Archive for December, 2007

Upside Down Shop

Monday, December 31st, 2007

The electronics and sewing areas of the shop got shaken out, turned upside down and rearranged. The old electronic benched were put into storage and a new peg board and shelves were put up.

All the rearranging will allow up to better managed assembly of multiple vehicles. Before we could handle two in progress at once. Three became a mess. This year we will have four to six under construction at any given time.
We are still so piled in boxes it looks like we’ve moved!

We even managed to get a little project work done. A big thank you goes out to Brad and Bill for getting a twenty-eight foot loop line sew onto the new balloon launch bag.

Bob and Ed

Bob and Ed, contractors of doom……

Lost Ascender Video

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

While going through old tapes we found we some scenes of the big airship in the hanger. The footage was put on a tape that recorded vent tests of the smaller Ascender 90. It was sitting under the vent test label for years. The tape has 16 minutes of walking around and under the Ascender 175 while she was floating eight feet off the ground. I trimmed it down to just over four minutes and added some things to come at the end. Oh, and I couldn’t resist adding some Sons of the San Joaquin music for fun.

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The Equipment Shuffle

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

As the plans for the upcoming year firm up the shop gets rearranged accordingly. We tend to build big things in little spaces so every square foot counts. Saturday projects that are scheduled for late in the year got hosted up and away and other equipment brought out and dusted off.
We also got a little work down on the supports for Tandems parachute cannon and a bit of sewing on a new balloon launch bag.

Ascender 100

Friday, December 21st, 2007

One of the systems in the planning stages for next year is the Ascender 100. It looks like we can wrap up design and begin construction near the end of 2008. The Ascender’s number comes from the arm length. Ascender 100 has 100 foot long arms. It will be a test bed vehicle. We will build into her all the lessons learned from Ascender 175 plus a everything from the drawing board over the last few years. We’re looking at a first flight in late 2009.
Ascender 100
Ascender 100

Ascender 90
Ascender 90 in the hanger. Ascender 100 will be only slightly larger and will look similar. However, it will be a very different vehicle.

Ascender 90 arm
One of Ascender 90′s arms during and inflation test.

Sewing and planning

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

The past few days have been spent sewing on a backup balloon launch bag and laying out the plans for next year. Not very exiting subjects for pictures. After many days of rain I need some sun, so here’s a pic from last summer of Kevin working on the mission control van.

Kevin and the mission control van

Evaluating 2007

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

This last year saw more construction and infrastructure work and fewer missions. We saw good progress on our spread spectrum telemetry system. The team’s mission skills have moved up to a whole new level with the smooth, symphony like performance during the Away 32-33 duel mission. The mission control van was completely rebuilt on the inside. The new changes make running complex mission that much easier. The van also got the engine, transmission and differential rebuilt this year. Our launch bag technology was also the focus of a lot work. More sewing our way to space. We now can launch any size balloon in any kind of weather. We changed the way we filled balloons this year. Gone are the fill weights and scales, every cubic foot of helium is metered. There was a host of small things this year. We designed new vehicle fins, evaluated new GPS’s at high altitude, overhauled software and honed procedures.

The team showed great focus this year. It’s harder to stay motivated when most of the work is detailed component stuff. The big flight stuff is more exciting, however they jumped in built, tested, cut, glued, sewed and got the dull but critical jobs done.

Our peak altitude for the year was 103,900 feet. There was no altitude goal for this year but it’s nice to get really up there. We had four high altitude missions in 2007. This loss of Micro Tandem and Away 34 was a setback, but more of an emotional one than a project one. Losing Away 34 did have an impact on Tandem. We were flight qualifying components that were going to be moved over to Tandem. We ended up building an entire set of flight electronics. Tandem development dominated this years work. So much so that building new rockets had to be pushed to 2008. Tandem is almost ready to fly. We’re really looking forward to getting her in the air.

Overall this year we slipped a little on the big Airship to Orbit plan, but we’ve tremendously advanced our base. I think it will pay off in the long run.

Hypersonic Testing

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Tandem HL and the Block 4 Mach Glider

The Tandems will acts as motherships for small hypersonic research airships. This drawing shows a 20 foot long Block 4 Mach Glider being deployed at 140,000 feet from a Tandem HL.

Mach Gliders are the ultimate rockoons.