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Our Newest High Flyers

Welcome Operation AFA Airlift Teams

One of the missions of Far Horizons is introducing a new generation to the wonders and challenges of space exploration. Keeping with that philosophy, we’re assisting the Air Force Academy High School with “Operation AFA Airlift”, a one day freshman class high altitude balloon challenge. Student teams design and build remote airships flying on high altitude balloons and compete to complete the most challenges with their designs.

As part of the competition, teams do research on the history of high altitude balloon missions, the science of our atmosphere and the uses of high altitude balloons in research and exploration. If you’re looking to learn more about these subjects, we’ve compiled a reference page with many interesting resources. Follow this link for more info.

May 5th 360 degree launch cam panorama

May 5th Flight Report

We have results from last weekend’s flight. I’m happy to report that all 6 GoPro cameras on our stabilization frame ran for the entire flight. At first test, it looks as if we obtained enough coverage to be able to create the first ever HD 360 degree video for a full dome projection. Now comes the hard work of stitching, blending and then creating the proper projection for a dome theater. I’ll keep everyone up to date on the progress. For the time being, I’ve included links to two quick edits from the flight. Just click on the images to be taken to the Far Horizons YouTube channel. Or link from here and here.

One lesson learned was for the most trouble free imaging at high altitude you have to be concerned about condensation. Because of a) low altitude humidity and b) greater temperature inversion the chance of lens condensation is greater during the Spring and Summer. The exterior of the cameras were subjected to temperatures below freezing beginning from 3000 meters on the

90,000 foot panoramic view and balloon burst

ascent. This means any residual moisture on the surface will quickly freeze. On the descent, as the cameras reentered the warmer, wetter atmosphere, the chilled exterior surface became a conduit for air moisture to condense upon. Dry winter days should be optimum for best imaging.

The other mission on Saturday was to introduce the science and exploration of the stratosphere to the Boy Scouts of America. Ten scouts and two leaders from Troop 955 joined in the launch, chase and recovery. From all accounts the scouts had a blast. And now we’re planning on more missions with another new generation of near space explorers.

NIRA Meeting Report

Thanks to Jeff who headed out to the Northern Illinois Rocket Association meeting on the 4th. Here’s his report.

On Friday May 4th, I attended a meeting of NIRA, the Northern Illinois Rocket Association. After conduction some brief business, moving the date of their May launch day due to the NATO conference, I outlined the SPARK project. The project was greeted with an enthusiastic response. The group was very engaged and asked several questions.

They asked what we, the SPARK project, asked of them. I responded with technical help of building and launching test rockets to support our SPARK goals, and an opportunity for their members to join the project. Both points were well received.

The group told me about their launch site. They also informed me of the other clubs in the area and their launch sites.
There’s the Fox Valley Rocketeers (FVR) who launch from Hughes Sod Farm in Woodstock. There’s also the Prairie State Rocketry (PSR) who launch from Plainfield. Slightly farther out is the Wisconsin Organization Of Spacemodeling Hobbyists (WOOSH)  who launch from the Bong Recreation Area near Burlington, WI. WOOSH at Bong is the only group rated for motors higher than G. Between the four, there are launch opportunities nearly every weekend. There is some membership overlap between the clubs and they are supportive of each other.

Some of the group members brought rockets for the rocket of the month discussion. Each member who participated, discussed the features of their rockets, and group voted for the most outstanding one. This was very informative as it provided ideas for what we can use as a test vehicle to research systems for SPARK.  Specifically, I learned how add a payload bay for instrumentation to an Aerotech Sumo. The same principles can be applied to a smaller, more manageable Aerotech
Initiator. Some members also brought homemade launchers for discussion on their design and function. Afterward some of the group members gathered at Culvers for more discussion.

They are a very enthusiastic, knowledgeable group. I look forward to learning and launching with them. Their next meeting will be held June 1st at  Helen Plum Library, 110 West Maple Street, Lombard, Illinois.

Permanent link to this article: https://farhorizonsproject.com/blog/high_flyers/


  1. Jorge

    Nice job

  2. Sentio

    Can you explain the details for adding a payload pay to the Sumo and Initiator? I am new to Mid-power rockets and am looking for designs for adding a payload pay to the Initiator.

    1. kwalczak

      Hi Sentio,
      I will pass your question along to our resident rocket experts and see if I can get you an answer. Thanks for the question!

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