Saturday, May 7, 2011

BTS-1 Launch Schedule

Our current launch window extends from 10:50 AM to 2:02 PM on May 8, 2011. Current launch target time is 11:03 AM. 

Tonight we discussed many of the things that we could encounter during our mission. One thing has become very clear; What you can't predict, you cannot prevent. So we are doing final planning and coming up with contingency procedures in case something does go wrong. Better to be prepared than not. 

Below is the schedule for the next 11 hours. 

T-11 hours
▪   Weather and engineering briefings
▪   Flight crew equipment late stow (so our cupcakes and chocolate stay fresh!)
▪   Perform ascent switch list
▪   Crew goes to sleep
▪   Activate the capsule’s fuel cells (or in other words, charge all the batteries)

T-6 hours
▪   Mission Management Team and launch director receive weather update
▪   Launch team verifies no violations of launch commit criteria before loading the external tank (or balloon) with helium

T-3 hours
- Crew walk-up call
▪   Perform inertial measurement unit preflight calibration
▪   Align BTS-1 Launch Area (Houston) tracking antennas

T-30 minutes
▪   External tank (balloon) loading with helium

T-20 minutes
▪   Crew departs for the launch site and, upon arriving at the site, begins entry into the capsule
▪   Complete close-out preparations
▪   Check cockpit switch configurations
▪   BTS-1 crew perform air-to-ground voice checks with Launch Control and Mission Control
▪   Close the capsule crew hatch and check for leaks
▪   Transition the capsule’s onboard computers to launch configuration

T-9 minutes
▪   Final launch window determination
▪   Activate flight recorders
▪   Final "go/no-go" launch polls conducted by Test Director, Mission Management Team and launch director
▪   Start automatic ground launch sequencer
▪   Crew members close and lock their visors (T-2 minutes, 0 seconds)
▪   Capsule transfers from ground to internal power (T-50 seconds)
▪   Ground launch sequencer is go for auto sequence start (T-31 seconds)
▪   Activate launch area sound suppression system (T-16 seconds) (asking people to be quiet)
▪   Main engine start (T0 seconds) – letting go of the balloon


  1. When the balloon goes pop/bang (whatever Helium balloons do :D), i assume it plummets like a stone. How does it avoid smashing into something, like a house? How do you not get sued?


  2. John - that's a very good question.

    Yes, once the balloon pops there is a couple of seconds of weightlessness and then the payload comes crashing back. Since the atmosphere is not dense enough up there, the drag shut doesn't fully extend and open. But once the air is a little thicker, the parachute will slow down the decent. Yes, it could land anywhere. That's the risk.