Science Project Stratosphere Status Report

Lunar_Lander

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Because dbeachy1 asked for it: This is to introduce to you my stratospheric research project, which I gave the name “Project Στρατóσφαιρα“ which is the Greek word for “Stratosphere”, which I chose because of the fact that all physics and especially the theory of ballooning and buoyancy (namely Archimedes’ principle) originated from Ancient Greece. The objective of this project is to send small rubber balloons into the stratosphere (similar to the daily ascents of sounding balloons of the Weather Bureaus all around the world), but the payload of this balloon should be enhanced in comparison to the standard weather
probe.

The search for Scientific Institutions who could have interest in the flight was the next step. I found the following persons and institutions:

Germany:

· Dr. Ulrich Poeschl, Max Planck Institute of Chemistry, Mainz: Would like to fly a bacteria trap on the balloon.

· The Department of the Genetics of Microorganisms at the University of Osnabrueck: Would like to fly E. coli specimens on the balloon to investigate any changes that might occur to the DNA.

Czech Republic:

· CzechSpace: Would like to fly an STS-6 Geiger Counter Tube.

United States of America:

· INSPIRE Inc.: Would like to fly one of their VLF-3 receiver sets to investigate VLF wavepropagation in the stratosphere.

· Dr. Heidi Tissenbaum of the University of Massachusetts: Would like to fly Tardigrades to observe the survival rate of these organisms in the stratosphere.

Russia:

· Dr. Alexey Kondyurin: Would like to investigate how stratospheric conditions trigger polymerization of materials.

South Africa:

· Mr. Gerrit Avenant, SunSpace, University of Stellenbosch: Would like to provide an electric field mill to determine the electric field strength at different altitudes.

I also contacted several other institutions in countries which are not known for great scientific achievements, which did not reply yet:

Brazil:

· National Institute of Space Research: Works on the atmospheric distribution of greenhouse gases and ozone.

Peru:

· Dr. Domingo Rosales, Observatorio Geomagnetico de Hunacay Geophysical Institute of Peru: Works on the Measurement of the Geomagnetic field.

Ghana:

· Dr. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, University of Ghana: Works on Zoology.

Marshall Islands:

· Dr. Donald Hess, College of the Marshall Islands: Is the head of the local science department, possible cooperation is still being negotiated.

The UK High Altitude Society also gave me some very valuable pieces of information, such as an Excel spreadsheet which gives for a given balloon; gas inflation volume and payload weight data on ascent rate, time to balloon burst and maximum altitude. If a 1500g balloon is used and inflated to a diameter of 2 m (which corresponds to 4.2 cubic meters), it will carry 2.3 kg (which is the maximum payload according to the manufacturer) aloft at a rate of 3.2 m/s and reaching an altitude of 33,697 m (110,554 ft). The limit of 2.3 kg also gives, that any other experiment installed on the balloon
might only weigh up to 1.5 kg, thus giving with a small sensor platform and parachute system a payload weight of 2 kg, a safety margin of 300 g.

After burst, the payload will descend on a 72” parachute at a rate of 3.5 m/s. This Parachute (being white, yellow and orange for high visibility) is manufactured by Spherachutes Inc. of Greeley, Colorado, USA at a discounted price especially for the project. To pick it up, it will emit a signal on the European license-free frequency of 433 MHz, also, a prediction program by the University of Cambridge helps to determine the most possible landing spot/area.

I have shown my project to Dr. Thomas Prince of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology (a former member of the NASA Scientific Ballooning Program), and he says that although there are measurements being made with the huge polyethylene balloons, a student project would surely yield important information. Dr. Michael A. Gottlieb, the editor of the Feynman Lectures on Physics, stated that my project is not just valuable from the scientific point of view, but also offers great educational opportunities which should not be missed in his opinion.

I would like to include some school experiments, which are not complicated but would yield some nteresting results which would then motivate pupils to make their own experiments. As an example, I will include a roll of 35 mm-film on the first flight which will then show the impacts of the cosmic
rays.

