Samstag, 22. Januar 2011

The build of the capsule

Inspired by the news about some HAB projects last year (150$, iPhone4), I decided to start my own high altitude balloon project in November 2010. The goal was to take some HD video and 12MP images reaching around 30’000m resp. 100’000 feet.
First I wanted to stay low with the budged, but as the project became more realistic I added functions and electronics up to a painful amount of money.  An additional challenge was that Switzerland is a hard place for a capsule with parachute to land: Mountains, woods, streets, lakes and rivers everywhere! Being chronically impatient I wanted to start as soon as possible: In the middle of the Swiss winter. For that reason landing the capsule in the Alps was a bad idea. I used the CUSF landing predictor at in order to estimate a good launch day.
But first I had to build the capsule and find the material. It was impossible to find a meteorological balloon here in Switzerland or even in Europe, but in eBay there were a couple of good offers. I decided for a US-Army surplus Balloon capable of at least 8 pounds of gross lift. As parachute I ordered a 36” rocketing chute. The electronics payload became more and more. Here the final list:
-          Samsung HD Video camera with 32GB SD
-          Pentax Optio 12MP Camera with 8GB SD
-          No-name CAR 720p Video recorder with 16GB SD
-          low-budget 720p Vid recorder with 4gb micro SD
-          Sparkfun HAB-PCB with open log with 2GB micro SD and Venus GPS
-          TK102 GPS/GSM tracker.  Standalone Battery.
-          No-name GPS-GSM Tracker
-          xBee pro 2.4 GHz for local search al landing
-          Arduino Pro for interval Timer and Beeper control
-          Flashing lights (RC)
-          2x2200mAh 7.4V and 1x3300mAh 11.1V Li-Po. Each 3.7V cell for a camera.
-          Some hand heater bags
-          One Foam box (there were Mozzarella’s from Italy in it)
-          Some emergency blanket foil

I put all together trying to place the cameras in a good position and covered the box with the foil. The mozzarella box that Italian friend that came to visit gave me had the ideal shape. I decided to put the 12MP camera and the 1280 HD video on both sides. One 720p Camera was looking down, and a small 720p camera attached outside filming the balloon.
I soldered some contacts on the camera for the shutter that was controlled by the arduino board with a primitive program. The trackers sent the SMS to a 2-Way SMS interface ( that redirected it to my web server. I wrote an page with a Google map to see the actual position. For receiving the xBee Data I build a biquad antenna with about 14-16dbm of gain.

I put the batteries in an additional foam box. On a carbon tome I put a piece of balsa for the sponsor logos and some Star Wars figures. Just a bit of fun, I said….


  1. ein schönes Projekt! Wurde denn die Idee mit dem 868MHz Sender inzwischen umgesetzt?

  2. Nein. Ich habe zwar ein paar, aber ich verwende diese momentan auf mein Quadcopter für Telemetrie und kämpfe mit den duty cycle (10% Sendezeit Beschränkung).