Mars Live – Australian Tour

Mars Live Australian Tour
Mars Live – 20% Off

Presented by: National Geographic Live – Mars Live!

Exploration has always been a defining feature of what it means to be Human. Today this distinctly Human trait is as strong as ever with the exploration of space at the forefront of our achievements. Many believe that Mars represents our future and our ability to ensure the survival of the Human race.

Human exploration and an eventual permanent presence on Mars is no longer a distant dream but a realistic objective for the human race.

For the first time, National Geographic Live is bringing the world’s leading authorities together for a unique major live event to discuss global space agency plans and the immense challenges awaiting Humankind’s next great space adventure.

Mars Live! Be there and join our Host Ray Martin as he presents live on stage, Apollo Legend and Mars advocate ‘Buzz Aldrin’, with leading authorities from US and European global space agencies including Prof. Mark McCaughrean Senior Science Advisor European Space Agency in a world first National Geographic Live event. Special guest appearance by Astrophysicist Dr Katherine Mack.

Using stunning images and footage from global space agencies and National Geographic Channel’s landmark new television series ‘MARS’, directed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer, audiences will experience live an exciting journey to the Red Planet our future new home.

Would you like to catch up with me –Robert Brand –  at or before the Sydney event? Leave a comment on this page and I will organise what we will be doing – possibly an early get together before the Mars Live event, but certainly a huge opportunity to meet with some of great people that love space that live around Sydney.




Mars Live Tour Dates:
Ticketek is selling for the following venues only

Fri 4 Nov 2016
Melbourne Town Hall, VIC
Sun 6 Nov 2016
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, NSW
Mon 7 Nov 2016
Llewellyn Hall, Canberra, ACT

Save on Low Cost Payloads to the Stratosphere

Save with payloads to the StratosphereOFFER EXTENDED TO 21 Nov 2016

Save A$1,100 on Sending Payloads to the Stratosphere.

We are trying to fill our calendar with low cost flights to the Stratosphere so you save A$1,100 min each flight. Our minimum price is usually $3,000 carried out by the world’s most successful team. 28 flights to date.

Our flights are conducted in Australia but you don’t have to live here to have us fly your payload.

Save: Save with the most consistent team on the planet.bookings can be up to 12 months in advance, but the promotion is only valid for 2 weeks and expires on:

Midnight the 21st Nov 2016.

Book a flight for your payload and then, when we give you a price, claim and save with your discount of $1,100. This way you know that we are giving you the real deal. All deposits must be made by 22nd Nov 2016 over the counter and as usual are not refundable. We immediately order gas, book travel, accommodation and register the flight with CASA, Rex Airlines, QantasLink and others. In other words, it compensates for work and other material bought or held aside for your flight.

Commercial work starting from A $1,900

Book and save in the next 2 weeks and we will cut the basic price to $1,900. We still require $1,500 up front for the balloon, gas, labour and other costs before the flight, but you would be getting the world’s best high altitude team. After 28 flights in Croatia and Australia, HABworx has recovered all payloads

We have been helping others make the most incredible flights for amazing reasons. There are always cameras, but our customers have their own requirements. We have had signage change during flight; we have taken up 360 degree immersive video cameras, radio systems; sensors and musical noise makers.

UpLift-19 Space ChickenWe have flown payloads for :

  • Bulla Cloud9 Yogurt online advertising
  • Several record launches
  • Conservation (Karl the Cassowary)
  • Art (Sounds in the Stratosphere)
  • Science competition (20 experiments flown in Croatia)
  • Science Week education – Albury lectures tracking a live flight
  • Product launches
  • Sydney University – Science
  • Toyota Team Bonding.
Balloon Burst4 seconds after the event - UpLift-19

Balloon Burst 4 seconds after the event – UpLift-19

What you get:

  • The most consistent team on the planet – with a 100% recovery success with 28 payloads released (at time of publication).
  • Released 2 flights in Croatia
  • Working with Murdoch University and a UK University for 2 separate Mars missions that will require precision balloon flights.
  • The experience of 28 flights under our belts.
  • Difficult projects that require old and new logo reveals, multiple cameras and 360 degree photography.
  • Ground photography of the release site and in vehicle photography of the chase.
  • Drone photography of the release site.
  • We will even wear special suits and tee shirts for the project.
  • Save $1,100 per flight.

