Near Space Photography is sponsoring a competition to promote the investigation of the atmosphere. The Royal Meteorological Society has invited 11-16 students to design and build a science experiment to be carried through the atmosphere by a weather balloon.
Themes could include Earth observation, the atmosphere, natural forces, cold temperatures, pressure or UV and some qualities of the atmosphere are below.
– Air pressure
– Aerosols or dust particles in the air
– Solar output / insolation
– Precipitation (rain/snow ect)
You students could think about how these vary with height, time, and location. The scale can be small (a micro climate) or large. Below is a graphic to explain the basic properties of the atmosphere. The experiment does not have to go as high as the Stratosphere, it could go up to just 3-5 km.
Students could use a Raspberry Pi, or similar, to design and build their own tracker and/ or sensor package.
All entries must be submitted to the Head of Education at the Royal Meteorological Society by 31st March 2017.
The entry judged best by a panel of judges will be invited to build and launch their experiment.
We are providing some resources for the competition at https://balloonnews.wordpress.com/competitions/resources/
For those who use SPOT trackers to recover their balloon payload, you should be aware of the latest press release from the company. SPOT, in a press release issued late last week, said that they are improving their ‘service connectivity and service quality’. This will lead to lost location reports from the trackers between January 29th through March 19th. SPOT were very ambiguous as to how the service would improve so we will try and get some figures on this.
The Boscombe Down Balloon challenge competiti0n, sponsored by RAeS, Cameron Balloons, QinetiQ, and us has finished and the prizes have been announced. Rod, from RAeS issued the following statement:
You may be interested to know that we have a result from the Boscombe Down Balloon Challenge: Epsom College win 3 x £1000 prizes for greatest altitude, greatest distance, and greatest endurance. Ryde School with Upper Chine (Isle of Wight) win the Chris Hillcox HAB Supplies prize for a commendable flight achievement that did not qualify for any of the 3 main prizes.
I am very pleased to report that this result is not only the technically correct outcome, but also that it entirely reflects natural justice. Epsom college put in a Herculean effort, launching 6 flights in all (with a seventh in reserve for the evening of 31 Dec). The students who built the balloon payloads were genuinely inspired and proactively led by two very enthusiastic teachers who engaged with our competition in a most positive way. From the outset, their appetite for the Balloon Challenge and their determination to win it, was palpable. Yet, despite being fiercely competitive, this team was totally committed to playing strictly by the rules in everything they did. More than this, they respected a UK HAS advisory launch embargo when weather conditions would have carried their balloons into airport traffic zones (so as not to bring the Balloon Challenge into disrepute); and have offered to help other schools with HAB-based STEM projects in the future.
Ryde School with Upper Chine was also an enthusiastic competitor, but here the team was very much student-led. The Senior Science Technician was our staff point of contact. The School was undoubtedly supportive of their Balloon Challenge entry, but did not provide the level of guidance and inspiration that we saw at Epsom. The Ryde team did, however, plan their flights with full cognizance of NOTAM requirements; and with commendable attention to the engineering detail of optimal gassing – the trick being to put not too much gas into a balloon. In the event, the Ryde balloon flew furthest and for the longest duration (by a large margin), but since the balloon itself was bigger than the maximum size permitted in the Challenge, this result did not count. It was, nevertheless, a significant achievement in its own right.
These results will be fully recognised at Prize Day on 10 Feb.
The administrators for the HABHUB
flight prediction and tracking service have issued a warning that the service will be offline this weekend. A message posted on the UKHAS message board
“As previously discussed we are moving the physical hosting of the Habhub servers this coming weekend.The existing data center is being decommissioned so we are moving to a shiny new one with better power.
All Habhub services will be affected (tracker, predictors and the Wiki)
Downtime is expected to start at 0900 GMT on Saturday the 7th of January 2017. Services should be back up by midday subject to any unexpected delays.
Please directly any queries to the #habhub IRC Channel on Freenode.
For those urgently needing flight forecast tools over the weekend then Southampton University Astra is still available.
During two high altitude balloon projects this autumn, I’ve been reminded of a little considered hazard to HAB: cows. During work for Phillip Morris and Nationwide I have had payloads land in fields with dairy cows. On both occasions the cows came over to examine the payload. On both occasions the cows were sufficiently interested in the payloads to roll them over, taste them, and urinate on them. The cows lost interest after some time, but not before then payloads were bitten into and licked. In future I will be mindful to factor this into payload design; ensuring that there is nothing to harm and animal that may come into contact with the payloads.
After Guy Forkes night or Thanks Giving, it is traditional to turn ones attention to Christmas and what gifts you would like to receive or give. Here are some gifts we suggest for the high altitude balloonist in your life.
For a small budget
£45 Tractive https://tractive.com/en/ is a subscription based, sim free, GSM locator produced by an Austrian company. The small, lightweight unit (35g) uses the mobile phone network to transmit it’s location to a web based mapping system that can be accessed through your mobile phone. We have been testing tractive this year and have found that it’s performance is as good as premium sim based GSM locators such as Cattrack live, and much better than economy GSM locators such as the TK102. Tractive’s battery life out performs the Cattrack and offers a simple to activate registration/cancellation service (£3.50 per month) so you can run the Tractive in the summer, when you are operating your balloons, and cancel it in the winter when you are not flying. This is far more cost effective than a range of other subscription based gsm locators with annual subscription terms of service.
For a large budget
£340 360Fly. This year has seen many high altitude balloonists try their hand at capturing 360 video footage of their balloon flights. The most popular camera to do this is the 360 FLY camera. The 360 Fly camera comes in two variants, the 4K model and the HD model. Unlike some of it’s predecessors, 360Fly has a continuous video recording function, essential with balloon flights, capacity to take large capacity memory cards, and a battery with sufficient capacity to allow 100 minutes of video recording. This is sufficient to record up to apogee on many balloon flights. The camera is also robust enough to not require additional insulation. There are some down sides to the camera. Many users have reported the centre of the lens cover fogging up, with is to be expected if the lens cover is sealed on to the camera case. Also the camera lens sits on top of the moulded plastic case, obscuring this area within the lens field of view. You will also need a high spec computer to edit the video produced by the camera.
Doongara is a reusable self-contained thermal line cutter that severs the synthetic line connecting balloon and payload. It is typically flown in a tandem balloon configuration and separates one or both balloons at specific points during flight. Doongara is powered from a single AA battery and cuts line based off of user-programmable settings: elapsed time, barometric pressure, and/or rate of pressure change. Features include:
Integrated sensors with on-board data storage:
Barometric Pressure, Temperature
Duration >3 hrs
Light-weight at less than 40g, including battery
Whatever you buy for the HAB enthusiast in your life, happy Christmas!