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Swedish Engineer's RC Plane Gets a Balloon Lift To Space

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the purely-awesome dept.

Space 90

mask.of.sanity writes "A Swedish engineer has sent his radio controlled airplane to the edge of space using a weather balloon. It reached 33,100 metres before the balloon popped. The trip is captured on film and he has detailed the project in a blog. Amazing stuff."

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Published on Mar 7, 2013 (5, Interesting)

Internal Modem (1281796) | about a year and a half ago | (#43421879)

Total flight time was 108 minutes. Total distance between launch and landing site was 101km.

Re:Published on Mar 7, 2013 (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year and a half ago | (#43427267)

Instead of an RC airplane, he should've put a model rocket on the balloon and fire it when the balloon popped. That would've been cool.

Hmm maybe I should do that....

Re:Published on Mar 7, 2013 (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year and a half ago | (#43428685)

The Register *is* doing that. The LOHAN project will have a rocket after their successful PARIS mission.

cool (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43421883)

Pretty sure we Americans cant do this without written permission from the FAA.

Re:cool (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43422269)

Don't be so sure. I remember the twin-fan personal "thing" the Mythbusters built, they had some guys from the FAA look at it and catalog it and they determined that, because of the weight, there wasn't a license requirement to fly it.

A small project like this, I guess depending on weight, altitude, motors, source of power/fuel and a couple of other factors that I have no idea... might not need permission from the FAA to get off the ground. If you've got a project in mind, it never hurts to check.

It's like asking a hot girl out to dinner. Before you even start you already have the "no", just need to work to turn it into a "yes"...with lesser or greater degree of difficulty

Re:cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43424563)

I believe the FAA must be notified if the attitude exceeds a certain limit. ~18K feet, IIRC, as that is considered controlled airspace. They want to be able to route traffic around that area.

No control in the thin air (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about a year and a half ago | (#43425369)

The balloon launch requires that you notify the FAA.

Looking at the video, the release is around 3:00, and at that point the vehicle goes into a spin. The video is cut after a few seconds of spin, and resumes when he finally pulls out, but it looks like he didn't regain control until it lost a lot of altitude and got into much denser air.

Re:cool (1)

smartin (942) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422299)

On Flitetest they talk about attempting this in the US, Ohio i think, and said that it was not that difficult to get FAA approval.

Re:cool (1)

DrHeasley (1059478) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422393)

At current, the only license required is from the FCC, an amateur radio technician's license for the 2W transmitter.

However, due to media hype over "drones," there's a lot of legislation in process that would ban anybody flying any RC aircraft that is capable of capturing any kind of images.

The Academy of Model Aeronautics (http://www.modelaircraft.org) is working strenuously with state and federal government organizations to bring some reason into the situation.

Sad. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43422401)

Pretty sure we Americans cant do this without written permission from the FAA.

You're right about the FAA. Also, in the U.S. lowly citizens aren't allowed to use those types of radios and power levels in order to have the range for remote control, video and telemetry. FCC regulations ban them. A couple of Americans have chosen to start a bitchfest on this guy's blog about how he's going to ruin everything for them in the U.S. and genuinely believe that he should stop what he is doing in Sweden because they might be impinged by their own government!

I think it's really sad that the whining pansy public in the U.S. have/are creating an environment where hobbyists and experimenters are so thoroughly hampered at every turn by draconian laws. There is no opportunity for innovation and advancement in the U.S. it is almost all outlawed or soon to be outlawed. But, so long as the mouth-breathing half-witted public "feels" safe, it's all good. After all, it's for your own safety! Why would you oppose your own safety?

I guess aircraft development from people who lack Boeing's budget will have to come from Sweden. We(America) have come a long way since our pioneering days in aviation when bicycle makers and barnstorming farmers tried new things that made the world a better place. Apparently, there'll be no more of that.

Thanks.

Re:Sad. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43424175)

Also, in the U.S. lowly citizens aren't allowed to use those types of radios and power levels in order to have the range for remote control, video and telemetry. FCC regulations ban them.

No, they ban them from unlicensed use. But getting a license has been getting easier and easier every year...

