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High-Altitude Balloon Tweets Earth

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the do-that-yourself dept.

Communications 49

celsomartinho writes "Spacebits is yet another low-cost High-Altitude Balloon (HAB) with a computer probe being launched to near space on 30 May, this time in Portugal. The twist with this project, besides the cool electronics, cameras, and sensors on board, is the fact that the team provided the online community with a real-time web dashboard so that everyone can follow the two-hour journey up to 100,000 feet and back to earth. Real-time data includes measurements from all its sensors, including temperature, pressure, humidity and air quality, altitude, acceleration, and GPS coordinates and a live Twitter feed. The team is also using a public GSM network to send SMS lat/lon/alt coordinates to anyone willing to go on launch site and participate in the probe hunt." The balloon goes off Memorial Day weekend, so bookmark the page if you're on call.

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Hmm (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32322148)

A mindless orb looking down on us all posting updates about its uninteresting activities? How will we distinguish this from anybody else on Twitter?

Re:Hmm (0, Flamebait)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322356)

Altitude.

First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32322156)

I'm surprised Bobby Jindall is demanding federal help with a private company's oil spill. I would have expected a 3rd grade level explanation about why free enterprise is good, and government is bad, just like he gave when trying to prevent his residents from getting real health care.

"Oil is good, and government is bad."

- Bobby Jindall,
Tool of the oil industry and friend to the rich.

Memorial day? (4, Insightful)

crimperman (225941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322168)

Okay I have learned to live with things like putting "Portugal, Europe" instead of just Portugal but was there a reason that "Memorial Day weekend" seemed more appropriate than an actual date? This kind of thing does nothing to dispel the rumours that the USA doesn't recognise places outside of its borders you know.

Re:Memorial day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32322282)

In 2010, memorial day is May 31st. The balloon is scheduled to fly on 2010-05-30T11:00:00+0. [timeanddate.com]

Re:Memorial day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32322500)

Could you please also tell me how much is 100000 feet in meters?

Re:Memorial day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32322576)

Depends on the size of the feet.

Re:Memorial day? (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322824)

one foot, two foot
half a mile more
double it, triple it
am i knocking at your door
fly a little higher
sing a little tune
tweet tweet tweet
a hundred thousand feet
am i anywhere near the moon

Re:Memorial day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32322986)

If you added "you insensitive clod" they would mod you up as funny. Gotta telegraph your humour to the modders in /.

Re:Memorial day? (1)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322360)

"Portugal, Europe" - is there another continent that has a country called Portugal? Also those noobs deserve to go down after the stunt they pulled in the Spanish civil war.

Re:Memorial day? (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322686)

"Portugal, Europe" - is there another continent that has a country called Portugal? Also those noobs deserve to go down after the stunt they pulled in the Spanish civil war.

It was no doubt intended to differentiate the country Portugal from this [city-data.com] major U.S. metropolis.

Re:Memorial day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32323256)

I think you are confused. You pointed to Lisbon, Ohio.

Ok, Portugal's Capital city is Lisbon also, but really what's your point here?

Re:Memorial day? (1)

gsslay (807818) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322366)

I think you misunderstand. This balloon is an historical event. So it has a memorial day assigned to it before it's even been launched. We don't know what date that is yet, just that it will be a weekend.

Oh, and it will ascend to 100,000 feet, rounding up the 30,000 Portuguese meters to something more sensible.

Portugese Meters? (2, Informative)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322896)

There were a few meters on the page to measure things but they were all in English.
I assume you are talking about units of distance. Metres are used almost everwhere exept the USA. Not just Portugal.

30,000m does not round nicely to anything from the pre-industrial measurement system. According to my phone, it is 98,425.1968504 feet, 149.1290861 furlongs and a load of other peculiar things that nobody has ever heard of. The best I can offer is 18.6410985 miles.

Re:Portugese Meters? (1, Offtopic)

nunoloureiro (1162373) | more than 4 years ago | (#32323096)

Metres are used almost everwhere exept the USA. Not just Portugal.

The USA is not the only country that uses imperial units officially. Liberia, and Myanmar also use them.

