Monday, October 7, 2013

Operation Defeat Icarus Plan

Operation Defeat Icarus

By Jake Messner

Objective: Launch a payload to the edge of space to take photographs and measure radiation, temperature, and pressure.


Weather Balloon: We will use a 5’ diameter weather balloon that will expand to a 20’ diameter in the upper atmosphere due to decreasing air pressure.
iPhone 4
Software: Frontback, duocam, intercam
We will perform tests regarding battery life and will need photography software.
GPS software
Pressure and Altitude Sensor
Arduino Microcontroller
Noise Device
Payload basket
Nylon Rope
Helium tank(s)
We will need ~75 cu ft of helium. 
External iPhone Battery
An external battery will ensure that the iPhone battery survives through the entire flight and gives us additional time to locate the device once it has landed. Batteries cost ~$3 for 2200mAh.
Chemical Hand Warmers
Aluminum Foil Radar Reflectors

Intro: In 2009, MIT students launched a weather balloon to 93,000 feet and photographed the Earth from the edge of space. We set out to reduce the cost of this project and add a radiation detector, thermometer, altimeter, and barometer to the payload. While the cost of our weather balloon and helium will be similar, we can reduce the cost of the electronics by using a device including both camera and GPS. We will use a GPS operating via cellular signal rather than satellite such that we will be able to locate the device whether or not it has an unobscured view of the sky. By adding a thermometer to the payload, within view of the camera, we will be able to track changes in temperature over time as the balloon rises. We expect the balloon to reach the upper stratosphere before popping due to low air density. In the event that the balloon does not pop and is neutrally buoyant, resulting from low air density, we will activate a popping mechanism.

In compliance with FAA regulations, the balloon will have a payload weighing less than four pounds, be less than six feet in diameter, be launched more than 15 miles from an airport, and have a tension of less than 50 pounds to disconnect the payload.

In keeping with the spirit set by MIT students Oliver YehJustin Lee, and Eric Newton, we will document our spending as the project progresses with the ultimate goal of spending less than $148 on components used in the final project.

Launch Location: The balloon will be launched from Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY. This site will allow for a large radius of area with strong cell coverage. 

Weather: While winds aloft in New York State blow west to east most frequently, the optimal launch conditions are in a northwest wind aloft.


We will not launch in a strong south wind due to the potential of flying into Canadian airspace.

In order to locate the balloon, we will include an iPhone equipped with GPS tracking software in the payload. This software should pin the location of the device to within approximately ten meters. We will additionally include an auditory alarm, in case the GPS cannot locate the device with sufficient accuracy. The iPhone (4) will be fitted with a microSIM card and will therefore require cellular service to broadcast a signal. Cellular service via AT&T can be seen on the map below.

Photos/Video and Battery Life: Data options include taking photos at scheduled intervals or recording video for the duration of the flight. The options would be equally stressful on the battery life of the iPhone, although recording video may fill the Phone’s 8GB of memory before the flight is over.

The iPhone’s battery life is 131 minutes while recording video on standard settings. By writing out own application, we will dim the screen while taking video and likely save 10-15% of the battery life, increasing the life expectancy to at least 144 minutes. Previous near-space photography flights have lasted from 100 minutes to 240 minutes. We intend to design a light capsule and use sufficient helium to keep the expected flight time under 120 minutes. By adding an external iPhone battery, we should be able to increase the life of the battery by at least 80%, creating a new life expectancy of at least 260 minutes. Depending on how much the battery life is hindered by the temperatures experienced during the flight, this expectancy should allow for 30 to 140 minutes to search for the capsule once it has landed.

Freezer Test: iPhone was placed in freezer with PMC battery plugged in and battery at 22%. Phone charged to 45% before shutting off due to the cold. After being removed from freezer after 60 minutes, phone turned on in 4 minutes. Charger lights remained on through entire test, apparently unaffected by cold.  

After two months of research, drawing, and assembly, we are prepared to launch our balloon on October 6, 2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment