High Altitude Balloon Project - Part 2

You've got to watch this video! Part two of the HAB series contains information on the balloon, enclosure, the cut-down system, as well as information about our still and video camera systems.

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Welcome to the 2nd episode of 'Find the Balloon'! I'll be your host, and as we've done in the past, we're stealing from David who actually found his balloon.

If you're interested in high altitude balloons at all, you've got to watch this video. The burst happens around 2:45, and then things get really scary.


This week we post the tutorials on Still and Video Cameras and The Balloon, Enclosure, Helium, and Cut-Down that go over all these sub-systems and more. There is a ton of material here. If you haven't been reading up on our high altitude balloon project, you can start from the beginning.

Comments 43 comments

  • Tori / about 14 years ago / 2

    That's like the best burst video ever recorded.

  • HomeBrewer10 / about 14 years ago / 1

    Am I missing something? I have been wanting to see the video, but it never appears. I use Firefox. Is that an issue?

  • DaveP / about 14 years ago / 1

    As far as the answers to those questions, any answer I would give would have no authority behind it, so I would rather not post my interpretation. Generally, posting an interpretation of these regs only leads to discord anyway.
    I can tell you, though, that both the DIY UAV and the HAB communities appreciate people who thoughtfully attempt to avoid ruining these great hobbies for everyone else.
    P.S. It looks like my link to AC 91-57 is broken... here's a shortened one: http://bit.ly/crcCqI

  • russosv / about 14 years ago / 1

    This is so cool!
    My gut says this is a stupid question, but I'm going to ask anyway!
    Is there any way to "steer" the payload down while it's on the parachute? I'm imagining hooking up some large PC fans and using the microcontroller with PWM to guide the payload using GPS coordinates. Any ideas?

  • another-dave / about 14 years ago / 1

    now you know why we want a low cost GPS module that good to high (>60Kft.) altitude. Your payload would have told you were it was.

  • RPCElectronics / about 14 years ago / 1

    I noticed in one of the details pictures, there was an OpenTracker 1+ APRS module in there. That is the same module that out RTrak-HAP high altitude payload is based on. It was in the picture, but the detailed description failed to even mention it or APRS being used for tracking. Was this intentionally left out?

    • RPCElectronics / about 14 years ago / 1

      Correction! The photo shown was of someone ELSE'S setup. Sorry about that! But I still hope to see youins fly APRS on one of your future payloads.

  • JasonJ82 / about 14 years ago / 1

    how far did the camera go? (altitude and the deviation from where you guys first let it go) also, any pictures of the recovery site of the camera and equipment??? :)

  • ShaunO / about 14 years ago / 1

    Hi nect,
    These projects almost always include a parachute; especially if they ever hope to recover the camera.
    It just doesn't look like it in the video because of the high altitude. There's very little air resistance until much further until the fall. Once it starts hiting the right atmosphere, the speed will drop dramatically.
    Trust me, no-one wants to see people or property damaged, any more than they want to find the remains of their payload in a small crater.

  • nect / about 14 years ago / 1

    Just as a further illustration to my previous question for other people thinking about doing this. A lot of times operators will point to minimal payload weights as a justification for not taking appropriate precautions to minimize risk. I.e. the rules do not apply to me because I'm so small.
    But if you look here:
    There is a section 101.7 which applies to any operation and states:
    ?101.7 Hazardous operations.
    (a) No person may operate any moored balloon, kite, unmanned rocket, or unmanned free balloon in a manner that creates a hazard to other persons, or their property.
    (b) No person operating any moored balloon, kite, unmanned rocket, or unmanned free balloon may allow an object to be dropped therefrom, if such action creates a hazard to other persons or their property.
    So I would caution against posting videos of free falling objects, and limit the risk of even having them (installing parachutes, etc).

  • nect / about 14 years ago / 1

    So do you worry about equipment falling and damaging anything (or anyone)? Are there steps taken to mitigate that risk?

  • FunkyMonk / about 14 years ago / 1

    Great job! How about doing this at night or dusk? It may turn out to be boring for the first 20,000 feet or so, but once you get to the upper atmosphere I would suspect you would see some dazzling stars.

