Sunday, August 28, 2011

Desert RATS - Day 1 - dry run #1

First day on the site. Arrived at 9 AM to unpack the boxes, cut through Danny's bubble wrap & lots of tape artwork, and set up VAPoR.

Just a short refresher - VAPoR stands for Volatile Analysis by Pyrolysis of Regolith, and is a pyrolysis mass spectrometer or evolved gas analyzer. The concept is that small soil samples are heated in one of VAPoR's ovens to at least 1000 °C at a fixed heating rate (10, 20, or 40 °C/min). Due to this heating gases evolve from the soil. Each gas evolves at a different temperature and the composition of the gases is measured by a mass spectrometer. By plotting the gas evolution as function of temperature we get information about the composition of the sample (for more info click here).

New this time is the Sample Manipulation System (SMS), a carousel containing the ovens, built by Honeybee Robotics.

As usual a field testing campaign starts with some hick-ups. This time it was the motor of the SMS, but fortunately Erik Mumm, the Honeybee who designed and built the carousel, is also part of the team, so that was fixed pretty quickly.

Charles Malespin and Erik put together the setup, while I took care of the necessary documentation:

The remainder of the day was spent plugging VAPoR into different power sources and after some hassle, a tripped power box and a very noisy generator, we managed to find an outlet that actually worked. 

The only slight problem that still needs to be fixed is the overheating of the turbopump. Although we were promised some not too hot weather (85F/30°C), it is still getting quite warm inside our turbopump box. First goal for tomorrow - get a better fan. Hope it will be cooling off enough for us to have a "cold" start tomorrow morning.

Erik was kind enough to make sure we would remember his participation in this trip, by first locking his car keys in the trunk...

... and then killing the car tire

Fortunately, he's good at fixing things. 

Dry run #2 tomorrow! 

1 comment:

  1. cool one. . is it a solar car??? my question is: a natural gas can it affect the homeostatic behavior in the environment??
    vapor recovery unit