Friday, July 31, 2009


After gluing an airframe together, wrap it in tape. I use a thin colored tape used to wrap styrofoam gliders. By wrapping the airframe, you put tension in it to keep the sides together. Glue can keep the sides from sliding relative to each other, but tape puts the inward force on them that helps keep them together.

Uline makes a wide selection of tapes.

Avoid aluminum duct tape as it adds unnecessary weight and creates a heat shink to draw heat out.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Extreme BalloonSat Flight Computer

I'm about to test an extreme version of a BalloonSat flight computer. It uses a BS2p and a MAX186 (12-bit ADC) and will run many more experiments than is normally on a BalloonSat. This is for a BalloonSat where multiple teams design experiments and share computing resources. It includes a GPS port for any experiment wanting to knowthe time/altitude All it needs is a radio/TNC to be a full up flight computer with tracking capability.

I envision tis being used by an entire classroom.

Monday, July 27, 2009

More on Cellfoam 88

Cellfoam 88 comes in multiple thicknesses. I found 3, 5, and 10 mm sheets at the Hobby Lobby. Not only that, but at least in Kansas, the store is having a sale. I got some wood for robot bodies at 50% off.

There's a tape for gluing Cellfaom 88 together. Don't use that for a BalloonSat airframe, instead use a bead of hot glue. Then cut out any ports and openings. Afterwards you can wrap the airframe in thin colored tape.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

ARBONET has been recovered. It landed in Redfield, Kansas and is on it's way back home.

I've finished the initial design of a flight computer that incorporates a radio. Just plug the GPS in and you're ready to go. I hope to get a test board sent to BatchPCB within a week. I call the design the NearSys UltraLight.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Great Plains Super Launch

Well, GPSL was a success. At least nine balloons were launched from the courtyard/parking lot of my school. All but one were recovered. I'm hoping ARBONET receives a phone call about their capsule before long.

NearSys 09E reached an altitude of around 80,000 feet. The exact altitude if not known becuase the GPS was acting up. The backup tracker only produced five posits on descent. It transmits now, so I checked the battery and found it was 8.0 volts (nominal 7.2 V lithium). So I suspect the capsule was accidentally shut off or it has a bad power switch. I'll get this debugged before the next mission. This is why NearSys flies two independent trackers on every mission.

Recovery occured in Garnett, where at least three other capsules recovered. This has got to be the biggest news for this town!

A homeowner was setting his sprinkler when he heard a rustle in his tree. He turned around to see the capsule and parachute descend along the side of his tree. He was 10 feet away when this happened. It looks like the downward camera can see him shortly before landing.

This is the highest image, taken around 80,000 feet. That cumulonimbus cloud was on the horizon as the near spacecraft lifted off. At this altitude we're so high that we can see the horizon beyond the cloud.

So I'm looking for a another opportunity to fly. I have a thermopile telescope to test.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

GPSL 2009

Tomorrow begins the ninth annual Great Plains Super Launch. I hosted the first two and am now doing it again. The first GPSL (in 2001) was a single day event and launched three weather balloons. This year is another first. It's three days old, we have a tour of Garmin, and we're watching the Topeka Premiere of the movie, Blast!

I'm launching a near spacecraft carrying the following experiments.
Thermopile Telescope
Weather Station
Geiger Counter
Still Digital Camera
Two Digital Video Cameras

Mark Conner is predicting great weather for Saturday's launch. I'm really looking forward to GPSL this year. I'm the only person to attend them all.

Onwards and Upwards

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wiki's and Blog's

Now that I've created a Wiki and a Blog, I see a few difference between them.

Blog's have very much a single direction. I post updates to them for people to read. While people can make comments, their input is not as significant as my initial posts.

Wiki's are very bi-directional and collaborative. Regardless of who creates an entry, everyone is treated as an equal. in fact everyone is expected to add input equally.

How would I use Blogs and Wikis?
I would use a blog to post information, notes, link, and videos to my students. If they have a question, they could make a comment. But notice the blog is very teacher centered.

I would set up a wiki for teams of students to talk to each other. It allows them to collaborate and learn together.

Environmental Chamber Demonstration

Here's a short clip of my environmental chamber. It's a cheap way to test instruments and experiments for the cold, vacuum, and radiation in near space.

Demonstration of a CheapBot Robot


14 July 2009

First post. Look for news about astronomy, near space, and robotics from NearSys