Re:Portugese Meters? (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 4 years ago | (#32325672)

And? Is more than 99% of countries (including the really big ones) not sufficient to qualify as "almost everywhere"?

Re:Portugese Meters? (1)

gsslay (807818) | more than 4 years ago | (#32323440)

That whoosh you are hearing is something going over your head, how far over you can measure what ever way you wish.

30,000 metres does indeed round up to 100,000 feet, if you are more concerned about clinging to antique US-centric measurements than any kind of accuracy. Which was kind of the whole point.

Re:Memorial day? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322406)

The poster put in "Portugal, Europe" even though Europe is not a country (I have been shouted at by gen-u-wine anti-American Europeans for daring to say so) and CmdrTaco put in the ignorant comment about "memorial day weekend" without even capitalizing Memorial Day. Hey, CmdrTaco, can you tell me why is it, exactly, that you get a three-day weekend at the beginning of summer?

And as far as the crack about America not recognizing places outside its borders, how would you think the average Indonesian's grasp of European geography is? Could an Iraqi place Australia on a map if it wasn't labeled? How many EU citizens can even remember the name who they voted for as their EU member of parliament in the last election?

Re:Memorial day? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32323104)

How many EU citizens can even remember the name who they voted for as their EU member of parliament in the last election?

We don't vote for MEPs, we vote for parties. And yes, everyone I know who has voted can remember in which party they've voted for.
Mine was Bloco de Esquerda, and it's first MEP is Miguel Portas [europa.eu] .

Re:Memorial day? (1)

gsslay (807818) | more than 4 years ago | (#32323526)

And as far as the crack about America not recognizing places outside its borders,

Actually, the crack was about "the USA". But you will already have spotted the glorious irony of your mistake.

Re:Memorial day? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#32327024)

Actually, the intentional mistake was saying that Europeans have a representative government, which is untrue and I had hoped you'd call me out on that one. But people see what they want to see, you know.

Re:Memorial day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32334536)

The poster put in "Portugal, Europe" even though Europe is not a country (I have been shouted at by gen-u-wine anti-American Europeans for daring to say so) and CmdrTaco put in the ignorant comment about "memorial day weekend" without even capitalizing Memorial Day. Hey, CmdrTaco, can you tell me why is it, exactly, that you get a three-day weekend at the beginning of summer?

And as far as the crack about America not recognizing places outside its borders, how would you think the average Indonesian's grasp of European geography is? Could an Iraqi place Australia on a map if it wasn't labeled? How many EU citizens can even remember the name who they voted for as their EU member of parliament in the last election?

Oh why of course! The education system that we can expect in Iraq and Indonesia is on par with the one in the great US of A. Also, most indonesians know more about europe and asia than the average european and for sure 99% of americans.

Re:Memorial day? (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322454)

I was going to sign up to get the data, then I realized it would be in metric units, since the balloon would be in Europe, and I wouldn't understand it.

That, and I am not a twit, or whatever you call someone with a twitter account.

Re:Memorial day? (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322474)

> Okay I have learned to live with things like putting "Portugal, Europe" instead of just Portugal

I haven't. People who don't know where Portugal is (and yeah, I know some people like that) are unlikely to gain significant additional insight by the addition of the word "Europe". You'd have to have slept through every history and geography class you ever had starting in third grade. Such people don't know enough about Europe to attach any real meaning to it as a location.

I mean, there are some countries I could maybe see this for. "Kiribati, in the south Pacific", for instance, is arguably worth qualifying. "Guyana, South America" I could maybe understand.

But Portugal? Come on. You might as well say "Japan, Asia" and "Canada, North America". It's stupid.

> but was there a reason that "Memorial Day weekend" seemed more appropriate than an actual date?

Meh. If Americans are supposed to know where Portugal is (and I think we should), it also seems reasonable to me that English-speaking people in Europe should know when Memorial Day weekend is. Americans are MUCH more likely to take this for granted than, say, the location of most US states. I wouldn't complain if a British news site aimed mostly at a British audience said something was on Boxing Day without giving the date. Even if I don't *know* the date of the holiday in question, it's easy enough to look up. I don't think it's necessary to dumb things down quite that much.

