It is already more than one month that the exciting BEXUS 12/13 launch campaign ended. After a period signed by a mix of relax, study and some additional work as well, it is finally time to tell, in brief, the story of the mission and what happened next.
The BEXUS 13 balloon, hosting ARCADE, was launched on Sept 28th and it lifted smoothly towards the sky over ESRANGE. It was really a great emotion, after a year of hard work, to see ARCADE fly and disappear into the blue.
Unfortunaltely, at T+15 minutes and after some successful manual commands, ARCADE experienced a connection dropout that prevented any further communication with the ground station. The few operations were all filmed by the onboard high definition camera, that operated properly for the whole flight.
Luckily, the experiment was retrieved in a very good shape from the mechanical and electrical point of view. In particular, the post-flight analysis revealed that the experiment was perfectly working again right after its power-on. During the little available time at ESRANGE it was not possible to recreate the same exact loss of connection occurred during the mission, however it was proved that certain command sequences could severely compromise the stability of the flight computer, making the experiment virtually uncontrollable. Other random software failures were also observed, making it the main suspect for the failure.
At the moment the experiment is on its way back to Italy, where deeper investigation will be made. In any case, it was agreed to proceed with a complete rewrite of the control software, so that ARCADE potentiality could be further exploited by presenting it in Control classes at University of Padova. The first meetings have already taken place and a new preliminary software structure was prepared.
In addition, since ARCADE survived the whole flight and demonstrated to be BEXUS-compliant, it was recently proposed to ESA as backup experiment for the upcoming flight campaign.
The proposal was ACCEPTED. This means that there is a small chance for a secont flight, which could turn into a certainty if some room becomes available onboard one of the two gondolas throughout the year: yet another another good reason to refurbish and improve the experiment as soon as possible!
For all these reasons… continue to stay tuned, because ARCADE story is not over yet!