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High Altitude Balloon Ideas (2.0)
djellison
post Feb 25 2011, 08:32 PM
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So - now I live in the USA, I've been researching what's possible over here regarding balloon flights.

Firstly - the laws for ham-radio are much more relaxed, so instead of having to use bespoke 10mW transmitters for tracking... you can use an off the shelf 10W APRS tracking device ( http://www.byonics.com/microtrak/mtaio.php ) . You don't need to contact the FAA if it's below a certain mass. There's a lot more country to land it in, rather than the north sea.

So - I'd very much like to start thinking about what unique project we, as a bunch of spacey people, could use a high altitude balloon flight for.

Here's some of the things that have been done recently in the field of amateur high altitude balloon flights :
If you want to be blown away - a cinematography group used the HD-Hero action cameras to record some genuinely breathtaking footage - http://www.youtube.com/user/kevinmacko -
They also used a ShadowBox - a sort of data-logger-of-awesome - http://shadowboxlive.com/
You can now get fairly cheap back-up tracking using the SPOT locators http://www.findmespot.com/en/
There's now an almost off the shelf APRS tracking system including data - http://www.rpc-electronics.com/rtrak-hab.php
These guys have pulled off a number of flights including panoramas being shot as they went - http://sites.google.com/site/ucsdnearspaceballoon/

SO - what, if anything, might we do that's new, unique, interesting, given the options that have opened up in the last couple of years?
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charborob
post Feb 25 2011, 09:15 PM
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Fly two cameras pointing in the same direction, one at each end of a long (few meters?) pole. Result: stereoscopic images of the scenery.
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djellison
post Feb 25 2011, 09:37 PM
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I very much doubt it would be worth-while ( there's nothing within 20km of you, and even long baseline stereo's not going to reap benefits there ) plus, the mass and size of such a pole rigid enough would be very prohibative.
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charborob
post Feb 25 2011, 10:08 PM
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Doug, how much mass can you reasonably send up? Also, after watching the video that you mentioned, I noticed that the cameras were turning a lot. I found it somewhat annoying. I was thinking that maybe the inertia of a long pole would reduce the rotation rate and stabilize the cameras.
If you were launching not too far from hills or mountains, wouldn't a baseline maybe 3-4 meters long be enough to produce a stereoscopic effect, at least for the first part of the ascent?
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djellison
post Feb 25 2011, 10:39 PM
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We've had this exact discussion before in previous balloon threads. You WANT the turning - just like Huygens turned - you want a payload turning so that whatever is onboard gets a view all the way around. A pole wouldn't help because whatever was at the end of it would turn into a small sale with a long lever arm to rotate the payload.

And launching far from hills and mountains is a pre-req. They have unpredictable low level winds that just don't help when it comes to launching.

We've basically got 3kg (6lbs)

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Astro0
post Feb 25 2011, 11:03 PM
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One word - SOUVENIRS! smile.gif

Whatever else you put in the payload, I want a souvenir of the flight and I'd be willing to pay for it (and hopefully others would too) to fund future missions.

OK, and now from someone who has absolutely no idea about this sort of thing...
The other thought I had was what the actual instrument payload looks like. Most of the time I see these balloon flight videos and the payload is a styrofoam box with some flaps attached (presumably for a stabilising effect). Cameras and a GPS sortof system are inside the box. The balloon hauls the 'box' to say 80-100,000 feet, the balloon expands and pops, the box falls, a drogue/parachute slows the descent and then wham! you hit the ground.

Never seems very elegent to me.

Would it be possible/feasible, to change the box for a glider? You know those big styrofoam gliders you can buy. Carve out spaces for instruments in the fuselage and install some sort of simple line cutting/releasing device that triggers at a certain altitude on descent. Even one of the remotely controlled gliders with the light aluminium and mylar covered wings and frame might do the trick. If you could rig up a way for the altitude monitor to tell the elevons and tail rudder to make some pre-programmed moves to reduce the distance the glider would travel.

I don't know, I'm just tossing an idea out there. A minimal controlled flight rather than an uncontrolled plummet just seems to be a logic next step in these sort of flights.
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hendric
post Feb 25 2011, 11:23 PM
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Maybe something interesting to watch as it rises and falls?

Say a normal party balloon, party inflated, that then expands and pops. Is the system stable enough that a tall glass of water or clear tube of water with an open top could be observed, with sublimation and freezing along the way? A visceral thermometer, if you will. Or maybe water inside a balloon that starts boiling due to the low pressure.

Would one of those lightning globes behave differently that high up due to additional ionizing radiation (If there is a battery powered one)? What about a radiometer? What about a radio (Maybe the change in density can change the sound frequency, like Helium?)?


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ElkGroveDan
post Feb 25 2011, 11:33 PM
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Some kind of live images would be cool, with of course a live Internet stream. Unfortunately as you and I learned Doug, the secondary digital connection on the ground (streaming upload) would be problematic in likely launch sites like Western Nevada which lack 21st century cell phone coverage.


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Gsnorgathon
post Feb 25 2011, 11:35 PM
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How about flights above thunderstorms to look for antimatter and sprites? The trick is, you'd have to be able to launch on fairly short notice, I'd guess, in order to be close enough to the storm to see things you're interested in, but far enough away that you're not putting yourself or the balloon at risk.
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ynyralmaen
post Feb 26 2011, 12:54 AM
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QUOTE (Astro0 @ Feb 25 2011, 11:03 PM) *
Would it be possible/feasible, to change the box for a glider?


A glider's definitely doable, as proven in November with the PARIS flight in Spain.
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djellison
post Feb 26 2011, 01:19 AM
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The new HD-HERO cameras really do open up a LOT of posibilitied. I'm astonished that the ones they flew yesterday to watch the Shuttle launch were totally un-protected. Full HD video or sequential stills - and the results are genuinely stunning. Their very large FOV, great image quality...they make a LOT of posibilities available.

If and when we narrow down on some sort of manifest - perhaps the way to get it done is to get people to buy pieces of it that contribute to the project, but then they get them afterwards in the event of a successful flight

Gliders scare me.... BUT...if it could be done WELL...... we could actually command it to try and fly back toward the launch site and hopefully, safety.
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eoincampbell
post Feb 26 2011, 04:40 AM
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Is a lightweight-camera-arm-boom showing craft in motion against backdrop earth doable ?


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hendric
post Feb 26 2011, 05:24 AM
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I think a better idea might be to put a reflective sphere on the end of the arm instead. Less hazard, and you can have Don Mitchell (nudge nudge) deconvolve it into a whole-sky view. smile.gif


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djellison
post Feb 26 2011, 07:08 AM
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QUOTE (eoincampbell @ Feb 25 2011, 08:40 PM) *
Is a lightweight-camera-arm-boom showing craft in motion against backdrop earth doable ?


I'd say yes - and using an HD HERO, we could film the whole thing in 1080P smile.gif
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Astro0
post Feb 26 2011, 08:41 AM
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Along with the HD Hero, add a couple of these tiny cameras providing some alternate views. Coolness! smile.gif
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