Listen to what a difference a high altitude balloon campaign can make.

Hear and see more directly from the customer!:

Below is one the individual flights.

That was me (Robert Brand – the head of HABworx) in the closing scenes picking up the payload. It was definitely frozen! We limited the height of payloads by the size of the balloon fill. This ensured that they would come down before warming in the stratosphere. There were 41 people involved for 2 days in central NSW. The projects can be big or small – it is up to you.

Contact: contact @ projectthunderstruck . com   —  remove the spaces!

Save by using a small team. The locals always take an interest.We will give you a price for your project that will make it a reality!

The price of $1,900 would be a single flight in central NSW with 2 to 3 cameras (yours!) to usually above 30Km. We provide the tracking and everything else for the flight. You can even  track the flight from your armchair at home – or come with us for the adventure of releasing the balloon and tracking the payload to a field and recovering the payload!

Email me with your flight request and finalise payment within 2 days and let us send your payload to the Stratosphere.

A Guide to Prices and How to Save

  • Basic Price $3,000: We fly your payload with our trackers – Up to 4Kg – 2.5Kg will usually get to 30Km altitude or more). We travel 6 hours drive to West Wyalong on day 1, fill and release early on day 2; recover the payload and return home on day 2
  • $1,000 for additional per day for any customer reason (excluding second balloon flight).
  • $2,000 for additional balloon flight and recovery on the following day
  • $2,000 for a second tracking team for their first flight
  • $1,000 for a second tracking team for additional flights
  • $2,000 for us to build the payload and provide cameras (GoPros) for any flights with small mascots or logos – excluding new logo reveals.
  • $1,000 for a reveal mechanism – pulls the old logo away and reveals the new logo.
  • Other work will need to be discussed and quoted.
UpLift-28 Released. Our latest flight. The customers will tell you that we saved them a lot of money compared to doing it themselves.

UpLift-28 Our latest flight. The customers will tell you that we saved them a lot of money compared to doing it themselves.

Breaking Mach 1, but by How Much?

A Zero Pressure Balloon fill_2610Hitting the Mach.

by Robert Brand

The aim of Project ThunderStruck is hitting Mach 1 and a bit more for good measure. Basically breaking the sound barrier. We may reach Mach 1.5, but that will be very much related to the height we reach with the balloon and few other factors. Project ThunderStruck is about Breaking Mach 1 – anything faster is a bonus.

ThunderStruck will rise to 40Km or more for its record attempt. It will need to use a Zero Pressure Balloon capable of reaching 40Km plus carrying a payload in the region of 20Kg including cameras and electronics on the Balloon.

Thanks to for the information below regarding Joe Kittinger’s Record Jump in 1960:

Captain Kittinger’s 1960 report in National Geographic said that he was in free fall from 102,800 (31.333Km) to 96,000 feet (29.26Km) and then experienced no noticeable change in acceleration for an additional 6,000 feet (1.83Km) despite having deployed his stabilization chute.

The article then goes on the mention that he achieved 9/10ths the speed of sound and continued to suggest (with maths) that he would have broken the speed of sound with an additional 1,300 m (4,200 feet) of free fall.

If we assume an average acceleration of 9.70 m/s2, it is a simple matter to determine the altitude at which a skydiver starting at 40 km would break the sound barrier.

 maths to calculate altitude at which the sound barrier is broken

That’s an altitude of about 116,000 feet or 35.36Km. So how fast might we go starting at 40km altitude?

maths to calculate the max speed from altitude

Sorry if the equations are difficult to see – that is the quality from the website.

This is nearly 200 m/s faster than the local speed of sound. At the incredible speeds we’re dealing with, air resistance can not be ignored. A maximum of Mach 1.3 seems very reasonable for a human in a pressure suit compared to the prediction of Mach 1.6.

Given that the altitude of the glider release will be 40Km or more, then a top speed of near Mach 1.5 is possible. If we go higher, then we go faster.

Why is ThunderStruck an Aircraft?

