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Micro-g Update - Prototypes, Outreach, and More! posted in microg

March 04, 2017

This is an exciting time for the Micro-g team. We’ve been hard at work over the past couple of weeks, planning and running our outreach events, making design improvements, and even prototyping!

Prototypes and Design Improvements

A few weeks ago, we met our advisor from NASA (via web video), who will be helping us through the final stages of our product development and testing. Before the meeting, our mission co-leads 3D-printed the first prototype of the sample tube in our device.

We were even able to take a photo of the full team, thanks to a little help from web video!

Lately, our design improvements have been focused on optimizing the turbine driving the drill using a new “planetary gear” system. Check out one of our sketches below:

We’ve also begun prototyping the Iris Mechanism at the bottom of our drill. The mechanism contains many small parts, so printing it was a little tricky. However, our second attempt looks much more promising.


We’re going to continue to improve our design, and soon we’ll start machining our drill!

Outreach

 Our team has been having an incredible amount of fun planning and running our outreach events over the past few weeks. We’ve been spending a lot of time at various kids’ science events, teaching them about space technology and our project, and encouraging them to go into STEM fields so they can also contribute to our exploration of the final frontier! Here are some of the highlights from our outreach events at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum, Liberty Science Center, and Manhattanville Community Center.

On Friday, February 24, we ran a workshop at the Intrepid’s Kids’ Week.

We talked to them about parachutes—how they work, how they’re made, and their role in bringing astronauts back to Earth safely. Then, we guided them through the process of making their own parachutes, and everyone had a blast!

  On Saturday, February 25, some brave souls among us woke up at the crack of dawn to make the trek to Liberty Science Center in New Jersey. They explained our project to the kids, and demonstrated basic principles of energy by simulating asteroids hitting planets and making craters. 

It got a little messy, but everyone loved it!

Finally, this past Friday, March 4, we ran our first of four workshops at Manhattanville Community Center. The parachute activity was repeated to great success.

 Stay tuned for more updates!

Lion Piercer Progress Update posted in rascal

March 01, 2017

We’ve continued making great progress on our Mars ice drill, the Lion Piercer. Our drill system will feature two subsystems, an overburden extraction auger to clear a path to the ice, and an ice extraction drill that extracts the in-hole ice for melting. Both drills utilize cylindrical casing in their drilling mechanism.

Furthermore, both drills will be moved by a gantry system mounted atop our simulated ice box environment. System mock-up:

Our upcoming deadline is the Mid-Project Review on April 2nd, when we will be submitting a video of our drill prototype in action, featuring its mounting system, control interface, and operation excavating overburden and ice. In addition, we’ll be submitting a written document describing our development process and our integration and testing plan.

Ad astra!

-James

RASC-AL 2017 Update posted in rascal

January 31, 2017

Our LEO Lion design has been selected to move on to semifinals! LEO Lion is a commercially-enabled LEO / Mars habitable module, featuring innovative technology and new commercial applications in space. Our next deadline is the Mid-Project Review on March 16th, when we will be submitting a 6-page mission concept and analysis plan to the National Institute of Aerospace and NASA for approval.

Our Lion Piercer, a device to extract subsurface water on Mars, is also making progress. Though we were not ultimately selected as finalists in the RASC-AL Mars Ice Challenge, we have received funding to begin building Lion Piercer. We potentially have the opportunity to re-enter the competition if we submit a Mid-Point Progress report on April 2nd.

-Leena

Anchor is a success! posted in microg

May 31, 2016

Well, if you follow us on social media you’ll know that we went to Houston last week to test our asteroid anchor. Without further ado, here’s our mission debrief:

The Lion Claw is a success!

We had started this process in December with our initial concept, but quickly realized that our design was impossible to manufacture. Starting anew, we had another design and prototype by March - only to see that it had failed to hold the 10 lbs of force during testing.

Into this week were betting on a new design and scrambled to manufacture and test it. Kristina and Tamás, our team leads, had many a sleepless night over the anchor. We had only tested the anchor underwater a few times before making the trip to Houston. Although the anchor had worked in our underwater test, we were still understandbly nervous about the anchor - would it work in the NBL? would it pass NASA’s stringent safety inspection?

But to our delight, our anchor did pass - in all respects. On our first day in Houston, we had our Technical Readiness Review, in which we proved to NASA specialists that our tool was safe for use in the NBL. After some filing of sharp edges and softening wire tips, we were good to go.