Heaven forbid some work is done toward managing common resources like airspace used for travel and radio spectrum, so they don't suffer from tragedy of the commons.

Re:cool (2)

serbanp (139486) | about a year and a half ago | (#43423785)

Hmmm, it's been done many times before, the oldest I recall seeing dates from the early 2000s: http://www.canuck-boffin.net/sonde/ [canuck-boffin.net]

It's still an amazing project and I wish I could pull off something like that - maybe next life...

I've always wanted to do this (5, Insightful)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about a year and a half ago | (#43421953)

I wonder how he tested the radio link. That would be the main technical challenge, I would think.

Re:I've always wanted to do this (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422497)

There are a couple of places around here where if someone carried one end of the radio link up the side of a mountain, you could get the straight line range needed. (Around 20 miles in this case.) So that's one possible way.

Another big issue is recovering the vehicle to a stable attitude as it comes back into denser air.

But, from reading his blog, it sounds like he didn't do much if anything in the way of testing, he mostly just hoped.

Re:I've always wanted to do this (4, Informative)

nametaken (610866) | about a year and a half ago | (#43424339)

But, from reading his blog, it sounds like he didn't do much if anything in the way of testing, he mostly just hoped.

He did a fair bit of research for a hobby project. He used someone else's published results on the performance of the radio equipment.

He also had to test the effects of temperature on the servos, and determined he had to remove most of the grease, as that's the part that locks up at lower temperatures.

He tested the line cutting method (resistor and match head) on a previous project of his, that was good fun... a quadcopter shooting balloons like a video game.

He's done quite a lot of work with all the other stuff from his other FPV video projects. He's done a lot of really interesting stuff and knows what he's doing, so he wasn't just gluing a bunch of rc plane parts together and crossing his fingers.

Re:I've always wanted to do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43424659)

David Windestål appears to be a very experienced RC and FPV-pilot. He was probably comfortable with the performance of the radio equipment before starting this project.

Just take a look at some of the other posts on his blog for reference.

Re:I've always wanted to do this (1)

aphelion_rock (575206) | about a year and a half ago | (#43427579)

9/10 A technical challenging project, despite the technical issue before launch he was able to control the aircraft all the way down. Well done!

At 5;36 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43421957)

Dude. Dude!. DUDE!! Pull up! *CLICK*

Aw man!

Then ....

Narration: "Unfortunately, I make my goal of landing the airplane at my feet."

I'd be like, "Holy Shit! I did it! And found it!

Old school (4, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43421979)

The trip is captured on film

ORLY?

Re:Old school (-1, Flamebait)

wjousts (1529427) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422061)

It's a figure of speech. But please, don't stop being a pedantic asshole.

Re:Old school (4, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422289)

I've got a [sarcasm] sign, but I didn't think I'd ever need a [pedantry for comic effect] sign.

Re:Old school (-1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43423631)

Tip. You're not funny. Quit trying.

Re:Old school (4, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43425319)

Tip: other people are different to you and enjoy different things. The classy thing is just to let them get on with it rather than sneer at them in public in attempt to look superior.

Of course here on Slashdot we have this wonderful moderation system which lets you get a whiff of public opinion, which, while not an objective measurement, would seem to suggest that on this occasion I am, in fact, funny. Unfortunately there's no "-1 condescending snob" option, so we may never know what the world thinks of HornWumpus.

Re:Old school (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43426229)

> here on Slashdot we have this wonderful moderation system

ORLY?

Re:Old school (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43427073)

I've got a [sarcasm] sign, but I didn't think I'd ever need a [pedantry for comic effect] sign.
Tip. You're not funny. Quit trying.

Re:Old school (1)

mynameiskhan (2689067) | about a year and a half ago | (#43423867)

Preferably a 100ft kodachrome...

all these balloons (-1, Troll)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a year and a half ago | (#43421985)

End up somewhere, usually in the stomachs of marine mammals.

Re:all these balloons (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43422023)

End up somewhere, usually in the stomachs of marine mammals.

Marine mammals? Like US Marines? I knew they were tough, but eating weather balloons?! Damn!

Re:all these balloons (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422087)

End up somewhere, usually in the stomachs of marine mammals.

