Ask Hackaday: Floating To Space

floating into space book cover

On a cool September morning just west of Sturbridge, Massachusetts, a group of MIT students launched a low-budget high altitude project that would go on to gain global attention. They revealed to the world that with a small weather balloon, a hacked camera, cheap GPS phone and a little luck, you could get pictures that rival those from the Space Shuttle. Their project set forth a torrent of hackers, students, kids and parents the world over trying to copy their success. Many succeeded. Others did not.

At 100,000 feet or about 20 miles up, it’s a brisk 60 degrees below zero. The atmosphere at this height is but a fraction of its density at sea level. Solar radiation rains down like a summer squall, and the view is just short of breathtaking. It seems so agonizingly close to space that you could just reach out and touch it. That one could almost float right on up into orbit.

Sound impossible? Think again. A little known volunteer based company operating out of California is trying to do just this.

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20 pounds and a gut feeling yields a configurable Rubidium atomic clock source

rubidium-source-for-twenty-pounds

So you see an image like this and the description “Aircraft stable oscillator” on an eBay listing for twenty pounds (about thirty bucks), what do you do? If you’re [Alecjw] you buy the thing and crack it open to find an atomic clock source inside. But he really went the distance with this one and figured out how to reconfigure the source from the way it was set up in the factory.

First off, the fact that it’s made for the aerospace industry means that the craftsmanship on it is simply fantastic. The enclosure is machined aluminum and all of the components are glued or otherwise attached to the boards to help them stand up to the high-vibrations often experienced on a plane. After quite a bit of disassembly [Alec] gets down to a black box which is labeled “Rubidium Frequency Standard”… jackpot! He had been hoping for a 10 MHz signal to use with his test equipment but when he hooked it up the source was putting out 800 kHz. With a bit more investigation he figured out how to reconfigure the support electronics to get that 10 Mhz source. We think you’re going to love reading about how he used a test crystal during the reconfiguration step.

Once he knew what he had he returned to the eBay seller and cleared out the rest of his stock.

[Thanks DIY DSP]

DIY space experiments within a ping pong ball ‘satellite’

Pongsat space satellite

Ahhh space. The final frontier. While many people dream of one day becoming an astronaut (and possibly battling aliens or cylons), it’s a select few who actually make it their reality. Fortunately for us, there’s a middle ground that allows the masses to still have some fun in the sky. Enter the “Pongsat” program – space experiments within a ping pong ball.

Created by JP Aerospace, this free program allows anyone to create their own mini experiment and send it off to the edge of space. The imagination is the limit. Curious if a marshmallow will expand? Interested what the temperature would be? Wonder if you can charge a solar battery? Stuff it inside a ping pong ball and find out!

Check out the PDF Users Guide to get started, then their Blog and Facebook page for more up to date information.  Now go out there and get your experiment to Mars! (Or at least 100,00 feet)

Watch a video of in flight footage after the break.

[via adafruit]
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