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Space camera streams data during flight

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.

[Read more...]

Photographing near-space objects we’re not supposed to know about

[Thierry Legault] doesn’t just look up at the stars, the uses a motorized telescope base of his own making to track and photograph secret objects orbiting the earth. What do we mean by ‘secret objects’? Spy stuff, of course.

Last month he captured some video of the X-37B, an unmanned and secretive reusable spacecraft (read: spy shuttle) which is operated by the United States Air Force. That was back on the 21st of May but a few nights later he also saw the USA-186, an optical reconnaissance (Keyhole) satellite.

After trying to cope with manual tracking using the RC control seen above [Thierry] set out to upgrade his equipment. He ended up designing his own software package (and then released it as freeware) to automatically track the trajectory of orbiting objects. He uses a second telescope to locate the object, then dials it in with the bigger telescope. Once in frame, the software takes over.

[Wired via Dangerous Prototypes]

A ride into space, but nothing fancy

[Luke Geissbuhler] wanted to send something into space, a fun project his kids could get in on too. Instead of sending up a suite of electronic components they went with consumer electronics. The key element, an HD camera to record the event, is protected by a styrofoam shell and soft foam padding. To help ensure that the device was recovered an iPhone also made the trip, running a GPS tracking program that continuously updated the package’s location. To combat the ill-effects of severe cold some chemical hand warming packs also joined the flight.

As you can see after the break, it was a success. The camera documented an incredible ride, with a balloon rupture at 19 miles above the earth (that must be a calculated height as there’s no altimeter in the package). The pod came down gently thanks to a parachute and was recovered just 30 miles from where it launched.

[Read more...]

Profit-less space program launches in one week

The Copenhagen Suborbitals are now within one week of their first launch. We looked in on the non-profit and non-secretive space program back in March but we had no idea the group had a frickin’ submarine at their disposal. What you see above is the rocket on its floating launch platform. The submarine will haul it out into the Baltic Sea for launch. There’s not much room in the craft for an astronaut but it will be a horrifying an exhilarating flight. According to the spacecraft page the human payload will be in a half-sitting, half-standing position looking up through an acrylic nose dome. This first launch will not be manned, but once they get through the tests this will be one crazy ride.

Giant insect rover works for us

ATHLETE, or the All Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra Terrestrial Explorer, looks pretty cool. This Hexapod is actually a pair of 3 legged robots that have joined together to haul some cargo off the top of stationary module. While this time-lapse shows it going pretty slowly, you get a hint at the end that it isn’t required to be quite so lethargic. One of the really cool things about this robot is the fact that the legs are multi purpose. It has a “tool belt” from which it can pull different attachments for its feet. There are many more videos available on their site.

[via BotJunkie]

Arduino Space Program

With the recently proposed cuts to NASA, our friends across the pond (in Northampton UK) decided to take action with a space program of their own… at least at a miniature scale. NortHACKton, a hackerspace in Northampton decided to host a rocketry day consisting of rockets powered by chemical reactions, pressurized water bottles, and even one that employed an Arduino controlled launch system, akin to a few we have seen in the past. It essentially consists of a countdown and automated ignition system. Schematics and source code are available for those adventurous enough to embark on missions of their own.

Hacking space without profit or secrecy

Reader [Jacob] tipped us off about a project the aims to make the final frontier open source. The mission of the Copenhagen Suborbitals is to launch a man into space. What they’re not interested in is turning a profit, carrying hazmat or weapons, or keeping what they learn to themselves.

Surprisingly enough, isn’t this the next logical step after hobbyists send cameras into space? This team thinks so and they’ve been hard at work building and testing rockets. With the last round of successful tests behind them, they’ve paved the way for a launch of the first round of the campaign on June first. Da duh daaaah da duh duh da daaaaa