What are we Launching?

The North Medford Black Tornado (Secondary) Payload Design.

We have designed a payload container that allows multiple Common and Secondary payloads to mixed and matched into different launch systems. This design enables existing Common payloads to be used without change. The one exception is the Iridium Modem container, which we have rebuilt to work with our common framework.

As shown below, the design consists of a 7.75” diameter Lexan sheet mounted on top of 1” Foamular board. Electronic components are mounted onto a custom 3D printed support structure, which is secured to the Lexan sheet using a Velco strap. Separation between payloads layers is achieved using LEGO bricks, which provide strength, while also at the same time supporting variable spacing between layers. The Secondary payload in the figure below supports a GPS, external temperature sensor and an altitude-triggered buzzer.

The Secondary payload shown below supports an Adafruit 9 DOF IMU and a Sparkfun BMP180 Barometer. It also shows our approach to powering the system. The battery is a PKCELL 3.7V 6600 mAh battery. This battery is the same model at that used in the Main payloads. An Adafruit 500mA Powerboost module is used to increase the 3.7V battery output to 5.2V for powering the Arduino and sensor boards. The Powerboost module enables the battery to be charged in place. The power switch on the board is connected to the enable pin on the Powerboost module and is used to switch the system on and off. A custom built 3D printed support allows access to the power switch from outside of the

The power system described above can power multiple payloads. In the image below two payloads are linked together and powered by a single battery and power switch.

The Secondary payload shown below supports Vernier UVA, UVB and Radiation sensors. The radiation sensor counts alpha, beta and gamma particles. We plan to add an Ozone sensor to this payload. The sensors are connected to an Arduino by a Sparkfun interface. The same system as that described earlier is used to power the payload.

The Secondary payload shown below supports various models of cameras that can be configured to point upwards, downwards or sideways. Custom-built 3D brackets are used to support cameras in these various configurations. A Lexan sheet is act as a barrier between the inside of the payload and the exterior environment.

Rings cut using a CNC router are used to create the container for the payloads. Rings can be added or deleted based on the height of the payloads. We will not glue the rings together until the complete system is assembled. In general, each payload box consists of two halves that will be taped together just before launch. Shown below are the top and bottom halves of a container.

The complete container is shown below. The top ring is also supported by the Lego bricks of the top payload, which prevents the payloads from moving during flight. The image also shows the external buzzer and temperature sensor, which still need to be secured in place.

The image below shows the new configuration of the Iridium modem. We still need to add a Lexan support sheet and a switch. Adding a switch eliminates the need to plug and unplug the battery (except when charging) to power the system and enables the payload to be activated from outside of the container.




Upcoming Event!

Coming up on Earth Day, April 22nd 2017, We will be preforming a full test launch of our secondary payload. The launch will begin around 12:00 pm at Science Works in Ashland (1500 E Main St Ashland, OR 97520). We would be excited if you would come and join us!

Payload Structural Test.

Testing the reliability of glue at low temperatures. This payload box prototype was in a freezer until it reached zero degrees Celsius. Results of this test show that the durability of the glue is not compromised by being reduced to a low temperature. The self repairing aspect of our payload boxes is an added bonus!


Conference Call with Shane from MSU

On Thursday, February 9th the team took part in a conference call with Shane from Montana State University and got some important questions answered. The questions were very important when considering the direction we will be going in the future, what restrictions are placed upon our payload, and how much control we will have over the ground station. The questions we asked will be listed below with their responses.

The team gathering around for the call.

Q: Can we have access to the Arduino code for the ground station?

A: We should be able to provide you with this information. This is significant Because it will allow us to manually track the payload and receive images if the automated tracking is no working.

Q: What is the range of the still and video transmitters?

A:  The still image payload has a range of 40km-60km, while the Video has a range of 40.25km. This is from the ground station straight to the balloon. It was also mentioned that the balloon needed to be at an elevation of 60-80,000ft during totality.

Q: Is the objective to get real-time video of the shadow across the Earth’s surface or to image the Sun?

A: This decision is up to the team and what we think would look the best.

Q: What happens if we lose the Payload in test launches before the eclipse on August 21st?

A: We were informed that MSU has a few backup payloads and will attempt to provide us with the lost equipment.

Q: How will NASA TV display the video of each payload during the eclipse?

A: NASA will have an interactive website where the user will be able to click on what payload they want to see video from.

Q: Are there plans to add GPS capability to the still image payloads?

A: There are a few teams testing this and we will keep you updated on if it is working well.

Q: What is the largest payload you have had and what is the maximum weight of the payload?

