Texas Integration

To fly a balloon experiment around Antarctica requires significant preparation.  NASA requires a "qualifying flight" from Texas for any payload that will be flown from Antarctica.  The test flight is required to assure both the scientists who built the payload and NASA that the experiment is fully functional before the real Antarctic launch.   Finally, just before shipping the payload to Antarctica the science team must return to Texas again to fully assemble the payload and integrate it with the NASA LDB flight communication systems.  Here are a few pictures from our final integration in  August, 1998.
The payload, hanging from "Tiny Tim", the Texas launch vehicle.  The dark panels on the back of the payload are the solar panels used to power it in flight. Here's part of our team, during the final phase of integration and testing during a very hot summer in Texas.



In the foreground we see the green buildings of Scott Base, the New Zealand Antarctic facility.  The background shows the Ross Ice Shelf where our high bay and Willy Field are located.
This is the inside of the high bay.  Upon our arrival in Antarctica our first task was to set up our lab space.  On the right you see the computing facility that we assembled and on the left is the payload staging area where BOOMERANG was assembled.
Here is a backlit image of the gondola frame being assembled.  The white wall is the cloth door which lifts to allow the payload to be taken out of the building. 


In order to evaluate the telescope performance various tests were performed in which BOOMERANG observed bright sources. 
It is also crucial to coordinate operations between the science team and the launch team.  Here is shown one of a several of these compatibility tests.
Finally, once the package is fully assembled we are able to check the operation of all systems.  These tests include not only the operation of the detectors but all supporting equipment, such as location and orientation (attitude) sensors.


In order to launch the balloon it is necessary to move the experiment to the launch pad; a large, flat open space with hardpacked snow.    This picture shows the package and the flight train which connects the balloon and the package, ready for launch.
Once on the launch pad the balloon in inflated, connected to the package, and launched.  Here we see the balloon partially inflated with Mt. Terror in the background. 
Launch is a stressful and exciting time;  an unsuccessful launch would end the project.  Here is BOOMERANG 
immediately after launch, rapidly climbing through the atmosphere.
Finally, here is the package at an altitude of 9 miles.   The package continues to climb to an altitude of approximately 120,000 feet (22 miles) where the atmosphere is less than 1 percent of its density at sea level.

Landing and Recovery

After the flight is done, the payload is separated from the balloon  free falls for several miles. Once the atmosphere is sufficiently dense a parachute on the package opens. This picture displays BOOMERANG on that parachute immediately prior to landing. 
Here is a view from above of the landing site.  Upon touchdown it is necessary to send a team to inspect and recover the package. 
This shot shows how the package was recovered.  We were fortunate that the package landed in an accessible location near McMurdo.  A helicopter to carried BOOMERANG back to the base.