HAB-2: Early Stages and Progress

By Josh Eiland · February 12, 2015

Ever since our successful launch of the HAB-1 project late in November, we’ve been working to target specific improvements and areas of focus for our second high-altitude balloon, the HAB-2, which we plan to launch in late February or early March.

One of the main targets of the HAB-2 is to expand the balloon’s purpose from our edge-of-space photography to also conducting data collection. For this reason, we are planning to try out several different sensors on the balloon’s payload, collecting data with an Arduino to observe and analyze upon retrieval of the balloon.

We hope to record the altitude, temperature, humidity, air pressure, ultraviolet light, wind speed, and ionizing radiation throughout the flight, and hopefully the data we collect will reveal the correlations and patterns of these conditions with the changes in altitude and air composition.

In addition to adding this data-collection aspect for the HAB-2, we have made several integral improvements in terms of the existing payload. For one, we’ve decreased the size of the triangular payload, and also decreased the schedule (thickness) of the PVC to minimize unnecessary weight, but aside from that kept the same component structure. We also added foam insulation on the outside of the PVC for floatation.

We will begin testing the APRS configuration again next week to hopefully be able to broadcast live GPS coordinates and altitude measurements during the balloon’s flight, but will also keep the SPOT GPS aboard as a secondary GPS source. In addition, we will be adding a Tile to the HAB-2 payload, which is a small device that utilizes Bluetooth connection to play a sound when controlled by an iPhone or Android application. Our hope is that this will make the search for the balloon easier once we have arrived to the general landing area as indicated by the SPOT, particularly if we are looking at night.

The new GoPro Hero 4 Black, with its case, and the Arduino Uno we will use to operate the data-logging system.

In addition, we have purchased a GoPro Hero 4 Black to send up on the HAB-2, which should have significantly better video quality than the Hero 2 we sent up last time. I will likely send up my Hero 4 as well, which would give us a Hero 4 facing down, and another facing out to get a view of the horizon, and well as the Hero 2 pointing up to capture the balloon popping. With this combination, we’re hoping for some really spectacular footage.

Our final major challenge that we are researching to make the HAB-2 as successful as possible is a power source for the electronics. The HAB-1’s GoPro ran out of battery and therefore stopped recording well before the balloon’s peak, and we are exploring ways to prevent this from happening this time. The most reliable option is to connect the GoPro to a larger Lithium battery, but we are also exploring the possibility of using solar power.

Aside from these changes, we will be using a similar payload train structure. In addition to the heavily modified payload as discussed above, we will use the same parachute and radar reflector from the HAB-1. We have increased the balloon size to 1600 grams from 1200 grams to compensate for the increase in weight due to additional electronics.

The improved HAB-2 payload (left), smaller and with flotation insulation, in comparison to the HAB-1 payload (right). I will be posting periodically about our continued progress on the HAB-2 and our goals and plans going forwards to the actual Global Space Balloon Challenge in April, so stay tuned. Thanks for your interest.