Zero-G Flight Tomorrow Morning

Well, we wrapped up our last day before the Zero-G flight, and now Mike Judson, Forrest and I are out in California.

We got the boom deployer and electroadhesive gripper integrated. We fixed the pad that had come off. We did some tests, we packed and cleaned up the Vault (thanks Deb and everyone else for being patient with the mess!), and we flew out to San Jose.

During one of the tests, we had one of the traces in our ribbon cable die on us. We rewired the ribbon cable to route around the damaged wire, and things are working again, but the ribbon cable bonding technique we chose is apparently fairly marginal. So, we also had Forrest fly out with us, and he’s working with Steve Traugott tonight to wire up a backup plan in case the ribbon cable craps out on us again. Steve runs a company that does custom coax cables, so the backup will be two coax lines that will just be floppy when the boom is retracted. If we have to use the backup, it’s not the most elegant solution, but it isn’t the key thing we’re trying to prove out with the flight. Our key goal with the flight is to demonstrate that the gripper can work on an unrestrained target in zero-gravity conditions. If the support hardware isn’t perfectly high fidelity that’s a bummer, but a reasonable hack to get the data we care about.

Long term I’d like to upgrade to one of the Rolatube designs they do with integrated cables, but for now we just need something to work for enough parabolas tomorrow to prove out our sticky boom concept in a relevant environment, and retire enough risk to be able to honestly claim we’re into TRL-5 with the technology.

Wish us luck, tomorrow is going to be an exciting day!

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