Marine mammals? Like US Marines? I knew they were tough, but eating weather balloons?! Damn!

Its either that or eat in the staff mess!

Re:all these balloons (2)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422567)

Never stand between a hungry Marine and a food source.

Re:all these balloons (1)

Frontier Owner (2616587) | about a year and a half ago | (#43423155)

Never stand between a hungry Marine and a food source.

or something that might be mistaken as a food source...

better yet, just don't stand in the way of a Marine. You might become a food source.

Re:all these balloons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43422035)

So you're campaigning to increase their nutritional value?

Re:all these balloons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43422057)

That doesn't seem plausible. The vast majority of these balloons are release over land. While they will be carried by the wind to some extent it seems unlikely that more than a tiny fraction should end up in the sea.
Do you have any source?

Re:all these balloons (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422231)

"The vast majority of these balloons are release over land. "

True, but what if that land is close to the sea? I know they launch weather balloons from New Zealand.. Where are they likely to come down?

Re:all these balloons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43427383)

On land - launch sites are 100km from the coast in direct line.

Re:all these balloons (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422083)

Perhaps they should stop flavoring them like fish?

What do you base this on? Most of them likely are not eaten by mammals of any sort as they are not likely to be identified as food nor available to the animals since they both not exactly covering every inch of the Earth.

Re:all these balloons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43422871)

Unfortunately, you are wrong, although I can understand why you would feel that way.

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/03/sea-turtle-plastic/

Re:all these balloons (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422937)

Sea turtles are not mammals.
Nor does the article say most balloons end up ingested. I do not feel any way about this, I simply do not think the facts back you up.

Re:all these balloons (1)

nametaken (610866) | about a year and a half ago | (#43427159)

There's a pretty obvious element the gp is ignoring here, as well. Hobby weather balloon projects couldn't possibly account for more than the very tiniest fraction of waste plastic that ends up in the ocean in the first place. There are very few of them, most of them fall on dry ground, and a fair percentage of those are probably recovered since that's a primary goal in these projects (you want your footage, flight data, etc).

I'm all for being careful about where things go, but in these cases I think we'd have to be more concerned about a popped balloon and cooler falling on moving traffic. I can't think of any way this ends up being a serious threat to marine life.

Re:all these balloons (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about a year and a half ago | (#43424259)

Must be why all those polar bears drowned?
Well then why don't you call PETA?
PETA: People Eating Tasty Animals.

Edge of space? (4, Insightful)

Somebody Is Using My (985418) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422025)

Not to dismiss this guy's accomplishments, but saying his model plane reached the "edge of space" is sort of like saying I've reached the "edge of the ocean" when I'm at Times Square in New York City.

Typically, the "edge of space" is 100km up [guardian.co.uk] (the United States is a bit more lenient, and puts it at at around 80km up and you get astronaut wings if you make it that high).

He hasn't even made it a third of the way there.

Still neat, but it could have done without the hyperbole.

Re:Edge of space? (2)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422197)

Makes what we did as kids with Estes rockets seem rather dull and mundane. Shoot rocket, hope parachute deploys. Chute didn't deploy? Save paper route money up for next rocket.

That is a real neat project. And the video captured from 30,000+ feet is damn clear.

Re:Edge of space? (1)

jkflying (2190798) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422389)

30,000 metres. 100,000 feet.

Re:Edge of space? (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422841)

Please excuse my in-exactness (I was born American, still not a good excuse). High enough to have the Earth's curvature clearly defined. Now seems like a great time for RC projects. Crashing one today doesn't mean you're out of thousands of dollars pfft like that.

Re:Edge of space? (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about a year and a half ago | (#43425435)

Please excuse my in-exactness (I was born American, still not a good excuse). High enough to have the Earth's curvature clearly defined.

The apparent curvature was mostly an artifact of the lens used. Get a short enough focal length lens, and you can photograph "the Earth's curvature" from your backyard.

Re:Edge of space? (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year and a half ago | (#43425679)

Thanks. I wasn't sure if it was a wide lens effect or not. I saw that the 'curve' kept changing as the video played.

