Update #12 – Shaping Foam – Hot Knife – Next Steps

This may be the only update for a busy weekend

Last night I borrowed a massive home-built ‘hot knife’ to practice cutting and shaping foam. Check out the photos below. I think this particular one is overkill but it was a great proof of concept. I’m sold on the idea but I need something with a little more finesse and a smaller ‘footprint’ (handprint?) so that I can work inside-out of the cooler to build a ‘nest’ for the cameras.

This hot-knife in particular would be best suited for shaping BIG pieces of foam like you would see on a homecoming parade float. I plan to keep it a little longer. There may still be uses.

The same guru/adviser gave me a cooler to practice on and a tip where to find more (cheap!) here in town. These are more like a dense, medical-grade, deep-groove, water-tight seal that you would ship dry-ice or medical supplies. This is a MUCH better option than running down to the corner gas station and buying a beer cooler.

Funding Info

Funding officially deposited into my account which means GoPro cameras will be purchased and shipped soon. Buying from an online vendor in New York to avoid 8.25% sales tax. Will get free 2-day shipping. As soon as they get here, I’ll return the borrowed one.

Next Steps

Next is purchasing the actual balloon/s. There are a few online vendors. Balloons range in cost from $40-$120. There is a matrix to work through for deciding the type. How quickly do you want to ascend? How much weight are you carrying? How high do you want it to go?

I’ll have a better idea how to answer that once I get everything on a scale. I’ll be measuring down to the gram and I’ll figure a 15%-20% buffer for all the little things that might add up. The balloon purchase will be based on the weight number, battery life and altitude goals.

Helium will come after that. We will rent a real tank. This isn’t a party balloon. There will be deposits involved and transportation considerations. It’s going to take some research on ‘best practices’ for inflation. We want a very specific volume of helium to meet out altitude objectives.

Too much helium, it will burst early. Not enough helium, we get up to 60k ft and it never quite bursts and we wind up in Tennessee.

Wind you say?

I’ll update very soon with wind strategies. I can point you to the two primary websites we’ll use in the 24-12-6 hours before launch. I’ve identified the 20 mile X 20 mile area I’d like to land in. Next is figuring out where to launch to hit that broad ‘landing zone’.

Depending on winds aloft, we may be traveling 80-100 miles that morning to launch OR we can launch local and drive 10-100 miles for recovery.

Stay tuned!

-Josh

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