How to fly across an ocean

Flying across the ocean is no small feat.  It takes the concerted efforts of dozens of people, working hard at lots of difficult problems, from modeling balloon volume and flight dynamics, to planning interactions with air traffic control.  The diagram above gives a little bit of an idea of the effort involved in getting across the ocean.  Any single block represents tens to many hundreds of man-hours worth of effort.

Components in Purple represent things which will actually be flying across the ocean.  This hardware and software must perform flawlessly at all times.  Components with a red heptagon represent significant software efforts.  The red square shows the components which lie on amazon EC2, spread across three instances, with a total cost of $100 a month (during flight season) to maintain.  Pink commands are sent using PubNub, a service without whose generosity our public page would not be possible.

All of these systems are in the critical path, and a failure of any single flight system will compromise science data.  Fortunately, we always have positive control of our craft, thanks to a dead-man cutdown, which operates entirely autonomously, and a 9602 modem which will respond with rough location coordinates even if all other flight systems have failed.  Our ground systems all have hot-backups, and can all be operated from anywhere on the Internet, so these systems are as redundant as they can be.

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.

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