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Launching ALPHA

Friday night.

Friday was a frenetic day. We had to finish testing ALPHA’s avionics, we had to run one last simulation and we had to drive to Huesca, where the launch site was located. Everything ran smoothly
and in the afternoon we packed our tools and rode our cars, carefully placing ALPHA in the back of one vehicle. After all those working hours, we finally were ready to launch ALPHA! Even though some of our crew members aren’t as good at using Google maps as at doing maths, we all arrived at the meeting place in the end. But it wasn’t time to celebrate, there were just a handful of hours until we launched, and everything had to be prepared by then. The avionics team had a problem with the radio link, so they worked against the clock to try to fix it. As you can check in the picture below, all of them were so focused on the job they didn’t even realize we were taking photos.

Meanwhile, the other crew members were working on some details while enjoying dinner at our hostel. Then, we had a well needed good night’s sleep.

Saturday morning

Not all of our crew members enjoy getting up at 8 am on the weekend, but today was a special day and they didn’t complain much. As soon as we arrived at the launch site, Edu, the chief avionics, and his team started to check the RF link and the code that would transform the binary signal that ALPHA was emitting to legible data.

When they finished it was time to measure and weight our rocket, so with the devices that the Tripoli team kindly lend us we were able to tell that ALPHA weighted 0.73 kg.

                                                              

The rest of the team, under the supervision of our beloved Pedro, one of the faculties helping us, assembled the launching tower and got everything ready for the key moment:

And there was ALPHA, waiting to take off under the curious look of a group of students that gave a step forward and decided that it was no rocket science to build a rocket. All in all, they knew that with effort and hard work they could achieve their goals.


T-3
T-2
T-1
T-0

      

Much faster than a Formula 1 ALPHA climbed through the sky so high that we weren’t able to see clearly if the parachute had opened. Everybody was so tense. But suddenly, a red dot was visible, and with the parachute fully opened ALPHA was safely descending. We were all so cheerful and happy. When it landed we took it and checked that everything was OK.

Back in Bilbao, even though during the flight the RF system failed due to wave interferences that the antennas created, we were able to read all flight data. ALPHA carried an SD card module precisely for this case, and it had correctly recorded all sensor data. This enabled us to thoroughly study what happened when ALPHA was roaring through the sky.

With a total mission success on our first launch, we are now a bit closer to our final target: reaching 100 km.

In the pictures below you can check the acceleration and height data of ALPHA:

A huge thanks to the crew members that made this possible:

Here is a video of our journey launching ALPHA:

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