The first launch day of the year was reserved for the CanSat competition which was held on March 28th 2018. This was done in collaboration with NEMO, just like last year. During this day, a total of 10 high school teams launched their small satellites. The high school students had been working very hard on their satellites during the previous months. All of these satellites were approximately of the size of a coke-can. With these mini-satellites they were planning to measure temperature, pressure, radiation and other phenomena.
A small, but experienced crew arrived at ASK ‘t Harde on Tuesday 27th of March to prepare for the launch day. This included the final preparations for the three rockets as well as the installation of the rocket engines in the motor sections. Furthermore, the launch tower had to be assembled and the 400 meters of igniters cables had to be rolled out. Although the day went very smoothly, the last job proofed to be the most problematic for the crew. Multiple test fires of the ignition line indicated that the system wasn’t working reliably enough to ensure for a smooth launch day on Wednesday. DARE’s electronic engineers worked on the problem during the evening in the scouting and managed to eliminate the problem.
The next morning at 05:30, the crew woke up to start the launch day and, after a proper breakfast and packing, the crew arrived at around 7 ‘o clock at ASK ‘t Harde. This time schedule was earlier than usual, the reason for this was to ensure that all rockets could be launched before the launch window would close at noon. Fearing for sub-zero temperatures and heavy rain, as it had been predicted, the team was pleasantly surprised by the weather conditions. It was moderately warm and, most importantly, dry. All high school teams arrived before 08:00, at which point it became immediately clear that they all had come well prepared.
The first five teams passed our final inspection and were mounted into the first rocket, after that, it was sent to the pad for integration with the engine. At 09:54, this first rocket was launched and it preformed as expected, deploying the CanSats at 1000 meters altitude and landing safely underneath its own parachute. While the first teams were still processing the data, the second rocket was being loaded with the CanSats of the other teams. At 10:45 the launch of the second rocket happened, and it was as successful as the initial one, deploying all satellites at its highest point.
Since DARE had a backup rocket that was fully assembled, it was decided to launch it. Two high school teams, which had problems with the telemetry on their first attempt, were allowed a second chance on this backup rocket. Additionally, the standard parachute of the rocket was replaced with the backup flight parachute of Stratos III. This was done to have additional flight data on that parachute. Two minutes before noon, the rocket lifted off from the tower and repeated the success of the two previous launches.
After this last launch, the team quickly disassembled everything and finished packing just as the rain started to fall down. All in all, the launch campaign went smoothly with no real problems and purely successful launches.