Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NearSpace Easy Flight Computer

I've started testing on a new near space flight computer, the NearSpace Easy. It operates with a BASIC Stamp 2pe and shares the GPS data stream in parallel with a Tiny Trak 3. The Easy digitizes up to eight channels of analog data with a resolution of 12 bits. In addition, there are six digital ports and three servo ports.

A male DB-9 on the PCB is the GPS port. It provides power over pin 4 to the GPS as soon as it's plugged in. The GPS receivers NearSys will start selling are designed to interface to this flight computer (and the NearSpace UltraLight).

Connected by a wrapped cable is the flight computer's control panel. The panel mounts to the airframe of the near spacecraft to allow you to program both the flight computer and the APRS tracker, without having to open up the airframe. Also on the control panel are three power switches for the flight computer, servos, and audio beacon. Four indicator LEDs signal when the flight computer and servos have power, when the Tiny Trak has a GPS lock, and when the Tiny Trak is transmitting a position report. Finally, there is a mission commit pin that prevents the flight computer from recording data on the ground.

The NearSpace Easy can record up to 30 kb of data. In addition, USB jump drive adapters are sold for the BASIC Stamp that allow the storage of even greater amounts of data.

Not shown is the antenna. An antenna kit is part of the NearSpace Easy. It's a 2m dipole on the end of an RG-174 coax.

The NearSpace Easy is literally a plug and play near space flight computer. You'll need to select you battery (use a rechargeable lithium) and battery plug, but otherwise, just plug in the antenna and GPS and you're ready for a near space mission.

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