A: The total weight of the balloon has to be under 12lbs. due to FAA requirement. The NASA payload has a weight of 6-7lbs. The FAA also has various density requirements for when we launch the payload.

Q: Can we have a UV A and B sensor and a Geiger counter on the payload?

A: It is important to test these in conjunction with the required components to see if they interfere with the imaging and other important parts of the system.



Maker Faire Was Fun!

We had a booth at the first Rogue Valley Maker Faire at ScienceWorks in Ashland on November 19, 2016. It was a lot of fun and there was significant interest in our project. We also did a tethered balloon launch in very windy conditions (see YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mB2xKf9Ycw4 ), but managed to live stream video for the first time from the balloon to the Internet. The team gave a theater presentation about the project and showed the live Internet video stream during the presentation.

Dayville Launch August 23rd, 2016

This launch was done in preparation for the final launch that will take place on August 21st, 2017. We did this launch in a tiny little town called Fox behind this charming church. Fox is about an hour or so outside of Dayville which is where we stayed during the three days we were there.

Our goals for this launch were:

  • To reach 100,000 ft. for the first time
  • To have two payload boxes successfully launch
  • To have a successful launch
  • To have three cameras in the top payload box. One facing the side, the top, and another on the bottom of the payload. The one on the top would be set to video and would record the balloon bursting.
  • To use the one of the two 2,000g balloons that we had
  • Have the payload be roughly 4lbs

This launch was a bit different from the others for a few reasons:

  1.  We used a 2,000g balloon
  2. We had three cameras rather than one
  3.  One of the cameras was recording
  4.  We were out in the desert

In order to be a bit more organized, we all split into three teams: The launch team, the tracking team, and the retrieval team. The launch team would launch the balloon and would then use the coordinates that were coming in from the SPOT tracker to go find the balloon. The tracking team would help track the balloon’s progress and report to both the launch and retrieval team. The retrieval team would use the predicted flight path that was generated that morning and use the last GPS coordinate that was on the predicted flight path and go there to video the balloon coming down.

With all of our teams ready to go, we lift off!

Overall, the launch was our most successful launch so far. We got the best pictures we have ever gotten. The BEST pictures. We owe those pictures to our mentor, John, Saxon and Apoorva, as well as one of the parents, Jamey.

The basic flight data:

  • Average ascent rate: 8.33 m/s
  • Maximum altitude: 22355 m (or about 76,000 ft.)
  • Time to burst: 42 minutes
  • Average descent rate: 13.29 m/s
  • Descent time: 26 minutes

Even though it was a successful launch, there were some setbacks. The 2,000 g balloon prematurely burst at 76,000 ft, the top camera facing the balloon did not get any video, and the SD cards in the IMU did not collect any data. However, these can be fixed once we have found the sources of error and therefore the next launch will be even more successful!

We also made some very important friends who will help us greatly in the upcoming year. We will be collaborating with Jim Latshaw, the science teacher at Dayville High, and Dennis, the owner of the R.V. park. They were incredibly kind and spectacular, and we are very grateful to be working with them.

Our goals for the future:

  • Reach 100,000 ft.
  • Have a camera facing the balloon and have it video the entire time
  • Have the SD cards in the IMU collect data
  • Do some tethered and practice launches with the NASA payload

The upcoming year is going to be very exciting and filled with lots of launches!







MSU Bozeman HAB Training Workshop: Day 5

Today, we went outside and tested the complete system and everything worked without a hitch — even with seven other teams working in parallel. (In the upcoming July workshop, 42 teams will be working in parallel!) Then it was time to dismantle the system ready for shipment back to Oregon. We even had time to visit the dinosaurs before leaving. A really great week working with great people. Many thanks to the whole MSU support team and my team colleagues for a very successful and rewarding workshop.



MSU Bozeman HAB Training Workshop: Day 4

Today we looked at different packaging options for the payloads and managed to transmit real-time images from the still camera to the ground station. There was also lots of discussion about the kinds of experiments we could do during the balloon flight. NOAA is interested in us attaching a radiosonde underneath our payload to collect weather data during the flight and to record temperature changes during the eclipse – this has never been done before. The objectives tomorrow are to perform a complete system test and to package the system for shipment back to Oregon.



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MSU Bozeman HAB Training Workshop: Day 3

A really busy day building and testing the Iridium modem and still camera payloads and the balloon cutdown system. We successfully connected our payloads to the GPS and Iridium satellite systems and sent tracking data and cutdown commands from the payloads via satellite to the ground station computer. We had some issues sending still images but we hope a software fix will solve this problem tomorrow. The last image below shows live balloon tracking data from the eight teams participating in the workshop.

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