ASK 't Harde, 6 June, 2008 - The CanSat project is organized to interest the brightest high school students in technical studies. It originated in the United States, but since last year the Delft Technical University organizes it in The Netherlands. During the project the students build a CanSat, which is a small satellite the size of a soda can. The CanSat must perform a basic mission (measuring basic values, like speed and altitude), but the students must also come up with a secondary mission of their own. The CanSats are lifted to a height of 1000 meters (approx. 3300 ft) by a rocket and are then deployed. While funded by the TU Delft, the project is organised by ISIS, a small young space company that organizes real satellite launches into space. The rockets themselves are built by DARE, which is off course the rocketry group of TU Delft students. The NAVRO became involved to facilitate the launch day, as DARE always launch at our launch days. The only thing we had to do was setup the launch tower and other launch facilities. We were also responsible for the launches and launch safety. While we have had CanSat launches before at our regular launches, like NLD25, this launch was still a bit unusual the NAVRO, as we only facilitated.
When we arrived on the day before the launch to setup the launch site, the ISIS people were already busy erecting party tents and so on. Meanwhile large tents were erected by a specialised company, as some 500 guests were expected the next day. They also provided seats and tables. We soon started by erecting our tower and a new party tent that we erected near the tower for preparation of rockets. DARE also setup their new six meter launch tower for the first time, but it was not complete yet and was not used for the launches. When DARE prepared the motors of their rockets it was supervised by NAVRO safety officials. Certification of the rockets was done earlier that week. Meanwhile the command post was prepared for the next day. Later we had dinner and a nice evening in Hotel de Foreesten, where we also slept.
The Friday 6 June started early, as many rockets were to be launched. After breakfast we went to the launch site and made some final preparations. Meanwhile the students began to arrive, as well as the press. After the preparations the press was invited to the launch tower for shooting pictures and doing interviews. DARE brought one of last year's rockets to this press moment. Just after the last press people left the launch area, the first rocket was brought down for the final preparations. During the press moment the upper half of the first rocket was prepared near DARE's tent and both CanSats were integrated. When it arrived at the launch area it was mated with the lower half, which contains the DX1-ee motor. For this launch the top Bates grain of the motors were replaced by a smoke grain and thereby reducing the total impulse to 2000Ns. All preparations were done by DARE following a thorough checklist and were observed by the NAVRO safety officials. Finally the rocket was ready to be placed in the launch tower. After the igniter was connected by a NAVRO pyro technician, DARE and NAVRO teams went up and the countdown began. The launch was postponed once because a key in the launch box was not turned. On the second attempt it was launched successful. The CanSat Launcher v5 rocket flew fine and both CanSats were successfully deployed.
Meanwhile preparation of upper half of the second rocket had already began and its CanSats were soon integrated. While this was going on the first rocket was recovered and returned to DARE's tent. It was obvious that the rockets frame was bent at the parachute module. As only 10 out of 46 student teams CanSats were to fly in a rocket, the other teams CanSats, which were not selected, were to be dropped from a 70m high crane. These drops were done in between the launches and started after the first launch. The second rocket halves were mated and the rocket placed in the launch tower. This rocket too was launched successful. When it was recovered its parachute module was also bent. The third rocket was launched successful too, but the fourth rocket broke while parachuting between the parachute and CanSat modules. This may have been due to changed wind conditions, which caused the rocket to follow a lower trajectory and thus flying shallower at the top. The rocket then parachutes at a higher speed and thus at higher stress levels. The fifth rocket also suffered from the same wind conditions and the parachute became entangled. The CanSats never left the rocket and suffered a hard landing inside the rocket. One of the CanSats from this rocket was lucky enough to be ready in time for the last sessions of drops from the crane.
The launch equipment and supplies were quickly packed and we left for the club house. Looking back, our participation was very successful and all went fine. DARE has to do their home work to strengthen their rockets for next year, but otherwise they had done their task very well and professional. ISIS had done a good job organizing their first launch day. They facilitated the students and all other participants very well.
See you all soon at a future launch!