Friday, September 30, 2011

Home Sunday at 2100

Well, we'll be out at the Pilot Station waiting for the Harbor Pilot to come aboard.
That means we won't be tied up and 'released' until about 2230 or so.
And they're NOT paying us for Saturday and Sunday.....

GOD, I hope something breaks, because I will NOT fix it!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hurricane Hilary

No, not Mrs. Clinton.

Looks like we'll be going through the tail-end of this towards the end of the week.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Headed Home

We pulled out about 2240 PDT.
No ETA on arrival yet. Should know tomorrow.....

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Successful Launch, Headed back on Sunday

Well, we put another one on-target.
After safeing and stowing the rest of my systems on the platform, we'll head back to Long Beach late Sunday afternoon. It takes about 7 days to get back, and then I'm taking a couple of days off.
Gonna head to Angeles Shooting Range with my son for some rifle time!

L-2 hours.....

Time to do the final alignment on our fixed antennas.
Gonna get *real* busy here soon.

L-4 hours and counting.....

Rough day yesterday, but we're on schedule for a 2018 UTC launch.
You can watch it here:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

L-2 Days and counting.....

On schedule!
Tomorrow I head over to the LP and set up our equipment to link the Command and Telemetry from the spacecraft back to the "Mother Ship".
Gonna be a brutal day. I'm the only one left (or rehired) who can do it, and I'll be over there all by my lonesome for about 10 hours.
I don't have too much stuff to take over with me, and I'll take a bunch of water and some snacks, along with my Droid to pass the time.
At least the helideck is a walk *down* from where the Comm Shack is!

Picture is the latest weather here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We Have Arrived.....

We're about 1' N and 2' E of where we need to be.
That means the ship will transition to Dynamic Positioning in the next 30~40 minutes, and we'll hold here until daylight, when helo ops will begin.
The LP should be ballasted down 70' by late morning/early afternoon, and then we can start using the link bridge between the ships.

Reno Airshow Eyewitness Report

One of the guys I used to work with was at the airshow when the accident happened.

Here's the email he sent us today:

Take a look at the last second of the attached video I took during the F18 demo. This shows how close we were to where the plane hit, impact was directly in front of us. Picture attached is what I think is us hitting the deck, circled. Link is to a video of the plane going down from the other side of the field. The pilot made an adjustment a split second before he hit us. You can see the correction in the video, I don’t even think he was more than 100 feet above us when he did it. Nothing in our minds thought we were getting out of that. I truly have no idea how we survived. Had the pilot, and I believe he did, not made that last quarter second correction we would have took a propeller on the chin and a lot more people would have died. We were also lucky to have hit the ground as fast as we did, people behind us got hurt by flying debris. We were hit with debris and covered in fuel but somehow there was not a fireball. Why that didn't happen I will never know. Had there been, that also could have been a game ender. Really hard to get my head wrapped around how we lived. Really makes you appreciate who, and what, you have in your life.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Current Position.....

We're at 5.5* N, 147.5* W, and Motoring along at about 10kts.

Looks like the launch will get pushed back to the 24th, but no "official" word yet.

Nighty-night, all!

Where's Waldo, Part Deux

We're now at 6.5* N, 146.5* W, and chugging along at 9.4 kts.

Or as one of my friends called it, "Groundhog Day, Part 3".

We were supposed to get to the launch site on Wednesday about 1700, but the platform had a turbocharger failure on one of their big Diesels that runs the generators (it has a Diesel-Electric propulsion system), and they were dead-in-the-water for about 4 hours while they fixed it.

I'd post more pictures, but everything has to be approved by Security and the Export people, so I'll see if I can get some approvals for simple things like the helo.

In the meantime, here's the latest Enhanced IR picture from the weather guys.

The little green square is where we are.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Where's Waldo??

No, not my middle name.
Right now we're at 10* 47' N, 142* 47' W, right smack dab in the Intertropical Convergence Zone, and man, is it raining!
We're chugging along at around 12 kts, thanks to "Fair Winds and Following Seas".

Bad Crash at Reno Air Races

Just talked to my wife on the phone, and she said there was a crash at the Reno Air Races.
Our satcom system is acting up tonight, so all I can get posted is this link to Google.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Helo Flight!

