Saturday, December 25, 2010

Making Aliens Giggle

This is a pretty easy project. If you're interested in doing it yourself, here are a few pointers to get you started:
  •  Get an amateur radio license. If you're in the United States, you want to get a Technician's license. This will let you run the type of radio we used to track our balloons, an APRS beacon by Byonics.
  •  Paul Verhage's ebook on near space ballooning is very helpful, although a bit out of date.
  •  If you're in the United States, read FAR 101. FAR 101 has all of the regulations that you'll need to follow if you're launching a balloon. Sorry, I don't know the regulations for different countries.
  •  Telemetry is by far the most important part of this project. Send up a good radio, good antenna, and good GPS. Don't compromise on these things.
  •  Weather balloons can be bought from Kaymont.
  •  Hacking cameras is best done with CHDK, check to see if your camera is compatible.
  •  Radar reflectors can either be made or purchased from West Marine
  •  You can get a rough idea of where your balloon is going to land using flight prediction software or just by looking at the wind charts.
  •  You might get caught up looking at the wind charts and weather patterns for high altitudes. It's also important to figure out what your surface winds are at your launch site. Launching is hard if it's windy on the ground.
  • Don't be afraid to move the launch site or cancel the launch completely if the weather conditions aren't right.