Zero Pressure Balloon Converter

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWeather Balloon to Zero Pressure Balloon Converter.

By Robert Brand

Two weeks ago I was a guest lecturer in Aerospace at a Sydney University spoke about the current space projects I am involved in. It was good to see interest from some students to take part in some of the activities. I stayed on to listen to the second guest lecturer talk about high energy particles and there effects on astronauts and also equipment.

Following the lectures I was invited to talk about a difficult project of taking a science experiment to the stratosphere and holding it there for 3 hours. Now this creates a real challenge. It can either be done by a seriously expensive Zero Pressure Balloon (ZPB), shown in the picture at right, or it needs some way of holding a weather balloon below it burst point, both are not ways i would like to think about. Either big dollars or big problems.

My solution is to turn the Weather Balloon into a ZPB before the envelope pops and the lot comes down. I have designed a Weather Balloon to Zero Pressure Balloon Converter. Due to the commercial ramifications, I cannot give the fine details of the specific way we will do this or the materials used, but as you will obviously realise, it means opening up the balloon canopy so the helium (or Hydrogen) stops expanding the balloon fabric thus the balloon should then find a floating point, provided that the canopy is not too elastic.

Since this will require additional weight and we need to get extreme height to be in the stratosphere at a required altitude and we don’t want the risk of the canopy bursting early, I expect that it will require 2-3Kg weather balloons. Not cheap, but way less than ZPB that probably start at a price of US$7,000 or so.

Now for the hard part. We will need to test to see exactly what happens and how to control the eventual height based on gas fill, elasticity of the balloon, the balloon size / weight and the payload size.

The balloon should survive until next morning in the stratosphere when the sun’s UV will cause the envelope to deteriorate along with the punishment it has received during the night. Given that it is not fully stretched, it may in fact last much longer. This will the subject of more testing.

The next problem is that the stratospheric winds run east to west – the opposite of the jet stream – yes there is balance in the world! the difference is (from our experience over Australia) that the wind starts out light and then increases with strength at height. Several times we have seen stratospheric winds reaching 100kph at altitudes of 33.333Km (/3 the way to space). As that is our highest record and we have been involved in flights by others to that height, it seems a fairly linear increase over height and it may get faster at higher altitude. Only tests will tell, but 3 hours at 33.33Km is a long drive. It means carefully planning our launch points and recovery points. In fact we may need to launch on days when the jet stream is fast to drag the payload a long way to the east (say 150km and then allow the winds in the stratosphere to pull it 300Km to the west and allow it to fall back through the jet stream with a big parachute, allowing time to pull the payload back to near the launch point.

With radio cutdown an option, we need to be close enough for that to work on UHF frequencies of to create a HF cutdown on much lower radio frequencies that will travel further.

Weather to ZPB converterAs APRS is not an option on commercial flights, We will use SPOT3 units in gimbals for the commercial tracking. For non commercial flights I have toyed with the idea of using the HAM radio based APRS to upLink commands for cutdown. As a final cutdown I am looking at a time based mechanism to terminate the envelope or cut down the payload. More testing!

As a  teaser, the photo to the right is some of the “plumbing” without the servo and other systems. It is intentionally difficult to see, but the point is that it is off the shelf technology that is very light weight. In fact not all of this mechanism flies – some is only there for the “fill” and another device (not shown) makes the final configuration. When the cutdown occurs, we will lose the servo and the plumbing – a total cost of about US$15. Total weight of equipment lost will be in the order of 200 grams and the balloon envelope will also be able to fall to earth but since it will not be blown to pieces, it will flutter to a soft landing. I expect to have a number of the mechanisms ready and off the shelf to provide services to customers that wish to have low cost long times in the stratosphere. Note, that if we can keep the payload closer to the lower parts of the stratosphere, the drift is negligible from our general experience for a three hour duration in the stratosphere.

Other benefits here are a new easy fill system that requires no more struggling with cable ties at the last moment while holding on to a big balloon. I expect that we will use a smaller version for smaller balloons. The weight is likely to be an additional 50 grams that we can factor in, but the benefits will be great in securing the payload and ensuring an easy and safe tie off in the final moments. Once we test that I will publish the arrangements. More on the Zero Pressure Balloon Converter in future posts.

At the Mercy of the Winds

Forcast for upLift-20Adverse Winds Delay UpLift-20

It seems that we cannot win when planning some balloon flights due to unfavourable or adverse winds. Whilst UpLift-19 was very straight forward, I have had to postpone our next weather balloon flight by 2 weeks so far – that is two delays and who knows what is going to happen after that. It seems that we might need to make a determination a day at a time a week out.

What has caused this delay. Well other than aircraft maneuvers over the area, it is the wind. Our launch point is fixed as the landing area is determined by the launch point and we have a range that is covered by Telstra broadband and has few trees or water.

In this case the water is the big problem. We simply do not launch when the winds are taking us to the lakes area. We did overfly this area once, but not at a high altitude where the balloon would burst. So why do we worry about those little blue areas? Basically because they are not so little. on Google earth they in fact look like dry areas. It turns out that we discovered the unusual nature of the lakes during one of our earlier flights in the UpLift series. When we recovered the pictures from UpLift-2 we saw a massive lake that was simply not showing on the maps. Well it was there in name only. Here is what the balloon payload saw:

Fat Lady Lake UpLift-2

Above: They say it is not all over until the “fat lady sings”. We spotted this lake (normally dry) and my son Jason said it looks like a fat lady! Since the balloon had popped and it was descending on parachute, I guess she was singing! She also looks like she has burst a gasket singing the highs. Note that there are more lakes to its left at the bottom centre of the photo. There are also lakes to the north, out of view. Recovery of payloads would be near impossible in these lakes.

Below: As a reminder of the problems with water, our balloon payload parachuted straight to the only large farmer’s dam in the area and landed less than half a metre from the water. ouch! That’s our ballooning friends, Todd and Mark next to the payload. I have blanked out the actual payload box as it was a commercial flight that required secrecy. We can now inform you that it was the test flight for Bulla’s Frozen Yogurt “Cloud 9”. We eventually send balloons into the stratosphere to freeze yogurt in the clouds. There were 12 flights and 12 recoveries.

UpLift-2

So what else can postpone a launch when all else is going right?   Last flight a few weeks back, we encountered 40kph winds (25mph) and that was a shock to the system after traveling 7 hours by car and staying overnight in a nearby town. We were lucky to find some protection from the wind, but the wind sheer as the balloon rose past the protection could have ripped the balloon apart. We were lucky. Note the cameras on the ground, One at Mark’s feet. They got flung off on impact. We now tie them on with a lanyard to make sure that we do not lose them.

