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Space On a Shoestring

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the hey-gang-let's-build-a-rocketship dept.

257

An anonymous reader writes, "Three engineering students from Cambridge University plan to send an unmanned craft into space for £1,000 ($1,880) and have just sent a test mission up 32 km for a lot less. Their snaps from the upper atmosphere are impressive, and were taken by a balloon equipped with off-the-shelf technology including GSM text messaging, radio communications, and an ordinary 5-megapixel camera. They now plan to use a similar craft as a launching stage to get a cheap rocket into space." There's also a video of the balloon launch.

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Moo (5, Funny)

Chacham (981) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143707)

Picture this, soon their balooning costs will skyrocket to reach even greater heights.

Re:Moo (3, Funny)

gfody (514448) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144042)

that direct link to a 56mb file (for 17 seconds of footage!) will be the most expensive part of the project

Re:Moo (1)

another_henry (570767) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144463)

Aww come on guys who put that link up? It was just a little unedited footage for the BBC. Now you've gone and broken one of the servers. Go look at the pictures instead, they're better than the video.

Re:Moo (1)

Instine (963303) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144481)

Re the pictures. I like the message on the side of the electronics. "Harmless Scientific experiment...".

You can just see the kind of flap someone in Cambridge could get in if the found a small box with a battery and a bunch of wires hanging out, on the roof of their car in the morning. Tee hee

Very cool hobby... (5, Informative)

Cherita Chen (936355) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143712)

High altitude balooning is a very cool hobby to get involved in... Two very informative links on the subject are included below.

http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/Numbers/Math/Math ematical_Thinking/designing_a_high_altitude.htm [nasa.gov]

http://www.amsat.org/amsat/balloons/balloon.htm [amsat.org]

Re:Very cool hobby... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16143785)

Two very informative links

Nice karma whoring, if a little blatant. What are you planning to use the mod points for, when you get them? Modding the astroturfing threads?

Re:Very cool hobby... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16143811)

(sigh)

Ya know, in the grand Slashdot of life, aren't we all karma whores at best?

The parent supplied useful information, albeit in such a way as to boost his karma. It's better than some "designer" "offend everybody" troll post (with little four letter acronyms & whatnot).

Re:Very cool hobby... (5, Interesting)

gkhan1 (886823) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144010)

What kind of permissions from the local flight authority does it require? Aren't they hard enough to get to prohibit hobbyist involvement?

Ballons need permission?? (2, Informative)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144405)

Ballons probably don't need the same sort of clearance. Many weather ballons are launched from weather stations which are often located at airports. I used to work for a company building weather ballon tracking equipment and we'd go test our prototype kit at the baloon launch site which was right next to the end of an international airport runway (right in the high security area next to where you see the planes land with puffs of smoke coming off their tyres). At least twice I can recall flying along at altitude in a commercial airliner and hearing the pilot say: "folks if you look out of the left window you can see a weather ballon". These things carry radar reflectors etc and pose very little danger to aviation.

GSM text messaging (5, Interesting)

ubersonic (943362) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143715)

So GSM phones do work at that height?

Why do we need inflight GSM mini stations then?

Re: GSM text messaging (4, Insightful)

leereyno (32197) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143781)

Consumers don't NEED them at all. They're there so the airlines can make a buck.

Anyone familiar with the story of flight 93 knows that cell phones work at the cruising altitude of commericial jet aircraft.

Lee

Re: GSM text messaging (1)

Killall -9 Bash (622952) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143831)

Anyone familiar with the story of flight 93 knows that cell phones work at the cruising altitude of commericial jet aircraft.
anyone familiar with the story of flight 93 should try it themselves. Some people have. Results available on the internet for any not drinking the kool-aid.
Nova 1 featured some simple, off-the-shelf technology. This included GSM text messaging as well as radio for communications and an ordinary 5 megapixel camera.
Google'd "cell phone altitude", and this was #3--> http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,121399-page,1/ar ticle.html?RSS=RSS [pcworld.com]

Re: GSM text messaging while flying (5, Interesting)

cloricus (691063) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143939)

Having made several flights lately in light aircraft I've been rather bored and have happily sat watching the bars on my mobile phone...Now I didn't realise there was a full on tin foil hat issue here though my results are as follows:

Outbound from where I live on a Nokia 6230 I had signal for a decent phone call up to ~5,000 feet and could send SMS to around ~6,000 feet, soon after this I lost signal. Leaving on the way back to here I had phone signal for a call up to ~7,000 feet and lost phone and SMS at about the same time.