The second day in Houston was our test day; we were scheduled for a 9:10 a.m. test, though in actuality we started ten minutes later. Jordi was TC (Test Controller), and directed the divers in realtime on how to operate the tool. I also livestreamed the event on our Facebook page; it’ll also be on YouTube soon.

Results

We held at least 30 lbs of force, even though NASA only required us to hold 10 lbs of force. The divers themselves even said that this was one of the strongest designs there. With the anchor only half-deployed (only the bottom plates deployed), we held the requisite 10 lbs of force. Suffice to say, we’re pleased with how well testing turned out!

We also won the social media prize, and got a special tour of Building 9, which is the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility. We touched the actual ISS mockups that astronauts used to train!

Now What?

First of all, thank you to everyone who contributed to this mission. Kristina and Tamás were amazing team leads, both of whom entirely determined the success of the project, and deserve every accolade. Brian also is a standout with SolidWorks, and Jordi is our finance master - without which we wouldn’t have had the money to make this trip possible.

Meanwhile, check out our vlog series on YouTube to get a sense of what our trip was like.

Finally, we hope to continue the Micro-g NExT program next year. We had a blast doing it, and Kristina and Tamás will be able to stay on as advisors for future participants from Columbia.

-Julia, Micro-g Logistics/Everything

Micro-G Update posted in microg

May 15, 2016

Hey y’all,

It’s an exciting week for us on the micro-g team here at csi! We’ll be going to Houston next week to test the LionClaw, our design for a microgravity anchor. The anchor would theoretically be used by spacecraft visiting near-Earth asteroids, which are essentially asteroids closer to us than Mars is (roughly 50 million miles or less; space scales are weird). Because these asteroids are so small, the amount of gravity we would experience on them would be negligible, so we need an anchor to keep our astronauts on its surface.

NASA has generously provided us and other undergraduate teams the opportunity to test our anchor at the National Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL). The NBL is a giant pool where astronauts run simulations or test equipment to mimic the weightlessness experienced in space and on asteroids! We’re extremely excited
to test our design there!

We’ll be keeping you updated on our progress in Houston as we test the design, but for now, we’ll be working hard in Columbia’s excellent machine shop and makerspace. If you’re in the area, feel free to come and check out our design if you have any questions or would like to see it for yourself! Columbia has kindly provided the resources that have made this design possible, so it is the least we can do in return to the Columbia community.

Look out for Kristina, Tamas, or Brian (pictured below).

-Jordi

Balloons Debrief posted in balloons

April 15, 2016

I’ve wanted to make this post for a while, but life and finals got in the way. I finally found the time to write this up, exactly a month after the balloon launch.

First of all, thank you to everyone that contributed to this mission. We couldn’t have done it without you all.

Flight Details

The balloon was launched on April 16th, 2016 just before 4pm EST near Prattsville, NY. We had initially planned for the launch to be before noon to make recovery easier, but delays and technical issues pushed the launch time back.

Over the course of almost three hours, the balloon rose at a rate of 5 m/s or ~16 ft/s, reaching a peak of 32948.88m or 108100ft at about 6pm EST.

The balloon landed in the backyard of a farm house around 6:44pm. It landed in the middle of a lawn right next to a road, resulting in a very easy recovery. We were very grateful for this, as by the time we reached the payload it had gotten dark. Landing in a more difficult location would have required recovery on a different day.

The maximum altitude of our balloon is rank 88 on arhab.org

Launch Notes

Having multiple possible launch locations was crucial - launch sites became unavailable due to weather and logistics changes.

We need a smaller tank for helium transportation. We had to rent a van to carry the large tank, which was an inefficient use of funds as it could only carry 2 people. Using two smaller tanks would allow us to carry them in an SUV, which can fit more people.

I thought the APRS GPS tracker (the radio one) wasn’t working because it wasn’t showing up on the website. However, I was able to verify with my Baofeng UV-5R and APRSdroid’s packet decoder that the radio was, in fact, working. I later determined that, because we were launching in the mountains, the radio signals weren’t getting to the nearest repeater. The balloon showed up on the website shortly after launch.

The ground winds were absolutely brutal for the launch. Considering it was the first launch for most of our crew, they handled it remarkably well. The winds finally died down towards the end, enough for us to get a clean launch.

Since we didn’t have a mass flow meter to measure the amount of helium (we were quoted $2500 for one from Alicat), we had to use a scale to determine the lift force. A cheap luggage scale/fish scale worked well enough to ensure we didn’t underfill the balloon, but by launch we had to wing it to catch the break in surface wind.

