PART 1: The cockpit camera isn't working


Journal for 9/27/95
Juan Rivera - Senior Electronic Technician / Telescope Operator

It has been a long struggle to get the KAO to the point it is at now.  
As I am writing this I have no idea if I will even have a job two weeks 
the budget.  NASA is trying to cut five billion dollars out of their slice 
of the pie in the next five years.  As a result, the KAO will be shut down 
after the Live From the Stratosphere flight on the 13th of next month.

In spite of the tremendous stress and uncertainty that everyone is facing, 
the whole KAO staff have been breaking their necks to get ready for these 
flights.  It is people like these that make this project so unique.  
I feel that it is an honor and a real privilege to work with folks like 
these.  Knowing that many of us will be out of work and scattered in all 
directions in a few weeks is very very sad, but we will do our very best 
right to the last day to try to get the KAO ready.

I have not been flying as a telescope operator lately; instead I have
moved more into electronic maintenance.  I was picked to design and build 
the video system for the LFS flights.  It's been a real challenge, and 
my background in broadcast television sure came in handy.  This is an 
extremely complex technical challenge, especially for a group of 
non-broadcast engineers.  These broadcasts from the stratosphere have 
never been done before by anyone.  There is no one on earth that would 
find this project easy.  That's exactly why I love this type of work!

Among other things, we will have six little "lipstick" cameras located 
throughout the cabin and cockpit which can be selected from a position in 
the back of the airplane.  Almost all the work is done now and the system 
looks very robust and reliable.  The only remaining problem was the fact 
that the camera in the cockpit was very blue and had no red in the picture 
at all.  Was it a bad camera?  Bad lighting?  Or was the cable connecting 
it to the equipment rack defective?  I looked into it yesterday and after 
substituting a known good camera and replacing sections of cable one at a 
time I realized that everything was OK.  (This process of trying to isolate 
a faulty component is called "trouble shooting")  So why didn't it work 
properly?  I called the tech support person at the camera company and found 
out the reason.  The camera cannot have more than 30 meters of cable between 
the camera and the control box.  If you exceed thirty meters it simple stops 
working and there is nothing that can be done about it.  I had 35 meters 
of cable. If we are going to have a picture from the little cockpit camera 
I have to find a way to get from the camera to the control box with 
one 30 meter cable.

Right now the cable is routed along a path that takes it under the 
telescope and then up along the port (left) bulkhead near the ceiling.  
Once it gets back past the Mission Directors Console it cuts across to 
the other side of the plane and then comes back down to the deck.  It is 
just too long.  I measured everything and checked and double checked 
looking for a shorter path.  The only way to do it is to run the cable 
under the raised floor.  This is going to be a huge job for Jim Mills, 
the KAO Avionics person.  We'll have to pull the floor boards up and move 
the experimenters rack and the seats to gain access.  Then Jim will have 
to crawl under there and run the cable and secure it.  I really hate to 
do this to them but there is no other way.  And it will have to be 
done tomorrow on the day of the very last research flight of the KAO.  
Jim works the swing shift so he won't get to work until about 1:00 PM.  
It is going to be extremely difficult to get all this work done and also 
prepare for the flight.  Any "normal" group of people would simply say 
that it was impossible...not enough time...too much work...  

But if there is a way, these guys will get the job done.


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