PicoHAB: Experimental Flights

Experimental payload


I’ve recently been experimenting with weight reduction. Having built and launched two payloads, whose flights ended very early, I have been able to learn more about how much weight can be removed before the payload becomes too flimsy to handle the conditions of flight.

A great weight of only 5.77g

In my first experimental flight, the payload came in at 5.77g total weight and was launched one calm evening. Due to it being so late in the day and the solar angle being so low she didn’t startup ’til the next day, when I was able to receive a few updates from the payload to discover that she was on her way to Denmark!

Last confirmed position before LOS (loss of signal)

Unfortunately, this was the last I was to hear form her! I assumed that something must have gone wrong at launch such as, for example, accidentally cracking a solar panel, since there was not as much data received from the payload as normal. About a week later I built and tested another payload this time being able to get the weight down a tad more to 5.61g! 

Even more weight saving!

On a still Sunday morning the weather forecast reported a ground wind of zero mph with… sun! Opportunities like this don’t come around often so I prepared a balloon ready for flight.

I was able to launch pretty quickly with the help of my mother. The payload lifted gently upwards moving straight up with no deviation as not even a gust of wind was blowing! After the balloon reached an altitude of about 200 meters it began to drift off in a southwesterly direction. The next morning I was able to make contact and discovered she was just off the southwest coast of England.

Last known position of experimental payload

Unfortunately, this again was the last I was to hear from this payload too. I looked at the predicted wind speeds at the altitude the payload was flying and discovered she had hit some really fast winds (up to 115 knots).

Predicted high wind speeds at last known position

So, after two unsuccessful experimental flights, I have decided that for my future flights I will go back to a building design that is slightly heavier and a little more robust.

I have recently taken receipt of some Mk3 PicoHAB boards, which using smaller components is slightly more compact. They also have a little bit of shielding to hopefully overcome some of the RFI issues I have been suffering with in previous flights.

PicoHAB Mk3 board — yet to be flight tested!

As spring slowly arrives and the days begin to get a little longer, I intend to get this payload in the air, but between then and now I’ll be running a bunch of tests!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. If you are looking to collaborate on a project or just want to get in contact, feel free to drop a comment below, send me an email or find me on Twitter.

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