Re: Edge of space? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43422443)

It's actually 33000 meters, which is 100000+ feet

Re:Edge of space? (1)

CKW (409971) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422291)

Perhaps. But 100km is a pretty arbitrary number. When I was growing up (and where I live everything was still in miles, especially anything written by or about the US space program), space was "100 miles" up. Funny how it's a neat round number like that.

http://ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/guides/mtr/prs/gifs/hght2.gif [uiuc.edu]

He's above 99% of the atmosphere. That's good enough for me. "Edge" -- how do you define that? He's not IN space, certainly. I wouldn't compare it to a beach, a beach is only 10-100 feet wide. I'd make the argument that the "Edge" of space is a "beach" that's around 50km wide :)

Related question - what would make a good fundamental "minimum altitude" to say "space"?

50% odds of making one orbit (if you had sufficient tangential velocity at that altitude) without orbital decay? How much orbital decay? ALL orbits decay "a bit". 50% odds of making one orbit and being able to make a second orbit without touching the ground "underneath" your starting point?

And THEN on top of that, there's the fluctuating undulating atmosphere, that line is going to change day to day and year to year and place to place. Of course, if the tide rises and your boat is floating "closer to shore", you're still "on the ocean" :)

Re:Edge of space? (4, Informative)

Somebody Is Using My (985418) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422481)

Related question - what would make a good fundamental "minimum altitude" to say "space"?

From SpaceWatch [guardian.co.uk] (the website I linked to in my parent post):
"The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), formed 107 years ago and widely recognised as the governing body for aeronautics, astronautics and related activities, puts the beginning of space at 100km. This is now sometimes dubbed the Kármán line after the person who calculated that aerodynamic lift was impossible at higher levels without attaining orbital velocity. "

Also see
"The Kármán line, or commonly simply Karman line, lies at an altitude of 100 kilometres (62 mi) above the Earth's sea level, and is commonly used to define the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space."

I think these are both workable definitions.

Mind you, none of this pedantic bickering is to take away from Windestål's accomplishment; it's great and he should be proud of what he has done. I eagerly await hearing about further successes from him. It's just that he's nowhere near space, by any accepted definition of the word.

Re:Edge of space? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43423757)

From SpaceWatch [guardian.co.uk](the website I linked to in my parent post): "The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), formed 107 years ago and widely recognised as the governing body for aeronautics, astronautics and related activities, puts the beginning of space at 100km. This is now sometimes dubbed the Kármán line after the person who calculated that aerodynamic lift was impossible at higher levels without attaining orbital velocity. "

I like all the official sounding international organizations over a century old, important in so many fields, then the number they come up with is

100km.

It just happens to be such a convenient number in their preferred units?

I guess they can't just say "We looked at some relevant information and then pulled a number out of our asses," but it sure looks like they did.

Re:Edge of space? (1)

ediron2 (246908) | about a year and a half ago | (#43423985)

LOL. You oughta win the internet for the day. Wish I had modpoints...

I'd learned to put a 3 or a 7 into any fakebake number by the time I was seven. See, I just did it again! Apparently Le FAI and others didn't get the memo.

(now I'm goin' back over to reddit, where "everything's modded and the points don't matter!", to steal Drew Carey's Whos-Line introduction)

Re:Edge of space? (2)

draconx (1643235) | about a year and a half ago | (#43424103)

It just happens to be such a convenient number in their preferred units?

Obviously the number 100 was chosen for its convenience. From Wikipedia (Kármán line [wikipedia.org] ):

Although the calculated altitude was not exactly 100 km, Kármán proposed that 100 km be the designated boundary to space, since the round number is more memorable, and the calculated altitude varies minutely as certain parameters are varied. An international committee recommended the 100 km line to the FAI, and upon adoption, it became widely accepted as the boundary to space for many purposes.

Re:Edge of space? (2)

2short (466733) | about a year and a half ago | (#43426771)

"It just happens to be such a convenient number in their preferred units?"

No, they just don't engage in spurious precision. They could have said 107.2527 Km (or whatever the calculation came to exactly), but that would imply their calculation was that precise, and it isn't.

Picking a value for something that doesn't have an obvious definition but people would like to agree on the definition of is what old, official-sounding (because they are) standards orgs are for. If you want to argue with their choice, feel free, but attacking it for not supplying unwarranted precision doesn't make much sense. Better arguments can be had by questioning their definition of "space". But then you're going to be arguing that 100Km is too low (which I might agree with), or arguing a balloon can take you to space (which I find ridiculous).

Re:Edge of space? (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year and a half ago | (#43435727)

And based on what the Karmin line is measuring (if you've got this far, you're likely going into orbit), my guess is that the actual limit is a range slightly under 100km -- meaning that if you reach 100Km, you've got far enough to escape. Of course, if the line was defined in a cautionary way (don't go above this line, or you'll be sorry!) it's possible that the actual limit range starts slightly above 100Km. Anyone know for sure?

Re:Edge of space? (1)

2short (466733) | about a year and a half ago | (#43436665)

No. Going into orbit is a matter of velocity. You can go as high as you want, but if you're not going very fast sideways, you won't orbit.

The speed you need to go sideways to orbit goes down as you go higher. The speed you need to go sideways to stay up via aerodynamic lift goes up as you go higher (and air pressure goes down). The crossover, where generating enough lift would require going faster than orbital speed is the Karman line. Above that, you can't stay up via aerodynamic lift, you must orbit or come down.

Atmospheric drag makes it impractical to approach orbital speed at less than about 200Km, but in theory, if you had a big enough engine and streamlined enough plane, you could fly along at less than orbital speed up to about 100Km up; beyond that, you must stay up by orbiting: it's impossible by flying.

So stories about flying a plane to space are silly, because the most widely agreed on definition of space is the altitude that it is theoretically impossible to fly a plane at.

Re:Edge of space? (1)

2short (466733) | about a year and a half ago | (#43426395)

"what would make a good fundamental 'minimum altitude' to say 'space'?"

My intuition says if you can/do get there using the atmosphere to generate lift (planes & balloons), it's clearly not space.

The typical distinction is more arguable but, in my opinion, a reasonable principle:
If the atmospheric drag at a given altitudes orbital velocity is too high to allow you to orbit, it's not space. If the atmosphere is thin enough to allow you to orbit, it's space.

That's a somewhat fuzzy definition, but that's appropriate; "the edge of space" is a fuzzy concept. But: it's a fuzzy line whose bottom is maybe as low as 100Km up (really, orbits below twice that are impractical). 33 Km isn't space or near it; It's the stratosphere.

I'm not sure where the uncertainty in your 50% chance of making orbit comes in, but if that's your line, you're arguing for 100Km, minimum.

One can argue endlessly and pointlessly, (but maybe enjoyably) about exactly what altitude should be called space. But it won't stop me being driven crazy by every stupid article about high altitude planes & balloons that says they went to space or "the edge of space". Articles that reference "the edge of space" invariably mean well less than half way to any reasonable minimum definition of "space". "The edge of dirt" would be more accurate.

Re:Edge of space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43422545)

Still neat, but it could have done without the hyperbole.

It would've sounded just as impressive and been factually accurate if he had said "almost twice as high as the Concorde flew". But I know that we Swedes aren't exactly known for being modest.

True (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43422955)

It's an epic flight and an inspiration. but not the edge of space. I don't care whether it's the edge of space or not. It's just great to see RC's at that altitude. I'd love to see some autonomous RC's do it too that rely less on video feeds and com links

Re:Edge of space? (1)

Reality Man (2890429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43423129)

Hmm, you new here? Hyperbole is the bread and butter of anything remotely to do with space, or 3D printing.

Re:Edge of space? (1)

Somebody Is Using My (985418) | about a year and a half ago | (#43423629)

Says the guy with a UID almost three times bigger than mine
(I kid, I kid; it's not as if my six-digit UID is anything to boast about either)

Actually, I was referring more to the hyperbole in the original article (well, video since the website with the article was slashdotted when I tried to view it) more than the usual over-the-top claims made in the Slashdot summary.

With the former, it's (unfortunately) expected; however, as the Swede in question obviously has engineering skills, I had hoped he would be more appreciative of accuracy over wild and unfounded claims.

Although it's great to see such enthusiasm and effort poured into such a quintessentially geeky hobby.

Re:Edge of space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43426921)

I bet you are a real joy at parties...

Re:Edge of space? (1)

nametaken (610866) | about a year and a half ago | (#43427319)

I hear you, and that's a fair point. But at the same, I think "edge of space" works well enough. We all know what altitudes they're talking about in weather balloon projects.

As far as the general public is concerned, when you're up high enough that you see inky black sky above and you're obviously looking way, way down at the planet... that's close enough for a blurb to use "edge of space", if only as very vague altitude reference.

Those of us that care will look at the listed altitude, and we're familiar enough with these projects to know they're not talking about a more textbook definition. Right?

What No Raspberry pie? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43422169)

For a second I thought this was going to be a commercial for a raspberry pie. I'm so glad it wasn't. You go rcexplorer!

David is awesome (1)

neorush (1103917) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422189)

David is awesome, he is here in the US right now working with FliteTest [youtube.com] . Checkout some of his other projects there. I recommend subscribing to their channel.

All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (5, Insightful)

slacka (713188) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422447)

"Where I live helium is ridiculously expensive. So I went with the much cheaper alternative, hydrogen. It’s also more buoyant, about 8% more. Which means a higher burst altitude as you can use less gas."

Bonus points for using hydrogen instead of helium. Hydrogen is not dangerous if handled properly and helium is a scarce resource needed for many medical uses like MRIs.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (1)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about a year and a half ago | (#43422807)

Funny how we call helium a scarce resource... it's the 2nd most common element in the Universe.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43423087)

Funny how we call helium a scarce resource... it's the 2nd most common element in the Universe.

Hey Mr Spaceman, for those of use here on Earth, helium is a scarce resource. Sure, I can see the sun, which is huge and 27% helium (by mass), but what good is that to me here on Earth?

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (2)

Reality Man (2890429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43423147)

Shush. Reality is not welcome in any story to do with space. Let the nice man think space is like a giant IKEA just a balloon ride away.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43423211)

and how does the helium get to the Earth? Does the sun sound a little high pitched and ducky? Common your supposed to be educated?

Hydrogen, helium, and payloads (2)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | about a year and a half ago | (#43423109)

Funny how we call helium a scarce resource... it's the 2nd most common element in the Universe.

In the universe, yes. On Earth, no. All the helium on Earth has been here from the beginning, and no process on Earth is creating more. Once it's released in to the atmosphere, it's gone.

I'm always envious of stuff like this. Where I live (southwestern British Columbia, Canada), it would be very difficult to retrieve a payload that came down 100 km away, in just about any direction. A steerable RC glider is an option I've thought about. Live video, GPS and telemetry would make me even more motivated to get the aircraft back.

...laura

Re:Hydrogen, helium, and payloads (1)

daremonai (859175) | about a year and a half ago | (#43423411)

All the helium on Earth has been here from the beginning

Not exactly. It's produced from alpha particles, mostly generated by the decay of uranium.

Re:Hydrogen, helium, and payloads (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year and a half ago | (#43423521)

Funny how we call helium a scarce resource... it's the 2nd most common element in the Universe.

In the universe, yes. On Earth, no. All the helium on Earth has been here from the beginning, and no process on Earth is creating more.

Oh, I dunno, I keep hearing about "fusion this decade," after which we'll not only have unlimited free electricity but all the He you could ask for. Until we run out of deuterium, anyway.

Re:Hydrogen, helium, and payloads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43424289)

If 100% of the world's energy (including heating and vehicles) came from fusion power plants, which were only 10% efficient, then the helium produces from fusion would only be about a quarter of current production rates.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43423207)

That whole "bringing it back to earth" thing is a bit of a bitch.

I mean, percentage wise, our solar system is primarily emptyish void. Next is being in a state of FIREY HELLSCAPE OF CONSTANT FUSION, followed closely by entombed in soul-crushing pressures under miles of rock. The percentage of our solar system where it'd be nice to have some helium for fun and profit is shockingly small.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (1)

sabt-pestnu (967671) | about a year and a half ago | (#43423569)

Unlike hydrogen, helium does not chemically bind so much, so we have a local scarcity of it.