Why is it considered an aircraft if it is in free fall with little to no drag? Simply because it is designed to use the little airflow to stabilise itself. Like and aircraft at lower heights uses its control surfaces for stable flight, ThunderStruck does the same. As you might remember from the jumps in the past by Joe Kittinger and Felix Baumgartner, they had serious trouble controlling spin. ThunderStruck will use the exceedingly thin air to control the spin and other forces acting on the craft during its record breaking dive.

After the dive and breaking the sound barrier, ThunderStruck will pull out of the dive under the control of RC pilot Jason Brand (12 years old) and level off, washing off excess speed. It will then fly to the ground under manual control to land just like any other aircraft.

This piece on Felix Baumgartner from Wikipedia:

203px-Felix_Baumgartner_2013Felix Baumgartner; born 20 April 1969, is an Austrian skydiver, daredevil and BASE jumper. He set the world record for skydiving an estimated 39 kilometres (24 mi), reaching an estimated speed of 1,357.64 km/h (843.6 mph), or Mach 1.25, on 14 October 2012, and became the first person to break the sound barrier without vehicular power on his descent.

Baumgartner’s most recent project was Red Bull Stratos, in which he jumped to Earth from a helium balloon in the stratosphere on 14 October 2012. As part of this project, he set the altitude record for a manned balloon flight,[8] parachute jump from the highest altitude, and greatest free fall velocity

The launch was originally scheduled for 9 October 2012, but was aborted due to adverse weather conditions. Launch was rescheduled and the mission instead took place on 14 October 2012 when Baumgartner landed in eastern New Mexico after jumping from a world record 38,969.3 metres (127,852 feet and falling a record distance of 36,402.6 metres. On the basis of updated data, Baumgartner also set the record for the highest manned balloon flight (at the same height) and fastest speed of free fall at 1,357.64 km/h (843.6 mph), making him the first human to break the sound barrier outside a vehicle.

This piece on the Speed of Sound from Wikipedia:

The speed of sound is the distance traveled per unit of time by a sound wave propagating through an elastic medium. In dry air at 20 °C (68 °F), the speed of sound is 342 metres per second (1,122 ft/s). This is 1,233 kilometres per hour (666 kn; 766 mph), or about a kilometer in three seconds or a mile in five seconds.

The Speed of Sound changes with altitude, but surprisingly this is not due to density or pressure, but with temperature!

512px-Comparison_US_standard_atmosphere_1962.svgDensity and pressure decrease smoothly with altitude, but temperature (red) does not. The speed of sound (blue) depends only on the complicated temperature variation at altitude and can be calculated from it, since isolated density and pressure effects on sound speed cancel each other. Speed of sound increases with height in two regions of the stratosphere and thermosphere, due to heating effects in these regions.

You can click of the image  (left) to enlarge the image. For the purposes of this flight, we will be using the speed of sound at sea level.

Will there be a Sonic Boom?

Yes, but it will not likely to be heard. In fact there will be two. One as it breaks the sound barrier and goes supersonic and one again as it slows to subsonic. Givent he size of the craft and the distance and thin atmosphere, it is unlikely to be heard from the ground.

Our Aerospace Adviser Asks Questions. Project ThunderStruck

Area_rule_unifilar_drawing.svgAnswering our Adviser’s Initial Questions

Below is an exchange between our new adviser to the project (to be announced officially soon and myself (Robert Brand). Here are his initial comments and please remember that he has not seen anything yet. Our adviser is a pilot with an aerospace engineering degree.

Our Adviser  Hi Robert, Here are a few questions and thoughts.

1. Propulsion

At a first glance you may think you don’t have a propulsion problem, because the thing is falling down.
The fact is, you do. The basic forces and their components (lift, weight, thrust and drag) are always in balance as long as the aircraft is not accelerating in any axis.

This is valid the other way around as well: The aircraft will accelerate as long as the forces are not in balance.
For your case, you need to have the capability to accelerate beyond the sound barrier.

The problem is that the parasitic drag increases exponentially as you approach M=1 and because you are going at a certain angle towards the ground, a certain component of this force, or all of it if you dive vertically, adds to your lift. Once your lift becomes greater than your weight, you will start to slow down.

If this happens before M=1, you will never reach supersonic speed. If it happens after M=! you can further accelerate, because the drag drops after transonic. Transonic is the worst place to be. I order to be supersonic, you must achieve M=1 ASAP, before the air becomes dense.