Well, today I had my first flight in a Huey. It was a Twin Huey, in excellent condition, and we flew with both doors open so we wouldn't have any windows impeding our photography.
Now I haven't flown in an aircraft with the door(s) off in about 30 years, so it was quite an experience. The other photographer is an old pro at this, and has flown in the back seat of various chase planes for numerous aircraft tests, and done more than his share of hanging out of helos snapping pictures.
As long as I kept my eye glued to the viewfinder, and kept the job-at-hand firmly in mind, I was OK.
The first time I dropped the viewfinder down so I could orient myself with the ships, I about lost my lunch.
I was two feet from the open door (SOLIDLY hooked up in my harness!), and we were in about a 30* bank to get a better angle for the other photog, at about 500' ASL.
Caught me totally off-guard, and I popped the camera back up to my eye again.
And we get to do it again next week when the launch vehicle is erect on the pad.
I think I'll skip lunch that day.............

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Life At Sea.......

Well, we're about 1200 miles off the coast and headed to the Launch Site at 20 kts. We're supposed to catch the Launch Platform around midnight, and then we'll slow down to about 9 kts and travel in formation with them the rest of the way.
Tomorrow afternoon I get to go up in the helicopter with the "Official" photographer, who'll be shooting video, while I get some 'beauty shots' of the two ships travelling in formation.
We used to have a Bell 230 helo, but now we have a Bell 212. The 212 is better suited to our needs, as it can carry more people and cargo. It also has two huge sliding doors, so heavy cargo that used to have be transported over hanging on a sling can now be stowed inside the helo.
The weather has been pretty good so far, with smooth seas. That will change when we enter the Intertropical Convergence Zone, where we go through some rain and it's usually overcast this time of year.
I was feeling a bit under-the-weather yesterday, probably from eating too much and a lack of physical activity. Even though I'm running around all day, at this point it's shuttling things between offices, helping people set up their PC's, and checking equipment, so it's pretty light duty. I'll have to start my daily walk around the ship, starting on the first bridge deck at the stern, working my way up to the bow on the fifth bridge deck using all the ladders, (stairs on ships are called "ladders"), and then back down again.
I finally got the big screen TV, DVD player, audio system, Wii, and X-Box in our "Lounge Area" all connected together and operating last night. Had a couple of bad cables that were driving me nuts, but was able to fix them. And connecting my laptop with a Blu-Ray player to the big TV with an HDMI cable makes for some pretty good viewing. I watched Steve McQueen in "Le Mans" last night, and it was very enjoyable.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

ALWAYS Remember

Other will write for better than I can about what happened 10 years ago today.



Be Ready

As the little boy said at the end of the first Terminator movie....."There's a storm coming".

Friday, September 9, 2011

HAMCON 2011 in Torrance, CA

One of the benefits of the one-day delay we had in the launch schedule was that I'll be able to go to HAMCON at the Marriott in Torrance. I've been going every year since 1995 as long as it was "local" here in California, and I was kind of bummed about not being able to go.
I won't be able to make the Saturday night banquet as I have to get up early, but at least I'll be able "spread some wealth" Saturday from all the overtime I worked.
I'm going to 'upgrade' the handie-talkie I use for the FM satellites from a Kenwood TH-D7 to the new Kenwood TH-D72.
It's really neat, and has a built-in GPS to use with the APRS network.

I'm still 'working' on the YF to get approval for what will most likely be my "Last, New. BIG HF Radio", a Yaesu FTDX-5000MP.
My big ol' Kenwood TS-950SDX has served me well these years, but it's starting to have some problems, and parts are getting hard to come by for it. The ONLY place I'd trust to work on it is AVVID down in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and shipping this beast back will cost about $100, plus the repair charges.

Or maybe I can convince her I *really* need an Elecraft K3!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Getting Ready To Go.....

