2 to rid the chamber of humidity
    • ~800 mbar
    • Begin cooling down to -50°C (or -58°F)
    • Pump down to a few a mbar again
    • Sit for an hour
    • Check the payload functions
    • Comeback up to 1 bar using dry N2
    • Heat to 50°C (or 122°F)
    • Pump back down to a few mbar
    • Check the payload functions
    • Sit for hour
    • Back to 1 bar

The total process should take about 5-6 hours.  We should be done around 4 pm today.  Data is being downlinked and we can monitor in near real time.  In addition to individual payload data, we also monitor the HASP voltages, temperatures, and the ambient pressure.



Detecting DNA in Space

Chris Carr and the team from MIT are preparing to launch a payload to sample the stratosphere on the High Altitude Student Platform next month.  It’s great to meet fellow microbiologist looking for high altitude samples.

anunnaki,alien gods and spirituality


If there is life on Mars, it’s not too farfetched to believe that such Martian species may share genetic roots with life on Earth. 

Detecting DNA in space
Mars [Credit: NASA]

More than 3.5 billion years ago, a blitz of meteors ricocheted around the solar system, passing material between the two fledgling planets. This galactic game of pingpong may have left bits of Earth on Mars, and vice versa, creating a shared genetic ancestry between the two planets.

Such a theory holds great appeal for Christopher Carr, a research scientist in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Working with Gary Ruvkun at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Maria Zuber, the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics and MIT’s vice president for research, Carr is building a DNA sequencer that he hopes will one day be sent to Mars, where it can analyze soil and ice samples for traces of DNA and other…

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HASP Integration Tuesday

The best about integration week is that I get to spend some hands-on time with the payload.  As the microbiology leg of the team, the payload has been in the very capable hands of the undergrads.  They have designed, fabricated, and tested the payload extensively.  I spend the majority of my time on the micro side.  So this is the time when I get to attach the nuts and bolts, configure the electrical connections, and monitor the data.  This week is essential for the successful operation of the payload during launch week.


Speaking of the undergrads, their hard work has paid off.  The payload is fully integrated to HASP (High Altitude Student Platform) and is ready for tomorrow’s thermal-vac test.  The payloads will be challenged to a low temperature around -50C and a high temperature of 50C.  The chamber will also pull a vacuum to mimic the conditions experienced at 125,000 ft. (38 km.).  For a full list of participants and their experiments, go to

Payload Preparation

The team is making a few last minute adjustments before we head to NASA’s Columbia Scientific Ballooning Facility in Palestine Texas.  Once there, the payload will be subjected to a thermal vac test to mimic the environmental conditions of the stratosphere.