I launched video cameras 97,000 feet into space for a story

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ericseals

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well.....actually near space but you get the idea....

Video is here ---> http://tinyurl.com/MichiganGoesUp

I took 2 GoPro Hero Motorsports and put them on a weather balloon that went 97,000 feet into near space. It was for a video feature I wanted to do on students studying aerospace at the University of Michigan who launch science experiments up there to record and study data.

It ran on the CBS morning show and the website of my newspaper, the Detroit Free Press

University of Michigan students studying for degrees in aerospace launched a weather balloon 97,000 feet into space to conduct scientific experiments. With temperatures at 60 below zero & violent jet streams to deal with the students had GPS units as part of their payloads to help in the tracking of the balloon after it popped and fell back to earth 90 minutes after the launch. Finding the balloon is another story.

http://tinyurl.com/MichiganGoesUp


ERIC SEALS/Detroit Free Press
 
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Boris_Badenov

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Welcome to SDC. You'll forgive me if I don't click on your link until someone else does first? :roll:
 
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ericseals

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Boris_Badenov":2cua25dl said:
Welcome to SDC. You'll forgive me if I don't click on your link until someone else does first? :roll:
Hey Boris, whatever makes you happy I guess! ;)
 
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SteveCNC

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That's pretty cool , too bad about the condensation on the lens , rain-x next time heh or being a scuba diver spit on it . I don't think it really prevents condensation but it makes it not form really small drops (fog) but rather forms larger drops that run down the glass . That or you have to cool it way down before launch so it ends up being equal temperature at max altitude .

What happened the first try ? something break or just not fastened right ? When it came back down you obviously had GPS onboard but how did you bring it down ? manually by remote or automatically at a certain altitude (release gas from the balloon) or did it pop at max altitude and come in with a parachute ? How far from launch point did it end up landing ?
 
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ericseals

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SteveCNC":17547iea said:
That's pretty cool , too bad about the condensation on the lens , rain-x next time heh or being a scuba diver spit on it . I don't think it really prevents condensation but it makes it not form really small drops (fog) but rather forms larger drops that run down the glass . That or you have to cool it way down before launch so it ends up being equal temperature at max altitude .

What happened the first try ? something break or just not fastened right ? When it came back down you obviously had GPS onboard but how did you bring it down ? manually by remote or automatically at a certain altitude (release gas from the balloon) or did it pop at max altitude and come in with a parachute ? How far from launch point did it end up landing ?
Thanks for checking it out SteveCNC

Yeah I was really bummed about the condensation but others think it might have been a bit of fog building up on the inside of the lens even though it was in a waterproof housing. If I would have known or though about that I could have used anit-fog strips inside the GoPro which would of helped.

The first try the professor Aaron Ridley said that the gold radar reflector (made of cardboard and foil) just buckled under the weight of a heavy payload of GPS, other gear of theirs and my two lightweight cameras.

The Michigan students had a few GPS units on board including one that sent text messages to a students cell phone every minute with the location of the balloon as it was coming down. When the balloon reached 97,000 feet the helium reached its peak and exploded the balloon and it fell back to earth and deployed a parachute.

It ended up landing about 17 miles from the launch site which they told me is pretty good considering sometimes these things can land 80 to 120 miles away from the launch site.

Eric
 
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a_lost_packet_

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Great stuff!

I find it amazing that we have a society in which everyday people can expend a small amount of effort and be rewarded with the ability to reach out and touch space.

Hopefully, the condensation issues can be solved. Others have used insulated breakout boxes, IIRC, to help with the problem. Perhaps chilling down the payload packages beforehand could help?

High altitude balloon surveying seems to be a growing hobby. Here's one I haven't seen: http://www.natrium42.com/halo/flight2/ They used what appears to be a styrofoam box to carry their instrument payload. The bonus on this site is that they include all sorts of data, including their GPS python scripts... very sweet.

This was a popular story earlier this year: British Aerospace Enthusiast takes NASA style photos using helium balloon His website: The Icarus Project He has some of the best pics I've seen done using high altitude balloons.
 
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SteveCNC

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If you do it again try filling the housing with maybe an argon or nitrogen gas (easily attainable) so there is no water vapor inside to begin with . And 17 miles doesn't seem too bad for a downrange landing , I was thinking it would be much more , I guess that's something you would really want to watch out for , I would probably have to go out to the borrego desert (nearest decent location I can think of) to do something like that otherwise retrieval might be a problem . As for the spinning that did kinda make you want to vomit lol , maybe a fin added to it would help keep it from doing that .
 
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a_lost_packet_

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SteveCNC":6pfy4stz said:
If you do it again try filling the housing with maybe an argon or nitrogen gas (easily attainable)
Great idea. That would solve the problem fairly handily as long as the camera itself is prepped appropriately. A nitrogen purge would be easy to set up in an appropriate container and one can get nitrogen at any industrial gases dealer.