If you drop from 33km, forget it, because at 30km you can already feel the effects of atmosphere.
The first thing you need to do is apply total surface design, or coke-bottling. The total surface of your craft must be consistent, so at the place where you have wings, your fuselage must be narrower. This dictates your fuselage to be in a shape of a coke bottle. This will reduce drag significantly.

Also, center of lift on the wings changes in supersonic flight and you need to cope with that. There are two strategies, variable wings or variable centre of gravity. I have a very original idea how to solve that.

2. Stability

Any object going through a fluid tends to assume a low drag position. Sometimes this low drag position means rotating and spinning.
You can solve this problem by active control (unless you have f-16 engineers on board, forget it) or aircraft design.
I would suggest delta wings, high swept. Delta wing has an inherent autostability feature and high sweep angle to reduce drag and effect of the wings.
Accept it, your aircraft can be designed either for high speeds or low speeds, unless you have flaps or variable wing geometry.


My Response

I look forward to how he views this and I will report back soon. I expect that I will have allayed most of his fears:

Firstly we are already applying the constant area rule. Even the A380 has aspects of the rule in the design. I lectured at Sydney Uni on the subject only a few weeks back. I understand the rule and some other rules to do with supersonic flight, although their effects are much less than the constant area rule.

Yes, the wings may very well be more swept back than in the image on the site. We will do drop tests to a certain the best wing shape and we have access to a wind tunnel.

The wings will be symmetrical (top and bottom)– ie zero lift. They will be therefore not an issue at supersonic speeds. The elevator will provide the “lift” with speed at lower altitudes. Yes, it will land “hot” – we may use “flaperons” ie combined flaps and ailerons. It should be noted that these are less effective as ailerons when they are biased down as flaps, but they will be bigger than needed. They will be symmetrical also. Flaperons are really ailerons  that are mixed with the flaps signal on the transmitter to bias them both “on” as flaps/ The ailerons do not work with the same efficiency when they are both biased down, but they do work. We may use separate flaps, we may not use flaps. Testing will determine the stability and best options.

Below is a video that shows how they mix the signals in the transmitter of radio controlled models to adjust the various control surfaces. This is a third party video

The spin will be counteracted by the large ailerons even in low air, the trick is to stop the spin in the first place by making the craft very symmetrical and test that aspect.

Our novel answer to controlling the need for different centres of gravity: We will have serious control of the centre of gravity in the craft and we will be able to move the batteries and electronics with a screw mechanism back and forward in the fuselage. This will keep the craft from being unstable at supersonic speeds. Once it goes back to subsonic, we will begin moving the centre of gravity back as we begin to level out the flight and slow the craft.

At slower speeds, we have air brakes that will slow the craft if needed

The supersonic spike at the front of the aircraft is used to create the shock wave with a pin point device ahead of the fuselage and ensure that the biggest part of the shock misses the wing entirely. A shock wave over the wing creates massive drag and this is why many pilots in the early days, tried to break the sound barrier and failed. The spike doubles as a VHF / UHF antenna

Three weeks ago we launched a payload mainly of wood, covered in bubblewrap for the electronics and, with the parachute deployed, it reached 400kph. For the event we will be using a Zero Pressure Balloon to get to over 40Km altitude. If the 9Kg of the payload are not enough, we will increase the weight and size of the craft. We will brake the sound barrier, but need to show it is a fully working aircraft after the dive.

In World War II bombs from high altitude aircraft regularly broke the sound barrier. We will shift the centre of gravity well forward and act like a bomb. We should be able to punch through that barrier with a lot to spare – even Felix Baumgartner broke he sound barrier for his jump altitude of 39Km. He was not very aerodynamic. We expect to terminate supersonic flight at around 31Km
Yes, transonic is a bad place. We do not intend to allow the craft to stay there! Punch through while the air is super thin and keep accelerating!

Will we make Mach 1.5? – it depends on our launch altitude. We will achieve Mach 1 – the sea level speed of sound is our target. About 1200kph.

Area_rule_unifilar_drawing.svgThere is much more, but I expect that I have answered most of your questions in this email. We will be using ITAR controlled GPS units for supersonic tracking and also we will be using radar transponders to warn other aircraft. The Jason and I will be testing a lot of aspects of the flight with drop tests from balloons. I will be launching another balloon in a week’s time.

