Ascender 36 First Inflation Test

June 10th, 2016

Last Saturday we conducted the first inflation of the Ascender 36 outer envelope. We only ran it to 80 percent volume just to make sure we sewed it right. Next comes the installation of the internal truss structures.

Away 120 PongSats and MiniCube Mission Video

June 10th, 2016

Ascender 36 Airship Progress

May 17th, 2016

The new Ascender 36 Vee airship is coming to life. The last big job is joining the hull panels.

Floor panel with keel truss

The nose panel. For scale the fabric is just a two inch wide segment on the nose of the model.

More Pics from the Away 120 Mission

May 4th, 2016

Away 120′s solar panel.

Away 120 up top.

The balloon helium valve assembly.

Another Flight into the Black

May 3rd, 2016

On Sunday May 1st we send Away 120 to the edge of space. This was our 184th mission.

Away 120 carried PongSats, MiniCubes, a balloon valve experiment, a plasma rocket engine experiment and a new solar panel for the Ascender. We had high winds all during prep and launch making things a bit more exciting.  We recovered the vehicle three hours after landing. The team is all back safe and sound. We’re now diving into the data and sorting PongSats.

Third Submarine Life Support Test

February 1st, 2016

We conducted our third fully sealed life support system test Saturday. It went much smoother than before. We had updated the software, replaced the several power regulator with bigger ones, changed the scrubber blowers, added a sensor and completely replaced the circulation system. The test took about five hours with three hours in the sub and two and a half hours with the hatch sealed. We still have a lot more to improve but it’s really moving along.

Ascender 36

February 1st, 2016

Construction of our next airship, the Ascender 36 is in full swing. The team is building the inner helium lifting cells. The plastic for all the cells is cut and two are complete with the upper deck ports attached.

Life Support Test Pics

January 18th, 2016

Getting ready to be closed in for the test.

Jack and Kevin are attaching the aft magnetic emergency drop weights. They are not directly involved in the life support test however we wanted the sub to be in full operation load configuration. This put the electronics is a realistically loaded condition.

The view from inside.

Kevin on checklist keeping me safe.

Just talking to the AI. She likes to be called Bell.

After 90 minutes with the hatch sealed the test is done and it’s time to get out.

Natalie was behind the camera making us look good.

Life Support System Test a Success

January 16th, 2016

90 minute in the sub and lived to tell the tale. The test went really well. We learned more in that 90 minutes then the last two years of studying life support systems. We now have a pile of data, pages of note and a huge list of mods to make.

Life Support System Test

January 16th, 2016

Big test tomorrow.

We will be conducting the first fully closed life support test in the submarine. There’s about an hour of checklists then the hatch will be closed on yours truly. We’ll be monitoring CO2, Cabin O2 percentage, pressure, temperature, O2 tank pressure, humidity, and on me blood O2 levels and pulse. It’s a completely closed system.

The goal is one hour for this first test, but really after the first 15 minutes we’ll see how the scrubber and O2 replenishment system are balancing and we’ll likely need to open up and adjust. The submarine is the test bed but we will be using the same system for our airships and spacecraft. The big risk is not too little oxygen but too much. Too much O2 is a fire hazard. To keep that from happening we directly measure the O2 levels. Also any cabin pressure increase would indicate to increased O2 level (a drop in cabin pressure is a hints of a problem with the carbon cycle). Also the team will be standing by to get me out.

It’s going to be fun to breathing on air that we made.

First CO2 Scubber Completed

December 9th, 2015

The heart of our life support system is the scrubber. We just completed our first generation scrubber for the submarine, airship and Dark Sky Station. It will get coupled with the dehumidifier, circulation and O2 bleeder systems. We’re about three weeks away from a fully sealed with crew life support system test. These first tests will be aboard the submarine.

Clip from Up Top on Away 119

December 1st, 2015

MiniCubes on Rockets

November 27th, 2015

MiniCubes on Rockets! The compact size of a MiniCube allows it to be launched on model rockets. The idea is to get students flying MiniCubes on their own rockets and when they are ready for the next step up, they can send their cube to us for a flight on balloon to the edge of space.

To test it we bought a Estes Maxi Alpha III rocket from the hobby store and put a MiniCube on it. After the Away 118 and 119 flights we sent the rocket and MiniCube skyward. It flew great.


November 27th, 2015

Away 119 touching down. The first pic is about 30 feet up, the second about 3 feet off the ground. On touch down the camera popped off the servo and kept recording while laying on the ground. Check out the shadow of the vehicle under parachute in the lower left.

JPA Article in Sactown Magazine

November 27th, 2015

We’re in this months issue of Sactown Magazine! It’s a great article and they put in some of our best pics! As they say, on news stands now.

Check it out. Here’s a link to the teaser.…/Inside-Issue-55/