... As for the spinning that did kinda make you want to vomit lol , maybe a fin added to it would help keep it from doing that .
Spinning is probably always going to be a problem. Some sort of multi-line harness might help matters. But, if the balloon is spinning, it's going to spin too. Powered flight, on the other hand, would reduce that problem but... Hmm... a balloon launched high-altitude, rocket propelled, sight-seeing payload? Altimeter detects balloon burst, payload separates and ignites, rip open a Wii controller for the components for stabilization/guidance, parachute deploys on timer or trigger from final explosive charge in the model rocket motor - Thus, one achieves the hobbiest accomplishment of powered flight at umpteen thousand feet. :)
 
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ericseals

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a_lost_packet_":2lc3jwjv said:
SteveCNC":2lc3jwjv said:
If you do it again try filling the housing with maybe an argon or nitrogen gas (easily attainable)
Great idea. That would solve the problem fairly handily as long as the camera itself is prepped appropriately. A nitrogen purge would be easy to set up in an appropriate container and one can get nitrogen at any industrial gases dealer.

... As for the spinning that did kinda make you want to vomit lol , maybe a fin added to it would help keep it from doing that .
Spinning is probably always going to be a problem. Some sort of multi-line harness might help matters. But, if the balloon is spinning, it's going to spin too. Powered flight, on the other hand, would reduce that problem but... Hmm... a balloon launched high-altitude, rocket propelled, sight-seeing payload? Altimeter detects balloon burst, payload separates and ignites, rip open a Wii controller for the components for stabilization/guidance, parachute deploys on timer or trigger from final explosive charge in the model rocket motor - Thus, one achieves the hobbiest accomplishment of powered flight at umpteen thousand feet. :)
Whoa, that sounds so complicated and I'd have to leave all that up to the Michigan professor and aerospace students. They were on a "university" budget so not sure how much all that extra stuff would cost

I do like the idea of the multi line and fins however.

They will launch again in early September and I want to put my cameras up there again to try and do/get better video :)
 
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a_lost_packet_

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ericseals":2xidxyxm said:
...Whoa, that sounds so complicated and I'd have to leave all that up to the Michigan professor and aerospace students. They were on a "university" budget so not sure how much all that extra stuff would cost
The cost would be negligible except for the time put into making it all work. But, none of the components or processes are radically different from what is already in use in the project, I would think.

I do like the idea of the multi line and fins however.
Multiple lines would help if they are rigged appropriately at different connection points around the balloon. A fishnet around the balloon (non-constrictive to allow for eventual expansion/burst) would allow for multiple attachment points.

Fins work with airflow and that's going to be problematic with a balloon that is not capable of powered flight - If the air moves, the balloon moves with it. Fins wouldn't do anything because they wouldn't have any appreciable amount of air moving over their surface. Fins on the balloon itself might help orient it by catching more air and providing some resistance. I don't know how much it would help though. I'm not a balloon guy despite being filled with a lot of hot air. ;)

They will launch again in early September and I want to put my cameras up there again to try and do/get better video :)
Sweet. See how much of a weight allowance they will give you.

If it is enough for some extra protection, get a reasonably sturdy box with a good seal on it. (Something along the lines of a water resistant/vapor proof breakout box from an industrial supplier or Radio Shack might work.) Get a valve assembly that will allow you to fill and purge the box, a tank of nitrogen from a local gases supplier along with renting a fill/purge/equalizer valve thingie like air-conditioning service guys use, cut a hole in the box and put in a lens window along with mounts for your camera, install the valve assembly with appropriate o-rings/seals, purge/pressurize the container (wear safety glasses and PPE :) ), do an integrity test that meets or exceeds the pressures of the upper atmosphere (really, the lack of same) and you're ready to go. Put the camera inside, screw down the lid securely being sure the rubber/neoprene seal retains its integrity, purge the interior with nitrogen, check your gauges and disconnect. Then, you're ready to go. If you're worried about maintaining integrity in the upper atmosphere, get a cheap pressure release valve (a buck will get you a plastic disposable one used for chemical drums rated anywhere from 3-12 psi or so) to take strain off the box in low pressure. Total costs would probably be well within your price range.
 
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ericseals

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a_lost_packet_":1pz9mxjs said:
ericseals":1pz9mxjs said:
...Whoa, that sounds so complicated and I'd have to leave all that up to the Michigan professor and aerospace students. They were on a "university" budget so not sure how much all that extra stuff would cost
The cost would be negligible except for the time put into making it all work. But, none of the components or processes are radically different from what is already in use in the project, I would think.

