ASK 't Harde, 5 June, 2009 - The CanSat project is organized to interest bright high school students in technical studies. It originated in the United States and the Delft Technical University initiates it in The Netherlands. It is now in its third year. 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. The organisation is relegated to ISIS, a small young space company that organizes real satellite launches into space. The rockets themselves are built by DARE. The NAVRO is involved to facilitate the launch day, which involves providing a the launch tower and other launch facilities. We are also responsible for the launches and launch safety.
As always the large NAVRO launch tower was erected first, but it was soon followed by DARE's launch tower. Meanwhile preparation of the rockets and their motors had already begun. A total of six were prepared: the three official CanSat Launcher v5's, the new Cansat Launcher v6, Jan-Hein Ramakers' Caveman Bumble Bee and Leon Krancher and Mark Uitendaal's new two-stage rocket. As certification of the rockets was already done 21 April, the rockets were only superficially inspected this day. We had a great evening in our usual hotel with the usual suspects and two guests from the CNES, both observed and enjoyed the launch on Friday.
After breakfast on Friday 5 June we went to the launch site and did the final preparations. Meanwhile the students began to arrive. The first rocket to be launched was Leon Krancher and Mark Uitendaal's new two-stage rocket. It's launch was actually postponed from the recent NLD29, as the program back then was full (and the rocket was not finished yet). When the countdown had reached "Four" the launch was aborted. That moment the upper half of the top stage was ejected, as it should when it was to deploy its drogue parachute at the top of its trajectory. Unfortunately the nose cone smashed against the concrete road and was destroyed. After a safety period, the rocket was approached and made safe. The following examination made clear the cell phone (which was to be used for recovery as GPS tracking device) generate an ESD charge strong enough to disturbed the Trax-Art flight computer. This charge was registered by the flight computer as a drop in altitude of 150 meters, which qualified as the deployment moment for the rockets drogue parachute. Of course the system had been thoroughly ground tested, but that was in a populated area, whereas the launch area is in a rural area where the cell phone antenna's are much further apart. The signal of a cell phone in a rural area is therefore generally much stronger.
Although not as exciting from the other launch tower the first CanSat Launcher v5 was launched successfully and it deployed it's CanSat's just as planned. The next window consisted of Jan-Hein Ramakers' Caveman Bumble Bee and the second CanSat Launcher v5. First to launch was the Bumble Bee, which carried six CanSat's the low-tech way: on top of its parachute. Some CanSat's were a bit bigger than the specification, so the nosecone did only just fitted tight on the rocket's fuselage. The launch went fine, as did the deployment. Although the parachute was a bit entangled, the rocket landed fine. The CanSat's were not deployed as they were the ones the cause the entanglement. All landed with the rocket and all were damaged, some only just, but some were destroyed. The second CanSat Launcher v5 was successfully launched and deployed it's CanSat's as planned. Following this launch window some CanSat's were lifted up to 100 meters and then dropped by means of a R/C helicopter of DARE's sister organization EMoCie.
The third launch window was opened by the clockwork launch the third CanSat Launcher v5, which of course deployed it's CanSat's fine. The last launch of the day was of the first launch of new CanSat Launcher v6. Following a very nervous period for its makers, the launch itself went fine and it deployed it's six CanSat's as planned. On landing the lower part of the fuselage was shattered, but this was intentionally as it was designed to shatter and absorb the forces on impact. Again some CanSat's were dropped from a R/C helicopter of EMoCie, whereby for the first year all CanSat's had actually flown.
After the launches ended all equipment was quickly dismantled and loaded in vans. Meanwhile the crane, which was hired as backup to drop CanSats, was stuck halfway while going down. The occupants were later rescued by the fire brigade...
On reflection, our participation was very successful and all went fine. All key people reacted good on the potential hazard caused by the first rocket. Again DARE's CanSat Launchers performed flawlessly, but by now are now showing signs of wear. ISIS too, had done a good job organizing the launch day. They facilitated the students and all other participants very well. The military recovery teams had done an extremely good job this launch, as they had recovered all rockets and all but one of the small, hard to track CanSat's.
See you all soon at a future launch!