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Here are the latest happenings at JPA               


New Video

                                              The Missions         
     This is a snappier version of the Long Road video.

Today we did a bit of of hardware and a bit of software. Paul and Karl worked on the balloon release
system housing. It's a fiberglass shell with smooth high density plastic end caps. The parts were molded
last week. Today they got cutout, trimmed, drilled and sanded. This unit will be for Away 30.

All the GPS's for the 29 and 30 missions were reset to factory defaults and reconfigured to mission specs.
After a dozen missions it hard to be sure that there's not some odd setting used in the past that will come
back and bite you. The reset cures all that.

Away 30

                                          Away 30 
   Balloon Configuration:  (1) 3000g balloons
   Vehicle Weight: 19 pounds
   Climb Rate: 1100 feet per minute
   Peak Altitude: 101,000 feet


Mission Reconfiguration

Just when you think you're getting close.... As the Away 29
mission approaches we've found out that the
balloons we wanted to use won't be available before the launch date. We're using the next sized smaller
instead. This means the flight weight must be reduced by 1/3. That's ten pounds of equipment and payload.

Well, rather then subtract we're adding. On the next mission we'll be flying two vehicles. The original
mission goals for Away 29 will be split between the Away 29 and Away 30. The new Away 30 will be a
high rack, however it won't have the camera boom mounts. All the PongSat (680) will be on 30 in a saddle
bag directly under middle deck. The six camera array will be on 29. Both with have a command system
well as beacons, backup balloon release and tracking systems.

The challenge will be getting the second vehicle in the air quickly after the first. The tighter the takeoff the
tighter the landing area.This dual flight also gives mission control a chance to expand there abilities.

We're calling these "precision missions". Every part, drop of glue and piece of tape is getting weighed to a
tigher lever then before. The helium will be meter into each balloon. We're trying to hit a very tight set of climb
rates and peak altitudes. We'll also be measuring field conditions and adjusting accordingly. This is part of the
process of taking the game to the next level, honing the skills we need for the advanced ATO work.

Away 29 will be launched first. Thirty minutes later Away 30 will lift off. Away 30 will have a slightly higher
climb rate. It will pass Away 29 at about 60,000 feet. We'll try to get images from one platform to to other
as they pass.

        Away 30      Plugging Away
Karl and Paul with the Away 30 rack.             Kevin and Bob wrestling with software.

New Videos

Rockoon Launch
In 1999 we launched a Rockoon to 72,233 feet. The platform carried the rocket to 29,000 feet. There it was
remotely launched. The rocket climbed to peak altitude transmitting it's GPS location every second.

This video shows the lift from the ground then cuts to the on board camera. The camera was mounted on a servo
that could point toward the platform, the ground or up toward the balloons. When the rocket was launched we had
the camera pointed up hopeing to catch the rocket flying away. You can see the smoke, but sadly you can't see the
rocket. The video was transmitted live and recorded in the mission control van. It's a little grainy, but I bet you'll never
see anything else like it.

                                         Rabbit Balloon   
We are always experimenting with balloon design. This one is called a Rabbit balloon. It was designed for
very fast climbs.          

                                And remember to click the ads at the end of the videos, it's really helps keep us in the air.


Airship Development Videos
We film everything we do. It helps figure things out when something goes wrong. It also creates a archive of the
great moments of the program. I've been going through the old tapes to see what cool moments I can find.

            Away 22 Launch                                             Ascender 90                                Ascender 175     
 Launch of the propeller test Away mission.            Ascender 90                                       Ascender 175

if you click the ads, we'll keep the missions coming.

Away 29 and the gang.



New rockoon page.
Here are some highlight of the JPA Rockoon launches.
It shows a bit of the history of our rockoon program.

New video: Floating at the Edge

Here's a short clip from up top. It was filmed at 96,000 feet on the Away 25 mission.
                                                    Floating at the Edge


New Video: Away 20

Away 20 was a JPA made balloon. It was a prototype for Ascender and Dark Sky Station inner cells.
We flew it in 2002. Away 20 climbed to 91,000 feet.  Here are some Away 20 pics.

                                                     Away 20

                                                                                           Be sure to click the ad at the end, thanks!


New videos: Early Ascenders                                       

The first video is a twenty foot Ascender, the second is a ninty foot Ascender. Both videos have an ad at the end.
We get a few pennies everytime you click on the ads. The more clicks the more missions!

                                        Mini Ascender                                   Ascender 90

              There have been seven Ascenders altogether. They ranged from 5 foot to 175 foot vehicles.


We had a great build session yesterday.

Two camera controllers were modified, main and backup. The change was to add a toggle switch and resistor to an I/O
pin on the stamp computer.  This allows us to have two modes, hold and flight. The camera auto offs after thirty
seconds if no commands are sent.  This is a problem if you are preping six camera on one controller. By the time you've
turned on camera six, camera one has shut down. The modification allow you to have  a mode that just pipes a 'stay on'
command to all the cameras until the toggle is flipped putting the system into flight mode. Now it's on to the software side. 

