Amateur Superpressure Research at UKHAS Balloon Conference

I recently gave a presentation on the frontier of amateur science ballooning, a type of balloon called the ‘superpressure’.  The event was the United Kingdom High Altitude Society first annual Amateur Balloon Conference on October 15, 2011, in London, England. I was unable to travel there, so I combined Skype live video with a pre-recorded presentation.

Slides from presentation and Source Paper Citations in text format

Now, background info to get you up to speed on the state of amateur superpressure:

This type of balloon has the potential to stay in the air for extremely long times, much longer than the 3 days flight estimated for the White Star’s trans-atlantic ‘zero-pressure’ balloons. Continue reading

LVL1 White Star rocked the Maker Faire!

It was amazing to share the excitement of transatlantic balloon flight with so many people!  We’d like to thank the staff of the Makerfaire and The Henry Ford museum for putting on such a great event.  We’d also like to thank Matt Richardson and Mark Frauenfelder for giving White Star Make Editors Choice Awards!

For everyone we met – remember to put your email address in the field on the right, we’ll send you an email the day before we’re about to launch. –>  We have to wait for winter, and then wait for the Jet Stream winds to be just right before we can choose a launch date.

After months of prep work, we had a flawless demo at MakerFaire Detroit. The electronics from SpeedBall-2 flew Gary’s exhibition balloon up and down and up and down for 9 hours straight, two days in a row, with no intervention needed from the crew.  Before we unveiled SpeedBall-2′s indoor flight, we spent days flying it at our LVL1 Hackerspace in Louisville, KY. The ballast algorithm needed much adjustment, which gave us some invaluable experience in understanding how the balloon reacts to the real world.

We were interviewed by Make Magazine, The Henry Ford museum, and talked to hundreds of visitors over the course of two days.  Thanks to everyone that stopped by!  If you have any ongoing questions, feel free to ask us by email, comment, tweet, or carrier pigeon.

Come one and all to see SpeedBall at MakerFaire Detroit

Take it to Detroit!  LVL1 Hackerspace’s White Star Balloon team is going to be showing off theMakerFaire Detroit Logo SpeedBall balloon system at MakerFaire Detroit, July 30 & 31 at The Henry Ford museum.  We’re super excited to be a part of this great exhibition of doers and makers!
We’ll have the full SpeedBall-1 Trans-Atlantic robot payload (and possibly the balloon) on static display for you to get an up-close peek at what it takes to make a 3-day airship tick.

SpeedBall-2 is slated to make it’s public flight debut at the MakerFaire, (sorry SB-1!) as a lean-mean indoor flying machine.  It’ll be stripped down to the bare necessities required to control it’s altitude – arguably the most important innovation of the whole program.  Consisting of the classic SNOX Ballast bottle, the Flight Computer, the Comm Controller, and the Ballast Controller, the load frame and a small 12v pack of AA batteries, SB-2 will hang from a small custom plastic balloon.

Guided by a vertical cable to keep it from wandering around the museum, SB-2’s balloon it will have a calibrated leak, causing it to slowly sink down, a high-speed simulation of helium loss over a 3-day air voyage.  This will allow you to see the prowess of the ballast system and control algorithm, as it manages ascents, descents, and altitude holds, fully autonomously – look ma, no wires!

We’re working now on putting it all together and testing the demo setup at the LVL1 Hackerspace.  Follow our Twitter @LVL1WhiteStar for up-to-the-minute progress updates.

What happened to scrub Launch "A"

Thursday March 25, we took SpeedBall-1 to the brink of flight, and it kicked and screamed all the way to the launch pad. This was the first launch attempt by the White Star team, and they performed fantastically. We are correcting the issues and will be attempting a launch again shortly!

We encountered a slew of problems, but through our months of training and planning, we already knew our options and flight impact associated with each hiccup we ran into. The massive communications infrastructure we laid out was revealed to those of you who watched on ustream, and facilitated our preparation and troubleshooting phenomenally well. I’ll detail our cool worldwide voice and video comm systems in another post though.

A ton of things went well, but the exciting bits are always the gory failures, so here they are!

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