Pegasus-NAE Day 3

Leaving Boise, ID in the morning we traveled over 180 miles to the NAE camp in the Alvord Desert.  The terrain varied from bucolic to mountainous, but always sparse in terms in people or conveniences. Once arriving at the camp, we quickly greeted the NAE team and began the process of setting up the Internet satellite communications network (SATCOM).  The SATCOM is critical as it bridges communications begin the global audience and the NAE vehicle on the ground.

Our surprise of the day was the 507 lbs. SATCOM would not be able to get into its upright position was in the back of the truck.  The problem required us to offload the equipment to the desert floor and get a clear line of sight to the satellite at ground level.  The task was not overly difficult and the SATCOM’s automated procedures created the link and operationalized its WiFi network.

The next task was to ensure that the Field Gateway is connected to the NAE local network.  This required that the MAC address of the Field Gateway’s computer be added as a static IP client to the NAE gateway node.  This did not initially work as expected and with the help of Steve Wallace from NAE, we quickly diagnosed the issue and resolved.

The device is operational, but exhibits a temperamental behavior. When the device’s app starts after boot, the serial connections from the sensors do not always begin transmitting measurements.  However,  if the app is restarted the behavior is resolved.  If the device is rebooted, the issue is reintroduced. Mark is trying to find a workaround to resolve and reduce complexity in the field.

The 2 drones were successfully tested and will be able to perform some aerial video in the field.  Our hope is to get some incredible aerial shots of the NAE as it speeds across the desert floor.  The run is an outstanding 10.5 miles, which increases the safety factor and possibly speed.

We are operationalized for Day 4, which includes a test run by Ed Shadle in the afternoon. We will test our equipment and software in the hostile conditions of the Alvord Desert and attempt bring a glimpse of what is about to come.  We will fly 1 drone for video and check the connectivity with the Field Gateway and NAE local network across the 7-10 mile stretch of the run.  I am sure a few unexpected surprises all be waiting for us.

Be sure to sign up for SMS notifications, so we can notify you when the runs starts.  You can check out the Web site or use the mobile apps (search Pegasus Mission and download the Pegasus Mission – NAE app) to watch the test run on Tuesday.  You can send friendly message to the NAE vehicle over the Web site and mobile app…we encourage it after notifications are sent.   We will send link out to the Day 3 pictures on the Twitter feed @PegasusMission.

Buttoned up on end of Day 3, we begin the 2.5+ hour, 150 mile drive to the hotel.

God speed Ed Shadle and Jessi Combs.

Dare Might Things 🙂

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Pegasus-NAE Day 2

The Pegasus team has arrived in Boise, ID to make the 180+ mile drive to the NAE camp in the Alvord Desert in Oregon on Monday Sept. 25, 2016. The last of the logistical needs were finished with brief shopping trips to Best Buy, Target, and Home Depot. We will caravan a car, SUV, and the truck with the SATCOM to the base camp Monday morning with an expected arrival around 12pm. The truck, with SATCOM, will remain at the base camp until NAE’s mission is finished.

The team will be staying at night in Burns, OR (130 miles from camp) until after the last NAE run.

Our job Monday will be to operationalize the SATCOM, then run a test confirming bidirectional communications between the Field Gateway, the device running on NAE local area network, and the user applications.

How hard can it be?

There is one tongue-and-cheek thing we say about a Pegasus mission, which the North American Eagle (NAE) team has their own version:

“How hard can be it?”

While NAE is focused of racing near the speed of sound, the Pegasus Mission team is focused on delivering a global audience this dramatic event of fire and speed in real-time through research technologies. Our part is small in comparison to the NAE effort, but is also extremely challenging.