We always carry enough gas for a second launch if the balloon pops before launch, but it is something we do not want to think about. It has happened once! always having two balloons is not good business if you don’t really use it before the expiry date. Some larger balloons cost hundreds of dollars.

Watch the weather and use prediction software for the stratospheric wind details.

Space Chicken? Not Quite.

Space Chicken Flight Matches our RecordUpLift-19 Space Chicken

UpLift-19 continues our incredible success in launching and recovering payloads. That is 19 launches in the UpLift series and 19 recoveries. UpLift-19 was a bit of a record breaker for us in that it is the smallest of our balloons to reach 1/3 the way to space. Yes, that is right, 1/3 the way to space with a 1.25 kilogram payload. So not quite a space chicken, but what is in a few words said our customer.That is 2.75lbs for those few countries still using outdated measurements systems. I think that there are three left out of step with the world! (I do like to have a gentle dig at my US friends). Oh yeh – our first chicken too.

We managed to reach exactly the same height with a 3Kg balloon that we launched in Croatia, but that was carrying 2.5Kgs of payload. So what else was so special about the flight. Well, we cracked the best method of doing photography and have our clearest and most colourful shots ever taken from a balloon flight! It is hard to say what we like best about the flight, but it was a flight that we never thought would get of the ground. We had to launch in 40kph winds. Errhhh, that is 25mph for my non metric friends. That is 22 knots and please note that knots are acceptable in the metric world as they are not imperial measurements, but linked closely with dividing up the world into useable chunks – from the old sailing days.

Rankins Springs launch site UpLift-19 The flight was commissioned by Clinton Toyota and we carried 3 cameras and 2 trackers and some science experiments. We used our Spot3 tracking for the commercial requirements and provided a secondary private payload where we added an APRS tracker and some experiments. The APRS tracker gives good data above the ground where the commercial stuff is pinpointed with the SPOT3 as it will give precise coordinates when it is one the ground. We use a simple one ring gimbal to ensure that the antenna always has a view of the sky and the satellites that it uses to communicate position. For the commercial aspects, that is all that is needed – to recover the payload and cameras. The APRS invariably stops communicating anything up to 1km from the ground, depending on how close it lands to a HAM radio APRS receiver. We launched from Rankins Springs, NSW – our main launch site. It gives a clear area over most of the flight with little water or little in the way of forests to get in the way. The tracking is good on APRS for all of the flight above 700m at launch. We test the radios are fully functional before letting go. I also realised after launch that my old call sign was on the balloon. That probably confused a lot of people. My fault, but I will rectify that for the next flight.

The winds were over 40kph and we could not see a way to launch until i spotted a solid line of tall trees on the other side of the sports oval. We repacked our equipment and set up in the light wind behind the trees. It worked, but that was with the wind from the north. Usually southerly winds are the problem, so we will watch carefully for weather conditions for future flights and I have a few sites around town picked out if we get caught again.

Rankins Springs launch site UpLift-19The local primary school (Rankins Springs) came out in force to hear us talk about what we were doing and a bit of fun and science. They came back for the release of the balloon. My son Jason wore his School uniform as he was representing the school for the science experiments that were being launched. He attends Sydney Secondary College, Balmain Campus.

We completed the payload frame, made from light wood (4 x 1.2m lengths) in the hotel room the night before release and it held together very well with no damage, despite a heavy landing due to the parachute getting rather twisted up and spiraling down.

IMG_3081This meant that we were not at the site where we thought it would land and we had about a half hour drive to reach the site once we realised the problem. In essence the balloon traveled east in the jet stream at speeds of up to 130kph and then broke into the stratosphere and stopped any horizontal movement. As it climbed into the stratophere it picked up speed and traveled to the west reaching 100kph at the point the balloon burst. That was an altitude of 33.333KM – 1/3 the way to space. As I said, this exactly matched our Croatian record where we had a 2.5Kg payload and a 3Kg balloon. The free fall saw a top speed, in the upper atmosphere where the air is thin, of 400kph. That was with a parachute and a rather non-streamlined pyramid frame. That was about 1/3 of the speed of the sound barrier at sea level. I can’t wait for future flights were we will build payloads designed to fly super fast in thin air. Watch out for our attempt to break the sound barrier with a small Radio Controlled aircraft. There will be a few records broken that day. Note in the picture (left) the bubble wrap used as an insulator for the batteries and trackers.

IMG_3073That is Jason holding the balloon during the fill. Notice the cotton gloves. We use these to protect the balloon or we use latex gloves, but they really make my hands too sweaty for my liking. We measured the balloons lift with a set of luggage scales – digital – and they have a “hold” button to make it easier to turn the hand held strain gauge over and see the reading.

This flight we used a new cutdown system that uses a UHF radio (1.4 watts) and a 10 channel modulation system. It should work up to 100km, but we are yet to test it at the extremes. The unit does work on all tests on the ground and this flight we did not have to terminate the balloon other than it bursting.

By the way, Clintons Toyota had a special “Clinton’s” jacket made to keep the chicken warm during the flight, but I doubt the toy mascot needed to worry about the cold. It probably experienced about -50 to -60C in the jet stream. That’s -58 to -76F for my US friends.

Bel;ow are some more photos of the flight. I hope that you appreciate the great leap in photographic quality and that you also appreciate the careful work that I have done to ensure that we recover each and every flight. It is always a challenge to keep our record at 100% recovery. Once we lose a payload, we can never again claim 100% success rate for all of our flights.

DCIM100GOPRO

Above: Jason and I give the payload a bit of close scrutiny before launch, caught by one of the payload cameras. Posing with the Space Chicken!

Rankins Springs launch site UpLift-19

Above: You can see the wheat and canola fields up here!!!

UpLift-19 Space Chicken

Above: Our Space Chicken at 33.333Km

Rankins Springs Free Fall UpLift-19

Above: Our Space Chicken in a 400kph free fall.

Rankins Springs Sunny UpLift-19

Above:  I hope I slip, slopped, slapped enough before the flight! The sun is bright up here.

Editor’s Note. We do not approve of the term “Space” Chicken from a scientific viewpoint as it is not space, but the company that contracted us to launch the balloon decided to use the term:
http://www.macarthuradvertiser.com.au/story/2562196/space-chook-takes-history-making-journey

Two Commercial Balloon Flights (HAB)

UpLift-1 Securing the neck and the payloadTwo Commercial Balloon (HAB) Bookings

Along with our other aerospace work and some non-commercial flights we have new bookings for two commercial balloon flights – one in August and one in September. These will be normal flights and both will have our new cutdown system onboard. We expect to operate it and full test it even if the balloon bursts first.

Both commercial flights are for advertising and we are seeing an upturn in the number of bookings we are receiving.

General Update:

Lots happening:

The WotzUp website was down for 2 weeks. It appears that they gave me the wrong restoration file! it was empty. I finally found a support person that finally understood my problem and tonight we are back “on the air” – just back on hour ago from the time of this post.

Jason is well involved with the Riverwood Squadron of the Australian Air League here in Sydney. They meet on Friday nights at 7pm. You can find your nearest squadron here:  http://www.airleague.com.au/

I now publish the daily Space News. Sure you can scan the news on the right on my Twitter feed, etc, but you can also get it in a daily publication:  http://paper.li/robertbrand/1407014053

UpLift-2

Australian Student (12) to Attempt Breaking the Sound Barrier with Radio Controlled Aircraft

UpLift-2Jason Brand to Attempt Breaking the Sound Barrier with Model Aircraft.

In the next 12 months, Jason Brand will attempt to break the sound barrier. He is a 12 year old student from Sydney Secondary College, Balmain Campus and is a regular kid with a passion for aerospace. Not surprising as his father, Robert Brand, is one of Australia’s leading space entrepreneurs.

The event will be a huge media attraction as nothing like this has been attempted before, especially by a 12 year old Student. It will consist of a zero pressure balloon ride by the aircraft to nearly 40Km altitude. The aircraft will be released and immediately be placed into a vertical dive as Jason pilots the vehicle by remote control. He will be wearing goggles that will allow him to see the view from the cockpit and all the important instrumentation. This Point Of View (POV) feed and possibly a HD feed will be available for a live feed for the media during the event. HD TV images will be recorded in memory aboard the aircraft.

pressure wavesJason has been studying supersonic wind flow over the control surfaces and the the loss of laminar flow away from control surfaces. Add to this the drag of shock waves. He and his father have come up with a design that has minimal laminar flow issues and low drag to ensure that Jason can maintain control as the aircraft exceeds the sound barrier by as much as possible. He has also been studying Mcr and Mdr and P and a whole lot of other important factors . Look them up! Yes the flight will be similar to the original sound barrier flights by pilots such as Chuck Yeager.

The flight will involve shifting the centre of gravity during the super sonic and sub sonic flight stages and retracting the supersonic spike during normal flight. The craft will be using an ITAR controlled GPS system that is capable of operating at well over the speed of sound. Video feeds will be available for the press in real time and HD video will be stored on the aircraft in memory as will be the GPS sampling.

UpLift-1 Launch with Jason BrandJason’s interest in “what’s up there” dates back to 2009 when he was 9 years old. His father decided to launch a weather balloon to the stratosphere and recover the payload and the camera. It was a great success. They launched the first balloon from the sleepy town of Rankin Springs in central NSW. They chased the balloon with radio tracking and the flight progress, with Google terrain was broadcast on the Internet during the flight. The jet stream was slow that day and they were sitting in the shade having lunch when the balloon burst at 24Km and the payload started its decent. After a few lessons in getting to the right field through a maze of gates and fences, they recovered their first payload. Today, Jason, along with his father are veterans of 18 flights and 18 recoveries. a 100% record and they intend keeping that way through science. The picture above is Jason picking up a video camera from a payload while the still camera just happened to snap his picture. After the first balloon flight he got his Foundation Amateur Radio Operators License (HAM) by doing a course at the Waverley Amateur Radio Club. He is now passionate about radio systems in regards to assisting with his goals in Aerospace.

IMG_1883His love balloon flights and model aircraft has grown. He recently designed and built a 1.5 horsepower tricopter which can lift 2Kg of load. He has also traveled to Croatia at the invitation of Team Stellar. Jason is the Australian Student Representative for Team Stellar – a Team in the Google Lunar X-Prize. He and his father (Head of Communications, Tracking and Data for Team Stellar) were invited to Croatia to launch Student payloads into the stratosphere – a difficult task in such a small country where the need to keep the balloon and payload within the borders is paramount. Add to that the large amount of forested land, swamps and mountains; not to mention the massive problem of leftover land mines from the recent wars with bordering countries. The flights were using the largest balloons and achieved a height of over 30Kms, one reaching 33.33km – one third of the way to space.

Jason spoke in front of many scientists, teachers  and engineers over recent years including Teachers at Science Week in Albury, Engineers Australia and the Skeptics group in Croatia. He has appeared on TV in Croatia and Australia. Below is a recent interview of a major balloon event in Croatia where Jason was a key person in the project.

The attempt will cost $60,000 and he is seeking sponsorship. One Sydney University has offered assistance and resources such as wind tunnel testing. The attempt will be with CASA approval and may be required to be located away from most air traffic in remote areas of Australia.

If you are interested in sponsoring the event please contact via homepc@rbrand.com

Media Contact: Robert Brand (International) +61 448 881 101   (national) 0448 881 101

Team Stellar Balloon Flights

Team Stellar Balloons in Croatia

Here is a post straight from the Team Stellar news pages. I will have a lot more detail in a few posts soon. It was an incredible trip with really hard parameters. Jason (12) and myself went with Team Stellar’s CTO – Tim Blaxland. You can read directly this short post from Team Stellar’s website about the success and other news at:

http://www.teamstellar.org/

Yes, we launched from the heart of Zagreb! I have never launched a balloon from the middle of a city before, nor in the harsh conditions we encountered. Success was pretty much guaranteed with our reliance on well-known science for the planning.

Stellar News

Balloon Stellar Stratosphere Update

During the last week, Team Stellar launched  two science balloons into the stratosphere, about 30 km above the Earth’s surface, to collect data for the purposes of diverse student-designed experiments of the competition participants.

We brought to Croatia three team members from Australia to help us with the launch and the recovery of the balloons. Robert Brand and his son Jason hold the world record with the perfect score of 16/16 successful launches, and recoveries. Their score is even better now, with two new successes. Tim Blaxland also came to help in organizing the launches.

The first balloon was launched on April 21. It was cloudy and it was raining, we were waiting for hours for a suitable moment to launch. After a few hours, we decided to go. The balloon achieved the maximum altitude was 109,500 ft (over 33 km). The recovery was very difficult, because the payload finished its fall on the top of a really high tree. After a lot of trouble, our guys somehow managed to take it down from the tree.