The picture above shows the constant area rule – efficiency is gained by the cross-sectional area of the aircraft being constant along its length. The fuselage gets thinner where the wings are as there area has to be accounted for. This rule is important as aircraft get close to the sound barrier and this is why Boeing 747 aircraft were so efficient.

Note the light blue area has to be the same as the dark blue area, including the area of the wings. This id the “coke bottle” shape that our adviser mentioned

Air Pressure, Altitude, Balloons and Rockets

Weather Balloon BurstAir Pressure and how it Affects Balloons and Rockets

By Robert Brand


One of the big issues for rockets flying to space is the air pressure it must climb through. As a rocket climbs it gets faster and has to push more air out of the way. As it goes higher the air thins and you can see from the table below that it is exponential. Have a look at the 1/100th  fraction of one atmosphere below and you will see that the atmosphere is 1% of sea level. The change is not linear. The atmosphere thins to a tiny percentage at twice that height, but at half the height it is 10% of the sea level pressure.

NASA says: The velocity of a rocket during launch is constantly increasing with altitude. Therefore, the dynamic pressure on a rocket during launch is initially zero because the velocity is zero. The dynamic pressure increases because of the increasing velocity to some maximum value, called the maximum dynamic pressure, or Max Q. Then the dynamic pressure decreases because of the decreasing density. The Max Q condition is a design constraint on full scale rockets.

fractionof 1 atmosphere (ATM) average altitude
(m) (ft)
1 0 0
1/2 5,486.3 18,000
1/3 8,375.8 27,480
1/10 16,131.9 52,926
1/100 30,900.9 101,381
1/1000 48,467.2 159,013
1/10000 69,463.6 227,899
1/100000 96,281.6 283,076

The Falcon9 reaches the speed of sound at 1 min 10 sec into its flight and then reaches Max Q just 8 to 13 seconds later depending on speed,and air pressure variables. Unlike airplanes, a rocket’s thrust actually increases with altitude; Falcon 9 generates 1.3 million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space. The first stage engines are gradually throttled near the end of first-stage flight to limit launch vehicle acceleration as the rocket’s mass decreases with the burning of fuel.

Want to know more? This is not full of maths, just some fun stuff about Max Q and reaching orbit.


Well for balloons we have a different issue. Balloons have to displace their weight in gas in the atmosphere and that includes displacing enough gas for the weight of the payload too.

Rate of Climb - Fall vs TimeThe climb to maximum altitude for the most part is linear. I discovered this when analysing the stats from my first balloon flight. It was linear until it reached the point that the balloon exploded. If you launch a balloon that does not explode, it will slow its climb and then float. My best guess is that as the climb becomes more difficult due to the air thinning thus and thus the displaced gas is getting closer to the weight of the balloon and payload, but the air resistance is getting less. The size of the balloon is also increasing with height and has to push away a greater volume of air to climb, but the number of air molecules in the increased mass is way less. All up it produces a fairly linear climb. The graph (left) from uplift-1 shows he linear climb and the exponential fall with the parachute deployed. For the parachute, the air gets thicker as it falls and thus slows more as the altitude decreases. Note the initial glitch was caused by a strong thermal just as we let go of the balloon. Once out of the thermal the climb was very linear. It is obvious when the balloon burst.

Altitude and Air PressureAnother view of th same data is shown on the left from UpLift-1’s flight. Note that the rate of climb is linear, but increasing slightly. This would be affected by balloon size and fill amount. The rate of climb may be fast, slow or medium, but that will also change the rate of change of the volume. Not all graphs are the same, but they tend to be similar. Note also that the size of the parachute needs to change with the weight of the payload. The ideal speed for the average payload would be about 5mto 6m per second at the landing altitude, thus landing at Denver, Colorado, USA will require that you make the parachute a little bigger since it is nearly 2Km above sea level and the air is noticeably thinner.

There are good fill charts on the web allowing you to calculate the size of balloon and the amount of Helium or Hydrogen to determine the altitude at which the balloon will explode. More on that another time. The picture at top of page is a weather balloon exploding at altitude.

All up, air pressure can destroy a rocket if its speed is too great and it will destroy a weather balloon if the air pressure gets too low. Both rely on understanding the effects of air pressure, but the dynamics are totally different.