  • Alfonso82 / about 14 years ago / 1

    Absolutly awesome David, I think that I just found my next project ;), I just hope that my ballon get?s some shots of an UFO :D.

  • Any chance of a sparkfun contest coming out of this? HAB race to 10,000 feet? Prizes for highest altitude, longest flight, etc?

  • It would be awesome to have all the important bits on some sort of foam glider. Make it really stable and set the rudder to a half mile turn radius, and see how much time it's able to descend in a controlled glide... The footage would be awesome too.
    You could put the whole thing in a basket so it falls out when it inverts and tumbles.

  • StephenWong / about 14 years ago / 1

    Regarding using the magnetometer at 50-100k feet altitudes. Did you have issues with the magnetometer giving you inaccurate readings due to the distance you are away from the Earth's magnetic poles?
    I'm very interested in taking a look at your IMU data if you manage to collect it even losing the balloon.

    • Hi Stephen - If I do ever find my balloon, I'll be sure to post everything we can recover from the logs.

  • That is very beautiful footage! Thanks for sharing!

  • amando96 / about 14 years ago / 1

    Very good, did the go pro survive the impact? I was going to buy one of those cameras for my mountainbiking.they seem strong.

    • The camera stopped recording on the decent for some unknown reason, but it did survive the impact and still records beautifully!
      I mounted it to my helmet for a bike ride up at Hall Ranch near Boulder, CO. I accidentally recorded in a low quality setting, so it's not as clear as the balloon video, though. I can't recommend the camera enough!

  • Bob14 / about 14 years ago / 1

    Phenomenal footage!
    Took a look at the data, if I have time I may try to plot the path on Google Earth just for grins :-)

    • Bob14 / about 14 years ago / 1

      See someone already did that.
      Will play with that data anyway see what looks cool.

      • Yeah, one of the first things I did :) You can see an overview on this flickr photo and download a KML file to.
        The GPS unit didn't properly record the altitude (which made tracking fun...) but that is why the readings are all wonky.

  • OldFar-SeeingArt / about 14 years ago / 1

    Nice work! I'm curious about whether you had any sort of fins to slow down the spinning. The video on the way up did not seem to have as much spinning as many of the other videos I've seen on the net of high altitude balloon projects.

    • I didn't do anything special, no. For the next launch, and as per DaveP's recommendation, I think I'll add a carbon fiber kite rod with a small weight to increase the angular moment of inertia to reduce spinning. He claims to have launched in 25mph wind with usable video.
      I should mention that the video above was intentionally cut to points where spinning was minimal; most parts of the video during ascent were in a vomit-inducing spin, and of course the decent was lots of tumbling.

  • WhoKnew? / about 14 years ago / 1

    Was any data recorded like altitude and outside temperature?.

    • WhoKnew? / about 14 years ago / 1

      Oh Yeah! Thanks!

    • Hey WhoKnew?,
      There are some graphs and more pictures at the photoset on flickr and a CSV of all the data logged is available here if you're interested.

      • Allen / about 14 years ago / 1

        Taking a look at the data CSV file it is interesting to see what I am guessing to be internal payload temperature drop and then start to rise with higher altitude. I am guessing you must have had some kind of internal heat source and despite the colder temperature at higher altitude the thinner air was pulling away less heat. Maybe stronger sunlight was contributing to heating up the payload?

  • Coyote / about 14 years ago / 1

    That's awesome!
    I wanna see the entire fall! (although a bit dizzying)
    I thought I was gonna see the ISS swing by. :)

    • Snacks / about 14 years ago / 1

      Me too! Does anyone know where to find the full video?

      • I can work on getting the full video up somewhere. It's a few hours of 1080p video, and weighs in at around 20GB, so I might have to drop it on S3 or something.
        Unfortunately the video cuts out about 15 minutes into the fall for no apparent reason, so it didn't record the impact. But trust me when I say that it's tough to watch more than a few seconds of it at a time - it's dizzying to say the least!

    • Conrthomas / about 14 years ago / 1

      ^^^I second it! Seeing the whole fall would be awesome.
      And I love how you can see the balloon shreds for a second before it goes into a death spiral.

  • Super awesome video David!

  • You should also check out the real challenge of high altitude ballooning - long duration flight - http://spiritofknoxville.com

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