Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Day 13, 4/7/09 -- tilting at wind turbines

After yesterday's long day of cryostat work, we decided to sleep in a bit. The day started off with excellent breakfast burritos that Jeff and I made at our house which included a beef chorizo made with awesome bits of the cow that you don't normally eat like salivary glands, lymph nodes, tripe, and cheek/tongue fat. Needless to say, it was delicious.

Today was mostly meetings for me. We rolled into the high bay at around noon, just in time for our weekly collaboration-wide conference call. Then, we had another conference call about gondola-specific issues, and then we had a meeting with the CSBF staff to work out some issues regarding the launch clearance of our payload to their launch vehicle and some other logistical stuff. We then switched the cryostat from its vacuum roughing pump to a turbomolecular pump so it would pump to a lower pressure.

On other fronts, Britt and Michele finished up the work on the flight computer crate and we should be ready to start scan tests tomorrow. Shaul instructed Joy and Daniel on positioning gondola housekeeping thermometers while Jerry worked on our flight batteries. I have no idea what Hannes, Ilan, or the McGilligans (Kevin and Fran├žois) did today, but I'm sure it was important.

Milligan, Jeff, and I then took a little field trip out to the wind farm that we can see from the airport. Armed with Google maps and satellite imagery, we were determined to find our way along the dirt roads and get to the wind turbines. We found that Google maps is almost completely worthless for this sort of thing. Most likely their data is simply out-of-date, as many of the roads and intersections we were looking for simply didn't exist. Still, after about a half hour of taking turns that pointed us more-or-less in the direction of the wind farm, we got there.

Wow.

Wind turbines are awesome. First, they're enormous. They look big on the horizon, but they're even more imposing when you're standing at the base. Second, they produce a ridiculous amount of power. Turns out that the one turbine nearest the road had its door just...wide open. So, naturally, we went inside. We found a monitor that was displaying some GE turbine control software, and found that the keyboard tray was, not surprisingly given the state of the door, unlocked. So, naturally, I clicked around, and found a "General Data" menu item. Upon opening, I was rewarded with a display of some statistics about the turbine, like Power generated (1520 kW), coil voltage (~340V), current (1400A), etc. I decided not to play around with the control menus, figuring that it might actually be possible for me to break a multi-million-dollar wind turbine.

After we got back from our little field trip, Jeff and I leak-checked the cryostat. Because the pressure was still pretty high, we didn't have particularly good sensitivity, but we weren't able to find any leaks -- good news. We'll leak check again just tomorrow when the pressure is lower just to be sure.

To make this day even better, when we got home Jeff found cowboy hats in the closet in his room.

Pictures (mostly of wind turbines, because, let's face it, THEY ARE AWESOME):
http://picasaweb.google.com/asad137/EBEXInNewMexico040709#

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