The Blackberry 7230 I had with me made it another 500-1000 feet over my Nokia in regards to signal though GPRS didn't fare so well. Luckily Brick doesn't require phone signal. :)

We tended to fly at around 12,000 feet most times and those observations from one trip seem about right for the rest plus I can confirm from having to drive several of the distances that there is full phone coverage a long the routes.

Re: GSM text messaging while flying (4, Funny)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144121)

When I tried it from a motor glider in a fairly remote area (few cells, large areas) I got a snotty letter from Orange saying that roaming at 50kts between very non-adjacent cells made their network shit itself. I wish I'd kept the letter...

Re: GSM text messaging while flying (5, Informative)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144287)

I had signal for a decent phone call up to ~5,000 feet and could send SMS to around ~6,000 feet, soon after this I lost signal.

More likely you had too much signal. From altitude you tie up one RF channel on several dozen towers in range instead of running at reduced power on the closest tower. This blanket coverage of dozens of towers tying up a channel without the ability to hand your signal to a single tower and free up the frequency on other towers for use by others is why they don't permit phone use on aircraft. If the system is smart, it may have shut down your phone to clear the frequency as the towers noticed an even signal strength from one phone over dozens of towers. You simply did not get a tower assignment at altitude.

Re: GSM text messaging while flying (3, Insightful)

x2A (858210) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144372)

For this balloon thing though, could put the GSM unit into a downward facing pringles tube [bbc.co.uk] , increasing the signal strength, narrowing the transmitted area, and sticking to their "cheap, very very cheap" idea :-)

Re: GSM text messaging (1)

phoenix.bam! (642635) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143782)

Billing!

Re: GSM text messaging (5, Informative)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143801)

I'm sure the phones will work at more or less any height - the higher the better. The problem is that at very high altitudes, the phone "sees" hundreds of cell base stations at once, and the system isn't really designed to deal with this. Even if one cell can decide it will take the initial call, cell switching will be occurring every few seconds as the signal strength fluctuates. The problem multiplies if you are crossing those cells at 500mph. Instead the on board mini-station grabs the call and keeps hold of it, allowing a single dedicated downlink to maintain sanity in the system.

At least this is my only partially-informed assumption (a long time ago I was a radio negineer, but I don't know about the actual implementation details of GSM.) But logically, allowing in-flight GSM phone calls is a bad idea because of the reasoning above. The system is designed on the assumption that calls will be made on the ground, therefore range-limited, and thus can only possibly be routed by one or two base stations, not hundreds.

Re: GSM text messaging (4, Funny)

brandonY (575282) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143828)

I'm sure the phones will work at more or less any height - the higher the better.

Not to be a sarcastic, literal-taking idiot, but I bet if I were, say, 0.5 AU high, my phone wouldn't work. Heck, I bet the lousy thing wouldn't even work from the moon's surface, especially if I was in a tunnel.

Re: GSM text messaging (0, Redundant)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143854)

Not to be a sarcastic, literal-taking idiot...

I thought you said not to be, etc...

Re: GSM text messaging (2, Informative)

tylernt (581794) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144005)

There are indeed distance limitations to GSM. Same problem with long runs of cable in Ethernet -- signals only travel at the speed of light, so there starts to be a lag between packet transmission and packet reception. IIRC, in GSM this limit is about 27 miles. When GSM was first deployed in Australia, some remote regions could get full signal, yet not maintain a call because the lag time was too great for the TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) timeslice to handle. In Ethernet this would be called a "late collision". A workaround was to cut cell tower capacity in half by doubling the TDMA timeslice, thus effectively doubling the range of the cell towers.

I think the main problem with phones at altititude is the farraday cage effect of the aluminum aircraft body. Signals can only exit via the windows, and at high altitude, your signals are going out horizontally instead of down to the ground and therefore the cell towers.

Re: GSM text messaging (1)

x2A (858210) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144377)

Unless you wire your phone antenna to the plane, use the whole goddamn thing as an antenna :-p

Re: GSM text messaging (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16143941)

Makes sense to me...could I somehow use this to improve reception at my house? A tall antenna, or a tower with a cell repeater?

Re: GSM text messaging (0)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143971)

GSM uses TDMA, transmission timing prevents distances beyond a little over 30 kilometres. The transmission itself can be received over much greater distances obviously.