I do like the idea of the multi line and fins however.
Multiple lines would help if they are rigged appropriately at different connection points around the balloon. A fishnet around the balloon (non-constrictive to allow for eventual expansion/burst) would allow for multiple attachment points.

Fins work with airflow and that's going to be problematic with a balloon that is not capable of powered flight - If the air moves, the balloon moves with it. Fins wouldn't do anything because they wouldn't have any appreciable amount of air moving over their surface. Fins on the balloon itself might help orient it by catching more air and providing some resistance. I don't know how much it would help though. I'm not a balloon guy despite being filled with a lot of hot air. ;)

They will launch again in early September and I want to put my cameras up there again to try and do/get better video :)
Sweet. See how much of a weight allowance they will give you.

If it is enough for some extra protection, get a reasonably sturdy box with a good seal on it. (Something along the lines of a water resistant/vapor proof breakout box from an industrial supplier or Radio Shack might work.) Get a valve assembly that will allow you to fill and purge the box, a tank of nitrogen from a local gases supplier along with renting a fill/purge/equalizer valve thingie like air-conditioning service guys use, cut a hole in the box and put in a lens window along with mounts for your camera, install the valve assembly with appropriate o-rings/seals, purge/pressurize the container (wear safety glasses and PPE :) ), do an integrity test that meets or exceeds the pressures of the upper atmosphere (really, the lack of same) and you're ready to go. Put the camera inside, screw down the lid securely being sure the rubber/neoprene seal retains its integrity, purge the interior with nitrogen, check your gauges and disconnect. Then, you're ready to go. If you're worried about maintaining integrity in the upper atmosphere, get a cheap pressure release valve (a buck will get you a plastic disposable one used for chemical drums rated anywhere from 3-12 psi or so) to take strain off the box in low pressure. Total costs would probably be well within your price range.
Thanks for all the tips!
 
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SteveCNC

Guest
I was thinking a fin since it would cause a drag point for any wind going by the balloon similar to how a tail works for a kite to keep it from spinning on the end of the string , then again maybe a tail would work better .

Maybe if you go high def or the new 3d video cams you could make a little cash selling it as stock footage to a film company that buys that sort of thing . You might see it used in the next transformer movie or something :ugeek:
 
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a_lost_packet_

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SteveCNC":26ull193 said:
I was thinking a fin since it would cause a drag point for any wind going by the balloon similar to how a tail works for a kite to keep it from spinning on the end of the string , then again maybe a tail would work better .
That would be a cool idea. Sort of like a streamer/stabilizer for a kite. But I don't think it would do much unless it was on a separately supported tether on another balloon. The streamer is only going to move with the prevailing wind, just like the balloon.

Maybe if you go high def or the new 3d video cams you could make a little cash selling it as stock footage to a film company that buys that sort of thing . You might see it used in the next transformer movie or something :ugeek:
That's a pretty cool idea.
 
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dragon04

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That's some awesomely cool stuff!! I knew I became a member of SDC for a reason. :cool:
 
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3488

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I agree, AWESOME ericseals.

Big welcome to SDC, brilliant footage, even with the condensation the sheer altitude with the black sky, the 'blue halo' & the curvature of the Earth were all very clearly visible.

Wonder if this thread could be moved to SS&A or Forces of Nature, seems 'too good' to be in Free Space.

Hi Boris, the link is fine & perfectly genuine my friend. Certainly understand your caution, but this is perfectly fine & is well worth watching.

Andrew Brown.
 
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Mee_n_Mac

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At least you got your package back, better than the guys at Sparkfun. A gyro and servo could cut down on the spinning ... if you have budget for the power and weight. I thought some sort of GPS based guidance, to get the package back to some known location, would be the next trick to try.
 
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a_lost_packet_

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Mee_n_Mac":1j54qk7c said:
At least you got your package back, better than the guys at Sparkfun.
Nice site!

A gyro and servo could cut down on the spinning ... if you have budget for the power and weight. I thought some sort of GPS based guidance, to get the package back to some known location, would be the next trick to try.
How much would a gyro have to weigh to help maintain stability? It might be workable, but I have no idea atm how to work it out.. a few Google clicks might help me to become an EXPERT in gyrostabilization of weather balloon payloads though...

Some sort of glider or powered flight arrangement would be necessary, I would think. Writing the guidance code might be a bit tough. But, I'm sure someone, somewhere, has published their code online. Maybe something like that could be found in some RC/Rocketry forum or python/script forum and then adapted?
 
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Mee_n_Mac

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a_lost_packet_":22s1tfum said:
How much would a gyro have to weigh to help maintain stability? It might be workable, but I have no idea atm how to work it out.. a few Google clicks might help me to become an EXPERT in gyrostabilization of weather balloon payloads though...

