NSS testing at TRUMPF – Day 2

All in all, another pretty good day for NSS and the Space Elevator Games…

As I mentioned in the previous post, the first goal of this second day of testing was to rerun the “Optics melt test”.  TRUMPF personnel performed trouble-shooting on their system and concluded that one of the laser feed heads (unfortunately, the one we were using) was not functioning correctly and they replaced it.  The NSS optics had been left in place from the day before so they were able to quickly set up to run another test.  This time, the results were mixed.  While the beam heading into the lens was still wider than NSS had anticipated, the laser seemed to run flawlessly.  The full power (4kw) test was run for 11 minutes plus before it was halted – the laser ran without problems.

The modified Optics system ran fine, too, and was able to burn through several more gypsum boards.  NSS team members will continue to investigate why the beam was wider than their calculations indicated it should be, but they are confident that the system as-is (i.e., with a little bit better baffle than the temporary copper sheeting put into place) will perform well enough to compete.  Both Ben Shelef and John Piatt concurred.  The NSS Optics and Climber still has to be tested at 8kw (there was only a 4kw beam available at the TRUMPF site), but this will be done during the setup and testing days at the Games.

The next and final test was the tracking test, this to ensure that NSS had a way to detect and track their laser beam during a climb.  The test was originally scheduled to be held at a local airport but for a reason that I neglected to ascertain, this venue fell through.  NSS Team Member Robert then used Google Maps to locate an alternative spot, a long, flat dirt road located several miles out of town.

Here the NSS team set up their optics, tracking system and ‘device-to-be-tracked’, i.e. a pickup truck with reflective strips taped to the tailgate.  It took some time to set all this up, but by 2:00pm or so, everything was ready.  The NSS team worked as quickly as they could as they were under a bit of a time constraint as John Piatt had to head back to NASA and, besides, it was bloody cold out there.

Multiple tracking ‘runs’ were performed while Ben and John were in attendance, observing.  While it was clear that the NSS team members needed some more practice in handling their tracking device and software, it did seem that their equipment could do the job.

Based on these and the previous day’s results, Ben and John have provisionally cleared NSS to become the fourth team in the competition.  There are still a couple of hurdles they have to clear, but it is expected they will do so and, once they have done so, they will be allowed to compete for the NASA-sponsored two million dollar prize – welcome NSS!

I have added a link to the NSS team site on my blog’s sidebar under the Space Elevator Games / Teams for 2009 category.

I’ve included a few additional photos with this post, too.

Picture thumbnail #1 (topmost) is the front of the TRUMPF facility in Plymouth, Michigan where most of these tests were held.  We can never say too many times how much we appreciate TRUMPF’s stepping-up with their sponsorship of these Games.  This is a big-time (i.e. expensive) laser they have made available, along with their facilities and their personnel.  Plus, these guys are just fun to work with; competent, courteous and really wanting this whole thing to work.  Thanks again TRUMPF!

Thumbnail #2 is of the ‘brain-trust’ at the beginning of the second day of tests.  From left-to right; Ben Shelef (CEO of Spaceward – driving force behind these Games), NSS Team Member Matt Abrams, John Piatt from NASA, NSS Team member Tom (he’s from Moscow Mills Manufacturing – the suppliers, I believe, of the NSS mirror & mounts), NSS Team member Robert Windsor and Dave Marcotte from TRUMPF.

Thumbnail #3 is of NSS Team Member Robert updating his Facebook page dialing in his software.  Despite this picture’s appearances, he’s not shy, really he’s not…

Thumbnail #4 locates where NSS was running their Tracking test while Thumbnail #5 shows a view of the entire test track.  We truly did get some very strange looks from people driving by.  I’m just glad the local police either didn’t know about our testing or didn’t take an interest in it.  I can imagine the conversation now;

Officer: “And just what do you think you people are doing?”

NSS: “We’re testing how well we can track our laser.”

Officer: “You’re doing what?”

NSS: “We’re testing how well we can track our laser.  We’re going to be shooting it at this truck and if it works like we want it, we’ll be using these to power a space elevator.”

Officer (slowly moving away and speaking into his radio): “I need backup and I need it now!”

Thumbnail #6 shows NSS Team members Robert and Tim (foreground) explaining to NASA’s John Piatt what they were going to be doing and how they were going to be doing it while Ben and Matt look on.

Thumbnail #7 shows the reflective tape on the back of the target pickup while thumbnail #8 shows the laser dot on the target while it was driving down the road.

As always, you can click on any of these thumbnails to see a larger version of the picture.

One more note: NSS now has a blog which you can subscribe too.  They have a very cool photo on there of one of their team members in a canoe while wearing a vest illuminated with a laser.  Now that’s dedication!

More tomorrow including videos.  I do have some truly cool video and can’t wait to post them.

Stay tuned!

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