As expected, the transit flight from Westover was scrubbed today due to inclement weather in Massachusetts. The current plan is to fly tomorrow with a 5-7-9 drill.
The ER-2 left Kiruna this morning on its homeward voyage bound for a layover in Westover, MA, before returning to Dryden.
There is usually a C-141 transport that accompanies the ER-2 on transit flights so the scientists can service their instruments at both ends, but as reported earlier, the transport allocation fell through this time, requiring everyone to scramble to arrange travel, shipping and instrument support. Some groups sent team members ahead to Westover while others could leave their instruments unattended between ferry legs. Since I have been at home and Westover is relatively nearby, I agreed to drive out to service the Chlorine Nitrate instrument. The one hitch was that Pam had an important test scheduled for today also, so I needed to look after Miles. Could I bring him with me to Westover? I asked Eric and Eric asked Steve Hipskind, who forwarded the request to our contact at Westover, who made up the lists that would go to the guardhouse, but I didn't get any confirmation before we headed out.
So we threw the computer, cables, instructions, Legos and the Junior Jedi Training Manual into the car and headed out to Westover. When I got to the gate, I gave the guard my license and told him we were with the NASA SOLVE mission. He got out his lists and looked and looked, but he couldn't find my name on the list. Then I spotted a name written in on the top of the list: "Allen, Miles". So he let me in on Miles' authorization!
The ER-2 was already on the ground when we arrived, but it was still on the ramp being serviced. Since I wasn't in Westover for the trip out, I didn't know which hangar they would pull the plane into, so I started poking around asking if anyone knew. No one was quite sure, but we struck up a conversation with Patrick, who works on the C-5A's, and he offered to take Miles and me on a tour of the big transport. He took us into the big hangar and got us outfitted with hard hats, and then we climbed up the ladder into the immense cargo bay. From there, we climbed another ladder up to the flight deck, the passenger seating and out onto the top of the wing. Miles took it all in quietly, but he thought it was very cool.
After our tour, we thanked Patrick and headed over to the hangar next door up to which the ER-2 was being towed. There we found Jessica, Bruce and Dave Tanner, along with a handful of other experimenters and the ER-2 crew. Miles was very interested in looking at the nose of the ER-2, and Dave provided a flashlight so he could carefully examine the insides of the HOx primary duct, then we did the same for ClONO2. While I tended to ClONO2, Miles ran around the hangar and checked out parts of the ER-2 with Dave or Bruce showing him various features. I asked the electrician if Miles could take a peak in the cockpit, and he lifted Miles right in for a second before the crew chief yelled at him, but Miles enjoyed his second in the cockpit.
I had some trouble getting the ClONO2 flight computer to talk to my notebook, since its netmap wasn't too current, but eventually we got all systems working, checked it out, installed necessary plugs on all the openings, attached yellow flags and signed off. I also helped Jessica offload the HOx data, and we stored copies of both instruments' data on both of our notebooks for safekeeping.
The plan is for the plane to fly to Dryden tomorrow, but the weather forecast is pretty bad. It started to rain just as we left Westover, and tonight it's supposed to get colder and turn to snow or sleet with high winds behind the front.
An attempt to get one last flight in was scrubbed today due to high winds. The plan had been for a "stacked" flight, sampling air at different altitudes, but surface winds across the runway ultimately ruled out a launch. The next scheduled flight will be the return flight to Westover, MA.
Another successful launch, leaving at 1003 KLT and returning at 1805. The ER-2 flew into Russian airspace, then up to Franz Josefland.
The ER-2 had a very successful flight today, departing at 0900 KLT and returning at 1658. The flight plan took the instruments across the vortex edge, with pilot Jim Barrilleaux reporting a maximum wind speed of 111 kts at the edge. Another flight is planned for tomorrow(!).
Today's flight was scrubbed due to high winds on both takeoff and recovery. The current plan is to try again tomorrow.
The ER-2 scrubbed this morning due to crosswinds out of limits on the runway. They will try again for tomorrow.