Re: GSM text messaging (2, Informative)

honkycat (249849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144023)

On aircraft, you have the additional problem that you are moving from cell to cell much faster than the system was designed to handle. So even if you are able to lock and stay locked to a single tower, it'll have to hand you off to the next tower before it's ready to do so.

I've experienced problems which I am pretty sure are related to hopping between towers -- not on an aircraft, but when hiking in the Smokey Mountains in North Carolina. We got up to the top and I was surprised to find that I had 4 or 5 bars! However, when I tried to make calls, I was denied and the signal strength would go up and down. I believe I was seeing towers on both sides of the mountain and the system and/or my phone was getting confused.

Re: GSM text messaging (1)

bm_luethke (253362) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144116)

Ok, to begin with I am definatly not one to nitpick spelling (see my sig), but I am one that finds mispellings amusing. For example, in grade school I would consistently mispell "ship" as "shit" - which led to some *really* amusing fiction they forced us to write (given that I have always like science fiction and stories based in outer space). So do not take any of the following personal, I'm sure I have more than one mistake in this post, if not then it is a miracle. That being said:

"a long time ago I was a radio negineer"

I'm not sure what a "negineer" is, but I tend to think it is a racial slur and being relegated to just radio in the modern world makes it even worse. Please use a different one next time.

Re: GSM text messaging (3, Insightful)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144297)

The problem is that at very high altitudes, the phone "sees" hundreds of cell base stations at once, and the system isn't really designed to deal with this.

On the flip side, the phone can't deal with dozens of control signals from dozens of towers on the same channel. Normal operation a phone sees a control channel from several towers nearby on several frequencies. These control channels get geographly re-used. At altitude it's the ability to see many towers on the same frequency at the same time scramples the signal to the phone and breaks the phone ability to lock on to a control signal. This is the sudden loss of signal bars seen on an airbone phone. Too many towers in view at close to the same signal strength and on the same channels as each other.

Re: GSM text messaging (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143816)

Why do we need inflight GSM mini stations then?

The planes fuselage acts as a non-perfect faraday cage, so most of the signals get blocked, to compensate the mobile phones transmit at full power, which however isn't all that good for the planes electronic. If they have a GSM mini station on board the mobile phone will send with low power, since the signal isn't blocked by the fuselage anymore. It would of course also make the calls more stable, since there is a lot less probability for disconnects, GSM wasn't designed for planes traveling at high altitude with high speed.

Re: GSM text messaging (2, Interesting)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143835)

Load. Because one cell phone has to be in communication with probably at least 25 cell towers all at once. Down on the ground it's easy for the phone to switch towers. It has a choice of ~3, maybe more if it needs them. In the air it's getting back information it requested from all 25 line-of-sight towers (or however many get the ping, which when flying over a city would be hundreds)...and since you're flying at 500MPH, you're leaving one zone and entering the next practically every 5 seconds.

Now not to say that's a legitimate excuse, and boo-hoo for Cingular et al, but do we really want more cell towers (which, I might add, only complicates the problem) in the sky to deal with the load?

Right, because we all know (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144391)

Radio waves are dragged back down to earth by gravity. The only reason a GSM phone wouldn't work is range to the towers, and it's only 20 miles.

Re: GSM text messaging (1)

cuby (832037) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144490)

GSM http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gsm [wikipedia.org] maximum cell radius is 35Km, because of relative delay between different users (GSM uses TDM http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time-division_multipl exing/ [wikipedia.org] ). If the user is at a larger distance the system doesn't allow it to connect because of the interference on time slots of other users. Usually, the antennas don't point to the upper atmosphere so the signal, if available, will be very weak.

Just In case it gets slashdotted (and it will) (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16143720)

How much does it cost to put a rocket into space? Three engineering students at Cambridge University in the UK reckon they'll be able to do it for just £1000 ($1879). And they've just sent a lunchbox-sized aircraft, called Nova 1, into the stratosphere where it captured some very nice pictures of the Earth and the upper atmosphere.
Nova 1 was carried to an altitude of 32 km beneath a high-altitude helium balloon and snapped more than 800 images, many like the one above.

The students involved, Carl Morland, Henry Hallam and Robert Fryers, have also released a short video showing the launch in Cambridge. When the balloon carrying the Nova 1 finally burst due to expansion, a parachute deployed to carry it safely back to Earth.

Nova 1 featured some simple, off-the-shelf technology. This included GSM text messaging as well as radio for communications and an ordinary 5 megapixel camera. The students tracked their payload's descent using telemetry and by simply following it in a car.

