Like our last post about Flight# 78, Flight# 84 was also a night flight. An experiment to further test equipment for our Cube Sat (or cube satellite) Mission. The Adler is in the process of becoming the first planetarium in space with a cube satellite with the NITESat(Night Imaging and Tracking Experiment Satellite) Project and intends to monitor light pollution from orbit. It was a gorgeous night for a sunset, but for our flight we had doubts about visibility with the slight cloud cover rolling in and the soon to be full moon.
It was, after all Sept. 26th, 2015, the day before the lunar eclipse of the famed “Super Moon.” We would see how “super” it would make our analysis of light pollution from the sky.
Let’s get you up to speed on what we threw up in the air. Seeing as how we are interested in the capability of “off the shelf” cameras in high altitudes. The quality and the resolution of the images, and how they perform in extremely high altitudes. We could use the data from this flight to gauge what specifications need to change for the higher altitude of the Cube Sat (about 5x as high) .
Using a Canon Hack Program on the SD Card we programmed an intervalometer to take varying exposures on a loop through the entire flight. We affixed the Cannon camera with beautiful neon pink 50lb zip ties, bolts, and washers to disperse the pressure to keep the pvc from cracking.
Two GoPros were affixed to the frame as well. From previous tests we knew they were hackable and record flights well in HD. We changed out the lens of one GoPro (seen to the left) to a telephoto, and hacked its operating to prepare it for flight.
We assembled the frame as a test preflight to understand where all the parts should be screwed bolted and taped.
This aided our preflight assembly in the hangar with limited light from the setting sun and preflight jitters (oh yeah, it was my first flight). I don’t know about you but I’m a sucker for high altitude ballooning with biplanes.
Although a thin layer of clouds had rolled in we kept our fingers crossed, prepped the frame, started the GoPros, made sure GPS was transmitting, began the strobes for recovery and launched. You might be able to hear my chortles of joy!
You can observe that on the way up we were able to see the lights of Kankakee and as we move even higher, the clouds part for a bit and you can make out the city of Chicago. If you look really close towards the edge of lake Michigan, around 1:08, you can spot the Great Chicago Fire Festival at Northerly Island. So obviously at roughly 70,000 feet, this GoPro2, is still recording fine and we are able to monitor the light pollution given off from the city. Important information for us to gather and keep in mind as we move forward on our NITESat Mission.
The balloon reached to a little over 95,000 feet before exploding and beginning its descent. We tracked its GPS signal and spotted it near touchdown from its bright strobes. It landed not too far from the launch site in the middle of a corn field. Big surprise! It positioned itself more or less like a ring toss in the midst of dry, razor sharp, autumnal stalks.
We found that all the cameras on the payload frame were off and covered in a nice layer of condensation from flight. We had to disassemble the dang thing to hoof it back to the road. A little scratched up, but victorious, we returned to the lab to process our data and prepare for the next flight!