Word is there won't be a C-141 available for the return trip from Kiruna to Dryden, so plans are being juggled to fly everyone home via commercial air and somehow service the instruments at Westover. Since we are nearby, it won't be hard to get someone (me) to Westover, but without the tools required to pull ClONO2 out of the pod, we won't be able to refill the air bottle or the liquid nitrogen dewar. As such, we aren't planning to take data on the leg from Westover to Dryden.
|To quote from Paul Newman's Journal:
The Swiss Air Force Lear jet arrived this afternoon. The Lear jet has a microwave water and ozone instrument. They're planning to fly with the DC-8 down towards Iceland tomorrow while the ER-2 does its Scotland flight. All 3 flights will be sampling the polar vortex edge region.
The ER-2 took off this morning at 0749 KLT for an 8-hour flight into the vortex cold pool. The plan is to fly east, then north, and then return by flying south to Kiruna.
This is a down day in preparation for a flight very early tomorrow morning. Hands on is at 0230 KLT (which is 8:30 pm EST and 5:30 pm PST), so it may be a good opportunity for webcam viewing.
ClONO2 is working hard to replace a burned dye-cell window.
After several scrubs, the ER-2 launched successfully this morning at 10:00 KLT for an 8-hour vortex survey flight.
While the field crew was uploading for the latest scrub, I got to watch in realtime via Tommy Thompson's Hangar Webcam. It isn't always on, but so far it seems to be on during instrument uploads.
The flight was scrubbed at 0700 with gusts exceeding 25 kts and blowing snow.
Today was a double-scrub. The flight was first scrubbed at 0630 for low visibility due to snow as well as a borderline crosswind. Then the flight was rescheduled for 1300, but was scrubbed at 1200 due to a hydraulic fluid leak.
Today's flight was scrubbed due to poor visibility with a low ceiling and light snow.
My apologies for lax reporting of late. The start of the latest deployment to Kiruna coincided with school vacation. We drove up to Canada in search of winter sports but found only mud. We did enjoy getting out of the house for a few days, though.
We returned Saturday just in time to retrieve data from the first flight. All systems appear to be working well.
I have added a link above to Greg Forbes' web page. Greg is a severe weather forecaster for the Weather Channel and is providing tropospheric forecasts for the crew in Kiruna. He has recently added links from his page to information about the volcano eruption in Iceland and an aurora borealis forecast.
|I stole this photo of the ClONO2 pod over the pack ice from Paul Newman's web page. It was taken by Jan Nystrom from the cockpit of the ER-2 using Tommy Thompson's camera.||
ClONO2 over the pack ice near Spitsbergen
The first flight of the last deployment finally went off today. The ER-2 took off at 0830 local time and returned at 1600. All systems appear to be working well. Vortex temperatures are still cold and Rick is reporting "a lot of ClO inside the vortex."
After much preparation, the first scheduled ER-2 flight of the deployment was scrubbed due to poor weather. ClONO2 had spent much time and effort replacing a burned dye cell window and realigning to be ready. It will be good when we are collecting data again.
The last flight of this deployment was squeezed in late this evening. The plane took off at 1850 local time and returned at 2250.
The ER-2 has returned from an 8-hour flight. It took off at 1000 KLT (0900 UTC) and returned about 1800 KLT. The flight plan was to fly east over Russia, then turn to the northwest and fly to Spitzbergen, then turn south and return to Kiruna. The teams are now preparing for a quick turnaround for a planned flight leaving tomorrow evening at 1700 KLT.
Once I leave the field, my role necessarily changes to that of an active bystander; the field crew is generally too overwhelmed with keeping the instruments operational to spend much time communicating their status to us at home. I have an advantage over my fellow bystanders in that I have direct access to the raw data. After each flight, I collect the data files for our archive and look to see if I can figure out how well the instruments operated by plotting out engineering data, perusing the command logs or viewing the instrument data screens in replay mode, occassionally offering my niäve observations to the field crew. Granted, there is a lot of information in the data logs, but data alone doesn't compare with conversing with half a dozen scientists.
So from my narrow perspective we had a great flight today. The ER-2 departed around 1100 KLT and returned around 1500 KLT. Originally scheduled for 8 hours, the flight plan was shortened due to a forecast of higher winds at the projected landing time. The plan was for "Deep Vortex Penetration," and the plane flew north-northeast for two hours to 79 N before turning back. Paul Newman reports that the cockpit instrument panel failed about halfway through the flight but apparently didn't affect any of the instruments. He also noted that the Instrument Landing System (ILS) worked today, which I believe to be a first for this deployment.
The Anderson Group instruments appear to have worked very well, at least from what I can see. In particular, NO2 reported excellent laser alignment and both dissociation heaters on Chlorine Nitrate operated smoothly throughout the flight. The CalTech CIMS instrument also made a strong showing with all systems functioning well.
Tuesday is a down day for the ER-2.
Today was the peak of the Kiruna Snow Festival. Of course I missed it, and apparently none of the Anderson Group used the group camera to take pictures, but Tommy Thompson got some good photos. There were reindeer races, ski jumping and the international snow sculpture competition.
I've been offline recovering from jet lag and the really lousy weather in Boston.
After the snow turned to sleet Tuesday night, I really wished I had one of those
little car heaters we had in Kiruna.
Since I left Kiruna, Chlorine Nitrate suffered a major mechanical failure when the fan on its Transformer-Recitifier Unit (TRU) gave out. They had a smaller replacement fan, but that cannot provide enough cooling to support both the Halogen and NO2 experiments, so algorithms were adjusted to keep NO2 off in flight and to monitor the temperature of the TRU closely to avoid overheating. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Lenny and Elliot scrambled to locate a real replacement fan and get it on a plane to Sweden. They are apparently quite difficult to find, but Lenny managed to talk the supplier out of a unit already earmarked for another customer.
Aurora photos courtesy of Mike Kurylo
Today the ER-2 and the DC-8 flew over Russia. As Paul Newman reports in his journal, "This flight represents the first flight of the ER-2 (U-2) into Russian airspace since the unfortunate Francis Gary Powers U-2 flight on May 1, 1960." Jim Anderson flew aboard the DC-8 to help coordinate measurements of the two aircraft.
Initial reports are that most instruments operated well, although the CalTech CIMS instrument suffered a failure of their high-voltage lens system shortly into the flight.
The ER-2 flight scheduled for this morning was scrubbed due to high winds. The next attempt will be on Thursday.
0330: On my last full day in Kiruna, we are rolling out early for
our second science flight of the deployment. Today's flight will feature a
rare direct intercomparison of instruments on the ER-2 and DC-8 when the
ER-2 descends to 35,000 feet and flies alongside the DC-8 for a short period
Mike Kurylo brought along a digital camera capable of taking an 8-second exposure in order to photograph the Aurora Borealis. Since our camera can't come close to that, I asked Mike if I could post some of his pictures.
After a nap and breakfast, I took a walk around town taking pictures. Near the hotel, there is a snow sculpture garden taking form for the snow festival, which starts on Tuesday. All week they have been carting snow into the area and filling up huge cubical forms from which sculptures will be carved. I hope one of my coworkers will take some pictures of the finished work after I've gone home.
On the other side of the garden, I walked down to the railroad line, then up to the Kiruna Kyrka.
Today was press day at the hangar, so there were plenty of photographers and reporters milling around. I felt compelled to take a picture, since the press are always the biggest news, right?
In the evening, the town hosted a dinner in our honor at town hall. It featured live entertainment, good food and a free gift for the experimenters.
Press Day at the Hangar
I finally managed to get some pictures of a dog sled team on my way to lunch.
A dog sled heads into the distance
I had to return to the hangar after dinner with Paul and Karena to finish up algorithm changes for tomorrow's flight. We were rewarded by a spectacular display of the aurora borealis: shimmering sheets of white, green, purple and red waving slowly across the sky. We're far enough north that the lights are not restricted to our north, but pass right overhead and continue to the south, east and west.
Today was not a flight day, but we had a full instrument upload at 10 am to try to track down the radio interference problems we've been having. Much time was spent testing things in different configurations, but it isn't clear whether a solution has been found yet.
I had dinner with Darin and Linnea (both former Anderson Group members.)
Darin and Linnea
1830:The ER-2 has returned from it's first flight north of this deployment. The data look great. Jim says this flight was worth all the previous arctic data we've collected both for how deep we were able to penetrate the arctic polar vortex and for the quality of the measurments aboard the plane. Of course our work is far from finished; all the instruments have experienced minor malfunctions that will need to be addressed. None of the gate valves on either of the Harvard payloads functioned properly, and NO2 is still having trouble with one of their flow controllers.
0830:At long last, the ER-2 took off this morning on the first science flight north from Kiruna. Joe and Marco arrived first, with the rest of the ClONO2 team following. Hands on was at 0600, and CLONO2 had to be inserted into the pod. HOx had remained in the pod, so they came in closer to 0700, and I caught a ride in with them.
The ER-2 Departing on the first flight out of Kiruna
The CIMS instrument received a new roots pump motor controller yesterday, hand carried from Cambridge by a member of the Harvard CO2 team, and we had to make minor modifications to the algorithm to accomodate the differences between the new controller and the old.
Hands off was at 0800, after which many of us headed back to the hotel for breakfast, then back to the hangar for the 1030 takeoff.
The weather today is fairly calm. At 0630, the car reported the outside temperature near 1 F, but now at 1130 the temperature has warmed up to 14 F.
This morning, we rolled out for our first possible flight from Kiruna. After all the instruments were loaded, and most of us had headed back to the hotel for breakfast, the crew determined that the winds forecast for the afternoon would exceed the limits for the aircraft, and so they scrubbed the flight, rescheduling tentatively for tomorrow. The DC-8 was also scheduled to fly and also scrubbed for unrelated reasons.
This afternoon, some of us took a tour of the LKAB iron mine, which is a huge feature of the Kiruna landscape. The tour took us by bus 420 meters below the surface, where we saw a movie describing the history of the mine and the methods they use to extract the iron ore and begin the refining process.
Today was spent in the lab preparing instruments for flight on Wednesday. NO2 spent time with the laser, and the Halogen side installed heaters and worked on the algorithms for driving them. HOx spent some time on the airplane checking for radio interference and designing impromptu shields in hopes of heading off more problems.
I took a few minutes to take some pictures outside from the airport before rewriting CIMS' control software. They have been exploring the various operating modes of their instrument and are now trying to settle in on those modes that will give them the best scientific data. We ended up running until well after midnight to make sure the new programs would do the right thing.
NO2 spent some time aligning the laser.
Here is some evidence that I was here!
Today we finally had access to the instruments and began the work of assessing their health, making necessary repairs and planning operating strategies for the coming flights. NO2 requires the most attention with a failing laser control board and one faulty detector assembly. ClONO2 will be installing a new heater in duct 2 and adjusting their algorithm to better measure the ClO dimer.
I also spent some time with the CIMS group trying to come up with the best strategy for controlling the flow in their instrument. This is complicated by the fact that they need to alternate the direction of their roots pump, and it has a history of getting stuck off when changing directions. We are going to try to pass through the zero point as fast as possible in hopes that that will keep it moving.
Joe carefully makes his way into the MAINS box to replace the faulty laser control board.
The C-141 arrived at 20:30 local time!
We came in at 0600 to greet the C-141 only to find that they got stuck in Iceland when their clearance to transit over Norway expired. Now the crew is required to take 12 hours off before they depart. Now expected between 1900 and 2100.
Larry and Mike pass the time before the C-141 arrives.
The ER-2 arrived at 1900. The C-141 has been delayed due to mechanical problems on the ground in Westover and is not expected until early Saturday morning.
10:30 AM: The DC-8 has arrived! At last we have at least one plane on site.
Pictures from around town posted.
The DC-8 is due in within the hour. The ER-2 is staging for another attempt to get out of Westover, MA, but the winds don't look great.
Pictures of Arena Arctica have been posted.
The DC-8 arrival has been delayed at least one day due to a fuel leak in the center fuel tank. The ER-2 flight has been scrubbed today due to a faulty flight data recorder and poor weather. Will try again tomorrow.
The ER-2 transit to Kiruna was cancelled for today due to poor weather in Massachusetts and Kiruna.
ER-2 transit to Kiruna from Westover, MA, aborted due to radio problems.
First wave of Anderson Group arrives in Kiruna.
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