Archive for the ‘whitestar 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

Thank you Maker Faire

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This past weekend LVL1 traveled north en masse to The Henry Ford for 2011’s Maker Faire: Detroit. LVL1 would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to all the staff and organizers who made this event possible. Great work!

We’d like to thank OmniCorp Detroit and i3 Detroit for their hospitality. Your members put in a lot of work to welcome spacers from all over the Midwest. A thousand thanks and in case you are wondering, we burned those pants.

Thank you to all the other spaces that we met and hung out with. Our spacer community is strong and is overflowing with goodwill. We love you all. If you find yourself in Louisville, our door is open and we’ll keep a soldering iron warmed up for you.

This was our first time there as a hackerspace (we’re only a year old), but we were well represented. LVL1 managed to spread ourselves out to 4 different exhibition areas!  There was the LVL1 table with ongoing hackerspace projects. White Star Balloon, our Pow-Pow-Powerwheels car “Steve” and Butterscotch: the fire-breathing robotic pony.

LVL1 was honored with the Maker Faire Editors Choice Awards for 3 entries.

White Star Balloon: It’s the little robotic balloon taking flight for a record-setting voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. Talk with this team for 5 minutes and your jaw will drop in awe when you hear how ambitious this project is. These intrepid hackers have worked tirelessly to overcome the challenges of an unmanned flight through the upper reaches of the jet stream. Automated ballast systems, cryogenic chambers, weather simulations, satellite communications, Mission Control, FAA comms and the list goes on and on. The team gets special props for designing a new dry ballast system from scratch, with only a week’s notice! Good hustle people! White Star Balloon is a triumph of citizen science, dogged engineering and flow charts. Congratulations, and we’ll see you on the other side of the Atlantic. Edit: WSB won 2 Editor’s Choice Awards.

Plasma Arc Speaker: It’s a speaker with a spark gap tweeter and it’s name is Thor. There’s nothing quite like the fidelity of a 6000V arc of plasma. Paul performed a tremendous week-long rush to get a new speaker housing built with upgraded contacts and high-voltage transformer. It was more trigonometry than he signed up for, but he pushed it through. Many visitors to the LVL1 table came by to rock out, see how it works and burn paper in the plasma arc. They had no idea how much danger they were in.

Butterscotch:  20% macabre skinned robotic pony child’s toy, 10% Wii nunchuck I2C debugging, 10% flame-thrower, and 60% safety afterthoughts. Your video was posted on BoingBoing with a representative sample of LVL1 membership. It deserves a Venn diagram of utilikilts, mohawks, and pink attire. Overlord Butterscotch is a fire-breathing pony who captured the hearts of thousands of makers, but only singed a few. Better luck next year! Edit: Butterscotch also received 2 Editor’s Choice Awards.

Again, thank you to everyone that made Detroit Maker Faire possible. See you in 2012!

How to Build the World’s Lightest Quadrifilar Helix Antenna

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Another day, another repost from another project I’m working on. This time, from White Star Balloons, the world’s lightest quad helix antenna.

After the scrub on the launch pad for flight attempt A, we went back to the books, to try and figure out what we could do to improve our odds the next time around. One of our biggest setbacks was the inability make an antenna suitable for our use: We needed an antenna tuned for 149 MHz, not needing a ground plane, weighing as little as possible.

After 4 tries, and some expensive test equipment, the end result was a Quadrifilar Helix antenna weighing only 80 grams!

Our ground test antenna was a 5/8ths wave whip antenna, which works well, but unfortunately needs a ground plane. Tests with both a quarter-wave dipole and a J-pole antenna were lackluster. Documentation from our satellite service provider implied that a quadrifilar helix antenna would provide the best coverage at all. While these antennas are pretty, their design and construction was voodoo magic at first.

Thanks to some design documentation here: http://jcoppens.com/ant/qfh/index.en.php and some help from the balloon community, we had some baselines for creating such an antenna. We still went through *quite* a few revisions.  We went through 3 revisions that didn’t work, and one which works pretty darn well!

Here are the antennas which didn’t work:

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LVL1 Hackerspace
1205 E. Washington St.
Louisville, KY 40206