K. Baird, C. Gonzalez, G. Wilson, W.
, R. Riggs, G.
, D. Atkinson, and the
Idaho Near Space Engineering Team
Balloons are a simple and economical way to carry scientific instrumentation into the upper atmosphere and can provide a plat
m for atmospheric flight testing of prototype
planetary mission instrumentation, reaching elevations up to and beyond 100,000 feet (30,000 m) on Earth. The University of I
o Near Space Engineering program known as RISE
(Research Involving Student Engineers) has now been launching balloons for seven years. Idaho RISE has a data acquisition sys
that measures atmospheric pressure and temperature as a
function of altitude, and a redundant GPS tracking system that provides real time tracking of the balloon system through asce
decent, and landing, allowing for a quick recovery of the
descent package. A
system has been developed by which payloads can be autonomously released based on timer, altitude, or if the balloon drifts o
side of a preprogrammed
latitude/longitude box. Working with NASA Ames Research Center, Idaho RISE is currently preparing for a flight of Snowflake,
precision aerial delivery system developed
of the Naval Postgraduate School and Dr.
of the University of Alabama at Huntsville to evaluate advanced control, communication and command concepts for
payload systems. To date, Snowflake has been successfully deployed over 120 times from altitudes of up to 10,000 feet. The go
of the Idaho RISE
Snowflake experiments is to provide a platform to deploy Snowflake at and above 30,000 feet and investigate its performance i
hese conditions. The launches with Idaho entail the 3rd
stage of a proposed ISS sample return capability currently under development (SPQR
Small Payload Quick Return) at Ames Research
DEVELOPMENT OF AN AUTONOMOUS HIGH ALTITUDE
BALLOON CUTDOWN SYSTEM
The Cut Away
Developed by Dr.
of the Naval Postgraduate School and Dr.
of the University of Alabama at Huntsville as a means to precisely
deliver a small package to predetermined landing coordinates. Adapted by Marc
of NASA Ames for use in the SPQR system
It is a GPS guided
system, capable of landing at a particular point, or
heading in a certain direction.
How it works:
GPS system determines its location and heading with help from an IMU
The control board will then decide what direction to follow
Two servo motors can pull each side of the
to steer the entire system.
Performance on This Flight:
Dropped Snowflake from 27,000 feet (Highest altitude that Snowflake has
only partially inflated (Due to cut away string or lack of
eventually fully inflated, and Snowflake steered due west, as desired.
The Idaho Rise team was responsible for creating the capsule that would house the
Cut down system
Data logger recording
GPS coordinates (lat., long., and alt.)
10 Hz sampling rate.
Facing up and to the side
Pictures every 15 seconds
8000FA is used to track the payloads. This uses a GPS
receiver to determine its location. Then it can transmit its position at a given
time interval. The position is broadcasted onto the APRS network. This
network can place the positions onto the Internet. The tracking team also
has radios capable of receiving packets, without having to rely on the APRS
In the summer of 2010, Marc
of NASA Ames and Oleg
of the Naval Postgraduate School of Monterey, CA
contacted the Near Space Engineering program at the University of Idaho with
the opportunity to help him fly
“Snowflake”, a GPS guided
capable of landing at predefined coordinates. Before, Snowflake has only been dropped from helicopters, UAVs, and small plane
from altitudes not
exceeding 10,000 feet. Marc
is interested in using Snowflake in support of the NASA Small Payload Quick Return (SPQR) system, so he wanted to continue de
lopment and test of the targeted return technology
with higher altitudes tests. Idaho’s Near Space Engineering program has launched over 20 weather balloons, carrying equipment
100,000 feet. The goal of the Snowflake flight is to carry Snowflake to an altitude of
50,000 feet, and release it from the balloon, so that it would be free to fall and steer itself in a westerly heading. Future
sts will involve Snowflake aiming for
particular landing coordinates. In the April 2011 launch,
Snowflake was cut away from 27,000 feet.
The Rise class was responsible for developing a payload that had the
capability carry Snowflake to a high altitude and release it. The Rise capsule
and Snowflake were both recovered. Atmospheric data, pictures, and
payload flight paths were all recovered
The University of Idaho VAST team would like to acknowledge the support
provided by Marc
, Josh Benton, Kenny
, and the
NASA Ames SOAREX program, Oleg
from the Naval
Postgraduate School, and the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium.
daho RISE Student Launch Team
, C. Bond, J. Brubaker, B.
, S. Goodwin, J. Henry, B.
C. Li, J.
, S. Lynn, J.
, S. Suggs, S. Van Natter, J. Van Patten, K.
has been developing the Small Payload Quick Return
(SPQR) concept. The goal is to give astronauts the ability to put
experiments or other items into a small payload. The payload can then be
released from the International Space Station. The payload would slowly
fall back to Earth and enter the atmosphere. After reentering, a system
similar to Snowflake would then guide the payload to a specified landing
point, where it could be easily recovered.
The current cut down system consists of 3 subsystems. The Power Module
distributes power from the battery. A status panel is affixed to the front, enabling
the students to verify the status of the device before releasing the payload. The
control module consists of a small microcontroller. The microcontroller currently
used was the MSP430. The cut down module consisted of an electrically powered
solenoid. A timer on the microcontroller would activate the solenoid. The solenoid
would create a magnetic field, and quickly pull a plunger up. There are strings
attached to the plunger. These strings hold up Snowflake. When the plunger is
raised, the strings are forced to come off, releasing Snowflake. The string then falls
away, and the
is able to open.
Add a GPS capability. A box of GPS coordinates will be defined, and cut away
will occur when the balloon nears these boundaries.
Add an altimeter capability. Once the balloon reaches a certain altitude, the
solenoid will be activated.
Add an uplink capability. From the ground, a command can be given to cut
away. Cut away can then occur at any time.
Make it lighter. May move to a
wire based cut down system.
The data logger gathered pressure and temperature. This data shows some
interesting milestones throughout the flight, such as launch, the cut away of
Snowflake, the burst of the balloon, and landing. Also, an interesting change in
ascent speed occurs, most likely due to a sudden change in drag coefficient.
The upward facing camera on board was used to determine the diameter of the
balloon throughout the flight.
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The balloon diameter at
ground level, then at