Too finish off the post here is a video of a balloon burst. They are spectacular, especially as the balloons grow to a huge diameter and fill the screen of most wide angle GoPros!:

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.

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.


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:

Apollo Heritage – A GLXP Hangout

Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Hangout - Apollo Heritage and the GLXPApollo 11 45th Anniversary Hangout – Apollo Heritage and the GLXP.

Well the Apollo Heritage Hangout event is over and I had a lot of fun with the interview or should I say “armchair chat”. It was a very comfortable discussion. I am excited to tell you that there is a video of the event. It was recorded and the link is below. I must say that I am very taken with Dr. Pamela L. Gay (the host) and her interview style. I was never left with a feeling of “what will happen next”.

I was on the Apollo Heritage Hangout with Derick Webber, one of the GLXP judges and an easy to get along with type of guy who was also around during the Apollo era. He is also Director, SpacePort Associates. Author of “The Wright Stuff: the Century of Effort Behind your Ticket to Space” and much more.

So without any more chatter, click on the link below and settle in with a drink and enjoy the fun.

Please connect with out team – Team Stellar:

About Robert Brand:

Works for; and shareholder in a Communications and Aerospace company called PlusComms:

Head of the Communications, Tracking and Data Division in Team Stellar.

Worked in Communications support for about 100 NASA and US military space mission and several ESA mission. Stationed at the Parkes Radio Telescope in comms support for the NASA Voyager flyby of Uranus and Neptune and ESA’s Giotto mission to Halleys Comet.

Robert regularly launches stratospheric balloons for both commercial work and scientific research. Some of the commercial flights are supporting space research for universities and private companies. The work is done through his company, PlusComms. He has launched 18 flights and recovered all 18 payloads. He will soon be building drones with supersonic capability (gravity assist).



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

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

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 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

Robert Brand – Speaker

Robert Brand Speaking at Spacefest VI 2014

Need a Speaker for that Special Dinner?

Want a passionate and entertaining speaker for your event? Someone that motivates, tells a story with enthusiasm and clarity, someone that has done it all!

Robert spoke at Spacefest in Pasadena, Ca in May 2014 and received comments such as “that presentation alone was worth the cost of registration”.

Twitter messages continued for weeks after the event. This one from @cybernova: Reminiscing on how incredible the 3D images of Mars and the lunar landing looked. Huge thanks to @robertbrand for putting that together! – 29 May 2014

So why the excitement? Robert is a skilled presenter who speaks about topics ranging from Space to Inspiring kids to think big.

Robert presenting in CroatiaYes Space! Robert is one of Australia’s leading space entrepreneurs and building space services and some a space craft. At the age of 17 he even worked on the Apollo 11 switching centre in Sydney that brought the world the feed of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. Since then he has worked in supported most of NASA’s Apollo missions, Skylab, Voyager and was stationed at the Parkes Telescope for ESA’s Giotto probe to Halleys Comet.

Robert worked in Communications for these space events, but at the age of 59 migrated quickly into the Space sector, making an instant hit world wide. He has appeared many times on ABC Radio on such shows as Linda Mottram’s Morning Show in Sydney (702), Richard Glover’s Drive (702) The Science Show, Radio Australia’s Breakfast Club and many stations around Australia.

ABC Radio’s Linda Mottram: Robert Brand’s expansive vision for Australia in aerospace is inspiring and exciting. He has the kind of energy and vision that could easily make Australia a leader. How starkly it contrasts with the mundane pronouncements from political leaders that leave so many of our best brains running for the door.

Internationally he has appeared on Radio in the UK, The Space Show in the US and This Week in Science (US). He has also had many TV appearances in Australia commenting on current space matters.

Robert speaks regularly at Spacefest in the US where he competes for a speaking spot with space experts from all over the world. He has spoken for the last 3 consecutive years on the same program as Apollo astronauts, mission controllers, planetary scientists and the key note speakers like Prof. Brian Cox (UK) and Dr Carolyn Porco. He has also spoken at ISDC and space conferences throughout Australia as well as Engineers Australia. The video below shows Robert and his son Jason (12) in Croatia launching balloons and being interviewed on Croatian TV. Robert is not just someone that did something great in the past, he is pushing forward into new and amazing frontiers.