The Costs of the Project are as follows: The Balloon System for the first flight would consist of the balloon ($120), parachute and the payload (lent from the respective research group), whereas someelectronic parts would need to be purchased (For this another $140 should be available, also to havesome reserves in case of emergency). Every successive flight would then only need a new balloon for $120. Thus we get: $120+$140=$260 for the first flight. A helium cylinder with 10 cubic meters of He would cost $270, but would last for 2.5 inflations.

Flight 1: ~260$+270$=530$
Flight 2: 120$
Flight 3: 120$+270$=390$
and so on...


It would be great and would be very appreciated if some you could decide on supporting the project, because it is at the very edge of being paid by myself, and it is a great scientific and educational effort. Suggestions on how to organize the supporting via PayPal would be appreciated too! Thank You!
 
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dbeachy1

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PayPal is probably the way to go -- it's easy to set up, too. All you need is an email address and a bank account. You can sign up and create an account at paypal.com. Once that is done all you have to do is post the email address to which the money should be sent and people can then donate via PayPal to that account. If you have any questions feel free to PM me. :thumbup:
 

Lunar_Lander

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Thanks for the advice dbeachy1, I actually have a PayPal account, and you can send donations to:

KGlinka (at) gmx (dot) net

Thanks!!!
 

Lunar_Lander

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First Donations

Many thanks to dbeachy1 and dgatsoulis for donating! Of course your names will be on the balloon payload when it starts into the stratosphere.

Independently, the Biophysics department has granted the use of the helium they have! This removes a big financial block from the budget, for which I am very grateful.
 

Lunar_Lander

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SiberianTiger has donated too, thank you very much :)!

I have decided to do the following:
imag0019l.jpg


I will plant these flags on the balloon's payload along with your names which then will ride into the stratosphere. If anybody else from somewhere else donates too, the respective flag will be added :).
 

Lunar_Lander

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Here you are:

[nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2evRMRneew"]YouTube- Project Stratosphere (Στρατóσφαιρα) Audio Update #1, March 14th, 2010[/nomedia]


[nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2EdPyRQ_Fg"]YouTube- Project Stratosphere (Στρατóσφαιρα) Audio Update #2, May 2nd, 2010[/nomedia]
 
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Lunar_Lander

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The next scheduled item will be a parachute drop test at the university campus with a package of sugar as a "payload". I will try to obtain the necessary permissions and film the test.

EDIT: I have found the person who can give permission and asked, awaiting answer.
 
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Lunar_Lander

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The British retailer for the balloons has no balloons in stock until the end of the Month. Despite this, we will continue with the mentioned parachute tests and tests of the Electronics by letting them run for two days to get data about battery depletion and overall performance of sensors, GPS and radio.
 

Lunar_Lander

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Doing the Math for the balloon, now on the website!

http://stratosphere.weebly.com/uploads/2/8/2/9/2829023/paper_1_balloon_calculations.pdf

And some updating on the science front:

My E-Mail to Peru has obviously arrived, but there has no further response as yet, because of which I now contacted the geomagnetic observatory of India as well. I contacted a Danish research group which works on atmospheric pollutants, but they said that their interest is in the troposphere.
 
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Lunar_Lander

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Friedrichshafen Ascent Experience Report

Well everybody,

I am back from a 1360 km drive through Germany, where I visited the Ham Radio 2010 exhibition in Friedrichshafen. The prime reason I did this was, because the chairman of the "Arbeitskreis für Amateurfunk in der Schule" (Workgroup for using ham radio in schools) had heard of my balloon plans and invited me to come to the exhibition, as there would be a double balloon launch.

I have attended this launch and I have learned a lot on the operation and handling of such a balloon system. At the launch place, the two balloons were inflated and the payload boxes were connected by strings to the parachute, and the parachute in turn to the balloon neck.

One hour after the scheduled launch (which had been 8:30 am GMT), balloon 1 was launched, balloon 2 followed some 10 minutes later. The ATV signal from balloon no. 1, showing an vertical and an oblique view (changing every three minutes) was shown on a TV set up at the launch place, however, signal was lost quickly after the balloon disappeared behind the edge of the roof of the fair building.

On the fair stand, we were able to capture the downlink from the two balloons, but we noticed quickly, that the website which displayed the data live was not showing any correct sensor data except for the GPS. All other values were static, some even giving fantastic values, like a battery no. 4 temperature of 8160°C. After accessing the router which received the packages directly, we were able to see that the downlink and the sensors were in fact working.

During the course of the flight, balloon no. 1's GPS ceased to work. Balloon no. 2 continued to transmit until 400 m over ground, where the signal ceased due to the surrounding Swiss Alps. Although the balloon was tracked as far down as this level, the tracking crew was unable to localize the balloon (even after chartering a small plane for a search flight). The team assumes that the payload has been stolen, but there is no confirmation of this as yet. Balloon no. 1 resumed to transmit after impact, was picked up and returned to Friedrichshafen with only minor damage. Readout of the data saved onboard was possible. The Polish team Copernicus supplied a camera system, which is now tested post-flight and the some 4000 images will then be made available online.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Do Not inflate the balloons at the beginning of the launch operation. Prepare all apparatus before inflation.
  2. Make sure to have enough team personnel for handling the balloons, so that you are not forced to ask audience members to come inside the launch zone.
  3. Maintain better communication with search teams, in this case there was only one cell phone for the expensive german-swiss link.
This so far for this flight.

 

Lunar_Lander

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Balloon

For dbeachy1, dgatsoulis and SiberianTiger I can show today what their donations have caused :):

imag0028vi.jpg


Thank you very much again :)
 

Lunar_Lander

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Basic Balloon Systems

Some news from the project: I have decided to use the Arduino Uno for the main flight computer (and to learn the basics of using a microprocessor) and this will be connected to a GPS which I still have to select. In turn, the Arduino will also be connected to a Radiometrix NTX2 Transmitter which operates at 434 MHz and 10 milliwatts. At this properties, the Transmitter is being used license exempt.

Of course 10 mW is only very little power compared to what amateur radio systems could deliver. I have no amateur radio license and thus this way of using an license exempt system is the only way available.

Furthermore, the experience accumulated in the UK balloon flights has shown that the transmitter is well sufficient due to the clear line of sight between balloon and ground antenna due to the high altitudes involved. As a side info, this method was developed in the UK because of the fact that amateur radio is not allowed to be used airborne. But still, the NTX2 may perform alternative transmission modes (besides the normal [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RTTY"]RTTY[/ame] (Radio Teletype) mode), as SSTV (Slow Scan Television) or [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellschreiber"]Hellschreiber[/ame].

Another reason for using the Arduino is that it is easy to use and there is much documentation online for how to use it. A great video tutorial series on it can be found here.
 

Urwumpe

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Why didn't you select just a integrated GPS solution? The SiRFstarIV chip is based on a standard ARM processor, and would be still powerful enough to operate all experiments you can imagine (usually it is used for drawing the 3D maps in car navigation systems)

http://www.csr.com/products/35/sirfstariv-gsd4e

I am pretty sure you can also find a complete experiment board with one of those, which should be well inside your budget.

http://www.easydevices.co.uk/scp/GPS_Receivers/GPS_Modules.html

Those that I see there are smaller and lighter than your Aduino solution - and also way cheaper, even including shipping to Antarctica.

http://www.easydevices.co.uk/pp/GPS_Receivers/GPS_Modules/GLOBALSAT_ET-318_GPS_ENGINE_BOARD.html

The dynamic limitations there are pretty much just legalese. You can use these still well in 61,000 km altitude, if you do the math yourself and just use the GPS receiver for decoding the signals.

(OK, not all SiRFStar III or IV versions have the processor core, need to do more research there - but making software for a ARM processor isn't really harder, since it is a standard today, all mobile phones are based on it)

EDIT: This one would be likely outside the scope and financial equipment of your project, but maybe interesting for a later project:

http://www.whiznets.com/index.php/Embedded-GPRS/GPS-System-Module.html

Essentially a smart phone without keys and touch screen.
 
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Lunar_Lander

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Update of the Work since July 2011

It has been quite some time since I last posted that the radio system is working. I would like to put forward some information on what has been accomplished so far since then.

I would like to begin with the software. We wrote a program that worked the radio, sensors, GPS and SD card in a way that we got datastrings that could be used on a flight and which I have used to uplink the telemetered datastrings to the spacenear.us tracking website.
The problem with the code so far however is that the integration of the individual parts is not optimal, there are several delays in that cause a 9 second gap between transmissions, whereas other balloons transmit almost continously.
There has to be a complete rewrite of the software with proper version control after Ascent 1.

As for the hardware, first of all, the payload has got a good housing, which is this one here:
wol_error.gif
Click this bar to view the full image.
IMG5318.jpeg


In the background on the red Sparkfun box, you can see the Arduino microcontroller with the Mk 1 Sensor Board that was attached to it when the photo was taken (early in November).

The evolution of the sensor boards was as follows:
First of all, I made what we now call Mark 0. Mk 0 was quite crude and actually was abandoned after I managed to create a short circuit that caused the regulator on the board to get hot, which in turn caused the markings on the regulator to burn off to some extent. This is how Mk 0 looks like:
wol_error.gif
Click this bar to view the full image.
IMG6254.jpeg


After that, we made Mark 1, with which we actually did a lot of work. First of all Mk 1 looks like this:
wol_error.gif
Click this bar to view the full image.
IMG6255.jpeg

The board was modified several times along the run, adding for example the ability to measure battery voltage, as this should be quite important to know for engineering reasons. With the Mk 1 we also did three duration tests and a cold soak test (24 hours in a -77°C fridge).

  • Duration Test 1 was made on August 16th to 17th, having the payload board running on the laboratory table on three Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA batteries. The batteries had been used for testing before and they actually were depleted after some 16 hours. All sensors, radio transmissions and SD card recordings were satisfactory.
  • Duration Test 2 was made on August 22nd to 23rd, switching to four AA batteries which were also taken from a new pack just before the test. This featured the payload running with the cameras in the styrofoam box on a table in the staircase near the laboratory. Again, reception, sensors and recording went excellent and the payload acquired GPS lock immediately when I took it outside at the end of the run. However, there was a padding error in the GPS coordinates that caused some headache because it omitted zeroes which would have placed the payload 20 km east of the actual position! By now this is fixed. Also insulation of the box worked well, recording up to 50°C in it during that run! The camera systems also worked for about four hours, enough for an ascent.
  • Duration Test 3 ran from October 30th to November 1st, having the fully packed payload running on the roof of the Physics Department. It ran until the batteries were depleted after some 38 hours, unfortunately, radio communications were lost about 6 hours after the start of the test, as the temperature dependence of the NTX2 frequency caused the frequency to drift out of the set receiver frequency, which could not be corrected due to the equipment working autonomously. In a real flight of course there will be someone to retune, so that won't be a problem. Fortunately, the microSD captured all the data. There was strange data coming in at about 10 am October 31st, continuing for two hours, after which the string counter suddenly reset and normal working was restored. We do not currently know why the system rebooted. It could be in correlation with the occasion that the wind threw the payload on its side on the roof, causing the lid to come open (which was visible in the temperature graphs). Otherwise, all systems worked well, the Canon PowerShot this time worked for about nine hours because we disabled the screen.
The newest addition to the fleet is Mark 1A. I made Mk 1A on Protoboard instead of Stripboard to be a bit more free in placing components and to get all the wiring on the underside of the board. Mk 1A is not really tested so far, but we will try it out this week. This is how Mk 1A looks like:
IMG6256.jpeg


We are actually looking for a good name for the board as such. Oernen II (Eagle II in Swedish) being the name of the balloon, the Sensor Board also needs a name, probably from Greek Mythology (so that we will have (any name) Mk(Number)). Any suggestions for that will be appreciated!
 
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