DEVELOPMENT OF AN AUTONOMOUS HIGH ALTITUDE BALLOON CUTDOWN SYSTEM

bendembarrassElectronics - Devices

Nov 2, 2013 (3 years and 7 months ago)

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K.
Ramus

(kevinramus@vandals.uidaho.edu
),

K. Baird, C. Gonzalez, G. Wilson, W.
Taresh
, R. Riggs, G.
Korbel
, D. Atkinson, and the
Idaho Near Space Engineering Team

University
of
Idaho


Abstract
:
Balloons are a simple and economical way to carry scientific instrumentation into the upper atmosphere and can provide a plat
for
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
dah
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
tem

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
nt,

decent, and landing, allowing for a quick recovery of the
descent package. A
cutdown

system has been developed by which payloads can be autonomously released based on timer, altitude, or if the balloon drifts o
ut
side of a preprogrammed
latitude/longitude box. Working with NASA Ames Research Center, Idaho RISE is currently preparing for a flight of Snowflake,
a m
iniature high
-
precision aerial delivery system developed
by Dr.
Yakimenko

of the Naval Postgraduate School and Dr.
Slegers

of the University of Alabama at Huntsville to evaluate advanced control, communication and command concepts for
autonomously guided
parafoil
-
payload systems. To date, Snowflake has been successfully deployed over 120 times from altitudes of up to 10,000 feet. The go
al

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
n t
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

Center.

DEVELOPMENT OF AN AUTONOMOUS HIGH ALTITUDE

BALLOON CUTDOWN SYSTEM

The Cut Away

Capsule Design

Snowflake

About Snowflake:


Developed by Dr.
Yakimenko

of the Naval Postgraduate School and Dr.
Slegers

of the University of Alabama at Huntsville as a means to precisely
deliver a small package to predetermined landing coordinates. Adapted by Marc
Murbach

of NASA Ames for use in the SPQR system


It is a GPS guided
parafoil

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
parafoil

to steer the entire system.

Performance on This Flight:


Dropped Snowflake from 27,000 feet (Highest altitude that Snowflake has
been dropped)


Initially the
parafoil

only partially inflated (Due to cut away string or lack of
air)


Parafoil

eventually fully inflated, and Snowflake steered due west, as desired.

The Idaho Rise team was responsible for creating the capsule that would house the
following equipment:


Cut down system


Tracking equipment


Data logger recording


Pressure


internal temperature


external temperature


GPS coordinates (lat., long., and alt.)


10 Hz sampling rate.


Still Cameras


Facing up and to the side


Pictures every 15 seconds

Tracking

The
Microtrak

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
network.

Background
:
In the summer of 2010, Marc
Murbach

of NASA Ames and Oleg
Yakimenko

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
parafoil

capable of landing at predefined coordinates. Before, Snowflake has only been dropped from helicopters, UAVs, and small plane
s
from altitudes not
exceeding 10,000 feet. Marc
Murbach

is interested in using Snowflake in support of the NASA Small Payload Quick Return (SPQR) system, so he wanted to continue de
ve
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

to

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

te
sts will involve Snowflake aiming for
a

particular landing coordinates. In the April 2011 launch,
Snowflake was cut away from 27,000 feet.

SPQR Idea

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

Summary

Acknowledgments

The University of Idaho VAST team would like to acknowledge the support
provided by Marc
Murbach
, Josh Benton, Kenny
Boronowsky
, and the
NASA Ames SOAREX program, Oleg
Yakimenko

from the Naval
Postgraduate School, and the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium.

Univ. I
daho RISE Student Launch Team
:
O.
Balemba
, C.
Birkinbine
, C. Bond, J. Brubaker, B.
Cheldelin
, S. Goodwin, J. Henry, B.
Kisling
, I.
Kooda
, T.
Lenberg
,

C. Li, J.
Liddicoat
, L.
Litzko
, S. Lynn, J.
Postma
, S. Suggs, S. Van Natter, J. Van Patten, K.
Witkoe
, M.
Zarate

Marc
Murbach

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
parafoil

is able to open.


Future Plans:


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
nichrome

wire based cut down system.

Data

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.

Snowflake’s
Shadow upon
landing

Follow us on Twitter: @UIVAST

Website:
www.idahorise.com

Email: kevinramus@vandals.uidaho.edu

Interested?

The balloon diameter at
ground level, then at
22,000 feet