The difficulties are far beyond what a person using an app might expect. That is because we are dealing with a real-world situation and extreme circumstances, not a tightly constrained demo. Because of the realities of doing something live, in real-time, and not done before, it accentuates everything. A slight miscalculation, bad weather, wonky sensor, loss of Internet, or hardware malfunction, and the show is cancelled for the moment you have been preparing. All the man hours spent in preparation by a large team can be lost. That is the chance our team accepts and it is truly noble effort. The conditions that we are working limit your ability to test something. For example, you cannot setup a 9 mile WiFi network with someone else’s equipment to test connectivity, or test a device while undergoing extreme G-forces and speeds up to 700mph…it just not feasible. It is risky business to be public about these endeavors, but if we didn’t the audience could never witness an extraordinary event. This is the place where technology meets harm’s way, and it drives meaningful innovation.

The sensor package, camera, and display in the cockpit of the NAE weigh very little, but is takes nearly 800 lbs. of equipment, including a 500 lbs. satellite network, to get operationalized. There is networking to be done to get our Internet connection established, as well as the networking provided by the NAE to us to connect to the cockpit. There also end-2-end system testing to produce the results from runs. That is only the cost of admission. We must coordinate our drone flights with overhead airplane observations as well as follow (to the letter) all the safety protocols. Once we have established the operational frame, we must choreograph the event. Timing cannot be off by even a single minute; people must be in position up and down the run line and technology fully operational at the same time…stuff must work together at the right time.

The other invisible part of the Pegasus-NAE mission is logistics. The environment is a desert devoid on anything. You must take everything with you, food, water, restroom, equipment, etc. If you forget something, then it’s not available. The daily round trip to and from the hotel is 320 miles, not feasible to make a “quick” trip to pick up and odd or end. It is a guarantee that you will not have something you need at some point in time. Some of the most humorous moments can occur when forced to be resourceful…your war stories.

We try, and try hard, but success is still never a guarantee. This is the nature of pushing the envelope, of doing what has not been done before. When success is gained, it very earned. None of the Pegasus or NAE teams will receive any monetary benefit, in fact it will cost us financially. There will be no reward beyond the personal satisfaction of an accomplishment of something previously impossible. If our work inspires a single person to become a STEM explorer, that is reward enough.

God speed Ed Shadle and Jessi Combs, god speed.

Dare Mighty Things

Pegasus-NAE Day 1

Day 1 is purely for logistics needs.  We must pick up the large and heavy satellite communications gear needed to establish an Internet connection from the remote Alvord Desert where North American Eagle will make her runs.

Much confusion as entered the frame on the SATCOM during the last 48 hours.  When the Waybill was analyzed, the expected of 205 lbs. weight had ballooned to 507 lbs. Totally unexpected.  Further information told us that the dimensions where also considerably larger than what we had obtained for transportation.  With the SATCOM is transit, there is nothing to do but change the type of vehicle to haul it.

The arrangements were made, but only to find out after arrival in Boise, ID, that the dimensions did not consider the wheel wells of the rented truck. A trip to pick up the SATCOM at FedEx confirmed that the truck was too small.  Finally, with a bigger truck, i.e., 15′, we could get the SATCOM loaded with a forklift.

The plan will be to not remove the equipment from the truck and hopefully point the dish out of the back at the satellite. Otherwise, this is going to be an ordeal to unload and load the equipment from the truck.

Day 1 in the books.  The rest of the teams arrives tomorrow and we will obtain more odds and ends before traveling to the desert Sunday morning (180 miles) and rendezvous with the NAE team to begin setup.

Users Guide North American Eagle

Our ask is to please share on your social network for awareness for this event.

The apps, Web and mobile, allow you watch and participate in the North American Eagle race for the land speed record. The apps perform 3 functions:

  1. Watch the real-time telemetry from our device in the cockpit of the NAE
  2. Virtual Cockpit of  previous runs with video and telemetry from NAE’s onboard system.
  3. Send a friendly message  to the NAE team or pilot that will displayed and recorded in the cockpit.

The mobile apps are ready in the Apple, Google, and Microsoft app stores.  Search for “Pegasus Mission” and select the Pegasus Mission-NAE app and download.

The Web site for NAE experiment is here.

Text message notifications are here.

Each run the North American Eagle takes, approx. 8 miles only takes about 3-4 minutes from start to finish.  There are 7 scheduled runs and the timing of each run is nondeterministic.  You will want to sign up for text message notifications , so we can notify you when a run is about to start.  We will also let you know about any video or records broken immediately following the runs.

 

Why is North American Eagle Important?

The impressive thing about North American Eagle (NAE) is not just the engineering of the vehicle, it is the people.  When you attempt to challenge the frontiers of the possible with seemingly impossible obstacles, it is likely to become inspirational.

Understanding NAE and the race for the land speed record is story more about people than engineering.  The odds are long and success is not a guarantee. This simple fact becomes the gravity where we relate our own life experiences to their challenge.  It is this tacit exchange where the struggle to achieve is absorbed on an individual basis.  We love the underdog because we are the underdog.

NAE’s story started over 17 years ago and during that time it has taken an enormous team of volunteers to make the attempt possible. Those 17 years will translate into a focal point for 2 critical minutes where machine, pilot, and crew challenge the barrier of the impossible with the drama of fire and speed.

Disappointment is a possibility, but failure is not in the vocabulary. It is the effort, a Herculean effort, where the attempt to succeed is more important than the success itself.  That’s the part of the human experience we connect.  They carry all of us them onboard the NAE…the underdogs.

NAE will triumph and one day rest in museum.  It will be tribute to the underdogs, the dreamers, and those with the will to challenge assumptions about what is possible. That is why breaking the land speed record is important.

Dare Mighty Things 🙂

The Adventure within the Adventure

The Pegasus Mission will bring you a live telemetry broadcast and hopefully a live video broadcast of a new world land speed record from the remote Alvord Desert in southeastern Oregon, thanks to North American Eagle (NAE).  With luck, Ed Shadle and Jessi Combs will each pilot the NAE into the history books being the fastest people on travel on land. The NAE is a modified F-104 Starfighter, once capable of MACH 2.8 in the air, but now capable of 835 mph on land. It is a 17-year project in the making, and The Pegasus Mission is honored to support the effort of a team of true heroes that challenge the frontiers of STEM and human ingenuity to benefit us all.

Our task is to broadcast real-time telemetry from the NAE to mobile and Web apps as the NAE screams across the desert floor to a global audience in milliseconds from the event, i.e., real-time IoT at the speed of sound. We will also capture the onboard telemetry (~60K msg/sec)  and video and upload so you can view the thrill of the runs on demand with views from the cockpit and our 2 drones. You will also be able to send a friendly message to the NAE team through the apps and have it captured on video directly behind the pilot’s seat. This noble team has spent nearly 2 decades for this moment and your support by sending a simple message is reward enough.  We thank you in advance.

The entire event is challenging beyond belief, because it is not “only” an engineering and technology challenge, it is also an extreme logistics challenge. Consider it requires a small city to constructed on the desert floor to execute this event. There are no amenities much less water, food, bathrooms, fuel, electricity, or Internet available. If you don’t bring it with you, it’s not going to be available. The NAE burns 90 gallons of fuel per minute and is schedule to make 8 runs. This requires 2,000 gallons of jet fuel to be transported onto the desert floor…and that’s just the cost of admission for the 35-member crew.

Our part is far less extensive in terms of logistical needs, but has to be managed. Vehicles, rooms, planned fuel stops, a 7x4x3 205 lb. SATCOM, MREs, batteries, UPS, routers, video equipment, water, ice chests, chairs, drones, computers, chargers, extension cords, generator, etc., etc. all need to be addressed and coordinated. A constant stream of development and testing on the applications that will bring this event to a global audience is equally demanding before publishing to you. Splice this together with a well-orchestrated communications plan so the audience can know what is happening and when, and you have complex choreography with our skeleton Pegasus field crew.

Locked in on the week of Sept 24, we will meet the challenge head-on and do our best to bring a global audience and experience they can participate … at the speed of sound.

Dare Mighty Things and bring the future into the present.

Stay tuned 🙂