A Very Past-due Update

Greetings and ‘Good Evening’ to all backers,

On behalf of the entire team, I am very sorry for the length of time since the last update.  Part of our promise was an attempt to update backers weekly and the latest gap is entirely on me. We got hit with a combination of mid-terms for the college engineering majors and some family medical things on my part. Rest assured there have been team meetings, frequent text message threads, and planning has proceeded; I have just been negligent in posting an update. From here until launch, I/we will do better. All is well and we’ve found some breathing room to get focused on launch as promised in late November.

To give you some insight into what we are planning, take a look at this [admittedly embarrassing] drawing from the last meeting.

From top to bottom:

– We are looking at purchasing a 1500 gram balloon as opposed to a 1200 gram that I used last time. With the extra cameras, radios, and a brand new sensor suite, we are going to need a larger volume of helium to loft the extra weight above 100,000 feet. The mission will be a success whether we reach that number or not, it just feels good to say ‘above 100,000 feet’.

-Jacob has made INCREDIBLE progress on the sensor payload and we will be testing all of his work in the coming 7-10 days. I hope to have a more detailed update about his payload in particular soon. That payload contains a GPS module that splits its output between a data logger and an APRS radio sending down real-time position reports of latitude/longitude/altitude which anyone can track on www.aprs.fi Jacob has built an amazing data-logger based on a homemade Arduino shield that will sample GPS data and capture outputs to an SD card from two temperature sensors (inside/outside payload: there will be a difference at higher altitude because of solar radiation and a lack of air to shed heat), barometric pressure (there should be a perfect inverse relationship to altitude), humidity (why not), a 9-axis motion sensor (3x gyroscope, 3x accelerator, 3x magnetometer), and an ultrasonic sensor that measures distance across a space; in this case, the box. What we are hoping to observe is the changing behavior of sound waves as we travel through thinning air and we will observe the speed of sound changing as we climb.

-In the middle payload we anticipate carrying a total of 4 GoPro cameras, a backup GPS tracking device (Spot Gen3) and another 9-axis sensor array identical to the first payload. For camera configuration we plan to include two identical GoPro cameras shooting 1080 HD arranged to capture views fixed a few inches apart to facilitate binocular viewing in an immersive 3D headset like an Oculus Rift. We will include another brand new camera capturing in 4K, and we will dedicate another GoPro to shooting in 10-12 megapixel photography mode on .5-1.0 second intervals. 1080 and 4K videos look amazing but a single video frame does not make photographs suitable for enlarging. We want to include another 9-axis motion sensor inside of this payload to synchronize motion data with the video and possibly to model, on-screen, the orientation, accelerations, and movements of the payload container.

-The bottom payload, we think, will carry the dual-radio repeater setup. This payload needs more testing but the last session showed promise. For those who don’t know, the basics are this: one radio listens on a certain frequency and upon receiving a transmission, connects via a cable and begins transmitting that message from another radio on a different frequency. Due to the curvature of the earth, most communication on certain frequency bands are limited basically to line-of-sight; but with advantage of our high altitude, for a period of time, we should be able to stretch our range to a few hundred miles and we’ll invite other HAMs to communicate with each other through our repeater suspended 20+ miles over central Texas.



Repeater (also)
Repeater (also)

We look forward to the next update where we hope to target a specific weekend for launch and we’ll have some frequencies to publish for those wanting to make contact through our repeater.

I have testing to do on dual-camera GoPro, Oculus Rift(?), binocular viewing and I need to devise some better ways to suspend and stabilize the camera payload for better (less nausea inducing) video footage.


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