The SPOT GPS tracker we had worked for going up (under the altitude limit) and showed up a couple times during the descent but didn’t work for the landing. This is interesting, especially since it’s usually the radio that doesn’t survive the landing.

We accidentally taped over the ozone sensor poking out of the box - this is my fault for not familiarizing the crew with the equipment and payloads; I might have even taped over it myself. We still collected data, but I’m not sure how accurate or reliable it is.

We need to launch much earlier next time ensure we can recover before sunset. This will get better with more preparation and experience.

The GoPro battery ran out early (we had the cheapest model) so we only got footage up to ~70,000 ft. We’re looking into acquiring a better GoPro along with a battery backpack.

Results

We will start going through the data more thoroughly now, especially with more time in the summer. We’ll post any results or findings here.

BWOG wrote an article about us! Read it here

We released our Youtube video of the launch, watch it here

The Columbia University Facebook page wrote a post about us, read it here

The Future

With a successful launch under our belt, we can look forward to doing more exciting and ambitious things!

We need to start looking for additional funding and future mission objectives. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to contact us through email or social media.

Thanks, Jake Lee

Counting Down for Balloons posted in balloons

April 15, 2016

We’re launching our balloon tomorrow! We’ll be launching at 10AM from Prattsville, NY.

You can track the balloon here.

A quick run-down of the mission:

  • We’re launching a 1600g balloon with multiple payloads:
    • An APRS Radio GPS tracker
    • A SPOT Satellite GPS tracker
    • A 10DOF (accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, temperature, pressure) sensor logger and GPS logger package
    • A Ozone sensor logger
    • A GoPro with a Roaree (Columbia University’s mascot) plushie as the subject
    • A Radar Reflector
  • Goals:
    • Get weather balloon experience
    • Detect the ozone layer
    • See if we can get anything interesting from the 10DOF sensors
    • Set a precedence for more ambitious and significant flights in the future
    • Get some sweet, sweet footage from 100,000 ft

We’re looking forward to a great launch!

Follow us on twitter to see live updates. There is a button at the bottom of the website.

p.s. The rockets team is launching tomorrow too!

-Jake

Design Changes and Article in Columbia Daily Spectator posted in microg

April 07, 2016

Redesigns are underway on our asteroid anchor. Tomorrow (April 8), we will be manufacturing our design changes in the Mechanical Engineering Shop. The Columbia Daily Spectator will also film a behind-the-scenes video of our manufacturing process. Stop by at 1 p.m. with your CSI shirt to appear in our video!

-Julia

RASC-AL Mission Selected as Finalist! posted in rascal

April 01, 2016

Our mission proposal “Path to Deimos” was selected as one of twelve finalists to present at the annual RASC-AL Forum in Cocoa Beach, Florida this June! This is incredibly exciting - especially being the first time ever for Columbia to participate - and I couldn’t be prouder of what our entire team has accomplished. A big thank you to our project advisor Professor Mike Massimino for his invaluable support and guidance, and congratulations to all members of CSI for another job well done.

Our next major goal is to submit both a final technical paper and an oral presentation by June 2. The final paper will be 10-15 pages in length, fully implementing all the specific technical details and diagrams we laid out in our mid-project review, and our oral presentation will highlight key aspects of our mission and fill a 30 minute time slot at the Forum. In addition, we’ll also have to prepare a trifold board that summarizes our mission for the poster session. Based on how well we do at the Forum, two of the top-winning teams will be invited to yet another technical conference (e.g. AIAA Space) to share their concepts!

As we craft the two components of our final project in the coming weeks, you’re welcome to join the RASC-AL team anytime - just post a message in the Slack channel or reach out to any current member of the mission team if you’re interested. The Forum will take place from Tuesday, June 21 to Friday, June 24; more info on travel logistics to come.

-James

NASA JPL celebrates the successful landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars

End of March Update posted in balloons

March 28, 2016

A few updates for the end of March:

  • We have received our equipment from CCSC! Thank you to CCSC for supporting us all the way through.
  • Our currently planned launch dates are April 9th and the 16th. The launch is an all-day event. There are a limited number of spots on the trip, so please let the team know if you plan on attending the launch and chase.
  • We have finalized our launch location to Poughkeepsie, NY. The balloon should land somewhere in Connecticut.
  • We are moving forward full steam in preparation for launch. Please stay updated on Slack for the latest updates.

