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djellison
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?
charborob
Fly two cameras pointing in the same direction, one at each end of a long (few meters?) pole. Result: stereoscopic images of the scenery.
djellison
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.
charborob
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?
djellison
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)

Astro0
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.
hendric
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?)?
ElkGroveDan
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.
Gsnorgathon
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.
ynyralmaen
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.
djellison
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.
eoincampbell
Is a lightweight-camera-arm-boom showing craft in motion against backdrop earth doable ?
hendric
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
djellison
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
Astro0
Along with the HD Hero, add a couple of these tiny cameras providing some alternate views. Coolness! smile.gif
elakdawalla
I don't have any brilliant ideas to add to this discussion, so I'll just lead the cheering from the sidelines. Rah, rah, sis-boom bah!
Astro0
"Sis boom bah!"

Isn't that the sound the balloon makes as it finally pops at high altitude?! wink.gif
eoincampbell
QUOTE
a cinematography group used the HD-Hero action cameras to record some genuinely breathtaking footage - http://www.youtube.com/user/kevinmacko -

Breathtaking indeed, ohmy.gif , and of course, I thought of Huygens-at-Titan during the wonderfully changing scenery too...
Good luck with the venture...
nprev
Well, I can only echo Emily's "rah rah boom-bah!"... laugh.gif ...but one non-imaging idea to front.

Atmospheric data from the edge of space is always of value to a wide variety of people. Are there any putative CubeSat-style organizations (universities, etc.) that might like to sponsor you with an add-on payload to collect same? They might even pay for a more robust balloon!
Astro0
For anyone not too familiar with how these flights happen, there's a bunch of useful links here worth reading.
Gsnorgathon
nprev's on to something. While you're at it, slap some aerogel on that thing, see if you can get some comet bits.
AndyG
1/ I like the idea of returning home, or, indeed, to any safe/designated landing areas that your payload might find itself near.

There are issues here - any "proper" glider would find itself in a ~1% air density environment at the point of release. Something scaled to work down here will simply plummet from up there. Cheaper and simpler would be to stick with a parachute, but one with some element of a glide ratio. 3:1 is easily attained, 5:1 more difficult (best paraglider canopies are around 11:1) but either of the former should be plenty from an altitude of 30km or so.

One big benefit in a controlled/gliding recovery is that the payload could be made much more stable after release - making it a better camera platform - and it would be possible to program in 360s at stages/altitudes during the descent to give full panoramas if required.

2/ Everybody uses weather balloons, good for 30km. But we know we could balloon to 50km. I think, as a goal, that's more an altitude suitable to UMSF's ambitions! blink.gif

3/ As to alternative payloads - the artistic-eco-guerilla in me rather fancies a couple of thousand sycamore seeds, released at height.

4/ The somewhat saner, rationalist side of me thinks that demonstrations of the ambient temperature and pressure are essential - but would it be possible to demonstrate the lower gravity at balloon altitude?

Andy
djellison
QUOTE (AndyG @ Feb 27 2011, 04:21 AM) *
There are issues here - any "proper" glider would find itself in a ~1% air density environment at the point of release. Something scaled to work down here will simply plummet from up there. Cheaper and simpler would be to stick with a parachute, but one with some element of a glide ratio. 3:1 is easily attained, 5:1 more difficult (best paraglider canopies are around 11:1) but either of the former should be plenty from an altitude of 30km or so.


But, the same rule applies as for your glider concerns. at 10 mb it's going to be at a screaming velocity to generate that glide ratio. I've actually seem them try to do that - the parafoil return. It's damn hard because you have almost no means of 'hanging' the parafoil in a way that allows it to reliably inflate after balloon sep. It's a very very hard thing to pull off. You HAVE to do a cut-down, not a burst, because otherwise the burst balloon ruins any chance your parafoil had.

QUOTE
2/ Everybody uses weather balloons, good for 30km. But we know we could balloon to 50km. I think, as a goal, that's more an altitude suitable to UMSF's ambitions! blink.gif


Zero Pressure Balloons are very big, very hard to find, very expensive, and take a lot of very very expensive helium. PLUS - you HAVE to have a cut-down or you're never returning to the deck. It's an idea worth looking at though

QUOTE
3/ As to alternative payloads - the artistic-eco-guerilla in me rather fancies a couple of thousand sycamore seeds, released at height.


Environmentally, politically, legally even, ..... no. Moreover, the sort of place this is likely to occur, they would never germinate.

QUOTE
4/ The somewhat saner, rationalist side of me thinks that demonstrations of the ambient temperature and pressure are essential - but would it be possible to demonstrate the lower gravity at balloon altitude?


Yup - internal temp, external temp, pressure, maybe humidity, UV flux, IR flux, etc etc.

Gravity scales as over the square of the radius. 6,378km^2 compared to 6,410km^2. W're talking 2.4583 against 2.4338 (both x10^-9) - It's a change of barely 1%. I doubt there's a means of measuring gravity that accurately within the mass and volume constraints....and given the 'entertaining' ride things get up the hill and down the hill, that 1% gets lost in the multiple-G bouncing around in every direction.
eoincampbell
Is the altitude at which the ballon pops generally expected, given the properties of the stack components and weather that day?
djellison
It's something of a bell curve, but yet - the performance of the balloon, the inflation level etc etc - they all determine to a reasonable level - where it'll burst.
djellison
I've asked for a pricelist from Kaymont on balloons. Their largest ballon if used at spec, goes to almost 38km.
James Sorenson
Here are a couple of potentially interesting science instruments smile.gif

A Alpha/Beta/Gamma Ray Gieger Counter (Bit pricey, but would make a cool experiment)
http://www.sparkfun.com/products/9848

Perhaps an Optical Dust sensor?
http://www.sparkfun.com/products/9689

An array of Gas sensors targeted at specific gas's would be rather interesting as well...
http://www.e2v.com/products-and-services/i...ensor-selector/

Just some suggestions.
bkellysky
I'm fascinated by these extreme altitude balloon photo adventures. As a meteorologist, I knew how high a weather balloon can go. I wish I had thought of this! To get a photo from the edge of space is a wonderful thing, and to do it without an X-15, or other expensive ride, is amazing.
I don't think I could pull this off and I don't have any better ideas than have been already suggested here for equipment.
But if you want help, perhaps your local Civil Air Patrol squadron or state CAP Wing would be interested in the project.
They do search and rescue, so they are experienced in finding electronic boxes that fall from the sky.
CAP has an extensive Aerospace Education program for the Cadets (age 12 to 21), so if you get an adult AE coordinator interested, they could be helpful.
On the other hand, sometimes doing a project like this is best with a dedicated group from friends or co-workers (or other UMSC-ers) that you know and trust.

All the best,
bob
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