The second launch was done in somewhat better conditions. It was less cloudy and no rain. We launched the second group of student experiments. We also had an experiment with full HD, 1080p Wireless (WLAN) live stream from the stratosphere. The experiment was successful, and you could watch live stream on our web page. The Balloon reached the altitude of 30,862 m.

The recovery of the second balloon was very easy. The payload fell right in front of our chase team, on the flat land.

We are now returning the experiments to the teams, so that the students can see what their experiments have measured and what kind of data were collected in the stratosphere.

 

Pico Balloon Update

Andy Balloon altitude over AustraliaPico Balloon Departs Australia

Andy’s Pico Balloon Update: It has now passed over the bottom of Fraser Island in SE Queensland and out to sea.

Next stop may be South America in a week’s time. We do not expect to hear from the balloon until then, but it may pass over New Zealand or Tonga.

At right is the altitude details from the spacenear.us website. The balloon took about 2 hours to get to just over 8km altitude and because it is a foil balloon and cannot expand, it then sits at that altitude day and night. You can see a small dip as the sun sets until it warms up again the next day. It then rises as the balloon skin expands in the heat. Air pressure will also cause the balloon to rise or fall as will vertical air currents.

The balloon will change APRS frequencies as it crosses different longitudes but the RTTY frequencies stay standard across the world.

Below is the last track of the balloon crossing the coast today.

Andy says that the payload weighs 13 grams or less than half an ounce and consists of:

  • APRS and RTTY transmitters (10mW)
  • A GPS receiver
  • rechargeable batteries
  • solar panel
  • Insulation

The gas is helium and the metal foil balloon should not deteriorate much in a week. The gas also does not leak out very much from a foil balloon compared to a latex or other non-metal balloon.

Note that because the balloon is so light, it is classified as a small balloon and does not need to involve CASA to be able to fly such balloons.

Andy Balloon departing Australia

Our New Online Shop Opening Soon

Totex 100 gram Red BalloonGreat News – Our Shop is Opening Soon

We will be setting up an online shop and selling weather balloons, balloon equipment, radio systems and much more for those interested in flying High altitude weather balloons and much more. I will also be selling general comms equipment from time to time and HAM radio equipment to verified HAM radio operators. Keep watching!

Note that we are located in Australia and the shop is for the convenience of Australians who may not be able to wait for a delivery from overseas. We will not be the cheapest, but we will be the best.

Right now I have 44 x 100 gram Totex Red Balloons ($20 each), some 350 gram weather balloons ($50 each) and 2 x 3kg weather balloons. These 3Kg balloons are well over their expiry date (maybe about 3 years old – good for displays ($150 each). If you want any of these you will need to contact me on 0448 881 101.

I will calculate postage by Australia post depending on what you order. eg 500 gram express post bag can handle 4 X 100 gram balloons + bubble wrap and costs $15. The same to New Zealand will be $20 postage; to the US $25 postage and to anywhere else $30 postage.

Balloon specs here: http://www.esands.com/pdf/Meteorology/Totex_TA_Balloons_070213_web.pdf for Totex

We will be supplying NEW Totex weather balloons, although we may have the odd balloon from another supplier for time to time. I can also organise large orders if needed.

Totex 100 gram Red Weather Balloon Box

Andy’s Pico Flight Progress

Balloon Headed North

Andy’s Pico Flight progress has been as predicted. It is heading very much north from Melbourne in an unusual jet stream current. It is averaging about 8,000m (8Km – 5 miles) altitude and headed north at an average speed of 80kph (50mph). It recently passed over where Jason and I launch our balloons. It was a little west of Rankin Springs!

With a little luck, the current winds will take the balloon to sea near Cairns in far north Queensland (Australia). Below is the current track at time of publication:

Andy flight

Below is a snapshot of the jet stream that has allowed the flight to head north rather than the regular west to east path:

Jet Stream 2014-06-09

See the wind markers pointing straight up from Melbourne in the SE of Australia? Below is a more normal flow in 3 days time. The wind is headed west to east:

Jet Stream 2014-06-12

Andy has been very careful to watch the forecast and launch for the unusual jet stream wind direction.

Note that HAM radio tracking is listed in the preceding post. Tracking sites on the Internet are listed.

Track a Pico Balloon flight

Pico Flight prediction

Pico Flight prediction

Scheduled Pico Balloon Flight Monday 9th June 2014

My friend Andy will be sending a Balloon aloft from his home town of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia this Monday and it is headed initially north then east over the Pacific Ocean. I expect that it is headed to New Zealand and beyond.

Andy says:

Hi,

FYI, PS-9 PICO balloon release is planned for Monday morning

10mW transmit power, 

THOR16 with RTTY on 434.500Mhz

APRS on 2m band.

APRS call sign: VK3YT-11

Tracking as PS on spacenear.us

Will be in #picospace IRC channel on freenode.net

 http://webchat.freenode.net/?channels=picospace

 Andy

Note that the flight needs to head North or it will end up too low by the time it reaches New Zealand! Andy is looking at Jet Stream predictions to ensure that it heads north before it begins its easterly track. The APRS frequencies are different in each country and Andy’s transmitter is able to change frequencies by using GPS co-ordinates to know where it is. I believe that this is also using a small solar panel to keep it active. South America, here he comes!

Also the spacenear.us website will probably only list his flight an hour or so before departure.

You can watch the APRS tracking at http://aprs.fi  and use the call sign VK2YT-11 Isn’t Amateur Radio (HAM radio) wonderful?

He made it to New Zealand twice now, so South America is next!

Pico Flight prediction

Pico Flight prediction

What is a Pico Balloon?

Andy Pico Balloon to New ZealandMaking a Pico Balloon

by Robert Brand

There is not much in making a pico balloon – literally. My friend Andy has been making and flying pico balloons for a while now. These are basically strong foil party balloons that you can buy prefilled from a party shop. In fact, I believe that Andy keeps a few at home, ready to launch. When he sees the winds are right he adds the tiny GPS receiver, computer, APRS 10mW transmitter, Battery and antenna. These are secured to the balloon with little more than fishing line. The payload only weighs 13 grans – that is less than half an ounce.

In Australia, there are 4 classes of untethered or FREE balloons:

“Small, Light, Medium and Heavy balloons”

CASR Part 101E states:

A small balloon means a free balloon that can carry no more than 50 grams of payload.

So Andy’s balloon is classified as a “Small” balloon.

Provided that he does not launch within 6 nautical miles of an airport ( 11.112km), a single small balloon does not need CASA approval. CASA are the Australian Civil Aviation Authority and their job is to police the CASR (Civil Aviation Safety Regulations). Up to 100 small balloons may be released at the same time if far enough away from n airport or air field without needing CASA approval. If more are to released, the number and distance from the field must be considered as it defines what approval CASA need to give.

Other countries mostly have the same regulations, but you must check before releasing any balloon.

This information was correct at the time of publication, but readers are reminded to check for any changes in the regulations before releasing any balloon.

As for the payload, Andy chose to use th HAM Radio APRS system to track his balloons as HAM radio operators (Amateur Radio Operators) have set up a global network of tracking systems. Andy has his amateur radio license and is capable of making very small electronic components. He has chosen a small lithium battery and thin wires for the antenna. Each 5.5 minutes, the transmitter pulses a 10mW APRS signal from the payload and it can simply be tracked on the internet by anyone.

In the picture above, look carefully at the little black dot near the base of the clouds and a little to the left of the balloon. That is the 13 gram payload. Depending on air pressure, the balloon will sit in the lower jet stream between 6,500m to 8,500m altitude.

My friend Andy (VK3YT) is a master of minaturisation. Pico by definition means “one trillionth” – The work is used to emphasis the tin size of the payload – sounds better than a “small balloon”! He sent that picture to show the release of a recent flight! I hope to have a great announcement for you all soon about another Pico flight!

Just in case you have not read the previous articles. A balloon this size made from Melbourne to Sydney and on to New Zealand, crossing the Tasman Sea in just over 24 hours.

 

New Zealand gives Andy a Big Tick

New Zealand encounterBig Tick for NZ APRS and TransTasman Success

by Robert Brand

The New Zealand encounter with Andy’s (VK3YT) Pico Balloon (launched from Melbourne) has now ended. The low power from the Balloon payload will probably not be heard of again unless the Jet Stream turns the balloon around for another pass. It is unlikely to return, but there are some big changes in the Jet stream from time to time.Current predictions say it will head east and out into open water until the batteries fail.

It was fortunate that the balloon made it to New Zealand before the Jet Stream winds changed direction. The flight stayed over New Zealand for most of the day giving those interested in tracking it the opportunity to see where it was headed.

The balloon has been sitting at around 8,500m for most of the time in NZ. One APRS amateur radio station that was the first to receive Andy’s signals was also the last to track the balloon as it left New Zealand The APRS iGate received out packets and sent them to the Internet . Today I spoke with the owner of the iGate and there were a few interesting things that I should mention.

Warren Harris (ZL2AJ)  lives near Hastings in New Zealand and his antenna and receiver are at the top of a 720m hill. It is relayed down the hill by another radio link and into his iGate and on to the Internet. His radio received most of the packets from the balloon and only when the balloon was close to some other iGate receivers did they get the traffic.  I spoke with Warren about the balloon flight and he said it created a lot of “buzz” on the chat and email groups. Warren will write a story on this for NZ. Andy said that he will send a picture of the balloon to him for publications

Another interesting fact was that Warren’s iGate was broken yesterday with a faulty power supply. He fixed it last night without knowing that Andy’s balloon was on the way. It was only operational for a few hours before Andy’s balloon came over.

Andy (and I) want to thank all those in NZ that have APRS iGates and digipeaters. It is a great service for new endeavours. A special thanks to Warren whose iGate seems to outperform all others when it comes to ballooning.

TransTasman Balloon Breaks Records

Andy NZ TrackTransTasman Balloon Heads to the North Island

The record breaking balloon flight launched by my friend and colleague  Andy VK2YT continues to break records. It was thought that it would pass over the south island and out to sea, but it has changed course and headed north and is now crossing the stretch of water between the north and south island and will remain in range of HAM radio APRS trackers for many hours to come.

Launched from Melbourne, Australia on Sunday, it left the Australian coast just after midnight on Monday Morning and took just over 24 hours to reach New Zealand

A long range PICO balloon flight is under way. Predicted path is Melbourne – Sydney – NZ

Payload is an ultra-light APRS beacon transmitting 10mW on 144.575Mhz (NZ APRS).

Callsign is VK3YT-11

APRS tracking at
http://aprs.fi/#!call=a%2FVK3YT-11&timerange=86400&tail=86400

Tracking with prediction at
http://spacenear.us/tracker/?filter=VK3YT-11

Updates will be posted at http://picospace.net

Andy NZ Track

Australia to New Zealand Balloon Success

Andy New ZealandTrans Tasman Balloon Success

Congratulations to Andy, VK3YT in getting his Pico Balloon from Melbourne Australia to New Zealand. The balloon crossed land in New Zealand at 1600 UTC (GMT)  17th March 2014.

The flight last tracked offshore from Sydney more than a day ago and the tiny balloon has been transmitting its signal over the ocean until it changed frequencies at 160 degrees longitude to the New Zealand APRS tracking system.

NZ Amateur radio station Zl2AJ-5 was the first to hear the tiny 10mW transmitter as it neared the coast. The balloon will likely pass over the country within an hour and sone after the transmitter will fail with the battery losing power.
————————————————

A long range PICO balloon flight is under way. Predicted path is Melbourne – Sydney – NZ

Payload is an ultra-light APRS beacon transmitting 10mW on 144.575Mhz.

Callsign is VK3YT-11

APRS tracking at
http://aprs.fi/#!call=a%2FVK3YT-11&timerange=86400&tail=86400

Tracking with prediction at
http://spacenear.us/tracker/?filter=VK3YT-11

Updates will be posted at http://picospace.net

Andy NZ

 

Andy’s Long Distance HAB Attempt

Angy Pico Flight to NZAustralia to New Zealand HAB Attempt

Last night I got word that my good friend Andy from Melbourne was attempting a long distance Trans Tasman Balloon attempt. I’m not sure if it qualifies as a High Altitude Balloon flight as it just gets to about 7km altitude and not the typical 20km to 30km. It is classified as a small balloon and does not require CASA permission to fly. Simply it is a foil balloon that cannot expand and a very light payload. In this case the tracking payload is a single AAA battery and a 10mW tracker. The payload weights only 13 grams. The balloon is set to float at about 7,000m and when Andy launched the balloon it was predicted to fly from Melbourne to Sydney and on to New Zealand.

Andy’s email said:

FYI, A long range PICO balloon flight is under way. Predicted path is Melbourne – Sydney – New Zealand.
Currently over Victoria Alpine National Park at 7000m, doing 125km/h.