Robert’s subjects although they appear mainly science and space oriented; include:

  • Motivating youth to achieve their goals
  • 3D slide presentations
  • Using Social Media to accelerate career change
  • Thinking outside of the box to stimulate new ideas and create change when budgets diminish
  • Wild Sports. Diving with sharks, cave diving, flying ultralights, gliding, climbing, abseiling, etc
  • Stratospheric balloons – 19 successful flights and recoveries – breaking records.

His presentation slides are mainly original material from many of his exploits, balloon and space work, but he does not repeat any text from the screen. His presentations are all about natural speech and because “he knows his stuff” he talks effortlessly to engage the audience.

Robert and Jason presenting in CroatiaHe sometimes speaks with his 12 year old son Jason. Jason is an accomplished speaker and demonstrates how a young mind can grow when not limited by normal constraints. Jason will be attempting to break the sound barrier with a Radio Controlled aircraft in the next 12 months. He will fly it as if he is in the cockpit using a video radio link and home built equipment all of his design.

Jason has spoken at Engineers Australia with his father and in front of 100 scientists in Croatia.

Robert Brand’s speaking fees are $3,000 for a dinner, lunch or breakfast engagement in Sydney. Other cities or engagements will need to be subject to a quotation.

As an introductory offer, for 2014, his standard fee, if booked direct, will be 50% off.


Robert’s style is passionate and energetic and he moves and gesture a lot. Boring is not in his vocabulary. He sometimes challenges the audience so there is usually a bit of interaction. He also uses the occasional prop. A cordless microphone is preferred. A projector and laser pointer are essential and he must use my own PC if doing a 3D presentation.

Balon Stellar - Stratosfera 30km and RoverRobert is also the head of the Communications, Tracking and Data for Stellar – a space company sending a rover to the moon in the next three years. Jason is the Australian Student Representative. Together they travel internationally to talk about Space and to launch Stratospheric Balloons with student payloads to help stimulate space science in those countries. They have just returned from Croatia.

Robert will speak at “no cost” or a cost recovery basis on occasional Radio and TV interviews as well as presentations for small associations, not for profit groups and student focused groups. Simply ask.

Call +61 448 881 101

Robert and Jason presenting in Croatia

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!call=a%2FVK3YT-11&timerange=86400&tail=86400

Tracking with prediction at

Updates will be posted at

Andy NZ Track

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!call=a%2FVK3YT-11&timerange=86400&tail=86400

Tracking with prediction at

Updates will be posted at

 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.


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.

NASA EDGE TV Appearance

nasatvNASA EDGE TV and KickSat.

by Robert Brand.

I have long been both a watcher and supporter of NASA EDGE TV so it was great when asked if I would take part in a pre-launch interview for the KickSat project (aboard SpaceX CRS-3). NASA EDGE has changed from the early days when it was a little less polished and has now cemented a strong place in the NASA TV family.

NASA EDGE is a video podcast which explores different missions, technologies and projects developed by NASA. The program was released by NASA on March 18, 2007.  They also do live streaming video and I have been asked to take part the pre-launch activities for SpaceX Falcon9 launch in about 12 days’ time. I will be talking about the KickSat project that will be riding on board the rocket.  In fact a KickSat that I will part own will be on board, ready to fly into space and then into orbit as a complete spacecraft.

Watch out for the launch of SpaceX CRS-3 and of course KickSat

Things may change, but I will provide details as it gets closer to launch time. Let’s hope I’m still part of the program, but as a seasoned speaker, I know what can go wrong with any booking or any launch.

Want to know more about NASA EDGE?

What is NASA EDGE?


NASA EDGE. One NASA. Two hosts. Twenty thousand plus rocket scientists. We have liftoff!

NASA EDGE is different. Unscripted and unpredictable, NASA EDGE takes a unique look in and around the greatest space program on the planet.

Whether it’s the latest launch or the coolest gadgets, NASA EDGE hosts provide an offbeat, funny and informative look behind the NASA curtain. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about NASA but thought you needed to be a rocket scientist, wait no longer. Watch NASA EDGE and embrace your inner astronaut.





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.



