HALE Mission.... T-9 days

Well, the HALE mission is entering the final countdown phase. I mailed off my two payloads on Friday so that they would get there in time to be integrated into the "payload stack", and the launch date has been set for 29 July... so it looks like all systems are go. I'll be posting more about my two payloads, Lil' Joe (named after Col. Joseph Kittinger) & Gypsy (named after a robot from MST3K) (pictured above), but I thought I'd give a run-down of the payloads as they now stand in case you haven't read them. It's a... very diverse, class of payloads.
  • Eugene Tsai (Taiwan): payload will use filter papers to capture particles and/or chemicals in the air during the balloon ascent and/or descent periods. The LEGO Mindstorms NXT will used to provide a mechanism to switch filtering papers to capture the materials in the air and then keep the papers in a secured compartment. The filtering papers will be retrieves and analyzed what particles and chemicals exist at different altitudes.
  • Brian Davis (USA): Gypsy (a.k.a. Nadar 2.0) will be a fully automated camera platform that taking both video and still images. The NXT will control all image timing as well as pitch angle of the platform, and datalog more than 11 different parameters at varying intervals during the flight.
  • SpaceMasters Robotics Team (Sweden). Team is lead by Jurgen Leitner and David Leal Martinez. The XGRAVLER (EXperimental GRAVity research with LEgo based Robotics) payload will be measuring the change in g-forces as a function of altitude. The plan is to have the payload repeatedly drop a tethered Wii-mote to measure the acceleration experienced at different altitudes.
  • Brian Davis (USA): Lil' Joe will perform an automated free-fall in an attempt to set the record for the longest NXT free-fall (since there hasn't been one yet, this is a pretty easy record to capture... if the parachute deploys). The payload will be detatched from the main balloon near maximum altitude and will free-fall until the NXT deploys the parachute. It will also be logging 3-axis acceleration data before, during, and after the free-fall, to be retrieved separately from the main payload stack.
  • LUXPAK (Luxembourg): This student team is mentored by Claude Baumann, Francis Massen, Jean Mootz, and Jean-Claude Krack. The payload will measure ozone-concentration, air-pressure, temperature (inside/outside), and reflected light from earth during ascent. In recognition of the 10th anniversary, LUXPAK will be using an RCX for command and control functions. See their very detailed development log for a lot more information.
  • Barbara Bratzel and Chris Rogers are leading a group of 4th grade students (USA): The students want to investigate the impact of the flight conditions on yellow marshmallows (a.k.a. peeps). The NXT will be recording temperature and pressure during the mission. Personally, I can't wait to see pictures of yellow marshmallow "Peeps" being loaded into a mission payload... I'm hoping at least one is wearing a helmet :).
  • FLL Team 90 (USA) is lead by David Levy: the payload will be measuring UV radiation as a function of altitude. The NXT will not only data log the UV sensor readings, but is also be used to manipulate filters and control the payload heater.
  • LEGO Mindstorms Team: top secret classified payload. Yeah, I wish I knew what it was as well, but they're not talking.
I'll try to do a series of posts about my payloads, as well as any of the others I can get additional information on. The programs I drew (in NXT-G) are certainly some of the most complicated yet reliable ones I've created yet... & perhaps surprisingly for all they do, not really huge on-brick (Gypsy's, for instance, is only 22k on-brick... but is generated from a 5.4Mb main file that ends up incorporating more than 8.8Mb of My Blocks). And of course I'll be blogging the mission itself as it draws closer.

Brian Davis


Robolab 2.9 said…
Hey Brian,

Looks interesting! I might've missed it... but how are these payloads going up?

Btw, spelling error... "...and the lunch data has been set for 29 July..." I'm sure you guys are very interested in the lunch data after working nonstop on this robot! Just kidding...

Brian Davis said…
"lunch data"? What "lunch data"? It clearly reads "launch date"... (thank goodness for editing :), & thanks for pointing that out).

As to how these payloads are going up, they will be hanging under a helium weather balloon, which will burst somewhere above 90,000'. You can find more information on this at the HALE website (linked in the post).

Brian Davis
BlueToothKiwi said…
In the interest of Science, I hope the parachute of Lil' Joe myseriously fails to open

... Just kidding, Brian.

But seriousy - this is great and congrats for getting two payloads accepted.

I also like the other payloads - it reminds me of the competition NASA ran decades ago, for school children to come up with ideas for payload.
Brian Davis said…
Thanks - I also really like the diversity of payloads on the mission, and the diversity of design teams. There are teams of single individuals working literally in their living rooms, and teams of college students & engineers working in labs, and everything in between, including a FLL team retasked for the mission.

As to Lil' Joe "cratering", well... you learn something even from failed experiments. But I certainly hope these are at least partial successes, with data or at least recovery of the corpses :| As to the parachute "failing to open"... figure out how fast it might be going after a 20 second free-fall, and you'll see a failure to open is not the only "failure mode".

Brian "where'd the 'chute go?" Davis
hassenplug said…
Secret LEGO payload: Alpha Rex with suitcase...
...Boldly going where no AlphaRex has gone before.

Thank you for the report Brian!

Anonymous said…
So after the weather balloon pops, do all of the NXTs go into a freefall and just smash into the ground, or has everyone designed deployable parachutes?

Also, on your freefalling robot, how will it know when to deploy it's parachute? Is it by an estimated time?

And finally, could you post the NXT-G programs so we could all take a look at them?

Brian Davis said…
Steve: I doubt it's ARex with a suitcase, but it would make for a heck of a picture :). Maybe Gypsy will at least get an external shot of their payload during the flight.

Chris: Glad you like it, I'll try to put up some more later.

anonymous: These missions are usually done with a "pre-deployed" parachute attached just under the balloon, so when the balloon "goes away", the entire "stack" or payload string is lowered gently to earth... hitting rocky desert floor at about 10 mph. So they hopefully don't "smash into the ground", but it's not exactly a soft gently landing either.

As to the details on Lil' Joe & Gypsy, I'll make separate blog posts for them, but the short answer on Lil' Joe parachute deployment is "yes, based on time".

Brian Davis
David Levy said…
Those are some handsome payloads! We never thought to put our sponsor's names on the outside. That would have been a good idea as Vernier has been very gracious in donating the UV and Temperature probes.

As of now FLL Climate Change Team 90's payload will be in Reno in a few hours. At least that's what DHL tracking says. We'll be posting more information about the team's payload soon.

Are you planning on flying out to Reno? I would have gone out had I not had a NXT camp that week.

Brian Davis said…
I'm glad you like the "look" of the payloads - I wanted both LEGO and especially Hitechnic represented, and to be honest I was sick to death of looking at pure baby-blue foam :). I would love to fly out to Reno and be present in person, but the schedule doesn't work for me either... so just like most space missions, I will have to sit by the sidelines, and hope I did everything more or less right the first time...

Popular Posts