Archive for the ‘High Altitude’ Category


Posted by JonM on 12 May 2008

Saturday started off pretty rough. We rolled into town well past 3:30 in the morning, and woke up again at 8. Frank and company wrangled an awesome breakfast, and then we hit the road. The weather was less than stellar, and we were perhaps a bit optimistic about our chances of launching, but we arrived at the launch site, performed a quick survey, and rapidly set about setting up camp.

There were boxes to be unloaded, shade structures to be set, and masts to be guyed. Everyone knew what they were supposed to be doing, and things got setup in good order. The only real hitch was that our Internet connection wasn’t operational. It appears that the AT&T tower near the launch site fell over, and wasn’t passing any data or voice. Verizon was unreachable from our hilltop location, as well.

The weather started clearing up, though, so we got the machinery rolling to get MOAR, our attempt at beating the amateur high altitude record, launched.

The clouds may have let up, but the wind sure didn’t, and it was quite the challenge to get the balloon filled, but fill it we did. The payload was sealed shut, tied to the balloon, I set the cut down timer to go off in 4 hours, and we released the balloon

The wind took it far and fast, and pretty quickly we were up to 8000 feet, rising at about 600 feet per minute. Then we got a packet from only 5000 feet. Followed by radio silence. The last report was only a couple of miles away, so Adam, EricV and I got in the truck and headed out to search. The last beacon was right in the middle of a 1 mile grid square, so we hiked in and looked around a bit. We couldn’t see it, but we could hear it on the radio, so we got back in the truck and drove in on a 4×4 road, hoping to pick up a beacon. Success! We hiked to the coordinate, and found it nestled in the sheared wheat rows, less than 100 feet from where we walked before. MOAR was largely unscathed, despite dropping over 5000 feet and hitting the ground.

A quick inspection revealed that the line was cleanly melted through, indicating that the cutdown timer had gone off prematurely.

We took our prize back to base camp, and packed up for the day. Since it was 5pm already, there was no way we could launch REHAB that day.

Over dinner (thanks again, Frank), we looked at the cutdown timer code again, and discussed options for the next day.

The code revealed a bit of logic I had forgotten about in the year since I first wrote the code: The cutdown timer is set by pressing a button which increments the timeout value in 10 minute increments. After 240 minutes (4 hours), the next press will wrap the timer around to 10 minutes. Apparently in the jostling of the wind, I pressed the button as I was arming the timer, and it cut the payload loose shortly after launch. This was somewhat relieving; at least we know that it’s functioning as designed.

After dinner, we worked out a plan for Sunday: We would awake at the crack of dawn to relaunch MOAR, and then two hours later launch REHAB. REHAB was far from complete, so we pared it down to two video cameras, an APRS tracker, and a Digi Xtend modem which would broadcast our GPS coordinates. Three hours later, we had a nearly complete REHAB, including wired components and remolded airframe. We hit the sack shortly after midnight, with our alarms set for 6 in the morning.

We’re up! [delayed posting]

Posted by lindes on 12 May 2008

[Alas, this post is much delayed. I think I accidentally added it as a “page”, instead of a “post”. Oops. :-( Anyway, some of this is “wrong”, now, but this was the information I had at the time.]

It’s 9:20am, Sunday, 2008-05-11. We’re at the launch site. We have Internet, though it’s a little spotty. Sky’s are clear and lovely.

Wind is pretty high, but we found a location for filling in the lee of a small hill which provides significant shielding from the wind.

We’ve checked in with the FAA, and the MOAR payload is pretty much ready to fly. The connection between the GPS and the transmitter apparently got broken, but nothing a little re-soldering can’t fix. All is working correctly now.

The plan for today is to launch MOAR (our attempt at setting a new high-altitude record for an amateur baloon with GPS tracking), and then AHAB2, on which we’ve decided to significantly reduce the payload and just fly a limited imaging payload, and not much more. Hopefully we can haz pictars.

The AHAB2 payload is going to be given significantly more lift than the MOAR payload, and should be a short trip. We have the ability to capture 90 minutes of imaging, and expect the baloon to have reached its maximum altitude of approximately 84,000 feet, in something under 90 minutes. So we should capture the whole flight up, and some portion of the return to earth, as well.

Tracking for both payloads is visible at:

The upper portion is manually updated data, which we’ll use especially while the baloon is at low altitude. Below that, we have links to external sites providing APRS tracking information, which should start getting updated once we get sufficient altitude to be picked up by some digipeaters.

The time is now 9:53am. Internet is spotty enough that I haven’t yet been able to load the blog posting page, but I’m writing this post offline, and hope to get it up soon.

Oops, our GPS data was a little sketchy… turns out we mounted the GPS in upside down. Fixed. It’s 10:06:45, and we’re starting to fill theballoon.
10:20 — we have launched! altitude 2430 feet
10:53 — we’ve actually had internet for a little bit now — there were some antienna issues between our base station and the evdo link for a while, and those are now resolved. I’ve been busy paying attention to other things, though, so the blog post is still delayed.
As of 10:57, 47.688, -119.258 21320
As of 11:04: 47.69, -119.21, altitude 24047. Calculated ascent rate: 382 feet per minute.
11:07: 47.69, -119.17, 26205, AR 562


Posted by lucasw on 10 May 2008

Ground Station

Relay Station

Ground Software

Balloon Wrangling

On the road

Posted by adamcecc on 9 May 2008

The lab was abuzz this evening as the tools, materials, payloads, and 4 300lbs tanks of He were cataloged packed and loaded into our 6 vehicle caravan.

After our first two launches we are hesitant to leave anything behind as inevitable something will have to be built, coded, soldered, or rebuilt in the field.

Radios synced, gas tanks full, and we begin our journey to eastern Washington.

Look for more updates tomorrow when we launch!


Posted by DanHeidel on 9 May 2008

We are in the throes of last minute packing and planning and the usual desperate last bits of coding and soldering before we head East. We’ll be online out there and updating the website with (hopefully) realtime data from both REHAB and MOAR.

REHAB’s been despec-ed a bit. We had some parts show up later than they were supposed to and we just ran out of time to build everything on this time around. However, we’re still going to get some science data and lots of photos on this flight. The current plan is to continue working on REHAB while we’re working to get flight certification of HABIT. When we are go for the original, planned high altitude launch of HABIT (6-12 months, it looks), we’ll send REHAB up again filled with all of the planned features plus a bunch more, no doubt.

One unfortunate note: the Elphel camera that we were planning on using to get our pictures had a major malfunction yesterday. David was running it off of battery supply and the input voltage dropped. Rather counterintuitively, the onboard DC-DC converter went into an overcurrent mode and rather spectacularly melted down. We’re hoping that the damage is limited to the converter module and that this camera can be rescued. We’re looking into some last-minute fixes right now but it’s looking rather likely that we’re going to have to use some sort of backup camera instead. That’s too bad since the Elphel gave outstanding picture data. If we can’t get the Elphel running on this flight, we will definitely have it on any future flights.