We build our payloads to suit our missions and passions. There may be a design; more often there is a vision. When some part of the payload misbehaves, we can track down a cause and adjust some hardware or update some software. When some part of the payload fails, this sets me back. Is the time and expense still worth the pursuit of the mission?
In the past year, I decided to re-factor the hardware supporting my flight computer, I thought I lost a radio, and I recently lost a power supply.
I decided to swap the Arduino Pro for the Arduino Pro Mega. I decided I needed the extra performance. The form factor led me to believe the swap would be easy and the same program should operate without change.
As I investigated further, I found a voltage differences between the GPS and the Arduino, and between the Arduino and the radio. Fortunately, there was sufficient documentation to guide me through these design changes. Additionally, breakout boards made some of the voltage conversions very simple.
Over a one month period, I re-created schematics I thought I had somewhere, and re-created an Arduino class I had lost when my previous laptop gave out. I finally had a working set up.
While working on another part of the payload, the radios stopped communicating. I contacted the manufacturer who had me perform factory resets and other trouble-shooting. I thought I’d have to buy another pair of radios ($70/radio). Thinking about what I had most recently done, I replaced the wire between the antenna and the radio. The radios were on speaking terms again.
Lastly, the Lipower Shield (top board in the photo) I use for a different part of the payload stopped working. I believe I inadvertently caused a short somewhere.
The disappointing part is the amount of work completed in adding connectors and components to the board.
Setbacks are Motivating and Educational
The re-factoring experience helped me to step back and learn more about the radio, learn more about Arduino classes and pointers, and about how to confidently use components with different voltage levels.
The possible loss of a radio has me considering how to reliably connect pieces of the payload together so that they are flight ready.
The loss of the power supply motivated me to review the power budget, experiment with the life of the batteries, and raise my awareness of changes to a system.
Setbacks are frustrating but they are part of our business when creating unique, hand-crafted payloads meant for harsh and unforgiving environments. They throw down a challenge and we decide to pick it up.
Excuse me now while I go order some more parts.