It’s been a busy summer! Here’s what’s been happening:
We had six HAB flights between May and August, including three MarsDrop parawing test flights. Our first MarsDrop test was during a HAB flight in May. We used a specially designed payload box, fitted with the MarsDrop parawing, which was cut from the balloon when it had ascended roughly halfway up. (A second payload box, attached to our regular drop parachute, rode the rest of the way on the balloon.) This first test resulted in the parawing becoming tangled with the payload box, so our next test was a little more down to Earth. We headed to a park in La Grange, and, working with a local fire department, dropped our parawing and an attached payload box from the top of a 10-story tall ladder attached to the fire department’s big ladder truck. After five drops from the ladder (four with successful parawing deployment), we felt we were much more able to pack the parawing correctly. Following the ladder drop tests, our parawing flew successfully several times dropped from HAB flights, most recently from a height of over 50,000 feet.
Exploring the Edge of Space (EEOS): We held two 5-day EEOS camps in June and August for 32 middle school students, in total. The campers learned a lot about science experimentation, the history of near-space exploration, atmospheric extremes, and GPS tracking. They also launched, tracked, and retrieved balloons, made liquid nitrogen ice cream, and presented their launch results to parents and family members.
Astro-Science Workshop: The Astro-Science Workshop is designed for high school sophomores and juniors in the Chicago area and originated more than 40 years ago during the Space Race. ASW students designed and built a number of different science experiments, such as sensors to measure various properties of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Based on the results of a recent mission concept review that was conducted for us by a panel of experienced CubeSat-ers, we have narrowed down our CubeSat preliminary mission ideas to the following two:
(1) Advanced imaging using a cryogenically-cooled infrared camera; and
(2) Active radar detection of small (a few centimeters in diameter) space debris in low Earth orbit.
The IR camera mission idea is currently the forerunner of the two. However, our next phase is to arrange for technical reviews of both mission ideas by various experts in science and engineering, which will determine which idea we ultimately submit as a proposal to NASA’s ELaNa program in November. You can read more by clicking the FH CubeSat Mission link at the bottom of the right-hand menu bar on this page.
Some good progress has been made toward configuring and building the antenna system for our much-anticipated ground station. Some months ago, Dr. Jonathon Rosner of the University of Chicago Physics Department approached us about Adler taking custody of some of N9UC amateur radio club’s antenna, control, and transceiver equipment that needed a new home. The fully steerable antenna tower system with 2m and 70cm Yagi antennas was mounted on the roof of the old Research Institutes building, which is no more, replaced by the new Eckhardt Center, and will soon be on Adler’s roof.
This will give N9UC access once again to their equipment, but will also give Far Horizons a ground station to directly communicate with not only our balloon platforms while at high altitude, but orbiting CubeSats as well, including our own in the future. We have a vision of creating an experience for our Adler visitors using data from the ground station.
We have the antenna system components and have built a base platform for it. The next big task is to get all 2,000 pounds of the materials and equipment up onto Adler’s roof, and then assemble the base, the tower, and the antenna structure before Chicago’s winter really starts to set in.
Stay tuned, more news to come!
– Cynthia, Michelle, and Lou