Hi everyone, my name is Enda McKenna and I am a second year PhD student involved in ionospheric radio transmissions in the L-band (~400 MHz) and although this REXUS project does not relate directly to my studies I am very excited about being part of the team and am learning lots during the process.
I joined the REXUS PIOneERS team shortly after the selection workshop in which the project was successful in application to be included on the REXUS 23/24 campaign. An opportunity to launch an experiment into space is not to be passed up!
My role with the project started as being in charge with the Experiment Control and Data Acquisition Unit (ECDAU) which is basically the brains of the experiment as it is composed of the on-board computer (OBC), power units and the software required to run the mission successfully. At some point we decided to give our sub-systems silly names and it was decided that this would be called BUZZ after the Apollo 11 pioneer Buzz Aldrin. (And the fact that radios go buzz … 😂)
BUZZ needs to be able to interface with all the various sensors for monitoring the experiment, execute commands to deploy the boom, take experimental measurements from ImP (the science part), communicate readings back to ground during flight and also to record full HD video from two cameras which not only verifies that the project functioned as desired but also to give us some pretty pictures from the edge of space!
Taking the requirements of the project and deciding on actual hardware amounts to a trade off between the processing power needed, power consumption limitations and physical space available on the rocket – this resulted in two Raspberry Pi computers being used in the design. Raspberry Pi’s are common hobbyist computers that people use at home but they have been used in many low cost space missions in the past so we are confident that they are reliable.
We just got back from DLR in Germany where we presented our finalised design to a team of experienced experts who went through it with a fine toothed comb. Happily we got through the interrogation without any problem and the team seem to be satisfied that we thought of most if not all of the difficulties ahead. It will be a rough road to get everything manufactured and fully functioning before integration week later in the year but we are empowered by the positive feedback received and optimistic for the future!
After the CDR I had the fortune of being selected for a European Space Agency (ESA) soldering course. I must admit that my initial thoughts were that I know how to solder and have been doing so for years, however, the harshness of the space environment and the extreme vibrations that experiments are subjected to during launch put extra stresses on all components that needs to be pre-empted in order for a successful mission.
This was a two day course with one person from each REXUS team attending so 10 students in total. The tutor, Mr. Leo Schöberle, a man with enthusiastic energy that one cannot fail to enjoy, managed to give a rewarding mix of theory and practice which conveyed so much information that will be invaluable not only for the REXUS mission but for future years ahead in my anticipated space career.