Archive for April, 2010

Mission Summary

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Away 43, 44, 45, 46 were real working missions. We had four primary tasks. Tracking Telemetry System side by side comparison, Balloon separation system testing, rocket launch systems tests and to carry PongSats. We had a pile of secondary objective like getting to 120,000 feet and testing new materials.

The tracking system test was successful. We been working on this for a while. I’m relieved to get this one behind us.

Our balloon release system is still giving us problems. It’s back to the cold box and vacuum chamber.

The Rocket launch systems (fire control, rocket motor heaters and launch detect) worked great. Just as a placeholder we used small 17 inch rocket as part of the test. The launch systems work the same as for a 17 inch rocket as they do for a 12 foot one. Including the small rocket gave us a change to work on procedures for live rockets as well.  Away 45 and Away 46 each carried two rockets. On Away 44 we fired the rockets at low altitude, (11,000 feet).  On Away 45 we ran the test at 80,000 feet. The second launch control system also worked prefect, however the rocket motors did not ignite.  (little motor are very tricky to light at high altitude).

The team flew 153 PongSats student experiments!!

Our peak altitude was just over 108,000 feet. That was on Away 44. We a bit disappointed we didn’t get higher. That challenge get shifted to the next launch.

We got most of the way though the Jellyfish balloon launch, however the Jellyfish isn’t set up top be bagged launch and is very sensitive to gusts. It ended up just too windy and we aborted the flight.

The new honeycomb paper structure performed superior to our tradition foam and carbon parts. We’re pretty happy about that. It’s cheaper and quicker to build from.

a43-46_setup a45_pongsat

Morning Setup                             PongSats!

a43-46_mission_control away45_prep

Mission Control                       Away 45

balloon_prep a44_launch

Balloon Prep                           Away 43 Launch

away43_in_air away44_in_air

Away 43                                     Away 46

away45_launch1 away45_release

Away 45 Launch

away45_in_air rocketlaunch_yellow_cam3

Away 45                                    Launch!

rocketlaunch_yellow_cam1 rocketlaunch_yellow_can2

rocketlaunch_red_cam3 away45_uptop3

Away 44 low altitude launches        Away 45 up top

trail_companion away43_landing_site

Trail Companion                    Away 46 landing site

away44_parachute away45_landing_site2

The billowing chute made the vehicles easier to spot.


Away 44 landing site.  It’s that while speck just down from the fourth ridge straight out.

All Vehicles Back in the Barn

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010


Made it out just before the storm.

More info after sleep.

Still on Recovery

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Four solid flights with lots of success and lots of issues that still need work. We learn a huge about about the Jellyfish balloon, but we could get it in the air due to wind. It was an excellent shake down though.  Three vehicles have been recover. One more still to go. It looks like we go lots of great in flight images. We were really working the program this weekend.


Quick Mission Overview

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

I apologies for making this so brief, too many things still on the packing, charging, reserving list. This weekend’s flights serve a whole list of purposes. They are most small tech problems that need solving or systems getting a shake down.

In General:

We’ve been having an intermittent satellite drop out on the last few mission. For these flight there are seven different GPS/telemetry configuration. We will be able to evaluate all the systems with their various patches and fixes side by side. This is critical for the Tandem mission this summer.

Our supplier of the pyrotechnics in out balloon release system has changed there formation due to changing in BATF shipping rules. We weren’t happy about the performance on the last flight. This is critical for the Tandem launch and the primary reason these flight have been moved ahead of the Tandem flight. We using the same gear, but made a config change that should fix the problem, no we just need to flight test it.

We need to start working high altitudes. We’ve been stuck in the 100,000′s for some time now. Two of the vehicles are set up to reach 120,000 feet.

Two of the vehicles are specifically focused on rockoon tech. We’re testing motor heaters, launch control systems and launch detect systems. We will be using rockoons to deploy mini Ascender airships (20 feet long) at 300,000 feet. These mini v shaped airships will be used for the hypersonic flight studies for Airship to Orbit.

In Specific:

Away 43: Light vehicle for high flight, involved in telemetry test. Also do camera work.

Away 44: Rockoon system test bed and carrying 150 PongSat student experiments, carrying two standard and on HD video system.

Away 45: Duplicate of 44 with a slightly different telemetry config.

Away 46: Light vehicle for high flight, involved in telemetry test. Also carrying 100 fps, 128 gig HD video system

Box Jelly: An experimental balloon design. This is just a short hop to 20,000 feet as proof of concept. We think this class of balloon can reach 200,000 feet. Future versions will be used for in situ data gathering of the environment between 140,000 and 200,000 feet. This is critical for Airship to Orbit.

Well, it’s just after midnight and we roll to the desert in the morning. Wish us luck.

Pre-Mission Crazies

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Three days before we roll and only 60 items left on the todo list. That’s actually not bad for a five vehicle mission.

I added it up and all together we’re flying eleven computers, seven telemetry systems, four camcorders, seven cameras, five beacons and four satellite uplink units.

Passing of a Giant

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

On April 5th Dr. David Simon passed away.  For those who work at the edge of space he was a legend. For me personally he represented fully what I can only strive for.  Not only was he a pioneer in the technology, but engineer, scientist cheerleader and actually astronaut flying on the creations he brought about.

This does more justice to the man than I can:

Away 46

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

The short guy is ready to fly.