Balloon bags use more velcro then the mind can grasp.  The sewing machine was humming and another panel
completed. Only 81 velcro squares to go....

One of the interfaces on the primary controller is still giving us trouble. Either it didn't like the cold and vacuum from the
mission before last or being slammed into the Earth on the last mission. Either way it's being retired and we're building

The back up balloon release system, the popper, was put thorugh a mission duration test. Everything gets tested
between flights. This is especially important after the 'hard landing' from the last mission. It triggered right on time.

New videos
We put three more videos up on the revver site, (see below). Be sure to click on the ad at the end!

The big time
Lockeed and Boeing look out. Were ready to compete head to head. We now have our own water cooler....
Can big government contracts be too far away?

                      The water cooler


We've put eight videos up at the Revver video sharing site. These are short versions of the videos
on our video page.


Help us fly! Watch the videos and click on the ad at the end. We get a few cents everytime you do.
Tell you're family, friend and even people you don't know!


I'm back from Rhode Island. The Society for Amateur Scientists conference was held in Providence.  
I received the Benjamin  Franklin Citizen Scientist Award. It was a real honor. I've got to tell you it really
felt good. I had to sew an acre of nylon when I got back just to get my head back on straight.

The team is back in the swing of things working on the Away 29. Kevin made new camera housings
and parachute decks, Paul and K'John fought with the sewing machine putting weight pockets on the
balloon bag tear panels and Bob edited code on the main flight controller.

Time to head back in. The camera controller need a software modification. The controller is running four
more cameras than before.


New Video

              Away 26, the remix

                                     Away 26 The Remix

SuperNova Digital Productions came out to the Away 26 mission. They filmed the team doing their thing in the desert. 
Now they feel like space rock stars. Away 26 has become our most videoed mission yet.

For more clips, check out the video page.


Saturday was spent cutting fabric. The balloon launch bags we used on the Away 27 mission are getting an upgrade.
They were designed so they can handle two sizes of balloon with too much trouble.  The balloons for the next mission are
much larger. The bag is expanded through the tear panel.  The two foot wide panels are replaced by a eight foot wide panels.
With all the velcro, pockets and attachments, it's a two week sewing job.

Here is a  picture of the balloon we made for the Away 20 mission.  This was from a night inflation test. We did the test
at night to avoid even the slightest breeze.

 inflation test  


On Wednesday the world lost a great explorer and scientist with the passing of Dr. James Van Allen.
His pioneering work with balloon launched rockets were the original inspiration for our work here at JPA.
He was flying to space on no budget when NASA was still blowing up Vangards.

Doctor James Van Allen didn't just contribute to the concept of low cost space access or private spaceflight
he invented them.

His research, studies and accomplishments are so numbious it's had to image he was just one guy.
When I'm reseaching the upper atmosphere, or space weather, the old studies from the sixties have his name
all over them. When the new cutting edge work comes out, I'm always amazed, but never suprised, that it's by
Dr. Van Allen.

The team send their thoughts and bests wishes to his family, friends and colleagues.  


Here's a Ascender drawing from 2003. This shows the general helium vent placements for Ascender 175.
More Ascender pics here.
 Large Ascender Vent Placement  


We had a very productive build session on Saturday.

A new insulated camcorder housing was finished and new housings for the still cameras were started.

The flow meter received epoxy seals over the hard joints and
connections. Helium always finds a way to leak,
but, I think this will stop it cold.

Away 29, like Away 27 will carry six digital still cameras. On Away 27 each pair of cameras was run by a controller.
On Away 29 one controller will run all six cameras. This will save weight, but more importantly it will simplify the
system. It means two less systems to prep, check and seal on launch morning. Saturday we built the wiring harness.
Translation: Lots of detailed soldering.

The rings new clothes. The
carbon airship ring are enclosed in nylon sleeve. The sleeves themselves were finished
a few days ago however all the attachments, loops, and elastic were sewn on Saturday.


The Away 29 mission is coming together.  The structure is complete. Now it down to repackaging the systems and
mounting them
.  We're adding one new system on board. A small electric motor and a propeller.  This will be a small
one, not like the big one below. The motor and prop will be fully instrumented up. It will be a shake down for the sensors
at 100,000 feet.

May-June-July 06 what's new page.

March-April 06 what's new page.

January-February 06 what's new page.

October, November ,December 05 what's new page.

August September 05 what's new page.

July 05 what's new page.

May-June 05 what's new page.

March-April 05 what's new page.

February 05 what's new page.

January 04 what's new page.

  Back to the JPA home page.

This page was last edited on November 8, 2006
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