This is Sam from team Hackers Space Lunch Systems (SLS). Yes, that is not a typo. Our payload housing is the ubiquitous, inexpensive and simple lunch box. We have found that it works really well in high altitude environments!
We are a team of volunteers at three maker/hackerspaces (Unallocated Space, HacDC and Rockville Makerspace) and independent collaborators from the DC metro area. While on the technical side our aim is to develop an inexpensive launching platform for the DC metro area, on the outreach side we are trying to bring makerspaces and the general public (especially students) together. Operating such a big, diverse and spread-apart team is challenging but we relied on the “maker” culture by encouraging everybody to be creative, collaborative, hands-on, and most importantly, being helpful whichever way they felt comfortable.
We launched on 14th April from Strasburg, VA and landed about 4 hours later northwest of Baltimore possibly reaching a 100k ft altitude. We had some dramatic moments during the day. We think we under inflated the balloon which led the balloon to go much further ( it almost reached Pennsylvania and landed near a reservoir!). One hour into the flight, we had multiple systems fail - including both the GPS on our transmitters. Interestingly, all the affected payloads were completely independent (including their power sources). We don't know what happened but we have suspicions that a buck converter or a Raspberry Pi camera caused interference. Thankfully, one of the GPS transmitters started again during descent and we were able to find our payload. But the adventure did not end there. Our payload landed 50 feet up in a tree in a wooded area. Our team mate, Andrew, expertly navigated a rope tied to a drone through tree branches and hauled it across the payload (see pics below) . All these events made the day even more unforgettable!
Besides the 1500 gm Kaymont balloon and model rocket parachute, we had two transmitters onboard (one of them being homebrewed), couple of cameras, Raspberry Pi environment sensor (Enviro pHAT) and a control moment gyro experiment ( to minimize payload rotation using gyroscopic effects). In addition, we also sent a toy Tesla car with SD cards inside containing the full English language Wikipedia. This was our homage to the Tesla car sent up by SpaceX couple of months back with Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy in the trunk.
On the outreach side, we were able to bring in volunteers from three maker/hackspaces and exhibited our project at various maker fairs (including the popular USASEF this April). We also developed curriculums for grade school students and delivered them. These students will now join us for the next launch.
Its great to see so many people and teams here from such different backgrounds. We are very happy to be a part of the Global Balloon Challenge and the wider HAB community!
Here are some pictures of our work:
The lunch box
After delivering HAB curriculum to students
The team's booth at US Science and Engineering Festival (USASEF)
Couple of team members after a coordination meeting
Hobby King camera looking up (somewhere near the burst point). Sadly, we ran out of battery just before the burst
Control Moment Gyro (CMG) / Attitude Adjuster payload
The Toy Tesla car being prepared for the flight with the SD cards containing the complete English language Wikipedia
Balloon being filled on launch day
A screen shot from the sideview GoPro
Screen shot from a Raspberry Pi camera looking down at the CMG payload
The Tesla during flight as captured by a Raspberry Pi camera
A drone being navigated 50 ft up a tree in a wooded area near the Prettyboy reservoir to rescue our payload
Happy faces after successful recovery