The goal of the project is to construct an atmospheric probe and equip it with different sensors. The probe will be mounted on a meteorological balloon, and lifted to approximately 35 000 m (115 000 ft). The ascent and descent will be recorded with two on-board GoPro cameras, and the probe will be tracked via GPS. The projects name is VIC GOES TO SPACE - all the students attend the VIC HIGH SCHOOL (VIC is pronounced EXACTLEY like witch :) )
This project requires a somewhat bigger group of students - around 30. It is best suited for older high school students, with a preference for natural studies (physics, chemistry and biology), and love for technical skills.
At the beginning of students were divided into teams, and each of them was assigned a specific tasks: adaptation of specific sensors, design of the probe, design of the parachute, adaptation of the data acquisition device (DAQ) and GPS device, preparation of the biological samples. During the building stage the groups had to communicate with each other in order to get optimal sensor results. Each team had to keep a work journal and make a detailed work report at the end (will be added).
Students used the VERNER sensors and DAQ - Vernier supplies most of the equipment to our school, so it was the most convenient choice for us. But you can use any kind of DAQ, sensors and GPS system you can get.
NOTE: Due to the current weather situation in Slovenija the launch date is somewhere in the beginning of march, but we published all of the test launches. The flight movie will be updated ASAP, so be sure to follow us :)
This instructable was written (except the intro) and edited by the students.
STUDENTS WILL RESEARCH THE FOLLOWING SUBJECTS
Step 1: Description of work/components
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The aim of the project is to construct an atmospheric probe equipped with sensors measuring: temperature, pressure, concentration of carbon dioxide, concentration of oxygen, UVA and UVB radiation and light measurements. We would like to see how height affects the behaviour of living organisms (in our case yeast). The probe casing is made of Styrofoam, enriched with graphite. The probe also includes a parachute, cameras and a pressure chamber.
For the probe the following equipment must be provided:
- probe casing
- carbon dioxide sensor
- oxygen sensor
- pressure sensor
- temperature sensor
- bacteria (yeast and Cryptococcus)
- light sensor UVA and UVB
- pressure chamber
- GPS tracking unit
- data collection unit
We used the Vernier sensors, and modified them. They can be found at:
Step 2: Distribution of students into groups:
Distribution of students into groups:
Step 3: Construction of the DAQ, probe tracking (GPS)
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Preparation of the DAQ and GPS tracker.
The GPS unit we use is the BLACKBLOX GPS unit, can be bought HERE.
Step 4: Making the hot wire lathe
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In order to construct the probe you will have to make the casing. Polystyrene (Styrofoam) is an excellent choice, because of its heat insulating properties. We used Styrofoam enhanced with graphite. The graphite enhances thermal insulation by 20%.
Before making a probe, you will first have to make a ''lathe''. First make the wooden holders for the end plates. For the end plates you can use any rod or stick, as long as it is thick enough to mount a plate on its end. Just place them into a ball baring and attached to the wooden holders. Then put a round or square plate on each of them. We used 25 mm thick aluminium rods and for the ends we used round aluminium plates (diameter 100 mm and 135 mm).
In between two end plates you will later put the polystyrene block.
With lab stands and some clamps you can make a stable holder for the hot wire.
Step 5: Construction of the probe casing
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Construction of the probe casing
You will need:
The probe should also be equipped with flaps, which will stabilize it during flight.
On the top and bottom cut two additional grooves, in which you will place two metal rings - they will hold both halves of the probe together.
Step 6: Carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen (O2) sensor
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Carbon dioxide and oxygen sensor:
First dissemble the sensors. While doing this be very careful not to damage them while cutting them out of their plastic casing. Trim the casing until the interior of the sensors can be removed from it. Then shorten the cables and trim the thick plastic surrounding them. Solder the shortened cables back together.
Step 7: Heated pressure chamber
Because of the extreme conditions at 35 km, you will have to construct a heated pressure chamber for the CO2 and O2 sensor (this will probably be true for any sensors you use).
For the heating element you can place the resistor wire between two layers of silvertape. If the wire gets too hot it will melt the tabe though - so be careful not to overdo it.
We used an old spring scale in a tube. All we did was put an O-ring on the outer end and drill doles in the inner one. Then we used silicone to glue it to the chamber - and it worked !
Step 8: Pressure and temperature sensor modification
Pressure and temperature sensor modification in 4 easy steps:
Step 9: Live crew - yeast and extremophiles
Live crew - steps we took
Step 10: Light sensor modifications
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Light sensor modifications
Step 11: Cameras
You can use any camera you want, but the better the camera, the better the captured images. We used 2 GoPr HDHero 2 cameras - a donation from the national supplier - THAAAAAAAANK YOU!!!!
One camera will record the side view, and the other the down view. As we plan to launch in the early morning hours, we hope to capture the moment of the sunrise :)
Step 12: The PARACHUTE
In order to test the optimal design we designed three different types of parachutes:
If you are going to make your own you should first:
calculate the estimate weight of the load and then make an appropriate stencil for the parachute gores. We found the calculations at:
Then you should:
After we made all three designs we went out and tested them. At the end we decided to go with the one that has a hole in the middle. We took the gore stencil to KIMFLY a local parachute manufacturer, and he made the parachute for us out of some special parachute fabric. After all trash bags at 115 000 ft didn't seem a good idea at all!
Step 13: Probe assembly
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You will have to:
At the end we install all the components inside the probe and assembly it all together. We position the components in the probe. We make the final probe casing and install the remodelled sensors, the camera, extremophiles and the parachute.
Step 14: Test launch
We tested the probe by throwing it from the roof of a large shopping mall - approximately 100 meters high. Below are the pictures and images of the testing.
The testing was a success, and now all we need to do is wait for the right weather conditions and launch the probe. According to the national aviation agency we will be able to launch the probe on the 3rd of MARCH, so expect an update on the same day !!!
Step 15: THE LAUNCH
The probe will be launched via a weather balloon. We will be using the Kaymont HAB-3000, which can climb to an altitude of approximately 35 000 meters. (115000 ft)
The balloon is connected directly to the top of the parachute, and the parachute directly to the probe. there is no direct connection between the balloon and the probe. After the balloon bursts the probe will start to fall freely and the parachute will open. As it descends toward the ground the air density will increase and so will the air drag. The speed of the probe will therefore decrease as it is approaching the ground.
The balloon will be filled with 10 m3 of helium. The starting balloon diameter will therefore be 2,3 m, and just before bursting the diameter will be 13 m!!!! (thats aloooooooot)
We expect to reach a lift velocity of 7 m/s and fall velocity of approximately 7 - 10 m/s. The probe will touch the ground after about 118 minutes of flight.
Step 16: The Launch - finally
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First I apologize for the impossible long response time. Of course we launched the probe on 3rd of May as promised. But - and here’s the important part - the tracking system on approximately one half of the way. On an altitude of about 24 km the device automatically switched into the air-plane mode and stopped transmitting. Unfortunately for us, it didn’t go back into the operation mode on the way down so the probe was lost.
Luckily after it fell the device stayed in contact with the local GSM antenna for about two hours. After about a week, when we got all the necessary papers for the legislator, the location was finally revealed to us, and after another three weeks of search we finally found it deep in the Slovenian forests.
The movies were there given to the local TV station for cutting and editing, and after some time we finally got the finished result - and here it is ENJOY.
As for the future, we are planning to launch another probe in September, and then we’ll hopefully have more material and especially more data to show.