Payload is an ultra-light APRS beacon transmitting 10mW on 145.175Mhz.   Callsign is VK3YT-11

APRS tracking at
http://aprs.fi/#!call=a%2FVK3YT-11&timerange=86400&tail=86400

Tracking with prediction at
http://spacenear.us/tracker/?filter=VK3YT-11

Updates will be posted at http://picospace.net

 Expected to reach Sydney tonight, then it will be out to sea.
If the balloon survives tomorrow it might be within range of New Zealand APRS stations around 12:00 UTC 17/3

TX frequency will switch to NZ APRS frequency 144.575Mhz once 160.0 longitude is crossed.

Regards, Andy

Well around Midnight last night the little balloon tracked right over Sydney and if I had binoculars and it was daylight I could have seen it!  It was last tracked about 30km off Sydney headed to New Zealand. We are waiting to see if it arrives in New Zealand in a few hours.

 

Andy flight to NZ.

Rossby Waves, Hadley Cells and the Jetstream

Rossby Waves, Hadley Cells and Distorted Jet Stream

Seems that Global Warming has a lot to do with the difficulties we are experiencing with our weather. The Jet Stream is pretty neat without Global Warming and very predictable and so is the weather. Recently, the northern hemisphere experienced massive cool events and extremely cold weather. Why?

So what does the Jet Stream do normally?

The circulating air patterns create convection currents in four global locations—each current is called a Hadley cell. The pattern of air movement is toward the Earth (pro-grade) at higher latitudes (in the subtropics) and backward (up from the Earth) at lower latitudes (near the equator). The movement occurs near the Earth’s surface—within 6.2-9.3 mi. (10-15 km.). Its span across latitudinal markers remains within thirty degrees north or south of the equator. In this way, a Hadley cell moves heat from the equatorial region to regions within 30 degrees of latitude in either direction. Moisture is moved along with the heat.

Hadley Cells

Hadley Circulation provides westward wind flow at the Earth’s surface (Trade Winds) and eastward jet streams at higher altitudes. The circulating air patterns create convection currents in four global locations—each current is called a Hadley cell.

HadleyCirculation

In a Hadley cell, the air rises to the atmospheric tropopause, which is the region at the top border of the troposphere and thus the bottom border of the stratosphere. The troposphere is the lowest atmospheric region and is where all weather takes place. At the equator, it reaches up to 11 mi. (18 km.) from the earth’s surface.

The next atmospheric layer is the stratosphere, extending to 31 mi. (50 km.) from the Earth’s surface. This characteristic air circulation results from the Sun’s rays heating the air at the level of the equator. Solar heating is strongest at the equator and weakest at the north and south poles, due to the direction of the Sun’s rays, and therefore currents of atmospheric circulation due to solar heating are more prominent at the equator.

Hadley Circulation was first described by George Hadley (1685-1768) to explain the science behind the trade winds. It was to replace a flawed model that had been presented by Edmond Halley (1656-1742). George Hadley was an early 18th century meteorologist by hobby and lawyer by trade.

In fact, Hadley’s theory was imperfect as well. It was corrected by American meteorologist William Ferrel (1817-91) at the end of the 19th century, but by this time Hadley’s name had stuck. The Hadley Circulation is traditionally defined as resting on the equator; in fact it rests on the “thermal equator,” or the Sun’s zenith.

Rossby Waves

Rossby Waves - Jet sStreamWarming Arctic May Be Causing Jet Stream To Lose Its Way. Echoing trends since roughly 2010-2011, NPR reports on how changes in far northern latitudes may be showing up in the skies floating above your house; here’s an excerpt: “…The temperature difference between the Arctic and lower latitudes is one of the main sources of fuel for the jet stream; it’s what drives the winds. And because the Arctic is warming so fast, that temperature difference is getting smaller, and so the fuel for the jet stream is getting weaker,” Francis says. “When it gets into this pattern, those big waves tend to stay in the same place for some time. The pattern we’ve seen in December and January has been one of these very wavy patterns...”

Image credit above: “The jet stream that circles Earth’s north pole travels west to east. But when the jet stream interacts with a Rossby wave, as shown here, the winds can wander far north and south, bringing frigid air to normally mild southern states.” NASA/GSFC.

Researching Balloon Launches in a New Country

Croatia LandminesBalloon Launches in a New Country – How To…

In the next few weeks, Jason and I will head to Croatia to oversee the balloon project of Team Stellar. So far we have been working with the team from afar and good communications are essential. We have email, Skype, Dropbox and more, so communications are good. We have been working with time issues to make sure everything happens in a timely fashion – there is a country wide student competition at stake. The students and their mentors are working hard so everything has to go well.

Our biggest problems are ones that we do not have here in Australia. We are used to having a very big launch and recovery area in Australia with few trees and little chance of water. It has good tracking and good mobile data coverage.

Croatia? Well there are plenty of unknowns for both me and the rest of the team in Croatia. The requirements are to keep the balloon in Croatia. This is hard. It is a small country with an unusual shape. The useful West to East range is only about 300km and it is pretty tight too.

That is Croatia in the map top right. So what are all the red bits? Stuff that we have to avoid! Things that we are not used to in Australia. They are land mines. We cannot afford to have our payloads drop anywhere near them. These are left over from the wars in the area from 1991 to 1995. These mines are still very new and deadly.

So what else we will have to contend with? Snow, mountains, poor Internet coverage, pine forests, unknown APRS coverage to name a few.

We will have all the risky stuff covered including cut-down systems to keep the balloons from going too far. Our best weapon is research. Knowing what the upper winds are doing is key to having the best chance of keeping the balloon in the country. We have a few resources to consider. Some we have already told you about.

I will be using the Jet Stream weather links for Europe:

http://weather.wvec.com/auto/wvec/global/Region/EU/2xJetStream.html

Another is the historic movement of the jet-stream – basically you can get a feel for what is coming

http://squall.sfsu.edu/scripts/nhemjetstream_model.html

Finally some prediction software from HABHUB – this set up for our project and Zagreb, but you can adjust for your own needs.:

http://predict.habhub.org/#!/uuid=ebb514c8730df4df256e57ea997cdd122c65a736

Records

I am now keeping records for the Jet Stream in Croatia each day (I missed yesterday). This will show us the main issues with the winds and how they flow. We have already found major differences between Australia and Croatia with total reverses in the Jet Stream over long periods. Australia seems far more consistent, but Croatia is closer to the northern boundary of the system that determines the winds, compared to where I launch from in Australia.  Here in Australia we are further away from one of the jet Stream boundaries. I will post more on that soon.

Here are the records for three of the last four days. I will have a month of records to get to know the way this all works.

