For their recent high altitude balloon project LVL1 member [Brad] programmed a pretty complicated brain based on an Arduino. It was responsible for collecting data from all of the sensors, and reporting back in a few different ways. One of the things he did to simplify the project was develop a task scheduler for the Arduino board. It lets you add functions to a queue of jobs, along with data about when they should be run.
The task scheduler does make coding a bit easier, but where it really shines is in situations like this where you don’t have access to the hardware if there’s a problem. In his description of the scheduler [Brad] mentions the possibility that one of the sensors could fail as the cold of the upper atmosphere takes its toll. This could leave the whole system stuck in a subroutine, and therefore it will stop sending reports back to the team on the ground. Since he was using the task scheduler it was a snap to add watchdog timer servicing to the mix. Now if program execution gets stuck the watchdog will reset the chip and all is not lost.
Amazing ass… for a robot
Yep, Japan still has the creepy robotics market cornered. Case in point is this robotic posterior. Don’t worry, they’ve included a dissection so you can see how the insides work too. [via Gizmodo]
Time-lapse camera module results
As promised, [Quinn Dunki] sent in a link to the photo album from her time lapse camera module. In case you missed it, she built it in a Tic Tac container and stuck it to the side of a racecar.
Kinect controlled killbot
Didn’t we learn anything from RoboCop? We could totally see this Kinect controlled robot (which happens to weigh five tons) going out of control and liquefying an unsuspecting movie extra standing near it. [via Dvice]
Laser popping domino balloons
apparently [Scott] has set a world record by using a laser to pop a line of 100 red balloons. We enjoy seeing the size of the 1W laser that does the popping… it can’t be long now before we get a hold of handheld laser pistols. [via Gizmodo]
Laser balloon targeting
If that last one was a bit of a let down, you might enjoy this automatic targeting system more. The blue triangle shaped icon is setting a target, the amber triangles have already been targeted. Once all the balloons are identified a laser quickly zaps each in order. Quite impressive, although no details have been provided. [Thanks everyone who sent in a link to this]
Friday, we covered a little project that attempted to beat the UK altitude record for an amateur balloon launch. Things don’t always go as planned, but the APEX team did manage to beat the several other UK records, including ones for the longest distance and flight duration for a latex balloon.
The APEX team was originally trying to beat the altitude record set by [Darkside] and his Horus 15.5 payload that made it to 40,575 meters. The APEX balloon was launched and slowly climbed over the North Sea to the expected burst point. Unfortunately for the trackers, the balloon leveled off at about 36km and just kept going.
The total Great Circle distance of the APEX Alpha flight was 1347km, with a total flight time of 12 hours, 20 minutes. The balloon eventually drifted out the radio range of anyone aware of the project. Despite the valiant efforts of HAMs across Europe, APEX Alpha was lost in the “HAM wastelands of Eastern Europe,” somewhere over Poland.
Even though the APEX team lost contact with their balloon, Alpha was still transmitting at the time. The balloon surely burst at this point, so it could have landed anywhere from Poland to Ukraine to Russia. The APEX team is offering a reward for finding Alpha, so if you see a small styrofoam box in Eastern Europe, drop the APEX boys a line.
Of course this flight couldn’t have taken place without the efforts of HAMs across Europe. [Darkside], [2E0UPU], and so many others helped out with the tracking as Alpha passed over the Netherlands and continued towards Berlin. The last contact was made by the awesome [OZ1SKY], who was very gracious to stay up until the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Not a bad flight for something that was supposed to take a swim in the North Sea. If you’d like to see the raw data from the flight, the APEX team posted everything they pulled down.
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.
Take the risk of not recovering your hardware out of a near-space camera launch by streaming the data during flight. [Tim Zaman] is part of a team that developed the rig seen above. It sent 119 image back during the recent balloon launch. This included transmissions from as high as 36 kilometers.
The main hardware included a BeagleBoard with connected Webcam housed in a Styrofoam cooler for thermal protection. Pair that with a GPS module for location tracking, and a GPRS module for data transmission and you’re in business.
But that’s not all that went up. The team built a backup hardware module in case the primary failed. This one also had a GPS and GPRS radio, but was driven by an Arduino.
The radio connection made it easy to recover the hardware. GPS data led the team directly to the landing site. The package came to rest on the roof of a building, but we guess that’s more convenient than getting snagged at the top of a huge tree.
Don’t miss the hardware detail video that we’ve embedded after the break.
Continue reading “Space camera streams data during flight”
The team at czANZO, the Czech Amateur Near-Space Object group, sent up one of the best high-altitude balloons we’ve ever seen last weekend and the resulting video is remarkable.
The team’s build blog (Google Translate link for everyone without Chrome) goes through the design and construction of their payload. Like every other balloon build we’ve seen, a styrofoam cooler is used for the enclosure, but there’s a lot of really neat additions that make this build special.
The team included a cut down device in the event the balloon gets caught in the jet stream. Without this cut-down device the balloon could end up hundreds of miles away from the launch point. That’s the reason for the cut-down device they’ve given, although we suspect it’s an excuse to play around with pyrotechnic rope cutting. The optical and audible alarm is something we haven’t seen on many high-altitude balloon launches, which is odd because it made ground recovery much easier.
The team has a lot of video from the flight that [Pavel Richter] dumped onto Vimeo. We really like the footage showing all of Prague, you can check that out after the break.
Continue reading “Czech-ing out the view from 31 kilometers”
[Greg Intermaggio] and [Shumit DasGupta] at Techsplosion launched a high altitude balloon last week that climbed to 90,000 feet above sea level somewhere over California. The play-by-play of the flight is one of the better stories we’ve seen on high altitude balloon builds.
The balloon, christened VGER-1, carried a SPOT satellite GPS messanger to send telemetry back to the ground. We’ve seen a few home brew balloon tracking devices, but [Greg] decided to use an off-the-shelf solution for the sake of simplicity. Like other balloons the VGER-1 carried a CanonPowershot camera with CHDK firmware.
Continue reading “Play-by-play of a high altitude balloon flight”