Some sort of glider or powered flight arrangement would be necessary, I would think. Writing the guidance code might be a bit tough. But, I'm sure someone, somewhere, has published their code online. Maybe something like that could be found in some RC/Rocketry forum or python/script forum and then adapted?
1) As for weight ... mebbe not that much. The gyro and electronics weigh next to nothing, it's the mechanism to counter the spin that could weigh. If you simply used a motor to run counter to the spin (at the same RPM) then it depends on the forces involved. It's the added weight in the form of a bigger battery to run the motor that prolly hurts the most.
What I'd do is selectively apply the stabilization. Don't try to fight the jet stream turbulence (in this case), reserve the juice for high alititudes and size the motor and battery accordingly. I'll SWAG 4 - 8 oz depending on the camera used.

For something really feightweight ... (does tilt too !)
http://www.servocity.com/html/spt50_sub ... _tilt.html

2) Personally I'd use some aerodynamic "aid" and cyclically vary the aero trim ... like a helicopter blade or perhaps 1/2 of one ... like a maple seed falling from a tree. Let it drop like a rock through any high wind altitudes and manuver only when "close enough" to the ground. Shouldn't be too hard to come up with some guidance law that uses drop rate, altitude, lateral rate and deviation from landing point. Would make a fun simulation project for the University students to do. And you're probably correct ... someone else has done it by now.
 
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a_lost_packet_

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Mee_n_Mac":2mef5234 said:
...I'll SWAG 4 - 8 oz depending on the camera used.
Ah, gotcha. I was thinking about stabilizing the whole payload. You're focusing on the camera. I would assume there'd be some sort of gimbal mount for the camera.


2) Personally I'd use some aerodynamic "aid" and cyclically vary the aero trim ... like a helicopter blade or perhaps 1/2 of one ... like a maple seed falling from a tree. Let it drop like a rock through any high wind altitudes and manuver only when "close enough" to the ground. Shouldn't be too hard to come up with some guidance law that uses drop rate, altitude, lateral rate and deviation from landing point. Would make a fun simulation project for the University students to do. And you're probably correct ... someone else has done it by now.
Something akin to a single-wing drone like the LM maple-seed monocopter:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY38uho9ZdE[/youtube]

Of course, over-engineering the whole thing requiring something like an anti-aircraft blimp to lift it is the fun part...

Here's the finished high-altitude balloon picture-taker in all its glory.

 
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Mee_n_Mac

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a_lost_packet_":3g5fm29p said:
Something akin to a single-wing drone like the LM maple-seed monocopter:

Of course, over-engineering the whole thing requiring something like an anti-aircraft blimp to lift it is the fun part...
The Samara idea has been around for a while. I found a recent RC version (perhaps a decade after the first I heard of the same concept) here ...

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u23Hqq8QbeE[/youtube]

Of course the balloon version would forgoe the prop and use auto-rotation to spin it. You'd need some sort of swivel (think fishing lures) for the "wing" (and similar for the stabilized camera payload). You put a magnetic sensor on the "wing" (a blade really I guess) to know it's cyclic position relative to mag North (akin to those spinning POV toy tops). The guidance system now needs to only know it's desired heading vs mag North. You could test the descent stage by tossing it off a tall bridge or out of an airplane before the balloon flight.


[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5cT-9VQySM[/youtube]

As for overengineering ... naaaah, that's design margin ! ;)
 
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CalliArcale

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SWEET, Eric Seals! Welcome to SDC -- you sure found a way to come in and make an impression. ;-) That's awesome.
 
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a_lost_packet_

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Mee_n_Mac":8yysr67f said:
...Of course the balloon version would forgoe the prop and use auto-rotation to spin it.
Poor little ****** would be flailing around for a little bit in the thin atmosphere, but eventually he'd be able to maneuver a little bit better towards the final target.

You'd need some sort of swivel (think fishing lures) for the "wing" (and similar for the stabilized camera payload). You put a magnetic sensor on the "wing" (a blade really I guess) to know it's cyclic position relative to mag North (akin to those spinning POV toy tops). The guidance system now needs to only know it's desired heading vs mag North. You could test the descent stage by tossing it off a tall bridge or out of an airplane before the balloon flight.
Not sure about the construction, but I agree it could be done. As far as desired heading, that's fine if it's got some sort of inertial reference. But, it'd have to be able to compensate for a lot of things in order to tell distance to target. Altitude, speed, etc.. You could keep it oriented in an appropriate direction though. Why not just go with GPS and use the magnetic sensor as an absolute reference or something?

As for overengineering ... naaaah, that's design margin ! ;)
Ah, right. I should have used "appropriate engineering" instead.

Hmm.. what about a lifting body parachute like a parawing? Make it inflatable... add a little CO2 bottle and a drag chute for stabilization after primary high altitude release.. Or, maybe a collapsible wing design that would open like a spring-loaded hang-glider?
 
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