B4 Flight Test Setbacks

The planned launches of Deimos Odyssey for 2003 failed to get very far from the surface of Black Rock Desert playa where they were to start.

Despite being loaded onto the launch tower 3 times over the weekend, none resulted in a successful launch. First on saturday, a problem with power supplies for the avionics led to the launch being scrubbed for the day to allow for time to rectify them.

Sunday, in the early morning chill, DO went through a full launch sequence, from preflight checks right down to the countdown, only for the ignition system to fail to fully start combustion, resulting in another scrub, so another team could use the launch facilities.

Finally, after a second complete run-through of the preparation and fill sequence, and completion of the countdown, ignition occured, but for reasons still being fully investigated, a rapid over-pressurisation resulted in the system shearing at its designated weak point.

This spectacularly launched most of the vehicle several hundred feet skywards, before the avionics successfully deployed parachutes to recover the payload safely. This concluded the flying, as the FAA waivers ended shortly, and the team had to head home due to the tight time constraints.

Although the lack of flight data was a disappointment for the team, the trip was a great success. It proved operation of the new N20 fill system, once again demonstrating the high calibre of avionics, and testing the rest of the procedures and checks required when making a launch. From this experience the team learnt many lessons which will be valuable in improving the system and procedures, adding to the body of knowledge already amassed from the project.