20140311 Jet Stream  20140311 HABHUB prediction - 30km

 

20140312 Jet Stream  20140312 HABHUB prediction - 30km

 

20140314 Jet Stream  20140314 HABHUB prediction - 30km

 

The Z shape is common the many flights with the change in wind direction as the balloon rises from the Jet STream to the Stratospheric wind. Once the balloon bursts, the payload goes back through the same winds and the same eind directions get duplicated. It comes down faster, so the tail is a little shorter.

The prediction of the 4th day is a very good on for an easy recovery. It stays well in Croatia and away from the mines and can be launched from Zagreb. Simply we would not launch from Zagreb as we have little control of range. I only use Zagreb as a reference to see where the balloon will end up and the conditions that control the wind directions.

Balloon Launches in a New Country can be a real problem – even across a big country. Take care and research things well.

Stellar Stratospheric Balloon HAB Workshops

Bojan Markičević and workshopsBalloon HAB Workshops Scheduled in Croatia

What does it take to ensure that a major project like Stellar’s Stratospheric Balloon project works? Simply, lots of work by lots of people.

In recent days we have been examining the payload weights and requirements. Each experiment is allowed 150g or mass on board the balloons. None the less some have dangerous aspects such as fluids or heat generation. We have to ensure that their placement within our payload containment allows them to have the right “view”, air flow or whatever they require.  We rely on strong equipment descriptions and we have provided a wealth of information about designing and building payload containers, etc.

None the less, the contestants in what is effectively a competition have never done this before and simply, they need more assistance. To meet these needs we have assembled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and our response. Stellar member Bojan Markičević will be traveling around Croatia and providing workshops for the various teams. The workshops have already commenced. The FAQ is below.

Download (PDF, 256KB)

Want to know more about this Stellar event?

http://teamstellar.org/#news-19

Here are the details for our Balloon HAB Workshops – courtesy of Google translate:

Schedule creative Balloon HAB Workshops

Dear teams ,

Below is the schedule and locations of scientific and creative Balloon HAB Workshops. Workshops carried Bojan Markičević a period of 4-5 hours .

Also we want to remind you to forward information ( if possible , in English ) related to your experiments ( weight , volume , special handling ) to 10/03/2014 .
Please enclose as much information about your experiments , so that our technical team ( Robert Brand , Tim Blaxland and Vilko Klein ) could plan a schedule of cargo .

Workshop schedule :

10.3 . ( M ) – Sisak , location : Technical School Sisak , time : 10:00 / / Teams : Stream instantly impulse , Gorilaz , SOLAR TEAM

11.3 . ( T ) – Kutina , location : technical schools Kutina , time : 09:30 / / Teams : GRAVITY , SPACE JET

13.3 . ( Thu ) – Zagreb , location : High school Luciano Laurana , Time : 11:00 / / Teams : ASTRONITHYUS , Suave , TIM HELIOS , CROSTRATOS
14.3 . ( Five ) – Zagreb , location : First Technical School , Time : 11:00 / / Teams : X – TESLA , FAUST TEAM

18.3 . ( T ) – Metkovic , location : High school Metkovic , Time : 15:00 / / Teams : BHIS PRISM SPECTRUM

19.3 . ( W ) – Zadar , location : Vocational School Vice Vlatković Time : 13:00 / / Team : EIGHTBIT

20.3 . ( Fri) – Rijeka , location : Elektorindustrijska and crafts school in Rijeka , time : 10:00 / / Teams : ELECTRIC DREAMS , gymnasium Pula ( Pula )
24.3 . ( M ) – Osijek , location : Electrical Engineering and Traffic School Osijek , time : 13:30 / / THE Renewables , DEA

25.3 . ( T ) – Daruvar Location: Technical School Daruvar , time : 11:00 / / CRANES , Bjelovar STELLAR LABARATORY ( Bjelovar )

See you soon !

UpLift-2

Jason (11 y/o) to Recover Balloons in Croatia

20130414 Jason Brand on the Fuzzy Logic Science ShowAustralian Student Recover Balloons in Croatia

Okay, I’ll be traveling with him to Croatia, but since there are two separate balloons to track and recover on two days, Jason will be well and truly tracking without my help and in a foreign country. He will have the team Stellar guys with him, but he will be doing the tracking and navigation for his vehicle. Stellar is a Team in the Google Lunar X Prize event. Have a look on Wiki to find out more.

jason is an 11 year old student in year 7 at Sydney Secondary College, Balmain Campus. At age 9 he obtained his Amateur Radio License (Foundation). We has some programing experience and builds and repairs helicopters and tricopters. He has helped track and recover 16 successful High Altitude Balloons and together Jason and I have the world’s highest recovery rate – 100% over an enormous number of missions.

A quick snapshot of the whole event:

We travel to Croatia at the start of the NSW school holidays. They are two weeks long. Jason and I will probably be traveling with fellow Team Stellar member Tim Blaxland. Tim is our team’s chief of UpLift-2Navigation. I look after the Team’s Communications, Tracking and Data. Jason is the Australian Student Representative and he is also my son.

Jason will be taking part in the planning phases of the mission and will have a big role in talking to the press and to school students. He will be bringing his newly built tricopter with him and he will be showing students what they can do with a little help. he will be talking about High Altitude Balloons (HAB) and the science of the troposphere and the stratosphere.

We will launch over two days and thus need to track 4 balloons – mostly with students experiments.  We have done our best to ensure success of Stellar’s “Balloon Stratosphere“.

Follow up interviews and more student mentoring and sessions.

Return to Sydney.

Much of this trip will be assisting the Croatian members of Team Stellar to get comfortable with HAB missions. Jason and I hope that we can pass on our expertise to the Croatian members.

Tim Blaxland already has some experience helping with a flight in NSW with us. That flight achieved nearly 37km altitude. We recovered the payload in a freshly cut wheat field a few weeks back.

More updates with travel and tracking information shortly. The picture below is Jason, Tim and I with some others preparing the recent balloon for flight. it is a 1.2kg balloon. Stellar’s balloons will be 3kg! That is the view from the payload camera.

DCIM100GOPRO

 

Preparing Your Balloon Payload

Stellar Balloon flight to the stratosphere in CroatiaPacking a High Altitude Balloon Payload

Below is a set of instructions I used to help some teams launch their balloon payloads in our upcoming HAB flights in Croatia. You might like to consider them a guideline to how you can pack a payload in light weight material for your flight. Of course you can use a Styrofoam box, but that is a bit of an overkill in the world of light weight  payloads.

If this helps, then please use the ideas and send us a link on your web page:

The Instructions:

Creating your experiment is the hard part, but finding something to put it in can be very difficult too. I have included some idea here that should help. Firstly, let me say congratulations in getting this far. It is great to see so many ready worthy experiments going into the stratosphere.

