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Cosmic Diary

No Turkeys in the Cleanroom

1 Dec 2009, 18:54 UTC
No Turkeys in the Cleanroom
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I’d like to shine a light on some of the unsung heroes of the WISE project – the cryo ops crew. They’ve been babysitting WISE 24/7 ever since it arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base and cooled down on October 23rd. All spacecraft require attention, but WISE needs extra TLC because of the 40 lbs of hydrogen that’s now frozen solid in its cryogen tanks. In order to keep it frozen solid at about 7 degrees above absolute zero (Kelvin; or -445 F), we have to constantly circulate a refrigerating gas through loops that gird the outside of the tanks. These are sort of like the cooling coils in your fridge at home. But in this case, the refrigerant is liquid helium at a frosty 4 Kelvin (-452 F). Needless to say, we go through a lot of liquid helium to do this – something like 1000 liters (264 gallons) per day! So the ops crew has been extremely busy keeping that cryostat safe and cold. They’re craning two giant 500 liter tanks of liquid helium up to the top of the rocket every day to keep WISE cold now, and they’ll keep this up all the way until about ...

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