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July 25, 2010
about 4 years ago
The Adafruit GPS does shut down above 60,000 feet. It comes back on as your balloon drops again below that threshold, but it's a nerve-wracking wait.
You could probably desolder the antenna, yes. However, rockblock sells a version with an SMA connector instead of the patch antenna. I have this version and it's ideal with a helical antenna, although that's another $60. Either get the SMA version idirectly from them or convince sparkfun to carry it?
I have used this device for an amateur balloon project and it worked spectacularly. I am not aware of any legal restrictions to doing so in the US.
As far as needing two devices for two-way communication, no, you can do it with one. The device will either send you an email (the way I used it) or do an HTTP POST request against a web address you give it; sending information to the device uses the same approaches. All this is configurable in the web interface used to manage the device. I set up a distribution list so the students in my class were all getting periodic emalis from the unit during our flight.
Because you can burn through some money testing out a new project, J Malsbury wrote a very effective emulator, available here: https://github.com/jmalsbury/virtual_iridium/wiki. I wrote my application and tested it with the emulator, then moved it to the actual unit. Sparkpeople, maybe you can include this in the resources link in the product description?
The patch antenna on the unit is fine, but is more sensitive to orientation than a GPS antenna and needs a clear view of the sky. There are various plans on the internet to build a gimbal system to ensure this, including one made from an actual hamster ball. How can you resist?
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