Home Sweet Home‎

July 18th, 2011

Much apologies for a belated blog post, these have been busy days for the Micro Gravi-Gators.

We are very pleased to report that both flight days went well, and we obtained useful data for the characterization of cryogenic flow in microgravity conditions. The first flight day included Derek Dussault, Dylan Fitzpatrick and Jennifer Stone while the second included Tim McCaughin, Eric Pheterson and Peter Stubbers. Those who did not fly, but were still invaluable to the success of the experiment, were Dan Zhao and Remiel Hu. Currently Dr. Chung and Remiel are digesting the data and we will soon begin formally reporting on our findings. Today we are also unloading our U-Haul trailer and returning UF’s 15-passenger van which brought us all the way to Houston and back. We were fortunate to return a day early, as NASA’s Saturday contingency plans were not necessary.

We got many high-speed videos and a tremendous amount of temperature data as we observed our pyrex tube chill down in 0g. Below is one such video which illustrates the phenomena of flow in a pipe when neglecting gravity. It is easy to see that in the absence of gravity, the fluid is not forced in any direction, and thus flows through the center of the pipe as a gaseous film forms at the wall due to boiling.

Aboard the plane, good times were had by all and we welcome you to view our footage of the first and second flight days. As well as our birthday wishes for Dr. Abbitt and a clip of Eric having a bit too much fun.

Our professors Dr. Abbitt & Dr. Chung, and our NASA mentor Dr. Howard Wagner, spoke in Houston to arrange a continuation on this research study. This means that a team will continue the Micro Gravi-Gator legacy and apply to fly next summer as well, to either collect even more meaningful data, or try to improve the chilldown rate based on our findings. Further, we spoke with a visiting team from NASA’s Glenn Research Center who showed interest in having the Micro Gravi-Gators come speak to NASA employees about our experience and findings.

Throughout our entire time with NASA, we were thrilled by the response to our project. Our experiment was received as one of the most interesting aboard the plane, if not for the impressive complexity, then at least for the apparent risk. Fortunately, save a minor leak on the second flight, all risks were managed well and not a single injury or cold burn occurred during the trip. We hope to push forward with our success.

Thank you,
The Micro Gravi-Gators

Sky High

July 14th, 2011

Yesterday was an exciting day as we placed our apparatus on a forklift and loaded it aboard the plane. In standard Gator style, we fully took advantage of this opportunity and used nearly every connection offered aboard the plane. We of course have an electrical connection, but also connect to an off-board vent to expel gaseous nitrogen and to the plane’s on-board accelerometer computer to correlate our data with pin-point accuracy.

Dr. Chung & Dr. Abbitt with the apparatus secured in the plane

This morning we arrived at the hanger and filled our small dewar with LN2, then watched NASA professionals load our hazardous cargo into the plane. We strapped it in, hung our Gator flag and left Jenni, Dylan and Derek to do their thing. The plane lifted off at 10a and they are currently in the air conducting the experiment.

Derek, Dylan & Jenni Ready to Fly!

Fun Fact! If you pay Go Zero G $5k to fly, you get 12-15 parabolas. Each of our two flights are doing 28 microgravity, 3 lunar and 3 Martian parabolas.

Cleared for Take-Off

July 11th, 2011

This morning we unloaded our apparatus at NASA’s 990 hanger and made final preparations before the Test Rediness Review. When the committee of approximately 20 experts arrived, the hangar fell quiet so that each team’s experiment could be reviewed. When it was finally our turn, the group presented our experiment to the panel of experts with a ginormous camera lens pointed in our faces. We started by introducing each team member and their major. After that a general overview of the experiment was given as well as a detailed review of each major component. After fielding questions from the panel, it was determined that we will only have to make one small modification to our setup in order to support a pipe during flight. We are all really excited to have this review process done with and are looking forward to flying the Gator flag in 0g this Thursday & Friday!

First Week Done

July 11th, 2011

We hope you’ve been watching our progress over in the gallery, but we’ve been too busy to update the blog. The first week with NASA has gone well as our Test Equipment Data Package has been approved, our structure has been scrutinized, electrical systems inspected and and our cryogenic procedures given the NASA OK.

We’ve spent much of our time making the final connections work for our cryogenics to flow, and making modifications which NASA requested of us. We’ve done a dry run of the system to verify it holds a vacuum and will push LN2 through tomorrow, after our Test Rediness Review. The TRR is an exceptional process solving the problem of a 6 month FAA approval process for changes to an airframe, where NASA experts consider the safety of the passengers, crew, and flight by scrutinizing our preparations for the unexpected events that could occur.

Tonight we visited Houston’s Kemah Boardwalk and dined at the Cadillac Bar before picking up our U-Haul trailer from NASA’s parking lot, and continuing work on the apparatus. As these words are written the structure is being tightened down and wires are being organized, finalizing the design before we attach foam padding around the edges and load it in the trailer. Tomorrow’s MMM (Mandatory Morning Meeting) begins at 0745 and we’re all preparing for a busy week.

On the Road

July 7th, 2011

Almost to Houston… Our road trip has been long and interesting. Check out our pictures in the gallery of our exhausting car ride. With only stopping for very short bathroom breaks and gas fill ups, we are making record time. We hope NASA will welcome us with open arms. We will get right to work once we arrive. Stay tuned for more updates of progress and tell your friends about the Micro Gravi-Gators.

EDIT: We’ve arrived!