Kinda like how we - locally - have a large amount of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and so on around, compared to the universal distribution.

To be honest, I can live without the helium. I'd have a harder time living with the extra oxygen, so please don't start a government program to redistribute the elements.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43428729)

I used to laugh at stuff like this, till I realized this guy probably makes decisions that effect at least 2 other people. And he is not an exception to the rule. We need to study this guys synapses. It will tell us the minimum distance required for the transfer of information. - Then we'll have to multiply by 10, just to be sure.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43422901)

> helium is a scarce resource needed for many medical uses like MRIs.

Not to mention making your voice sound funny. It would be a tragedy if we couldn't to that any more.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43422923)

Besides, MRIs just tell you about shit you really don't want to hear anyway. Ignorance is bliss you know.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43423093)

Hydrogen is not dangerous if handled properly

Yeah, and so is mercury, lead, weapon ordinances, snake venom, sulfuric acid, and smallpox.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43423197)

Helium for balloons is not medical grade. In fact, it's usually discarded (let's not call it "waste") helium already used in medical environments mixed with "normal" air that is used for balloons*. I think there was already a discussion here on /. about that some months ago.

Source: http://weinterrupt.com/2012/09/helium-shortage-may-mean-no-more-balloons-its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it/

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43424321)

Except it is pretty easy to separate helium from other gases, and sometimes it comes essentially for free from liquefaction that was going to be done anyways for transportation of the gases. The only hard part is recollecting it to a processing plant, or buying the equipment to do that at a smaller scale location. Helium is cheap enough now that in some places it is not worth recollecting it for processing. But if the price goes up, that will change quite quickly.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43429657)

WTF? Balloon grade helium is still 95% helium, which is about on par with how it comes out when separated and crudely purified from natural gas. 22k gold is less pure than that, but would you consider that not worth saving? And all you need to do with low grade helium is run it over activated charcoal to get 99.99+% pure helium.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43423787)

Do you have any recommended reading on how to handle it properly?

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43424059)

1) FIRE BAD!!

.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year and a half ago | (#43424843)

Hydrogen is not dangerous if handled properly

Is that not true for anything? And next you compare something to helium.
This makes it sound as if helium is dangerous when handled properly.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (2)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | about a year and a half ago | (#43427529)

Well, compared to dioxygen diflouride (a.k.a. FOOF, which explodes on contact with just about anything above -300 F), or chlorine triflouride (which can set sand and asbestos on 'fire'), hydrogen is quite safe, yes.

Re:All hobbyist should consider using hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43428711)

Well, compared to dioxygen diflouride (a.k.a. FOOF, which explodes on contact with just about anything above -300 F), or chlorine triflouride (which can set sand and asbestos on 'fire'), hydrogen is quite safe, yes.

This is why I come here, inane but topically entertaining/informative trivia from geeks who went to different departments. I mean that in a good way, ya Chem head :)

Nice idea and important step (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43424759)

Launching an aircraft with a balloon and having it fly back is a nice important step, but what I would like to see is an Arduino controlled aircraft (even a glider) which has a GPS and camera, and it records its progress (1 picture per second), and when the balloon pops, the plane is released (just like this), but then the plane (or glider) tries to fly back to a pre-set coordinate (using the arduino for GPS and for robot flight /control over the gliders control surfaces). That way instead of just following a beacon back to the crash/landing location, the plane at least tries to go back to a set location. A *really* cool feature would be if it can't make it back to the ideal home location (not enough altitude left), at least it could find the optimal landing location (like between the trees and the highway in the video) instead of in the trees. The second is optomistic. The first is do-able, and would save a lot of recovery time (and potential for landing in a very difficult recovery location).

Similar but with on-board autopilot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43434949)

http://www.canuck-boffin.net/sonde/index.htm

Similar idea, helium weather balloon and glider, link to the ground for telemetry and video, but this one has an on-board autopilot.

Not quite such high altitude, but very impressive nonetheless (especially considering that this was done a fair few years ago now).

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