KickSat – Owning a Spacecraft.

kicksatKickSat – Our Personal Spacecraft

Hey, guys, be jealous. Be very jealous! Jason and I own 1/3 of a real spacecraft that will fly in 18 days aboard a Falcon9. It is a resupply craft for the ISS, so it will be in sight of the International Space Station. So not only will it fly in space, it will have been close to the ISS!

It is to be launched with a lot of others from a special box that will eject all of the Kicksats It is sometimes called the Mothership. After three days flying free after being released, our spacecraft will flutter back to earth somewhere, probably intact. It will never be found, but no matter. My very own (part of a) spacecraft will have flown in space and back. How many of you can say that! This will be one great space adventure.

Pictured top right is a prototype. I keep this in my wallet to show people how tiny a spacecraft can be. People just don’t believe it until they see it. The big silver area is where the solar panel sits. The computer and radio receiver and transmitter are the chip in the middle. HAM radio will supply the ground links. Yes, this is just one crazy experiment – a swarm of spacecraft all able to communicate with each other and with earth.

MissionClockSpaceX Falcon9 Resupply Mission

This launches in 18 days. There is a great iPhone App and probably one for Android. It is Called MissionClock. You can follow the launch of the Falcon9 and the KickSats. This is of special interest to the creator of MissionClock as he has also invested in a KickSat. The picture on the left is the main screen for the resupply flight and the KickSat mission. I have used this application for many years. It is really good and I recommend it.

Before the flight I will provide the links to be able to track the swarm and our little craft.

If you are a HAM radio operator, I can help organise the information that you need to help with the tracking.

This flight is ground breaking. It is both a swarm and a crowd funded flight.

The Flight in More Detail

Once in orbit, the Falcon 9 will release the Dragon towards the ISS and, a few minutes later, pop the KickSat mothership into orbit. Did you see the movie “Gravity”? The slight delay is to avoid a space debris disaster like the movie. It’d be a risk if all those tiny satellites end up pinging around the world at high speed in exactly the same orbit as the space station.

The mothership will spend at least seven days in orbit before the sprites (the tiny KickSats) are released. “There are some space debris mitigation concerns,” admits Zac Manchester – the creator of the project, “but we’ve worked with the ISS Program Office to make sure it’s safe for the ISS.” The sprites’ orbit is so low that they will only survive for around three days before the upper atmosphere drags them to destruction.

What do They Do?

Some of the sprites will do little more than go beep, like the original Sputnik, others will transmit identification codes and some will even be used for science. Those fitted with magnetometers – like the ones that provide your smartphone compass – will transmit data about the Earth’s magnetic field. Others will send back information on temperature, orientation or radiation.

Stay tuned for more details on the flight. It will end in about one month’s time. That is the mothership below ejecting the Sprites – or KickSats. Who owns the other 2/3rds of the craft? S some Facebook friends and I chipped in #100 each to buy this baby.

KickSat Mothership



The Moon Landing and Educational Activities – Team Stellar

Educational Activities – Team Stellar

I was part of a Croatian press conference via Skype in December. It was an unusual feeling talking to an audience that you could not see or hear. The press conference was for Team Stellar and the upcoming balloon flight in Croatia. Jason and I are going to oversee the balloon flight and recovery of the payload.

This is from the Team Stellar blogsite. The original link is here:

You really need to read this and other stories on the Team Stellar Blog:

Press conference 

This was a great month for space exploration . We all witnessed the Chinese Chang 3 having landed softly on the Moon, and Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover is on its surface now. China has become the 3rd country in the world to put the robotic vehicle on the moon.

It is the first soft-landing on the moon by any spacecraft in 37 years. And it was especially interesting for us, all of the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams in the competition, because we are trying to do the same. There is only one small difference: we are doing it without the resources of the world economic superpower. Regardless, we strive to reduce the cost of the mission, we want to optimize each and every one of its segments, and that is our goal.

We want to get to the Moon as cheaply and as effectively as possible. We want to reduce all cost and make our technology commercially usable for the future.

Our COO Theo Valich giving interview for the television

Also, we held a press conference in Zagreb, Croatia to promote our educational outreach program, Balloon Stellar – Stratosphere. It was a great success. We want to spark interest of high school students in science and space exploration.  You can find out more on the subject on our webpage ,or on our social media pages and channels.