Update #22 – Things are really coming together

This update is better communicated through photos and videos. I’ll provide comments though as we go.

This is the payload train. From top to bottom you see the 1 meter parachute that will bring us down at a rate slow enough to protect the cameras and GPS but not so slow that we extend the downrange recovery distance more than we have to. Next is the radar corner-reflector; very thin Mylar over a super light foam core. Below that, not currently attached,  is the 95% complete camera/gps payload container.

Payload Train
Payload Train

I made a modification tonight to the payload and I’m proud of it. See below.

Simple is better
Simple is better

I picked up some basic audio parts at Radio Shack this evening with the intent of testing a different solution to the audio beacon I demoed a few days ago. That original option presented was a practice soldering kit I did a few months ago. My 3-year old loves the police/fire sounds but ultimately It was heavy and had more functions than we needed; I just happened to have it on hand and it confirmed that such a device could be beneficial to the project.

Switch mock-up
Switch mock-up

I used some super thin balsa wood and the hot-knife to mock-up a basic toggle switch. Then I used a small breadboard to double check the wiring circuit. I want a toggle outside the sealed container so that myself or anyone recovering the payload can turn off the obnoxious sound without getting too irritated or opening my payload.

Once I was sure everything was going to work like I wanted, I made modifications to the real payload lid to accommodate the on/off switch, mounted the battery holder and beacon/beeper internally. I’m proud because it’s the first time I’ve ever put my soldering skills to use on something I designed/made from ‘scratch’ (including proper use of heat shrink tubing over the soldered bits).

I confirmed that 300 yards away (with a lull in the nearby highway traffic noise) the beeper is easy to locate.  It’s currently driving me NUTS even though I’m 2 rooms away and I locked it in the freezer over 2 hours ago. I don’t know what the actual draw is but I’m hoping for a lot of hours from a 9 volt should we come down in trees or a field and we need cues deep into the final chase and recovery.

At some point over the next 48 hours I plan to convert the entire container over to a high visibility bright orange to assist with tracking and recovery.

THIS is why we test. I used a bit of test foam and duct tape to see how well the high-viz spray-paint was going to work and then a bunch of chemistry happened. Within 3-4 minutes the foam turned to a liquid mush and began to drip off the stick I mounted it on. I would have been devastated if I had liquified that payload container I’ve spent so many hours on.

Luckily, Duck Tape branded tape has plenty of color options to chose from. I’ll be prepping the payload container in the style seen below.

Balloons arrive tomorrow and I’ve got some procedural information from the FAA on how best to file NOTAMs and it’s time to start digging deeper into the 5-7 day forecasts to evaluate this weekend as potential launch dates.

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