The NAE’s 2nd test run began Tuesday Sept 27, 2016 with the purpose of verifying all systems were operational. This run tests the steering and the engine’s capability to move in and out of its different modes, including full afterburner. Shortly after NAE began down the course , the hydraulics on the steering system failed as in the 1st test run, but with a different issue.
Disappointed and with only 2 days left for speed runs, the NAE team need parts to address the steering issue. The parts are available, but it will take a 24-hour trip to just retrieve them and return to base camp, thus loosing another day. Hope is not lost, because NAE is both master of innovation and resourcefulness.
Plan – Build a Runaway in the Desert
The parts will be delivered to an airfield near Tacoma, WA, where a pilot will make a daring night flight to carry the parts to base camp. The Alvord Desert is a remote and dark place at night increasing the difficultly of even spotting it. Add the fact that Alvord is “sandwiched” inside Oregon’s Steen mountains, which rise over 4,500 feet above the desert floor and you need an exceptional pilot to meet this challenge. The NAE team will create a makeshift runaway in the flat smooth desert and light it up with flares for the pilot. A safe landing and the parts should be available by 10PM PDT, saving an entire day for racing. WOW!!!
One of the most interesting discoveries on Day 5 occurred when a check on the GPS data from NAE’s onboard telemetry system yielded some brief gaps. GPS measurements are taken at a rate of 50/sec and use both American and Russian GPS satellites with a lock on 12-19 satellites. You can see from the picture taken below that gaps exist in the satellites transmissions. Intuitively, the thought was that either the GPS sensor or board had an issue…not the case.
Weather is certainly a factor for NAE, but we never thought that space weather would come into play. The issue with the brief gaps in GPS is not NAE’s electronics results from geomagnetic storm which impacts the GPS satellites as well as some of the radio communications in the field. Mystery solved and will have to live with the issue for the duration of the event.
The North American Eagle team is an amazing group of experts. Their ability to address these challenges comes from what all STEM explorers know…regardless of how well you plan and prepare, the real-world is not a controlled lab and will throw you some interesting obstacles to overcome. It is the necessary WILL to make these attempts in the face of obstacles that is required to advance STEM and learn through difficult experiences, and inspire others.
Dare Mighty Things 🙂