Eventually they hope to fit a rocket beneath a balloon and use this to carry their craft to 100 km - the edge of space - all for just £1000. It would be no mean feat. Especially when you consider £1000 is about price of one door handle on the space shuttle. And that Anousheh Ansari just paid 13,245 times that for a tourist trip to the International Space Station. Good luck guys.

Re:Just In case it gets slashdotted (and it will) (1)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143946)

Why would it get slashdotted? Shashdot links to New Scientist all the time, I don't recall any problems with their web site before?

those poor /.'d fools! Put the pics on FLICKR!-n/t (1)

toby (759) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143721)

n/t

ACES (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16143726)

I was in the same program last year at a different university (LSU). The stuff is somewhat exciting, but I don't really think it's newsworthy. I feel like it only made the news because it of the famous university name tacked on...

Regardless, what they've done is an outstanding achievement. The year before mine our school tried to take a picture up there (~100,000 feet) but it didn't work because the cold temperature changed the timing of some electronics, causing them to malfunction =/

I was in charge of the thermal stuff, and let me tell you, it's pretty hard to keep it warm but not so warm that the sun toasts it. And keep in mind the payload, as they call it, could only be 500 grams!

Re:ACES (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16143814)

"I feel like it only made the news because it of the famous university name tacked on..."
"The year before mine our school tried to take a picture up there (~100,000 feet) but it didn't work because the cold temperature changed the timing of some electronics, causing them to malfunction"


There's always the outside chance that this is newsworthy because it worked?

Re:ACES (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16143888)

Maybe, but there are plenty of more exciting things that can be done with the balloon than take pictures. One can measure the UV intensity at given altitudes, the ozone profile of the atmosphere, etc...

Last year my team and I looked aat how much of the cosmic background radiation is gamma rays... And don't think that's particularly newsworthy either.

Re:ACES (1)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144214)

Maybe, but there are plenty of more exciting things that can be done with the balloon than take pictures. One can measure the UV intensity at given altitudes, the ozone profile of the atmosphere, etc...

(Disclaimer: although I work in the same lab as the CUSpaceflight folks, I'm not a member of the team and am not an official spokesperson, etc, etc)

The guys now have a lot of interest from various agencies, organizations and university departments to get them to fly payloads to do exactly that sort of thing. However, generally it's nice to have proven that you can do it before someone entrusts you their multi-thousand-pound experiment.

In addition, I don't think anyone was expecting the publicity to get this big this fast! I personally think the hype is reaching Daikatana-like levels...

Re:ACES (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144122)

The year before mine our school tried to take a picture up there (~100,000 feet) but it didn't work because the cold temperature changed the timing of some electronics, causing them to malfunction =/

I was in charge of the thermal stuff...


Hmmm. So you're saying it was your fault?

Re:ACES (2, Insightful)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144431)

The stuff is somewhat exciting, but I don't really think it's newsworthy. I feel like it only made the news because it of the famous university name tacked on...
I feel like it only made the news because the pictures were fairly stunning...

Necessity is the mother of invention (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143731)

Seems to me, if they can start launching satellites for tens of thousands of dollars, they'll have no end of business coming their way. Despite surprised optimism, sending a camera to high altitudes is no major feat. The US gov. has been sending small payloads up in balloons since WWII.

In other news, Steve Balmer was today announced as the MS space program's launch mechanism of choice.

Re:Necessity is the mother of invention (1)

jpardey (569633) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143783)

In other news, it was found that a chair was the cause of the recent leak on the ISS. Authorities have no understanding of why the chair was in orbit in the first place.

Re:Necessity is the mother of invention (1)

ncc74656 (45571) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144172)

In other news, it was found that a chair was the cause of the recent leak on the ISS. Authorities have no understanding of why the chair was in orbit in the first place.

Steve Ballmer's throwing arm must be as big around as a sequoia to have pulled that off.

Re:Necessity is the mother of invention (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143844)

Seems to me, if they can start launching satellites for tens of thousands of dollars

They can't, it looks like they want to get payload with a rocket up to 100km. Which is nice and probally usefull for some tasks, but for satellites they would need quite a bit more altitude and of course speed, else gravity will simply catch them and the whole thing falls back to earth.

Re:Necessity is the mother of invention (2, Insightful)

twifosp (532320) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143978)

Getting an object to space altitude and getting into orbit are very different things. This project uses the atmosphere's properties (the gases used being lighter than the atmosphere) to lift something to a great height. While it is no easy task, it is hardly putting something into orbit.

To put something into a stable orbit, you must not only achieve height, but tangential velocity. A rocket that is capable of achieving the neccessary velocity (around 7000 m/s depending on how heavy the object is) will probably not be lifted by a baloon any time soon.

In addition to that, 32km is not high enough to put something into orbit. You need to be around 180km to make several stable orbits. And if you want something up there for years, you need to be 250+ to avoid drag from the outer atmosphere.

This is just height. This is not orbit. There is not nearly enough energy here to make orbit.

Still, quite an amazing feat for the costs invovled. My hat is off to them.

New Aproach? (4, Informative)

Faith_Healer (690508) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143739)

This (working to launching rockets from baloons) has been done in the US for quite some time. There are plenty of student baloon payload systems and in fact this week there is a confrence going this week on adressing just this topic. As far as using baloons as a launch platform, there is group from Huntsville AL http://chapters.nss.org/al/HAL5/HALO/that [nss.org] has been launching for quite some time. Good luck to the team from the UK but if any one realy interested in getting things done, perhaps all these individual groups should join forces. Just My 2 Cents

Old Approaches (1)

Mark_MF-WN (678030) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144298)

It would be pretty surprising if such an obvious idea had just been conceived of now. I know that I've thought about balloon-launched rockets a few times, so it's a certainty that people who actually DO things with rockets are quite familiar with the idea. Most good ideas are were thought of long ago.

Really, if anything, the story is that someone is actually employing a good idea. That's where humans tend to fall down a bit. We've got all kinds of good ideas, but no one ever uses them. Like, this dude once had this idea about people being nice to each other, and yet only a handful of people have ever tried it. Another guy had this idea that it might be helpful to think sometimes. How many people do it? And a man once suggested that maybe, just maybe, we should let honest, intelligent people be our leaders rather than evil deceitful morons. No one has ever actually done so in all of recorded history. The youngest of those three ideas is already over 2000 years old.

I'm a little off-topic I think... Maybe I shouldn't read the CBC after 10pm. It just angries up the blood.

oh boy (0)

macadamia_harold (947445) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143740)

Three engineering students from Cambridge University plan to send an unmanned craft into space for £1,000 ($1,880) They should hook up with that teenager who was building a nuclear reactor in his backyard [amazon.com] .

Re:oh boy (-1, Offtopic)

leereyno (32197) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143862)

I always thought that story was an urband legend intentionally created for the purpose of underscoring just how easy it would be for a malicious person to do some real damage. Now it turns out that it was real.....scary.

This happened years before 9/11 awakened the west (or at least intellectually honest westerners) to the threat posed by islamofascism.

Imagine how much damage a group of jihadis could do with a few thousand smoke detectors, some tungsten carbide, and an engine block.

Can you say "Dirty Bomb?"

Lee

Re:oh boy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16144114)

Can you say "fucking ludicrous scare campaign [cryptome.org] "?

The fact that you've included the made-up and utterly nonsensical word "Islamofascism" (used exclusively by people who do not know anything about either fascism or Islam) should be enough to clue everyone in that you're a pants-pissing hysterical idiot. Well, that and the fact that you seem to think there's a "d" in the word "urban".

Re:oh boy (2, Informative)

Sledgy (133446) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144166)

Imagine how much fear a group scare monger's can spread by twisting facts.

Can you say http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_bomb [wikipedia.org] ?

Hmmm (2, Funny)

PeDRoRist (639207) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144460)

Maybe that's a turban legend.

Sorry.

Re:oh boy (1)

IlliniECE (970260) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143930)

oops. I misread that and thought you said "they should hook it up *to* that teenager who tried to build a nuclear reactor".

Re:oh boy (1)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144222)

They should hook up with that teenager who was building a nuclear reactor in his backyard.

One of them already built a working hydrogen fusor in his garage.

Orbit (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143749)

Not to demean their accomplishments ( I used to fly amateur - and model - rockets too, and greatly anjoyed it ) but let me know when they get into orbit. That is when really useful things can be done.
I'd contribute to a prize for that.

Re:Orbit (2, Insightful)

Alfred, Lord Tennyso (975342) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143983)

Orbit is a bit much to ask, though I think that 60 miles would be newsworthy. The amateur rocketeers have already been there, but accomplishing it on the cheap would be remarkable.

To get there from 20 miles would still require a considerable rocket, though, and I'd be very surprised to see them pull that off for under US$2k. That additional 40 miles is still a considerable event in amateur rocketry, even with the wind essentially eliminated, and that's from a standing start.

And it's a very, very long way to orbit from there (though somewhat easier if you're not planning to get whatever it is back down safely).

As usual, the press-release writers have sold an interesting event ("nice pictures taken from high up cheap") and tried to spin it into a big deal ("we're going to space!"). I imagine the actual engineers are shaking their heads.

Re:Orbit (1)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144247)

To get there from 20 miles would still require a considerable rocket, though, and I'd be very surprised to see them pull that off for under US$2k. That additional 40 miles is still a considerable event in amateur rocketry, even with the wind essentially eliminated, and that's from a standing start.

(Disclaimer: although I work in the same lab as the CUSpaceflight folks, I'm not a member of the team and am not an official spokesperson, etc, etc)

They're not planning to get to orbit, although they are planning to launch a rocket from 30k to just over 100k, with a very small payload. I'm afraid I can't discuss the specifics, although I will say that it's not actually a very large motor they're planning to use.

They've got a few other subprojects going on that aren't so big and sexy, too. The Meteor guided recovery system is likely to be much significant technology-wise, if they can get it to work.

Bah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16143751)

I go to the University of Kansas, we've been doing balloon flights for some time now, were currently attaching a rocket to a balloon, were even calling it a Rockoon. Get it? Rocket Balloon,

Re:Bah (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16143759)

Rocky raccoon checked into his room
Only to find Gideon's bible

Where's the fun in that? (1)

stefanlasiewski (63134) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143753)

What's the fun of a high altitude balloon if you can't jump from the balloon [centennialofflight.gov] ?

"During his descent, he reached speeds up to 614 miles per hour"

Re:Where's the fun in that? (1)

leereyno (32197) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143876)

He was the only human being to ever break the sound barrier without being in a craft of some kind.

Unless of course you consider his pressure suit to be a "craft."

Lee

Re:Where's the fun in that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16143878)

More information on that brass-balled man can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Kittinger [wikipedia.org]

A Google search will, of course, turn up yet more info.

why ruin a "good" idea? (1)

Desolator144 (999643) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143755)

aww, but launching a giant multi-million dollar rocket filled with liquid oxygen with 2/3 of that fuel carrying just the weight of the fuel is so terribly efficient. How dare they show how retardedly easy it is to just go up and keep going? What next, an air tight, runway take off plane that can increase in altitude until it's in space? What would we do with all the extra taxpayers' money?

Re:why ruin a "good" idea? (2, Informative)

bangenge (514660) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144164)

launching a giant multi-million dollar rocket filled with liquid oxygen with 2/3 of that fuel carrying just the weight of the fuel is so terribly efficient

because launching the rocket is EFFECTIVE, compared to a balloon that will only reach about midway/three-fourths of the way in the atmosphere, only to fall back to the earth. the rocket has enough to push at a force that will allow it to get into orbit. not efficient, but it's the only way we get the job done.

Re:why ruin a "good" idea? (1)

AaronLawrence (600990) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144329)

...just go up and keep going

It can't. It falls straight back down again. There's a small matter of mach 25 horizontal speed to achieve before it's an orbit.

"A lot less" is ambiguous (1)

Ethan Allison (904983) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143763)

How much did the test mission cost? (Just because it didn't get into space doesn't mean we can't learn from it)

Are we sure... (2, Funny)

Vermyndax (126974) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143778)

...that this isn't the mystery object NASA spotted today?

Pretty sure (0)

waxigloo (899755) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143802)

The source I found says space shuttle orbit at about 300 km --- the baloon only made it 32 km. From what I read about the mystery object, it was pretty close to the shuttle and most likely from the cargo bay.

Yes, but orbital? (3, Insightful)

caseih (160668) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143786)

Sending rockets out into space is pretty easy, but the real trick is orbit. Cheap shots to the upper atmosphere don't do a lot of good in terms of launching satellites and other objects into orbit, although I'm sure they can provide experience with the technology. Achieving orbit requires a lot more energy. There's a reason missiles and rockets are the size they are.

Re:Yes, but orbital? (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143875)

For nearly half a century now we've know how to get into orbit using less energy than the brute force rocket approach. Space tethers are well understood technology that these guys could use to pick up a payload in "space" and swing it into orbit. Tethers that reach into the atmosphere are also possible but the math is just that much harder. Rockets are not the only way to space, they just require the least amount of in-orbit infrastructure. Once you have that infrastructure up there though, they really don't make a lot of sense.

Re:Yes, but orbital? (3, Interesting)

Martigan80 (305400) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143906)

I'm sure this is also understood. The key point here I see is that these people where able to pull of such an event at the cost they did. To me this also seems as a spirited event to prove that you don't need the government or big corps to do such things. I mean for fun this is great but it just might be the trigger to get other people/groups thinking on how to proceed with the next step.

Re:Yes, but orbital? (1)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144264)

There's a reason missiles and rockets are the size they are.

Meh. From that altitude, even a little weeny rocket can hit anywhere in the UK.

More high altitude eye candy (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16143789)

A group at the NOAA Climate labs in Boulder did something similar recently. Duct taped a digital camera set to take pictures every 25 seconds to an atmospheric sounding balloon. Nice pictures of the Colorado front range from up to 90,000 feet.

http://www.cmdl.noaa.gov/gallery/balloon_flight [noaa.gov]

Raw RGB? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16143796)

What self respecting nerd posts a 20 second 240 x 320 video using Raw RGB that weighs in at 69MB??!!

Yikes! (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143833)

It's 27574.2 kbps for goodness sake!!

Re:Raw RGB? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16143961)

That's to simulate the re-entry burn the internet tubes are going through right now.

Re:Raw RGB? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16144057)

The same dorks that think they can put a unmanned craft into space for £1,000 ($1,880). LOL!

32 Kilometers = What? (2, Informative)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143804)

Some context, to help understand this: Earth's Atmosphere, as per WikiPedia. [wikipedia.org]

You can see that weather balloons are in the 18-50 km range, which is what we expect, because that's what they're using, and they got to 32 km.

flat earth believers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16143857)

I wonder what their [theflatearthsociety.org] take on the earth's curvature in those pics would be

Re:flat earth believers (1)

ozbird (127571) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143923)

Vignetting [wikipedia.org] , of course.

Re:flat earth believers (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144129)

Nonsense. Vignetting makes the corners and edges appear dark. It doesn't make straight lines appear curved. The answer is obviously that they were using a fisheye lens. These round Earthers are tricky....

Uh, no... (2, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143880)

Three engineering students from Cambridge University plan to send an unmanned craft into space for £1,000 ($1,880)...

So they're sending a high-end Dell laptop into space? It's been awhile since something blew up on the way into space.

lunatics?! (0, Troll)

toby (759) | more than 7 years ago | (#16143970)

There are houses and buildings all over the region where this was launched. It could have killed someone or at the very least caused property damage. Nobody would insure these guys. They're freaking dangerous.

Re:lunatics?! (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144018)

Missed the part about the parachute much?

Re:lunatics?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16144198)

Ok, at the risk of being called a troll (no sweat for "Anonymous Coward!"), you're a total killjoy. You've never launched an Estes rocket? And that incorporates heat. Yes, they can start grass fires, at a minimum.

My point is that there are houses and buildings all over pretty much every region, and there're a lot more dangerous experiments these kids could be involved in than that which would risk dropping a mobile phone on someone's roof. Judging the age of these guys by the picture, this was about the phase of my life that I was playing with homemade ball mills and black powder. At least these kids are accomplishing something.

Geesh.

Re:lunatics?! (4, Informative)

another_henry (570767) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144448)

We did extensive drop tests to make sure that the payload wouldn't hurt anybody if it landed on them even if the parachute failed to open properly.
The casing is made of a type of foam that is very good at absorbing impacts, and the whole thing doesn't weigh very much.
If it landed on you with the parachute open you'd just brush it off. If it landed on you without the parachute you'd get a bruised head but would be okay.

Our launches are insured with £5m public liability cover. Arranging this insurance was quite difficult though.

Something else on a shoestring (-1, Offtopic)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144027)

Space on a shoestring could be fun, especially with that five megapixel digital camera. How about something else on a shoestring? Taglit-birthright israel with Sachlav Educational Experience. [birthrightisrael.com] This is a free trip to Israel. This is not a trick to make you buy something. This is not a contest you have to win. And there's no essay to write. It is a free trip to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26. If you're eligible, you could be there this winter, connect with Israelis your age who will join your group, hike Masada, take an unsinkable swim at the Dead Sea, see the holy sites, and a whole lot more. Bring that five megapixel camera to take pictures of your new friends from the United States and Israel. This trip is an action-packed 10 days, and the entire experience is amazing and uplifting. Trips take place around late December through early January. Travel on Taglit-birthright israel. EXPERIENCE Israel FREE with Sachlav. [birthrightisrael.com] Sure beats taking a ride to space and experiencing the side effects of zero-G.