We spent most of the day securing our systems on the LP and stowing equipment for transit. We had antennas to lock down, feeds to stow, cables to pull back into the Comm Shack, and rented test equipment to get back to the shipping-receiving guys. It's kind of a drag having to work out in the 95* heat we've been having, especially after not leaving work until 2300 the night before.
The LP is leaving Thursday at 0800, and we'll follow Sunday morning around 1000.
They brought in FIVE tankers full of liquid nitrogen, and as the last of those were leaving, SIX tankers of liquid oxygen were waiting to come into the lot. The LN2 is used to chill the RP1, a kerosene-based fuel, so that it's denser and provides a bigger bang, and the LOX is used as the oxidizer.
We stocked our private "Goodie Freezer" today with an assortment of ice cream and frozen foods, and the "dry goods" will get loaded tomorrow. The food on the ship is usually quite good, but there are times when you have to work through meals. The galley is very accommodating if there's a major operation going on, and they'll bring us buffet plates to make sandwiches from, and provide us with mid-rats if we request.
I took about 30 DVDs and my laptop onboard today, and tomorrow I'll drag all my camera gear up to my office cube. I'll haul my sea bag in on Friday, and that eliminates having to drag all that stuff from my car to the ship the morning we leave.
I've been doing this long enough to appreciate the convenience of having all my stuff onboard well prior to departure!
So things are on-schedule, and we're looking forward to heading back to 154*W, 0*N for a launch!

Monday, September 5, 2011

No Rollout Today.....

Due to lightning within 60nm.
SO.......we spent the rest of the day going over our system, trying to figure out where the "missing" 20dB went from the other day when we tested it, and why the remote spectrum analyzer was acting all wacky.
We checked every connection (SMA and TNC) in the system, ruled out any network errors or timing problems, powered down/powered up, and rebooted everything, to no avail.
Finally, I decided to connect a different spectrum analyzer to the cable coming out of the switch matrix, on the off chance that the rack-mounted spec-a, just back from calibration, had a problem.
The Type-N connector soldered to the semirigid cable came off in my hand as I removed it from the input of the spec-a.
Well, at least I found it........

Sunday, September 4, 2011

ILV Transfer

Well, I only had to work 9 hours today. Yesterday I was there from 8am (a late start for me!) until 9pm, so it was another long day of testing our RF links between the spacecraft customer, and the end point on the Launch Platform.
This morning they transferred the Integrated Launch Vehicle (rocket and payload) from the Assembly and Command Ship to the Launch Platform.
I did some of my 'normal' RF work with the other Engineer I work with, and he went home about noon, as we had all our tasks for the day finished. Then I went over to the LP to help the Engineer we have come down from Seattle do the RF Spectrum Survey we always do.
The Command receivers on satellites are very sensitive, so we look for all the emitters we can find. We use an Agilent spectrum analyzer with an HPIB-to-USB adapter on a laptop running the Agilent "Bench Link" software. This allows us to do a trace capture of what the analyzer displays, and save it as a "CSV" file that we can export to an Excel spreadsheet. We sweep from 200MHz to 40GHz, going in 60* steps around the compass. This gives us 360* coverage so we can "see" any emitters out there. We do this in several ranges because we use several different antennas and low-noise preamps. Each sweep at each frequency segment and compass heading takes anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes, depending on how stringent the requirements are, and that determines how we set the analyzer for things like Resolution Bandwidth and Frequency Span. It's not an unpleasant task, but time consuming, and a bit boring at times. The harbor area is really "dirty" at certain frequency ranges, and we can spot every ship and boat with an out-of-spec radar!
Tomorrow the ILV gets rolled out, stood vertical on the pad, and our testing enters the final phase. If all goes well on Monday, we should be done by 9pm, a 14-hour day. Tuesday will be an "RnR" day, and the LP departs Wednesday morning for the launch site, and we'll leave three days later on Saturday.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Payload Rollout!!

Well, we got the "Encapsulated Payload" (the satellite inside the payload fairing) rolled out and on the assembly ship today, and they're integrating it with the rocket. We'll do a "power test" of the telemetry transmitter tomorrow, and then a live telemetry flow through the entire network Saturday.If all goes well, the Integrated Launch Vehicle will get transferred to the Launch Platform on Sunday, and we'll roll out, tilt it to vertical, and do the final tests on Monday.

Gonna be a loooong weekend!

Been Busy....Follow-Up Post Coming Soon To A Browser Near <i>YOU</i>!

 Been a week since last post. Been busy herding grandkids, playing with the dog, yard work, house items, and working on all manner of stuff....