Team Prepares for Balloon Flight to Study Black Holes

By krawcz on August 29, 2016 in Uncategorized / No Comments

Washington University Professors Krawczynski and Kislat are leading a campaign to launch the 8-m focal length X-ray telescope X-Calibur on a stratospheric balloon flight. A helium filled balloon will carry the telescope to an altitude of 126,000 feet, where it will observe the X-ray emission from...

X-Calibur Landing and Recovery

By krawcz on September 19, 2016 in Uncategorized / 4 Comments

The payload landed at the border between Arizona and New Mexico in a low-population area. We were <really> lucky and the payload is mostly undamaged. The temperature sensitive mirror was already retrieved and is on its way to Fort Sumner. The rest of the payload will probably be recovered t...

Launch attempt 9/17/2016

By krawcz on September 17, 2016 in Uncategorized / No Comments

It’s 3:10 am and we just pushed X-Calibur out of the hangar. The wind conditions are looking excellent today. If the rain stays away, we may launch! 4:45am: everything is still looking good. X-Calibur is on the runway. See the launch live: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-educational

Upcoming Launch Opportunities, Routine Checks

By krawcz on September 15, 2016 in Uncategorized / No Comments

We just had the CSBF weather briefing and discussed upcoming launch opportunities. The next few days (Friday-Sunday) all present possible launch windows in terms of the low-level winds. However, possible thunderstorms make it quite uncertain when we can actually launch. The wind at 125,000 feet h...

Rain and Possible Thunderstorms Today

By krawcz on September 14, 2016 in Uncategorized / 1 Comment

Rain and the possibility of a thunderstorm made a launch today impossible. The CSBF team carefully monitored the weather situation in the night and early morning, and concluded that the weather did not meet the requirements for a safe launch. The next launch opportunities will be on Friday and Sa...

Launch Preparations

By krawcz on September 13, 2016 in Uncategorized / No Comments

4:20am: We have verified that the science system and pointing system work flawlessly and the telescope has been picked up by the crane. Now, we are waiting if the weather develops as predicted. 

Launch Opportunity Tomorrow, Tuesday 9/13/2016 at 7am MDT

By krawcz on September 12, 2016 in Uncategorized / 2 Comments

If we the weather cooperates, we will launch tomorrow (Tuesday, 10/13) morning at 7am local time (MDT). We will arrive here at 1:30am to check out all systems one last time. The large CSBF truck/crane will pick up X-Calibur at 3am. The surface wind conditions should be best in the early morning h...

R&R

By fkislat on September 12, 2016 in Uncategorized / No Comments

We are now flight ready, the detector is performing well, and we are waiting for the weather to turn so that we can launch. While we are waiting for the weather, we frequently operate the instrument in order to exercise all components, and detect any potential issues. But we also took a few days ...

Source List

By krawcz on September 12, 2016 in Uncategorized / No Comments

If the weather holds up, we will launch tomorrow (Tuesday Sept. 13) morning. As we prepare for the flight, we are using data taken with the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) on board the Swift satellite mission to see which sources shine brightly in the 15-150 keV energy range. The Swift team publishes...

Final flight weight

By fkislat on September 7, 2016 in Uncategorized / No Comments

Weight is an important factor in ballooning. It determines the size of the balloon that must be used, the altitude that can be achieved and how long we can fly. It also influences the amount of ballast that can be carried on the gondola. Ballast is dropped during flight to control the balloon alt...

Compatibility Test

By krawcz on September 7, 2016 in Uncategorized / No Comments

Today we had to get up early for a 5 am compatibility test. This test resembles the final rehearsal for a theater play or a concert. It is used for testing that the payload can indeed be picked up by the CSFB (Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility) equipment, and that all electronic components can...

Launch Date Update

By krawcz on September 6, 2016 in Uncategorized / 1 Comment

Strong surface winds on Sunday morning prevented us from doing the compatibility test (a dry run of operating the entire payload under flight-like conditions, including radio commanding and radio data transfer) this past Sunday. We are now scheduled to run the test tomorrow (Tuesday 9/6) starting...

Aligning the star tracker

By fkislat on September 4, 2016 in Uncategorized / No Comments

During the balloon flight, X-Calibur will be pointed at astrophysical objects by the Wallops Arc Second Pointer (WASP). The orientation of the telescope will be monitored constantly by an infrared camera observing stars. It is crucial that this camera be aligned with the optical axis of the X-ray...

The Downrange Station

By fkislat on September 4, 2016 in Uncategorized / No Comments

Yesterday, CSBF engineer Chris Field and I traveled to Winslow, Arizona, to set up the downrange station. This small field station enables communication with the balloon once it is out of range of the antennas at Fort Sumner, and thus allows for a longer flight. Winslow is about 300 miles west of...

Test with X-Ray Gun

By krawcz on September 4, 2016 in Uncategorized / No Comments

Yesterday and today, we made excellent progress. The WASP team performed several tests of the pointing system. Yesterday evening, we calibrated the polarimeter with an X-ray gun. The gun uses a high voltage (50,000 V) to accelerate electrons. The electrons, impinging on a target, emit X-rays. We ...

Nighttime Calibration Tests

By krawcz on September 2, 2016 in Uncategorized / No Comments

Today we are doing nighttime calibration tests by opening the door of the NASA hangar and pointing the telescope into the night sky. Unfortunately, Ewe cannot see any X-rays from cosmic objects because Earth’s atmosphere absorbs them. However, we use these tests to cross-calibrate various o...

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