Re:Something else on a shoestring (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16144109)

Space on a shoestring could be fun [...] How about [...] a free trip to Israel.

Wait, are Israelis allowed to spam? Spam's a pork product, you know. This can't be kosher.

more info (1)

paxmaniac (988091) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144065)

There's a bit more information in the Register article [theregister.co.uk] .

Good work lads.

Big balls of Gas (0, Flamebait)

talk2sk (848657) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144104)

Firstly congratulations.

Secondly, lets not get carried away (pun intended). This is a helium balloon carrying a box with gadgets, simple and cheap yes, but heck! thats what weather balloons do.

I think it is over glorifying a simple task. What would be amazing is if they made a craft that was capable of transporting payloads or something that could be controlled (path/stability etc). Otherwise this is just a big ball of gas

Oh Noes! (1)

AWeishaupt (917501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144211)

It speaks poorly of what our society has become today when their little science project - which will be found, presumably, with the busted balloon still attached to the makeshift electronics module - needs to be labelled prominently as "HARMLESS SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT"...

Maybe we need to start putting warnings on every weather balloon instrumentation package: "NO, NOT EVERY ELECTRONIC DEVICE YOU AREN'T FAMILIAR WITH IS A BLOODY BOMB"

That's a sounding rocket (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144224)

That's a sounding rocket. In terms of performance, it seems comparable to the WAC Corporal [designation-systems.net] of 1944, or maybe the Aerobee [nasa.gov] of 1947.

Nothing wrong with building one cheaply, but it's not a step forward.

NEED TO GET THIS OUT!@!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16144245)

I've been going crazy all day watching the sales of TMX Elmo's on Ebay.com reaching the $200-350 range...and not hearing a peep from any news agencies. I know, today is the release date, but what the heck is going on?? There not running out of them at any of the local retailers...seriously though, it's been going on all day, hundreds of TMX elmo's have sold for %400+ there retail value....

I've been an ebayer for about 6 years, having sold and bought many times, and never have I seen something like this...utterly insane..

Not sure what you gues can do with this, but it is news...

Man in Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16144256)

Remember that guy with the meteorological balloon and the lawn chair who floating into the airspace of LAX?

http://www.darwinawards.com/stupid/stupid1998-11.h tml [darwinawards.com]

He should get himself a really warm coat and an aqualung, and go a bit higher!

Mobile Number (1)

ukleafer (845880) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144318)

Who wants to phone the mobile number printed on the side and tell them the sky is raining alien satellite fire.

Radio laws in UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16144375)

Sending up balloons is a lot of fun.
I've come from New Zealand, now living in the UK and in the process of doing this.

The only problem in the UK are the stupid OFCOM laws that prohibit the use of amateur radio frequencies in airborne stations. AFAIK you need the intermediate license to set up an unmanned station, but to be able to transmit from an airborne station you need to have the top amateur license, pay lots of £££ and apply for a Notice of variation (NOV) which is pretty unlikely.

The most impressive part of the whole project is not the fact they sent up a balloon (lots of people have done this, TJ Bordelons freespace website shows him doing in years ago), but the fact that they did it within the limitations set my OFCOM in the UK. In the case of this particular balloon, they managed to send 1200 baud telemtry from the balloon using only 10mW erp of power in the 434Mhz band. And thats erp, so you aren't even allowed to use a 10mW transmitter with a high gain transmitting antenna. You HAVE to use 10mW with a low gain antenna (technically speaking 0dB of gain) and then direct a high gain antenna from the ground and do one heck of a lot of DSP on the signal to get that 1200baud back out the other end.

In the US, people simply throw a 5 Watt radio hooked up to an APRS encoder and a GPS in a box with their pakage - they can pretty much use basic antennas at both ends with no problems. It helps also in the us they can use 14MHz from the air which has slightly better range for given Freq than compared to 434Mhz

very cool (1)

zxscooby (993195) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144387)

Great idea! If only more people got involved in experimenting with aerospace. We might actualy get the flying cars we've been dreaming of sense the 20th century

Subject (1)

Ricken (797341) | more than 7 years ago | (#16144484)

Sweet
I want my own BYOS-kit too! (Build Your Own Spaceship)
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