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 http://habhub.org/predict/ 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 (http://www.aspsms.com/) that redirected it to my web server. I wrote an asp.net 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….