Thanks, -Jake

Workshop with the DDC posted in balloons

March 28, 2016

Today, we had the pleasure of running a workshop with the Double Discovery Center. Titled, “Exploring the Atmosphere with Extreme Balloons”, the one hour workshop sought to talk about the importance of the ozone layer to life on Earth, the applications of high-altitude weather balloons, and combined the two subjects in an interactive experiment design discussion.

We really enjoyed doing the workshop, and we would like to thank the DDC for hosting us. We hope that we will be able to come back after our launch in mid-April and share some science and fun from our project.

Any other organizations that are interested in hosting a similar workshop can contact us at our contact page.

The resources used in the workshop, including the presentation and the accompanying notes, are available on the balloons mission page.

TEDP Report Submitted posted in microg

March 28, 2016

It’s 6:55 p.m. (EST) and we have submitted our Technical Equipment Data Package (TEDP) to NASA. It’s 40 pages long and written with lots of love from everyone on the team.

Although submitting the TEDP was a great success, we do have some unfortunate news: our asteroid anchor design doesn’t quite work. We have tested the design and found that the anchor does not withstand the full 10 lbs of force required by the NASA design rules. We’re working on redesigning the anchor, but with only about 40 days before we head to Houston, we don’t have much time for major design changes. It’s not a huge issue though - we’re relatively certain that our mechanical reasoning is solid; we just need more surface area to interact with the regolith.

-Julia

Cubesat Proposal Decision posted in cubesat

March 23, 2016

We’ve finally heard back from NASA on our USIP proposal, and it’s unfortunately a no go. But that won’t stop us. We’re exploring a possible collaboration on Black Knight II, the U.S. Army’s cubesat. We’ll keep this page updated as we explore more opportunities in the area. Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to our initial proposal, as well as everyone who has supported us along the way.

-Julia

RASC-AL Mid-Project Review submitted! posted in rascal

March 19, 2016

We submitted our mid-project review to the RASC-AL competition today, after making it to the second round. A big thank you to all the project team members who dedicated time over their spring breaks to work on our report. We will hear back from the competition judges on April 1st as to whether our team’s been chosen to proceed to the final round of the competition, which entails presenting a full 15-page technical paper at the RASC-AL Forum in Cape Canaveral this June! Stay tuned!

-James

The “Path to Deimos” mission patch:

Mission Update posted in microg

March 18, 2016

Last few weeks have been super manufacturing-intense! Coming off of spring break, we have most of our body and the inside mechanism ready. We have tested and scrapped some parts and designed and made new ones! Mistakes in machining are inevitable, so we had to remake the plates and the cone, which we finished last week. Next big milestone is the TEDP report due next week!

-Kristina

Splash! posted in microg

March 12, 2016

Today we taught 4 one-hour long classes to students between 8th and 12th grade about space engineering through Columbia’s Splash 2016. It was a lot of fun! One kid even corrected us about the launch date of Apollo 7 :)

-Keenan

Developments posted in balloons

March 04, 2016

We’re making some steady progress.

We’ve managed to acquire helium thanks to Jordi! Thank you Jordi!

We finished maintenance on our old electronic equipment. We will begin work on the 10DOF sensor from Marco (thanks!) and the ozone sensor whenever it comes in.

This Saturday (so, tomorrow) we will be working on the GoPro mount as well as the 10DOF sensor.

We’ve also updated CCSC on our details and such, so we should be getting some of our equipment soon!

We’re on the final stretch, hopefully we can get almost everything ready to go by the end of this month. No, we WILL get everything ready to go by the end of this month.

-Jake

RASC-AL Abstract Selected! posted in rascal

February 05, 2016

Our abstract “Path to Deimos” was selected to continue onto the next stage of the RASC-AL competition! We are now in full gear working towards our next goal of submitting a mid-project review paper by March 18, 2016. The mid-project review will be around 3 pages in length, with 2 pages of text that describes the mission concept and analysis plan, and one page with information graphics and calculations. Based on that, just one more round of cuts will be made before it’s decided which teams get to attend the RASC-AL Forum at Cape Canaveral, FL in June.

We’ll be recuiting new members to join the RASC-AL team in the coming weeks - stop by one of CSI’s general body meetings or reach out to any current member of the mission team if you’re interested!

-James

New Semester posted in balloons

January 27, 2016

With the start of the new semester, we’re welcoming new members to the mission. Here’s how you can get involved, from least to most participation.

