Flight #103: 360 Video Captured of Far Horizons Balloon Burst

On May 7, 2017, Far Horizons filled their balloon payloads once again with student centered science! The Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago joined Far Horizons with their students of Space Explorers.  These students played a key role in our balloon fill team and the launch of our HAB.  These explorers also sent Earthworm Astronauts into the sub zero, low pressure, highly irradiated stratosphere.

The flight was a swift southeastern jaunt, so we divided into teams to ensure we’d make it to the landing sight in time. 

Our Far Horizons Spring Teen Interns sent up their second working draft of a 360 camera (Kodak Pix Pro 360 4K) and rig.  They’re perfecting this design for the Far Horizons eclipse imaging set up for the August Total Solar Eclipse.  By connecting external power to these cameras, the students captured 360 video of the high altitude burst at 27,000 meters (89,000 feet) in full senso-round! Enjoy!

Btw, if you want to get the full VR effect, all you need is the YouTube app on your Smartphone & a virtual reality viewer (e.g., Google Cardboard or Insignia™ VR Viewer – you can find ’em for ~$5-$10).  Open the YouTube app, pull up the above video, tap the Google Cardboard icon on the screen, put your phone in the viewer, and gaze around in wonder & delight!

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Altitude Control System, part II

Our “first draft” altitude control system worked well, but it had a number of problems… First off, it was awkward to use, second, it was larger and heavier than it really needed to be. Finally, it required a separate cutdown system. After the success of the first draft we wondered if we could do better. Last Autumn David, Ken and I started to work on the ACS v. II which was to combine the venting system and the cutdown mechanism all in one convenient and simple house package. David created the following video to illustrate the central concept:


When the animation starts the piston is in the “Closed & Locked” fully extended position towards the left hand side. The balloon nozzle is attached to the blue tube on the left. Although the balloon nozzle is not tied off, the helium cannot escape because the tube is blocked by the presence of the dark grey piston disk. When a release of helium is desired, the piston is drawn back towards the right by an actuator, to the “Open & Locked” position. In this position the grey piston disk (3) is to the right of the holes in the tube walls. Helium can flow from the balloon, through the hollow white part of the piston (5), and out though the holes in the piston and tube walls.

If we want to stop the flow of helium we need simply return the piston to the “Closed & Locked” position. Finally, if we want to release the balloon entirely (cutdown), we pull the piston back to the right all the way to the “Release” position. This removes the hollow white portion of the piston from contact with the blue tabs (4) which are then free to bend inwards (not shown in the animation). This allows the blue portion of the tube (1) to disengage with the white section (2) with a modest force. It is a very clever design!

The actuator, electronics, battery and control panel will be housed in a “sled” that slides in to an extension of the white tube on the right. In part III I’ll give an update on how this design is all coming together in the real world!







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Interns Turn In Powerful Presentations

2016 ISGC Interns Ricky Tobey, Jocelyn Mondragon and Zach El Metennani at their poster presentation

It’s all about the power. This month our team of three undergraduates completed their four-month internship in a well-attended public poster session at the Space Visualization Lab. They explored heat and power management in a CubeSat modeled after the NITESat Mission design. This was the tenth year the Adler has hosted college interns thanks to funding by the Illinois Space Grant Consortium.

The experiments were a truly cooperative group effort. Each of their experiments supported and provided data for each other. Jocelyn Mondragon presented her project Simulation of Interior and External Heat Distribution for Small Satellites. The temperature monitoring array she designed provided heat distribution information for Ricky Tobey’s experiment Investigating the Potential of Liquid Gallium as a Method of Heat Transfer In Satellites. The power for Ricky’s project came from Zachary El Metennani experiment, Managing Variable Power Input of Solar Panels on a CubeSat.

After month’s of background research, experiment design and testing, the team completed a model 2U CubeSat housing all their work.  The big day was upon them. They launched their experiments into the stratosphere on February 4th. We’re still waiting for it to return…

No, it was not lost in space. Unfortunately their payload separated from the flight at some point. Perhaps when some farmer is getting out to the fields this spring we may get a call. Until then, we wait. Not to be daunted by the loss, the interns took their designs and lessons learned and created impressive presentations. Sometimes the best lessons come from the most challenging of situations.


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