Archive for the ‘balloon’ Category

White Star Balloon Valve Vacuum Test Video

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We have been fairly quiet publicly, but many subsystems are coming to completion rapidly, including the  helium gas overflow vent valve.  Completion of anything flying on a ballon means it’s time to do some science!  Tests must be done, data must be noted, hypotheses checked.  Gary Flispart and I put together a detailed technical video explanation of the vacuum leak test system we’ve made.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgCGrI6yi_I&hd=1#stepSize=1

Stay tuned for more updates at http://whitestarballoon.org , we are on track to launch in the next month or two!

Dan Bowen
@SteamFire
White Star Team Lead

Balloon Package Retrieved by Robert Rollins of Greenhaven Tree Care

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As many on the google group know, Galen Powers and I drove a good buddy of mine, Robert Rollins to retrieve the package that was about 80 feet up in the tree. Robert owns the Louisville based business, Greenhaven Tree Care and is an arborist and expert tree climber.

Robert made it look easy, but it was a lot of work, and we appreciate all of his hard work and personal risk to get the package(s) out of the tree.

Galen took the time to document the event and put it in a slick video:

Also, thanks to Joe and Tim for finding it the first time and giving us clues to its location, and the folks from Bloomington Hackerspace for their attempts.

Fabbing PCBs in China for Fun and Profit

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For the White Star Balloon project, one immediate need was for an extensible Main Flight Computer platform.  In order to facilitate development, a completely modular design was needed.

In three weeks, we went from this

To This

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In brief, this board uses the I2C bus to communicate with multiple slave modules and sensors in order to accomplish the task of managing our balloon’s flight.  More information can be found at our wiki.

To fabricate these PCBs, we chose Gold Phoenix, located in Hubei, China.  They offer some really incredible deals on PCB manufacturing, including $100 for a 2-layer board, 155 Square Inches, 5 day turnaround + 3 days shipping.  We chose this fabrication house since Sparkfun uses them for their own products, as well as BatchPCB services.

Much more below the break.

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LVL1 and White Star Balloons

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Good News Everyone!Good news everyone!  LVL1 is going to deliver a box of used balloon gizmos to Europe!  What’s that you say?  Europe has had enough of our crap already?  I think not!

We’ve officially started the LVL1 White Star Trans-Atlantic Balloon Service with one goal: To send a small robotic balloon across the Atlantic Ocean and land somewhere over there on dry land.  No amateur balloon has ever done this.  The farthest amateur flight so far sank just 200 miles short of Ireland – tantalizingly close, but no cigar.

We will be attempting multiple flights to reach this goal, spaced randomly from December of this year to April of next year.  We’ll be doing a short, but high, flight test on October 9th.  This test is to exercise the launch team and raise funds for the 4 to 5 Trans-Atlantic flights we predict will be necessary to refine the system and make it across.  These jet-stream sailing balloons are actually quite complex, and require a few expensive parts.  Still though, each flight of the White Star will be cheaper than most airline seats across the pond!

Come along to our first launch Saturday, Oct 9 at 10am and see the first White Star Balloon take off, dubbed HighBall-1.  Location TBD.  All in LVL1 and the public are invited to participate or spectate as desired.  There will be lots to do, and lots to see over the next few months.    Check our website for more details: WhiteStarBalloon.com and follow WhiteStarBalloon on Twitter and FaceBook for updates.

Now for those technical details that we all love!
To give you an idea of where money would be going, every SpeedBall trans-atlantic flight will cost around $600-700 each:  $100 helium, $300 balloon, $100 telemetry system, $50 GPS, $~100 remaining payload electronics and hardware.

These balloons are small in comparison to anything else that has ever crossed the ocean, but they aren’t small when you’re next to them.  They will be 30-50 feet tall, and be lifting a whopping 12 lbs of payload – a bowling ball’s weight!  We promise not to send a bowling ball to Europe with our name engraved on it though.  Most of that weight will be ballast to drop when the balloon starts to descend from jet-stream cruising altitude (35,000ft).  Software onboard will control the ballast based on GPS and barometric altitude measurements.

We’ll be up there with the jetplanes, so we need to be extra careful that they don’t bump into us.  There will be a constant stream of position reports from us to the 5 North Atlantic Air Traffic Control Centers, in the same format they receive reports from the jet planes.  If we stop hearing position reports from the balloon, that can be dangerous for the jets.  To prevent the balloon from becoming lost, we’ll be sending the balloon a heartbeat ping every few minutes.  If we stop hearing the balloon, we’ll stop sending the heartbeats.   When it misses our heartbeat for more than a few beats, the balloon will rupture and come fluttering gently down from the sky.  Now that’s sexy safety!

More tech info will be discovered upon visiting http://wiki.whitestarballoon.com !

LVL1 Hackerspace
814 E. Broadway
Louisville, KY