Re:Memorial day? (1)

nunoloureiro (1162373) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322902)

I haven't. People who don't know where Portugal is (and yeah, I know some people like that) are unlikely to gain significant additional insight by the addition of the word "Europe". You'd have to have slept through every history and geography class you ever had starting in third grade. Such people don't know enough about Europe to attach any real meaning to it as a location.

I think it gives some additional insight. Once, I met an American who thought Portugal was next to Brazil. At least by reading this, there's no doubt that Portugal is not in South America.

Re:Memorial day? (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32323178)

Rio de Janerio was the capital of Portugal during the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th Century, so there is at least a source of confusion over which continent the country is really located at. The capital was moved (with the royal family, government seals, and library/archives) to keep it from falling under French control. That was also one of the seeds for the independence of Brazil, as trying to move the capital back to Lisbon proved to be a bit more complicated than they thought it would be when the war ended. Some of the bureaucracy simply didn't want to go back.

That would be like England moving the capital of the UK to Philadelphia, which would have been quite an event if had ever happened.

Re:Memorial day? (1)

nunoloureiro (1162373) | more than 4 years ago | (#32324070)

Rio de Janerio was the capital of Portugal during the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th Century, so there is at least a source of confusion over which continent the country is really located at. The capital was moved (with the royal family, government seals, and library/archives) to keep it from falling under French control. That was also one of the seeds for the independence of Brazil, as trying to move the capital back to Lisbon proved to be a bit more complicated than they thought it would be when the war ended. Some of the bureaucracy simply didn't want to go back.

Do you really think that someone that doesn't know where Portugal is located, is because they are familiar with Portugal's History and they got confused by it?

Re:Memorial day? (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 4 years ago | (#32326974)

I see that as a distinct possibility.

Re:Memorial day? (1)

colonelquesadilla (1693356) | more than 4 years ago | (#32323166)

what are these places of which you speak? my version of google earth just says "here be dragons"

Grow up already (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32323592)

Okay I have learned to live with things like putting "Portugal, Europe" instead of just Portugal but was there a reason that "Memorial Day weekend" seemed more appropriate than an actual date? This kind of thing does nothing to dispel the rumours that the USA doesn't recognise places outside of its borders you know.

The date was in the summary - right in the second line. The comment about Memorial Day weekend (incorrectly not capitalized) was at the end and added to the summary by the editor. So anyone seeing 'evidence' of anything about the USA is reading into the article and the summary something which simply isn't there - and thus confirming their own biases. (Which also goes for the people modding it up without bothering to compare crimperman's complaint against what was actually written - Slashdot reflexive moderation at work.)

Re:Grow up already (1)

crimperman (225941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32333430)

Odd I don't recall seeing it when I read TFS the first few times. Anyway, point taken about the date. I think there is some "'evidence' of anything about the USA" given that memorial day is a holiday in that country only (as far as I know) and thus putting such a comment into the summary will really only immediately mean something to readers from the USA. As someone else said the rest of us need to look it up.

Re:Memorial day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32323812)

I'm from the UK. I know where Portugal is but I have no idea what "Memorial Day weekend" is.

I think the USA doesn't recognise places outside of its borders.

Re:Memorial day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32324432)

My thoughts exactly, except I also found it not entirely negative (ignorant Americans), but also a (positive?) aspect of Europe being seen more as a whole. I would not be offended seeing Texas, USA even though my home state used to be an independent nation. Funny how the phrases of the submitter are more interesting than the balloon tweets.

Re:Memorial day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32325814)

I live in the US and I don't have a fucking clue when Memorial Day is. Forget "the rest of the world", list dates so that *anyone* who doesn't live and die by US national holidays (national prayer day, anyone?) can figure out what's going on.

Tweet! (3, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322176)

11:00 : I'm flying!
11:05 : Still flying!
11:10 : Yep. Still flying.
11:15 : I'm bored.
11:20 : I spy with my little eye something beginning with S.
11:25 : Yep. It was sky. I'm so bored.
11:35 : Booooring. ...
13:15 : Kiiiil meeee. Kiiiiiil meeee please...

