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Here are the latest happenings at JPA              


The missions on deck

Away 32 Mission Objectives                                                                            

Take customer ad images
Test  Tandem carbon nozzle/valve inserts
Test  metered balloon fill
Test new spread spectrum telemetry system
Peak altitude above 100,000 feet
Bag deployment testing
Dual mission operation
Mission Control upgrade shakedown

Away 33 Mission Objectives

Carry PongSats to high altitude
Test  reel down system
Test  metered balloon fill
Dual mission operation
Peak altitude above 100,000 feet
Bag deployment testing

                            Away 32                                                                            Away 33    

Away 32             Away 33


Valve Molding Part Two

The upper compression mold worked so well we decided to remake the first half of the valve.

 Making a valve part 1  Carbon valve part 2  Carbon valve part 3
Curing and cured halves.                       Getting the part out of the molding system is more than half the battle.

 Carbon valve part 4   Carbon valve part 5   Carbon valve part 6  Carbon valve part 7  
       Upper compression mold  

 Carbon valve part 8  Carbon valve part 9  Carbon valve part 10  Carbon valve part 11
     Almost off                                                                                                                                      Rough trimmed

The halves will be joined together with a balsa/Kevlar core in between. The valve is for the new airship
however, we will fly it on Away 32. This will give it a good shakedown test.


PongSats from Belgium

PongSats come from all over. The latest arrived from Sint Pieterscollege in Brussels. They made it safe
and sound
through the hardest part of the journey to the edge of space; transatlantic shipping. They have
flown with us before and always create the most amazing PongSats. 

The second half of the valve (see 4/23/07), was pulled from the mold. In order to get the heavy carbon to
form to the sharp angles of the mold an upper compression mold was made. This second mold sits on top
of the carbon in the vacuum bag.  This weekend the parts will be joined. 


Sometime balloons point up sometimes they point down.

                                      Away 25
                                             Away 25 at 96,000 feet

More PongSats have arrived. I looks like Away 33 will have just over 250 on board.


Be sure to check out the musical sponsor for the Away 33 PongSats, Cowboys in the Sky!


Molding the Valve

While I was meeting and pitching in D.C., the team was at the shop getting the mission together.

 GPS Repair    Laying up the part    Bagging
GPS Repair                                                   Valve Layup                       Into the vacuum bag

     Ready for baking          First Half 
          Ready for baking                                                Cool!

After the other half is molded, they will be trimmed and joined.

Near Space Conference

Strike that! Make it the "High Altitude" Conference. That no man's land above airplanes and below satellites
has been renamed again. An Air Force official read orders that the term "Near Space" can no longer be used
by any government agency. Those now forbidden words cannot not be used in papers, presentation, funding requests,
proposals etc. There is apparently an international treaty problem with the term "Near Space". The new official words
are "High Altitude" or "Far Air". This created a problem for all the government presenters who had the term "Near Space"
plastered all over there power points.

I came away from the conference feeling pretty good about JPA.  Much of the cutting edge tech shown were things
we've already done. We are managing to keep pace with the big guys, even those with multi-million dollar budgets.
There were plenty of snickers from the big players. I just smiled.....



JP goes to Washington......

I'm presenting on Friday at the Near Space and High Altitude Systems Conference in Washington, D.C.
It's looking like a who's who of high altitude work. All the cutting edge vehicles will be represented. I hope to
shake things up a bit with the new JPA airship. We have the advantage that most of other vehicles are
artist concepts where ours is sitting out in the shop.

At the moment I'm sitting at the Midway airport in Chicago on a layover.  Another hour and it's back on the low altitude


Rain, Transmissions and Edge of Spacecraft.

The rain is coming down and we're looking for a launch date for Away 32 and 33.  The crew is down to 
mounting the systems on the vehicles. Satuday we also build a new mold. This mold will makes a part for
the new airship.
 On the way home from the last trip out to the desert the mission control van stopped shifting
into third gear. Now it looks like 'Old #14' will needs a new transmission. I wonder if NASA ever has these

      Paul with Away 33                              Bob plugging away  
     Paul adding a rigging to Away 33.                    Bob is configuring Away 32 controller for flight.

      PongSat!                                               New Mold
A great set of PongSats with sensors and solar panels.         A mold for a core of a valve for the airship, (say that three times fast).



Yuzoz, the space random number generator people, have put up an interview with yours truly.
I hope I didn't embarrass the team too much...

Check them out! They helped support the Away 29 mission.


More PongSats!

More PongSats have arrived for the upcoming mission. One group wrote out a hypothesis and state of initial
conditions for each experiment. They are really learning the scientific method! Another group is flying a very
sophisticated set of PongSats with a wide range of sensors. We expect about 20 PongSat will have on-board
systems that will need to be turned on before flight.

More Carbon Parts.

We designing another mold for a carbon part. This one is tricky, it's load bearing and will have helium flowing
through it. It's for the new airship. We are going to try and have it done in time to be testing on Away 32.


Experience Builders

We spend a lot of time hanging out in the upper atmosphere. We do this for a bunch of reasons: it builds up
the experience we need to build the ATO system, it allows us to test hardware for the Dark Sky Station and
Ascender airships and PongSats need to fly.

       Away 24 Lift off          Up Top  
       Lift off of Away 24                                    View from Away 25

                                                 Site of the Day

                          We made the Red Orbit Site of the Day!


"Making a Part", Episode 2

Today we put the reel together. First the side bars were marked and drilled. Then the small parts, guide plates and
drag bars were cut out. The drag bars were glued in place, and the two halve joined. Lastly the guide plates were
screwed in. A check on the scale shows the weight, (without line) to be 4.7 ounces. The wooden version weighted
in at 15 ounces. I did a quick load test just to see if it could take it. I piled on 38 pounds and bounced it around. It
held great. The flight load for the first reel mission is 17 pounds. Before the flight we'll load test it to 60 pounds and
do a 600 foot reel out.

       Aligning the holes           Drilled and trimmed
                        Aligning                                                      Trimmed and Drilled

              Reel assembled                                   Ready to reel        

        Drag bars and guide plates in place.                                Ready to reel!


The team was flying on Saturday. A huge chunk of the todo list was knocked off.  We checked in PongSats,
installed instrument panel mockups in the crew module, sewed balloon launch bags, continued getting
the mission control van ready for the next flight and more.

One of the tests we will be conducting on the Away 33 mission will be the reel down.  Once the vehicle is
flying under balloons the reel will be released. The vehicle will reel down 600 feet below the balloon.  We need
this ability for a mission we're flying next year, so the time to test is now. We've been testing a wooden reel. It
will now slowly lower from 17 to 40 pounds. At first we tried a clockwork escapement system. This worked well,
but the drag based system is more robust.  It's was time to build the flight weight reel. We want to keep it as light
as possible. Our goal is to have it only a few ounces above the weight of the spool and line. To get there we
made the parts out of vacuum bonded carbon and balsa wood. Here's this week episode of:
                                                      " Making a Part "  

         Wooden reel               Making the mold        Laying up the mold      
              Wooden test reel.                                 Making the mold.                                  Carbon layup.
         Balsa core     Top carbon layer   In the vacuum bag         
                                 Balsa core.                                          Top cap carbon layer.                 All vacuumed down.

         Out of the bag  off the mold   rough cut  
    Out of the vacuum bag with the peal plys still on.    Mold and part, one layup makes two parts.                Rough cut.
This is a basic technique we use to create VERY lightweight, high load components.  It's amazing to go from drawing
to parts in the same day. Great going folks!        

           Tomorrow's episode: Trimming and Assembly!

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This page was last edited on June 13, 2007
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