Yagi antenna used on near-space balloon project

A Low Power Radio Solutions product story
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Edited by the Electronicstalk editorial team Dec 6, 2010

Low Power Radio Solutions has provided a high-sensitivity, omnidirectional Yagi antenna to four amateur space enthusiasts who have now managed five high-altitude balloon flights into near space.

The balloon is fitted with a computer probe and digital cameras to send information back to Earth as live internet events.

Spacebits is the brainchild of four technology enthusiasts from Portugal, and was created with the goal of launching a high-altitude balloon (HAB) fitted with a computer probe into near space over Portugal.

The helium-filled balloon will go as high as 30,000m, to the stratosphere, where it explodes and the probe falls to Earth on a parachute for recovery and reuse.

HABs have been in use for many years by scientific institutions and universities and now with the availability of internet communication and low-cost electronics, microcontrollers and sensors, DIY communities and individuals have been able to afford similar projects.

The Spacebits balloon sends its co-ordinates and sensor measurements live to the Spacebits website, where the flight can be followed on a real-time dashboard and an interactive map.

Spacebits also tweets its status and co-ordinates in real time to Twitter.

The motivation for the Spacebits team was to prove it could build a successful HAB, send working instrumentation into near space and recover the payload at the end of the flight.

The first flight was carried out in May 2010 and the second was on the 11 August 2010.

The second flight was carried out to overcome some technical problems with the first one and to prove the success of the project design.

A Kaymont KCI 1500 meteorological balloon was used for the flight and it required 7,000 litres of helium.

The payload box was limited to 1.5kg to ensure the 30,000m goal was achieved, operating temperatures at 10,000m are down to -5C and low pressure and condensation are issues.

The payload has to survive in flight turbulence and landing impact at around 30km/h.

The main computer reads data from a two-axis gyro and three-axis accelerometer, barometric, temperature and humidity sensors, a compass module and optical dust sensor, and a GPS sensor.

The main computer also logs the information to an on-board SD card logger and sends radio signals back to Earth.

Two digital cameras - one fitted to the bottom of the payload box and the other on the side - took continuous time-lapse images throughout the flight.

Low Power Radio Solutions manufactures the easy-Radio-Advanced (eRA) out-of the-box wireless module solution and is a distributor for Circuit Design, Prowave and Airwave transmitters, receivers, transceivers and antennas.

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