Amazing Photos of the Great American Eclipse!

The eclipse in totality looming over the Earth with its shadow. Taken from an elevation 60,000 feet, with a GoPro Hero 3+.

Another place. A different time. A wondrous occasion. August 21st, 2017 is a date we’ll never forget. Where were you when the moon obscured the sun? There are many answers, one to each person, but for our team of fifteen individuals, that place was a cozy little town called Dayville, Oregon.

The Umbra moving across the Earth, from an elevation of 60,000 feet. Image captured with a GoPro Hero 3+.

Our team was able to retrieve fantastic pictures from both the payload and our ground telescopes. Although there where a few complications during the event. The major problem was that our balloons ascended too fast causing the balloons to burst moments before totality. We believe that this was caused by the lack of wind, high atmospheric pressure and low humidity, resulting in weather conditions that did not slow the ascent of our balloon as usual.  The conditions were too ideal!

The elusive Diamond Ring, shot with an Orion 100mm refractor with a Canon Rebel EOS DSLR camera

Our contribution to Google’s Megamovie project was a major success. We obtained hundreds of magnificent pictures from our two telescopes. We were able to capture photos beginning at first contact and ending at fourth contact, even capturing images of the elusive Bailey’s beads and Diamond ring effect. All thanks to the help of the wonderful John Bunyan and Dave Bloomsness.

The elusive Bailey’s Beads, shortly before the long awaited totality, shot with an Orion 100mm refractor with a Canon Rebel EOS DSLR camera

Due to the lack of wind our payloads landed very close to our launch location, this does not mean that the retrieval was an easy task. The Tornado Payload was found on the ground about half a mile off a dirt road making the retrieval on this payload fairly easy. The Eagle Payload was much more difficult to recover, due to it being stuck in a tree down the steep slope of a mountain. We tried many different ways to retrieve this payload, from throwing rocks at it, to trying to cut the tree down with a small hatchet. We were able to retrieve the payload by using a dead tree to hook it, and bring it safely to the ground.

Prominence from the North Medford telescope set up: Orion 100mm refractor with Canon Rebel EOS DSLR camera
Image of the Corona shot with an Orion 100mm refractor with a Canon Rebel EOS DSLR camera


This has been a truly amazing project to be part of, and we can not wait until the next eclipse. We would like to thank everyone for all the support and keeping up with the project. From ours to yours: See you, Space Cowboys!

The team just before the event.
One of our balloons capturing another, with a GoPro Hero 3+

Earth Day 2017 April 22nd!

Lots of people showed up for Earth Day at Science works. The talk by our own Nick and Alex was received with a very positive response.

We launched at 1:00 PM and were met with both a crowd and wind gusts. The debut of our “Steel-Horse” Tethering System with saddle and cowboy hat was a success. There were issues with the wind, so we had to end it early, but we were able to complete our tests. The Cut-Down system and our telemetry systems worked and we got to experience a wonderful day!

Our payload in the air!

Launch Crew connecting the tethering system.
Our Earth Day Booth

The Steel Horse awaits its rider.

Payload comes in for a landing

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.




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!