Going for the amateur balloon altitude record

At 11 AM London time, October 22, the Sutton grammar school for boys is going to be launching Apex Alpha, a high altitude amateur balloon for an attempt at the UK altitude record. Unlike a few other balloons we’ve seen, the Apex team is doing it right and giving everyone the downlink details for the balloon.

The payload for the balloon was built entirely by student of the Sutton grammar school and weighs less than 300 grams. While it’s not carrying a camera for the all-important pretty pictures, the payload does have a GPS module and a transmitter; it’s just enough to do the required testing on the lead up to Apex III.

Right now, the UK amateur balloon record stands shy of 130,000 feet. The team gained a lot of experience with their Apex I and Apex II launches, and they’re pretty confident they have the experience to pull this one off. You can check out the progress of the Apex Alpha flight on the spacenear.us tracker. For us Yanks, the launch should start October 22nd at 6:00 am Eastern time and 3:00 in the morning for the West coast. The team says they’ll be updating that throughout the flight.

UPDATE: Apex Alpha just won’t burst. Any HAMs near Berlin in Eastern Europe are sorely needed. Head over to the IRC chat if you can help.

Comments

  1. asheets says:

    I’d be interested in reading more about the balloon itself, since this team is going for an altitude record. Most of the pilot/met/sounding balloons I’ve worked with have a burst-height rating of 80000 feet. Is this team working with a cluster, or a special balloon, or are they just hoping to get really lucky with a stock balloon?

  2. 2E0UPU says:

    Should read attempted at the world record :)

  3. uC says:

    As a member of the team that was once #1, currently #3, 11, 14, 17 on ARHAB (#3 is 130,903 ft 39899 m) Altitude holder, I wish them safe and high flying!

    We used just one balloon. I look forward to watching them.

  4. Fool2cool says:

    Does anyone know if they obtain permission from Air traffic control for these launches? As I think its restricted airspace up that high and could cause issues.

  5. 2E0UPU says:

    Launches have a NOTAM (permission to launch), I believe the balloon is a 2000g Latex which recently have been getting to at least 37000 meters.

    I wasn’t being a grammar nazi, I was pointing out its not the UK record but the World record according to http://www.arhab.org.

  6. 2E0UPU says:

    Sorry asheets , the latex balloon is manufacturered by Hwoyee ( hwoyee.com ). They generally burst way over 80000 feet :

    http://ukhas.org.uk/general:flight_data

  7. APEXHAB says:

    Just to confirm – we do have a NOTAM in place.
    We are using a 2000g Hwoyee balloon.

    We are hoping to be lucky :)

  8. Ben says:

    I don’t really know that much about weather balloons but I assume they burst because of the relatively high pressure compared to the atmosphere at that height.

    Would it be possible/feasible to cool the air inside of the balloon to reduce its pressure?

    • cmholm says:

      @Ben, the gas (He, H?) is going to get very cool all on its own as it goes up. If sticking with a latex balloon, the limiting factors for altitude are going to the reserve buoyancy of the entire craft, and exactly what change in volume the balloon can handle before bursting. At 100 kft/30 km, the gas volume will have increased ~100x.

      IANAB (yet), but off the top of my head, I believe the best ways to maximize altitude will be to keep the system weight to as few grams as possible, and fill the balloon with only as much gas as needed to obtain the necessary buoyancy… keeping the bag as flabby as possible.

      Hydrogen will give you more lift, but at the balloon/payload sizes an average HAD experimenter would be working with, not enough to be worth the hazard/hassle. See the lift tables at the bottom of the following link:

      http://www.chem.hawaii.edu/uham/lift.html

      • I was thinking of an electrically-controlled overpressure discharge valve to avoid bursting and maximize balloon altitude/range. Obviously, the balloon must be remotely burst to retrieve it.
        Could it work?

      • @JackTheVendiator:

        IIRC, the pressure inside a balloon is almost a constant. i.e.; the balloon expands so the pressure difference between the inside and outside is just about zero. Of course, there’s about half a PSI difference between the balloon and the atmosphere, but that should stay a constant.

        If you’re looking to maximize range, that’s pretty easy – look at the japanese balloon attacks during WWII – they just dropped bags of sand as ballast. I’m pretty sure the only way to maximize range is keeping the payload light and the balloon flabby.

        Oh, and this balloon already launched. It’s been ascending at about 3 m/s for a while. That’s a pretty low ascent rate, so the Apex team might have done it right.

      • @Brian Benchoff
        Thanks for the tip and the interesting history lesson!

        P.S.: From your website main page I can educately guess you are a [secret club member lol]. Way to go.

        Last edit by Brian Benchoff at 9:03 am

  9. bmsleight says:

    As you only a few miles way, and know some ex-students.

    Good luck guys!

  10. Stefan Schmiedl says:

    Seems like they forgot to tell the balloon that it was supposed to burst … it’s still floating at 36,600 m over The Netherlands.

  11. Giles says:

    Been following the IRC chat all afternoon/evening. They’ve gone for the wrong record, the thing’s nearly in Poland! My money’s on LOS or power loss before the thing comes down. Hope the SD card records any lost telemetry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96,725 other followers