To the edge of space (and back!)

Posted by JonM on 3 June 2009

Two weeks ago we sent our buddy AHAB3 up into the air. About two hours into the flight and 56062 feet up, we stopped getting position updates. We could hear it transmitting, but it just kept repeating the same position.

Our recovery teams drove around and tried to use the secondary beacon to figure out where it was. We got some good headings using the direction-finding equipment, but then lost all signal from the payload.

We headed back to Seattle, sure we had lost a third payload.

Last Tuesday, 3ric got a call on his cell phone. A forest ranger in Idaho had stumbled across our bumblebee! He hiked it out, and a few days later shipped it off to us.

Monday morning we got a nice present at the lab, gingerly removed the SD card, and were greeted with:

The edge of space

Tonight the we're going to go over the payload with a fine-toothed comb, and catalogue what's broken and what's still working. A number of systems malfunctioned during the flight, so it's vital to know why if we want to do this again.

More photos can be found here

Posted in: Featured, The Lab  

5 Responses

  1. FriendlyInternetCommenter Said,

    Very fun project. I would love to be involved in it if I was around your location. 59,062 feet sounds suspiciously close to the 60K feet legal limit for GPS. In fact, it is almost exactly 18,000 meters which is the number most manufacturers use for the limit.

    Civilian units are supposed to stop reporting above that height (though some are lax about implementation) - units that function above that are restricted material.
    If GPS was the only way you were receiving coordinate data, it's possible the GPS module stopped updating its position because it was over the limit, and simply repeated the last known legal coordinates.

    Posted on June 7th, 2009 at 5:24 pm

  2. FriendlyInternetCommenter Said,

    Oops, I am dyslexic. 56092 vs 59062. But it is close enough to the limit that I would still be suspicious.

    Posted on June 7th, 2009 at 5:30 pm

  3. Andre Said,

    FrendlyInternetCommenter, there are many GPS which will work above 60k feet, most of the Trimble ones do. They are only required to stop operating above 60k feet when also above 1000Mph.

    JonM, Cool balloon project :) hope you find out what went wrong.

    Posted on June 18th, 2009 at 4:46 am

  4. Todd Stowe Said,

    I have a TNC, a TinyTrak3+. Will Payload Tracker work with it? (I'm planning on doing a high altitude launch myself)

    Posted on January 22nd, 2010 at 4:53 am

  5. Deciding on a Telemetry System Said,

    [...] I’ve seen a lot of successful projects with only one telemetry system, but I’d rather not risk having a failure and no back up. As an absolute last resort, I’ll have my contact information on the inside and outside of the box. Hey, it’s worked before. [...]

    Posted on January 2nd, 2011 at 11:26 pm

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