Bench-top Testing at 12K Feet

Closest thing to testing the star tracker on a balloon floating at 120000 feet? Testing on the top Colorado’s Loveland Pass. Even in mid-June, it was cold as hell up at 1am. This night kicked off Jed and Zach’s marathon week in hell preparing for thermal vac testing in Palestine Texas.

A bit about the setup, its pretty much the most ridiculous feat of engineering when you think about it.

We had to run my 4Runner (harnessing gas explosions to output DC power), converted to 125V AC, then sent to a cart across the parking lot. That AC power plugged into a standard DC power supply, which then provided DC power to our EPS system. FINALLY, now the DC power was converted, regulated, and distributed across the DayStar test system. Hoo Rah!

Also, despite using tens of thousands of dollars of custom equipment, code, and engineering design, the best lens we had up until this point was Zach’s dinky little ‘nifty-fifty’, Canon 50mm f1.8 lens. It was taped to a cardboard box, which was then taped to our delicate sensor board. But it works! Better than the custom telescope we had built for us originally, which costs about 50 times as much! This was the first experiment where we really began to see good results, and it was a good feeling.

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