Re:Tweet! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32323278)

11:00 : Beep!
11:05 : Beep!
11:10 : Beep!
11:15 : Beep!
11:20 : Beep!
11:25 : Beep!
11:35 : Beep!
13:15 : Beep!

-- Sputnik's twitter feed. Ah, the good old' days...

!news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32322186)

These two patterns don't make news:

Bla bla bla bla uses twitter!
Bla bla bla bla uses facebook!

Re:!news (2, Funny)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322292)

Unless it's about Facebook using Twitter, or Twitter using Facebook. That would just melt your face.

Launch platform (1)

Andypcguy (1052300) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322328)

Does this sound possible? What if we take some HABs and tether them to an amature rocket. Might it be possible to get into space on the cheap? Maybe we can crash into the moon or something.

Re:Launch platform (2, Informative)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322464)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockoon [wikipedia.org]

And one of the teams in Lunar X Prize plans to use it, I believe. It even seems like a dedicated amateur team might ease their way into space that way, too (at least if by "space" we mean strictly "just a bit above 100km", suborbital flight)

Re:Launch platform (4, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322814)

Yes, this is not only possible, but happening. I don't know about getting to the Moon, but getting into orbit is something that is actively being tried. One really cool video of a rocket getting launched off of a balloon can be found here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnq3r3tRVP0 [youtube.com]

This was launched by JP Aerospace [jpaerospace.com] and is the real thing, from a balloon flying at 10k feet. It was merely a demo flight to test the flight control hardware and to make sure that a rocket actually would launch... and in this case it was just an Estes rocket shoved in a tube when the flight computer remotely ignited the fuse to launch the rocket. The trick was to get the rocket to launch at all, not necessarily to go anywhere.

One other interesting group is the N-Prize [n-prize.com] that is offering a £10k prize for the first team to launch something into orbit for under £1000. What is really crazy is that there are several teams working on the idea, and that some of them are actually in the process of "bending metal" and trying to make it work. Even if it is just a ping-pong ball sent into orbit, that would be some kind of accomplishment to get a payload of that size to orbital velocities.

Yet another group using this approach is ARCA [googlelunarxprize.org] , and these guys are trying to get to the Moon. They are one of the original X-Prize teams that showed some real promise and have kept tweaking their rocket designs, with the latest attempts for getting to orbit using a very different kind of rocket staging system that you've simply got to see to believe. It pulls up each stage on a tether instead of pushing it up as a disintegrating pyramid.... presumably to develop economies of scale. They are doing most of their launches over the Black Sea, and is perhaps the one group using balloons that I think will get into orbit first.

Re:Launch platform (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32322980)

Depends on what you mean by getting into space. The energy needed to fly higher than 100km (which is considered the edge of space) is small compared to the energy needed for a stable space orbit. One is the potential energy of an object at 100km above ground, the other is the same potential energy plus the kinetic energy of the object at orbital velocity.

Potential energy is distance times force. Force is mass times acceleration. Mass is just a scaling factor, so we'll assume 1kg. If you ignore that gravity isn't constant as you get further away from earth, you get 1kg*100000m*9.81m/s^2 = 981000kg*m^2*s^2 = 981000 Joule.

Kinetic energy is 0.5 times mass times velocity squared. Orbital velocity is about 7 kilometers per second (can be calculated as the velocity at which - for the given orbital radius - the centripetal force is equal to gravity). So we're looking at an additional 0.5*1kg*(7000m/s)^2 = 24500000 Joules

Re:Launch platform (2, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32323670)

The advantages of getting up to 100km first by balloon is at least some of the following points:

