Archive for the ‘High Altitude’ Category

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.

Clipped wings

Posted by JonM on 8 May 2008

Since the time we started thinking about doing a glider launch, we have been concerned about regulatory restrictions related to autonomous aircraft. We've had an ongoing conversation with our local FAA field office (the same one we worked with last year when we did the AHAB launches), and they have repeatedly assured us, in writing, that we were OK to fly under FAR 101, the balloon flight regulations.

However, earlier this week we discovered that we weren't talking to quite the right people in the FAA. With the explosion in interest in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, think Predator Drone), the FAA has instituted a series of regulations restricting the operation of unpiloted aircraft in American airspace. The primary gating factor is that UAVs must have a Certificate of Airworthiness (COA). Getting one involves a process geared towards defense contractors and large corporations, and can take as long as a year to work through.

So, this means we can't have a high altitude glider launch this weekend.

What we will do, however, is launch REHAB, our science payload, and MOAR, our attempt at the amateur high altitude record. We will also use a tethered balloon to raise our glider up to 400 feet, the limit for unrestricted "model aircraft", and have it fly around autonomously. This is actually good, as it gives us plenty of time for shakedown, and sets us up for a good start to the COA process.

Tonight is one last night of frenetic building and hacking at the lab. Tomorrow we pack up and relocate 200 miles east. Saturday morning we'll be launching MOAR, stay tuned for information on how to get realtime updates on it's progress!


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