With the possibility of an early launch today, the roll-out crew came back to the high bay at 10PM last night to prepare EBEX for flight. This included refilling cryogens after an earlier fridge cycle (which required me to squeeze into a pretty tight spot on the experiment to avoid having to uncover and re-cover an access panel) and a whole slew of pointing-related checks. We got out on the deck and had our baffles and solar panels deployed, and were ready to be picked up by the boss ahead of schedule! The CSBF crew picked up the payload and drove away from the building to do their UTP tests, and once they were done we were ready to drive out to the launch pad a full hour and forty minutes ahead of schedule.
Once we got out to the pad though...we waited. And waited. And waited some more. The launch opportunity today was supposed to be a pretty small transient high pressure system, so we weren't sure ahead of time when the winds would settle down. We had predictions one way, then things changed. We initially oriented the gondola expecting winds coming from one direction, but after reviewing the new weather data, we ended up oriented about 90 degrees away from that. And then we waited some more.
Finally, after sitting on the launch pad for about 9 hours waiting to see what the weather would do, we got a break and everything started coming together. CSBF waits to unroll the balloons from their crates until they have a reasonable certainty of launching (because they can't be rolled back in and cost a few hundred thousand dollars apiece), so they started laying out the balloon and doing all of their pre-launch checks. We only had a few things left to do before launch, so we got them out of the way as soon as we could, and by about 20 minutes before launch we were hands-off -- EBEX was in the capable hands of the CSBF balloon launch crew.
And it was a beauty.
The launch could not have gone better. Unlike some launches, during which the flight train gets a fair bit of tension from the balloon getting ahead of the launch vehicle before the crew chief releases the payload, this time it was timed so perfectly that EBEX seemingly just gracefully slid off the pin and floated upward. It was by far the best launch I've ever seen (three in New Mexico, including EBEX's first launch, and two here).
Currently, after about 4h45m after launch, EBEX is at about 110,000 feet and things seem to be going pretty well!
The launch video can be seen here (make sure to select the 1080P full HD resolution):
You can track EBEX as it flies around Antarctica here:
And, of course, the usual (quite full!) album of pictures: