Fall Plans and What We’ve Been Up To

November 9th Flight and New Flight Protocols


A busy Saturday in the lab designing experiments, prepping for flight and learning Arduino programming

Due to the helium shortage we had to postpone our planned October 12th flight (more about that below). The next flight, FH63, will be Saturday November 9th. Planned experiments for the flight include:

  • PV Cell Experiment – testing the efficiency of solar cells in stratospheric conditions. Quinn’s future science fair experiment?
  • Wireless Cut Down – a first test of the wireless payload-to-cutdown interface. The IMSA’s first flight.
  • GPS Logger – the bugs may finally be out of Jeff’s high resolution GPS data acquisition system
  • 360 Pano – testing the payload spin monitoring system for a future high resolution panoramic imaging mission. ASW alum Brian’s hard work has made this a possibility.
  • Shielded Geiger Counter – looking at ways of distinguishing high energy particle interactions with a low cost setup. The experiment from Andrew and his students from Wright College.
  • Cosmic Ray Detector – a straight up scintillator/PMT cosmic ray experiment customized for HAB flight. Lou and team

In response to the fact that until we successfully clear the way for hydrogen launches helium may be in short supply and as a needed level of qualifying experiments for readiness, in the future, any experiment intended to be flown on an upcoming flight must be tested and approved to be “Flight Ready” a minimum one week before a flight. This mean anyone preparing an experiment for flight must demonstrate that their experiment can withstand the rigors of near space flight and can potentially return some significant results before they are included in the payload. This should help everyone engineer their experiments with better results. We’ll draft a checklist of guidelines for flight clearance soon. For now, we’ll personally advise anyone as to the minimum expected requirements for flight readiness on a personal basis. And if you know me you know my first test may involve kicking your experiment down the stairs 😉

Also, the deadline for signing up to attend a flight will be one week prior to launch as well. So, let us know by Nov 2nd if you are interested in attending our Nov 9th flight.

A New IMSA Team


High speed video capture of the balloon burst from the Aug 8, 2013 FH62 flight

We have 6 new IMSA (Illinois Math and Science Academy) interns for the school year. Two of them, Milan and Brendan, are working on a full-fledged wireless, cut down system capable of receiving ground commands for flight termination. A few years back the first development of our cut down system was spearheaded by two IMSA interns. The system they built successfully flew on previous flights. Now that our skills have grown, we’re looking to develop a new standard in flight control. The system is an Arduino-based system using an XBee for wireless payload to cutdown control. Building off of the work of our ISGC interns from the summer, they hope to develop a system that will in the future utilize ground-to-payload communications for real time flight termination. Their first flight will be on the 9th.


The Adler has released a short video documenting the Far Horizons project. You can check it out here on YouTube or by viewing the video above. Also, the production company 137 Films has created a cool 16 minute documentary about Far Horizons titled, “This Has Been To Space”. It documents one of our flights with the Exploring the Edge of Space camp, a week-long hands on experience for middle school students, from last year. I’ve been able to view a preview and I can’t wait for everyone to share in the wonderful job 137 Films has done showing the one of a kind experience shared by the young future aerospace engineers involved in Far Horizons. Arrangements are being made to have the premiere of their short film at the Adler sometime in the near future. As soon as we know the details, we’ll pass them along.

Sunday Labs: Now in 3D

The Makerbot has Arrived

The Makerbot has arrived!

Now that Cynthia is on full time, we have the ability to make the lab available on Sundays. The Far Horizons lab is now available 7 days a week! We understand that many of our volunteers have limited time to come in and work on projects so this seemed like a natural. The lab will be open in the future on Sundays 10-5.

And if you didn’t hear, we finally got our 3D printer! We have a Makerbot 2 for use for anyone needing to create a custom 3D object. As a test we printed a complete full scale model of a CubeSat. Lou was able to design and print a custom bracket to hold the fiber optics bundle to the photo multiplier tubes on the Cosmic Ray experiment. We printed a variety of asteroid models bases on visual and radio observations. And, admittedly, we printed a bunch of TARDIS’s too. Or is the plural TARDI?

Helium Light, Hydrogen Lighter?

The recent closure and emergency reopening of the Federal Helium Reserve has made the helium market skip a beat. This was unrelated to the government shutdown but it still shines a spotlight on how “light” the supply of helium is in the world. In response, we’ve pushed forward with our plans to develop safe and effective means of doing hydrogen launches. The National Weather Service launches hundreds of hydrogen balloons a day across the country safely and without incident. It can be done and we’re looking to codify our procedure. Our first field tests will most likely be in late Nov or early Dec. We have procured a location to do tests. We’ll probably keep these tests to a small crew but if we need volunteers for the day we’ll keep everyone posted. As part of the tests we’ve constructed a spark generator and have tested it in the lab. If all goes well, we should come out with methods of safe hydrogen use that can help other groups have options for HAB flights when helium is not available.

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