  • Cost - Getting to 100 km by balloon is certainly a whole lot cheaper than getting to that altitude by rocket. It does save some propellant mass, but as pointed about by the above AC post, the amount of savings is relatively trivial. If it was for this one reason, I'd agree that this is not a good reason for using a balloon as a first stage.
  • Weather - Flying above the troposphere and even the stratosphere, you can avoid most of the problems that typically postpone a launch. As long as the conditions are good enough for launching a balloon, you can send the payload up under conditions that would typically be horrible for a missile launch. You may still want to avoid launching the balloon in a thunder storm, but you don't need the 30 mile clearance circle that the Space Shuttle has before it launches.
  • Incremental testing - Using a balloon can be useful for developing a rocket just a few baby steps at a time, starting with cheap and simple rockets and gradually tweaking things as you get to larger vehicle sizes. This is something which can't be underestimated, where testing a rocket engine in a vacuum can be done at a cost which would normally be prohibitive for an amateur rocket designer.
  • Dynamic loads - As there is no atmosphere to worry about, the design of the "rocket" would not have to be the sleek pointy missile that has been a staple of rocket science since before the V-2 was built. That could in theory be a substantial savings in terms of a payload weight budget, and all that is necessary is a skeleton which can keep the rocket together. It would certainly be interesting to see what sorts of designs could be developed where there is no concern about aerodynamics, and calculations for "Max-Q" (maximum dynamic pressure) would be a joke at that altitude.

I'm sure other significant points could be made here for what other advantages could be had with a balloon launch. I agree that the goal is to get into orbit, and that the energy budget is a key contributing factor there. I just don't think that the energy budget is necessarily the one thing keeping the cost of spaceflight so high, and that some alternative approaches ought to be at least tried, no matter how crazy that they may be. There certainly are classes of satellites and scientific research equipment that can be tested by flying on a rockoon that would be considerably cheaper than by using a traditional missile launcher, even if those vehicles don't necessarily achieve full orbital velocity.

Typo (-1, Troll)

kingturkey (930819) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322640)

I was going to post a rather trolling post about the misuse of "it's" instead of "its", but then thought that the submitter probably didn't have English as their first language and thus doesn't deserve my trolling. CmdrTaco has no such excuse, though. Anyway, please fix the mistake.

Re:Typo (0, Flamebait)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#32322804)

I was going to post a rather trolling post about the misuse of "it's" instead of "its", but then thought that the submitter probably didn't have English as their first language and thus doesn't deserve my trolling. CmdrTaco has no such excuse, though. Anyway, please fix the mistake.

Its allways rong to be a grammer or speling troll. Get a lief. English evolves and it's ussers makes they're own rooles.

Re:Typo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32323236)

wao srsly, ur makin me loose my cents of humer about this stuff

Cost Savings (1)

jshriver (707916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32324002)

I've been working on my own HAB for a couple months now. Amazed noone has mentioned the use of cell phone in this experiment and the huge LOS coverage this will cause being at such a high altitude. A couple HAB's have used this, in fact there was a post a while back where some MIT students did it for less than $150 using a modified phone that sent GPS packets over SMS. However is it legal? As I'm designing mine, I've been very tempted to go this route since it's A LOT cheaper than buying even a minimal arps rig. Alas it doesn't seem so so am dismissing it as an option. So can we get back on topic and stop talking about typo's and Portugal, Europe. What happened to /.

Open Source Balloon Tracking (1)

hornblower65 (1800788) | more than 4 years ago | (#32324358)

This in fact is not new, various groups have had quite sophisticated online tracking for some time. Perhaps the best of the bunch is the UKHAS [1] balloon tracking program which you can find here:

http://www.spacenear.us/tracker [spacenear.us]

It's open source (of course!) and is run on bits of software contributed by various groups. It integrates with the UKHAS 'distributed listener', where anyone with a suitable radio (most HAMs) can listen in to a balloon flight and automatically decode and upload telemetry to the online map. The sound card software is a fork of fldigi [2] which has been modified to do all the uploading, and is cross-platform.

The UKHAS tracker also makes use of some flight prediction software from the Cambridge University Spaceflight group [3] to give live real-time flight and landing predictions so anyone chasing the balloon knows where to drive.

All of this stuff is FOSS. It's a glorious little cul-de-sac of geeky openness. Happy days!

[1] http://www.ukhas.org.uk/ [ukhas.org.uk]
[2] http://ukhas.org.uk/guides:tracking_guide [ukhas.org.uk]
[3] http://www.cuspaceflight.co.uk/ [cuspaceflight.co.uk] (/predict for the flight predictor)

Re:Open Source Balloon Tracking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32330742)

Don't forget www.projectbluehorizon.com !!

Project Blue Horizon is going into it's 5th year and has already set numerous records.

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