BETTII (Balloon Experimental Twin Telescope for Infrared Interferometry) has received the green light for launch at 9:00 p.m. CT tonight from Palestine, TX. In addition to NASA’s launch pad webcam and GPS tracking, Matt Jones from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences will be on site filming.
In honor of the launch, Weststar Precision donated the telescope mount assembled by NCSU PEC student Alyssa Edwards for display at the Nature Research Center in Raleigh.
The NCSU PEC team designed the all-aluminum external mirrors and mounting structures that Weststar Precision machined. They then diamond-turned the 6 large external mirrors. Two, critical, 22″ diameter primary mirrors were off-axis parabola cut using the PEC’s one-of-a-kind fast tool servo, FLORA II.
BETTII was on the launch pad in Fort Sumner, New Mexico last October. Weather forced the mission to be scrubbed. The NASA team has been on site in Texas since Sunday awaiting favorable weather, which it seems they now have. The flight time is planned for 9 hrs and will take the 2-ton assembly over West Texas, where the balloon will be ripped open so the assembly can descend under parachute.
The goal of the mission is to study star formation, galaxy evolution, and the formation of planetary systems around other stars. Success may lead to additional flights for BETTII and eventually a space-borne version.
Let’s hope for the best!