Let me start this paper by explaining what the out package is meant to do. The balloon will leave the ground and quickly rise in to the upper areas of the troposphere . Here is where jet aircraft fly and if you have ever flown and seen the outside temperature, displayed on the navigation screen, you will know it can get to around -60 C. Hopefully we will only have temperatures of around -50 C. By the time we reach 7km, there is more mass atmosphere below us than above us. In fact way more. This means that the atmospheric pressure is getting very low. At about 20km altitude, we will pass from the troposphere and into the small layer known as the tropopause. Look that up!

The stratosphere is next and it is very warm compared to the temperatures in the jet stream. It may reach -20C or in some places and on some occasions could reach an amazing 5 C. Since the balloon flies with the wind, there is very little force on the balloon during its flight. Even when the balloon explodes, the fall has little impact on the experiments. It is briefly like the “weightlessness” of space. A light foam package may reach speeds of 160kph in the thin air. As the air thickens the parachute slows the payload and we should have a light impact of only around 5m/s or 18kph. Finally what if it lands in water?

So, the main things that we need to combat are:

  • Pressure
  • Temperature
  • Weight
  • Landing impact
  • Water

A note on batteries. Very cold conditions will cause problems for some types of batteries. Alkaline batteries can be a big problem aand can fail during the flight. We recommend Lithium batteries as these resist the cold very well. They also last about 4 times longer than Alkaline batteries.

Weight is simple, each experiment is meant to weigh only 150 grams, including the packaging, so we are looking for very strong light weight packaging that will fit the size of our payload.

Pressure is less of a problem on the most part. Most things survive pressures close the extremely low pressures of space. We will expect about 1% of the pressure seen at sea level. Pressure does however make it hard to waterproof a payload. Waterproofing usually means sealing things up. That unfortunately will probably create an explosive effect on a large mass of air in any packaging.

Temperature of the payload – or cooling! Heat will leave your experiment quickly and freezing temperatures will probably be experienced at about 3,000m. from then on, your experiment will not return to temperatures above freezing until back on the ground. Check your battery specifications and we have some things that we can do to limit the effects on the battery. More on that later.

Landing Impact is not high. It is easy to cushion an impact of that size. You can run as as fast as that for a short time. The fastest human foot speed on record is 44.72 km/h. The cover still needs to cushion the impact.

Water. We hope to ensure that if it lands in water, we can still recover the experiments. Nothing will keep water out, unless you can make sure that there is no air in the packaging. Then it can be sealed totally. This will be difficult.

Suggestion 1 – Bubble Wrap

Sounds crazy, but bubble wrap can survive in space without the bubbles exploding. It achieves all of the objectives and can even keep water out. it is a good thermal insulator as it has trapped air, it is very light and can cushion impacts as well as floating. It is what I like to use if possible.  The electronics for UpLift 16 was wrapped in Bubble Wrap. You can see the wires  coming out of the package.

In the above picture, the three wires on the right terminate in a black temperature sensor for the outside air. By keeping it in the shade just beneath the bubble wrap, I was able to measure the temperature of the atmosphere at different altitudes. After landing, it was over 2 weeks before we went to recover the payload and the electronics were intact. In fact we did not even use a parachute. The bubble wrap provided the cushioning for a fall from the stratosphere. It also cause some air braking, slowing the fall. Since the battery was next it the electronics – separated by one layer of insulation tape, the warmth of the payload and the warmth of the battery are used to keep both as warm as possible by each adding to the internal heat. The bubble wrap simply slows the loss of heat.

The one thing to remember when using it is to wrap it three times. Also remember that the bubbles will expand and will apply some pressure to the payload unless loosely wrapped. It should be sealed with a light weight tape.

Bubblewrap

Suggestion 2 – Food container

Ever had takeaway food in a plastic container? These are very light and strong. If they land hard, they may crack, but that is about it. They are also rather air tight at time. If using these and you do not cut holes for sensors, cameras, wires, etc please remember to add a small hole to allow the air to exit and enter so that it does not blow the lid off the container or crush it.  The pin hole will not let in too much water if it lands in a lake, so it will float. You may still need some bubble wrap around the outside, but this is still very light weight. The ones pictured below weigh 33 grams

 Takeaway Food Container

 

Suggestion 3 – Paper Towel Roll

These are long and strong as well as light weight. Simply they work well. They are also very light weight – 10 grams. You can tape the ends for both securing the payload and increasing the strength. It is not water resistant, but there is almost no way of protecting your payload for the small possibility the payload landing in water. You can carefully cut the roll to form a smaller holder and lower weight.

 IMG_1946

Suggestion 4 – Toilet Rolls – Clean and Unused!

Make sure that the roll has not been used in the toilet please! Remove the paper and you will find a short roll about half the size of the paper towel roll weighing about 5 grams. Again, taping the ends will help in securing you payload and increasing strength.

Suggestion 5 – Kitchen and other containers

Look around the kitchen, the bathroom and almost anywhere in your office or home there are a variety of containers. Here are two more:

IMG_1947 IMG_1948

One is a cotton bud container weighing 20 grams – small but very strong. The other is a fruit container without a lid. You can cover the top with a rectangle of thin plastic – ensure air can escape. The cotton bud container weighs 20 grams and the fruit container weighs also weighs 20 grams but is very large in comparison.

Electrical Connections

It is important to ensure a secure electrical connection if using electronics. We suggest that all connections be soldered and also make sure that switches are not easily “knocked” to the off position. This can be easily achieved by cutting the top off a lever type switch – even a tiny ones. This means less of the lever to get in the way as well as less leverage. Similarly there are other switches such as slide switches. These can be accidentally knocked too. You can cut these down too. We can use a screwdriver to slide the switch as directed in your instructions. You can also go to your electronics shop and get a switch that may need a screwdriver to operate.

We can also suggest that you tape the switch to the “on” position so that it cannot be accidentally switched off if bumped during packing or during flight.

Alternatively, use a Plug and socket. these are robust. Below is a picture of a battery pack with a connector ready to be plugged into the payload.

 IMG_1955

These are small and very light weigh.

Final Tips

A few final tips:

  • Write your full details on a label on the payload.
  • Use a waterproof pen on the container.
  • We suggest that you use Lithium batteries and thermal insulation to keep your batteries (and possibly the payload) from freezing.
  • Have fun creating your experiment.
  • Stand back – we are doing science! 

As I said at the start, these are a few ideas for students participating in Team Stellar’s Stratospheric Balloon flight / Balon Stratosfera. I hope that some of this helps with your own balloon projects.