  1. Check this website often. We try to post news here quite often.
  2. Join the mailing list for Columbia Space, so you can keep up with general body meetings and different events. There’s a sign-up form on the bottom of the front page of this website.
  3. Join our Slack channel. This is where almost 99% of our communcation takes place. It moves fast too, so check back every day. Once you join our mailing list, you’ll get an invite to our Slack group. You can join the “balloons” channel from there.
  4. Join our Google Drive Folder. All of our documents, notes and resources get posted on Drive and Slack. Both of these are crucial if you want to participate actively.
  5. Attend mission-specific meetings. We’ll be choosing the days/times for these at the General Body meeting.
  6. Join a sub-project group. Whether it’s payload preparation or physics calculations, you’ll be contributing directly to the success of this project.

Thanks everyone for the interest, we’re trying to launch by early April. With your support, we can make this a reality.

-Jake Lee, Balloons Flight Director

First Online Check-in With NASA posted in microg

January 21, 2016

We are currently in a Blackboard Collaborate session with the Micro-G Committee. We are going over safety reqirements and characterstics of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory where the tool will be tested. Thank you NASA for your resources! #Micro-gNeXT

-Tamas

Submitted Our Abstract posted in rascal

January 17, 2016

We submitted our abstract to the RASC-AL competition today. Our abstract proposed a mission that would deliver a crew of four humans to Deimos, the smaller and outer of Mars’ moons, as a stepping stone to reaching Mars. We will hear back from NASA on February 5th as to whether our abstract’s been chosen to proceed to the next round of the competition, and will update you then about our results. Stay tuned!

-Julia

Balloon Payloads posted in balloons

January 08, 2016

With the completion of our GoPro crowdfunding campaign, we have now acquired all of our payloads!

Here’s a quick look at what we have left to do:

  • Set up payloads to make sure they work
  • Determine launch logistics
  • Send some more emails and stuff
  • Purchase more materials through our CCSC grant

-Jake Lee, Balloons Flight Director

Meeting Our NASA Mentor, Rebecca posted in microg

January 08, 2016

After some technical difficulties, we finally met with our Micro-G mentor! In an hour long call we discussed our design and established regular communication with her. We also firmly recommend Google Hangouts for any video call for more than 5 people :)

-Kristina

Balloon Sponsorship posted in balloons

December 29, 2015

Our sponsor, W2AEE Columbia University Amateur Radio Club, has submitted the order for a SPOT Trace so we can better track our payload! Many thanks to Eugene Lee for organizing our partnership with W2AEE!

-Eugene Lee

Star Wars trip posted in news

December 18, 2015

The Force was strong with the Columbia Space Initiative this past December, as a crew of 9 space lions joined members of FSAE to see the latest installment of the Star Wars saga in stunning IMAX 3D. Arriving in Times Square for our showtime at the bizarre hour of 2 in the morning, the Star Wars gang stayed sharp with the help of some Jedi mind tricks and caffeine. As we entered the theater with the throngs of New Yorkers fitted in Jedi garb, one couldn’t help but feel the Force pulsating in the air.

Indeed, The Force Awakens turned out to be one of the most incredible cinematic adventures for all of us, replete with moments that make the midichlorians tingle down your spine. The rowdy 2am theatergoers gave plenty of thundering ovations, and in hindsight the whole experience was more a Knicks game than a movie. Though not as scientifically or engineeringly detailed as, say, The Martian, The Force Awakens was an awesome reminder of what space stands for in the imagination of so many people around the world, and the type of thing that got many of us at CSI curious to learn about space in the first place (though rocket science isn’t as easy as they make it look like). Anyways, as we enter our second semester as a club, stay tuned to our many mission pages as we finish… what we started!

-James

Cubesat Proposal Submitted to NASA posted in cubesat

November 20, 2015

Good news! We’ve submitted our 60+ page proposal to NASA today for the Student Flight Research Opportunity (SFRO). Many thanks to all the team members who’ve contributed to the creation of this proposal! Our cubesat experiments will test the tensile properties of glass, and the viability of certain radiation shielding on commercial electronics. We’ll keep you updated on our results.

-Julia

Micro-G Update posted in microg

November 13, 2015

We have submitted our preliminary design to NASA. The final design is an assembly of around 9 parts: the cone, shaft, 5 plates, piston, and blocking bar. The cone piece that is the first part to make direct contact with the surface is threaded for ease of penetration. The shaft serves as the housing for the piston and the plates attached by individual hinges. A person pushing on the piston activates the plate assembly and they slide out of their holes and grip the m_barnes. Our design underwent many changes during the brainstorming procedure. Our inspirations were river anchors, screwpile drills, and the fractal design used on the Rosetta comet.

Kristina, Co-Head of Micro-G Team

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