SpeedBall Payload Details and Hinting at launch

Hello all,
White Star’s SpeedBall-1 flight and ground systems are are expected to be ready to fly within 2 days.

This flight is no longer a test flight, but a full trans-atlantic crossing attempt. That means we’ll likely be inserting it into the very next Jet Stream trans-atlantic crossing opportunity that occurs. We’re targeting <36h crossings, but the payload is designed to >72hr longevity in the air, so we may take a longer crossing if needed.

Launch will occur around 8PM Eastern Time from Space Port Indiana, in Columbus IN. SpacePort Indiana has graciously arranged for PraxAir to donate all helium for trans-atlantic attempts free of charge.
Launch Date will be announced 2-4 days in advance of the Jet Stream’s arrival. Please sign up for launch notification on our main home page to be sure you don’t miss it – http://www.whitestarballoon.org on the right side.

Primary telemetry is through the Orbcomm VHF 2 meter two-way satellite data network – we’ll talk more about Orbcomm later, but it looks to be excellent for amateur LDB flights. (Not for short flights!) This flight will certainly test that.

Balloon envelope is an unknown volume zero pressure balloon, 2 mil polyethylene, built and modified by Mark Caveizel’s Global Western company, requested to float at 250mb (~34000 ft).

Ballast will be just under 6lbs of alcohol, using the Pneuaire 12v super lightweight solenoid valve. (if you use this, you need to cycle it at least once per hour to keep it from seizing in the cold)

Sensors of note:

* Helium Temp -xbee wireless sensor inside to measure helium gas temperature at the top of the envelope to determine solar heating. Most important data of the flight here.
* Cloud Ice particle sensor – the SparkFun Dust Sensor, mounted with pass-thru port vertical, 20cm away from payload box on a carbon fiber boom (this is to detect cloud density, as well as determine if we’re getting snowed on, as the French CNES balloons did in the jet stream in the 1960s)
* Rel Humidity + Ambient Temp – this will allow us to calculate the FROST POINT, the temperature at which frost will form on surfaces such as a balloon. This is protected from solar radiation absorption by a custom infrared shield made on a MakerBot. Another very important data point here.

HF radio on board built by Bill Brown, WB8ELK. This will be transmitting at remotely controllable rate, possibly as low as 1 per hour to as often as every few minutes. If you’ve listened to any of Bill’s recent HF flights, you’ve been listening to the test flights of this transmitter design. The UKHAS group in the United Kingdom will be coordinating all HF listeners and information for the SpeedBall flights. Please see the following page for more info http://wiki.whitestarballoon.com/doku.php?id=hardware:radio:hf:wb8elkwhitestarn17 , and the #highaltitude chat room on irc.freenode.net

We have extensive uplink control ability of this balloon, and will be adjusting telemetry rates and resetting the cutdown heartbeat timer that will cutdown the balloon in the event of uplink comm loss.

Anyone in the area (Taylor, Stratostar, others?) is welcome to come to the launch at SPI, it’s near Indianapolis. This is the first launch for this group, so they will be a little unsure on the launch procedures, but have been drilled on how to do it properly.

We’ll have a live tracking page for downlink data at http://www.whitestarballoon.org/

Technical Chat will be in #highaltitude and a TBA public chat via mibbit’s IRC server on the tracker page.

There will be live video of launch (bandwidth permitting) and audio of mission control’s headsets throughout the flight. All should be linked to from the tracker page, http://track.whitestarballoon.org which will go live this weekend.

Dan Bowen
Project Lead
White Star Balloon Team
A project of LVL1 Hackerspace
Louisville, KY

2 thoughts on “SpeedBall Payload Details and Hinting at launch

  1. Hey guys, good luck with the transatlantic flight!

    I’d love to hear more details about how your balloon is made. How fast you think it’ll leak, and how much pressure you expect it to hold (Depends on sun and initial buoyancy and altitude, I’m sure.) We tried using 36″ party balloons with tiny radios (100-ish g) and made it from Chicagoland to Nova Scotia. Not quite transatlantic yet 😉 But we might get inspired to try again if there was a better superpressure balloon.

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