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Here are the latest happenings at JPA              


PongSats are Here!


PongSats have starting to arrive for the Away 33 mission. The colorful ones are really cool.

The new balloon release controller is complete and all packaged up. Today the mission times will
be programmed in to both the new and old one. Then the testing will start. These units are the final
backup to the backup. There job is to release the balloons should everything else fail. They
will need to pass three full duration tests to be flight ready.


It's been busy!

A few big jobs were tackled, and many small ones completed. Among Saturdays efforts:
    Reinstalled all wiring for the comm systems in mission control van.

    Built another backup balloon release circuit.
    Constructed two parachute decks, one for Away 32 and the other for Away 33.
    Reorganized and loaded the mission control field equipment.
    CAD work on an unmanned mach airship we'll be building in a couple of years.

           Here's Bob!                                      Away 32-33
We just got Bob back from the vet and he kept bitting his ears.                        The team with Away 32 and 33.

             sigh......                                    Working hard     
               I can't take these guys anywhere....        Actually these are the hardest working folks in aerospace. They're the ones that are making it happen.


The missions are getting a little restructuring as we get closer. The reel system is being moved from
Away 32 to Away 33. All the vehicles on this mission (3) will be under one balloon each instead of two.
Both vehicles are getting antenna upgrades.

        Looking sharp                  Kevin and the battery box.
     Mission control is almost ready!              Still a few more details to go.


More mission prep.

Saturday we worked on getting ready for the next flight.  Kevin mounted the wide LCD monitor in the van.
The one big monitor is taking the place of lots of smaller ones. It will make mission control a lot less cluttered
and make it easier to track multiple vehicles in flight.

It was also a day for all the little things that go into a mission. The team molded carbon balloon inserts, cut out
fabric for a new parachute, inventoried antennas and of course sewed.


It's a privilege to work in beautiful places.

  Morning in the Desert                    Big Sky
                Morning in the desert.                                                                               Big Sky

These were taken by K'John during the Away 28 mission in the Black Rock desert.


The upgrades to the mission control van are nearly done. I'm really looking forward to seeing her shine on the
next mission.
The crew really put in a big effort Saturday. In addition to van work more sewing was done on the
launch bag, a strut on the new airship was repaired and good progress was made on the crew module.

  Van almost done           More sewing                     Cleaning the battery box 
 Down to the finishing touches.                Will the sewing ever end......      K'John and Karl took on the ugly task of de-grunging the battery box.


Lost and found camera

K'John's missing camera turned up in the car of another team member. K'John had some great pics.
Here are a few:

               Space Vacuum!                                     Away 27 balloon launch bags              
   Space Vacuum filming a music video at our shop.            Away 27 balloon launch bags.       

                       Away 27 in flight                                          K'John      
                        Away 27 in flight.                                                     K'John of the Desert


Reel Test

After lots of little adjustments and studying up on escapements the test reel was working. We tested it with 2.5, 5.5
then with 8 pounds of load. The first two worked great. On the third the excapement, (the part that stops and starts the
gear) broke.  When the wooden test reel can lower 20 pounds we start making the molds for a carbon fiber version.
The carbon reel will be  a lot lighter and stronger then the wooden one.


Mission control rebuilding, wooden clocks and more sewing.
The new aft bench was installed in the van Saturday. It's a storage compartment and a seat for the
second mission controller. The last of the new floor was put down in the back compartment. The third
large launch bag is coming together. There is still a lot of sewing to go, however we want to have three bags
ready to go for the April flights. Away 32 will reel down 600 feet from the balloon after launch. We've taken
a standard balloon reel and enlarged it by 3X.  The prototype is wood and looks like a medieval clock.
The flight version will be made of carbon.

Working on the van bench  Natalie and tile  Saint Paul  The Clock    



Playing with the big guy.

                                                                  Playing with the big guy. 
To assemble the Ascender 175 the envelope had to be floated. We then moved it back and landed
it on top of the external structure.

Playing in the Sky

                                                                Away 25  
View off the side of Away 25 at 95,000 feet. We just started back down. The remains of a balloon hung down
in front of the camera.


It was a sunny day Saturday so it was back on the Mission Control van. Now that we've torn it all apart it's
time to put it back together.

      The new desk           Here's Ed!   
          In with the new desk.                    I know there's a bolt hole here somewhere.....


Teachers and students are starting to sign up their PongSats for the April mission. About 200 are
on board so far.
We have room for about 600 on this mission.

We're considering moving the Away 31 mission back to April. We would fly it on the same day
as Away 32 and 33. None of the engineering questions each one answers relies on any of the others
so program wise it's OK. It saves quite a few dollars in logistics costs. It does make for a challanging day.
Away 32 and 33 will need to be launched within an hour of each other so they get into the same air mass.
This will put them down into the same recovery area. Away 31 had a very different flight profile. It will be
going high and long. It will need a seperate recovery effort. We've done two in a day. I guess it's time to
push operations and try three.


Pics from the build session.

           Sewing, cutting, programming.           Disco is Life!    
        Sewing, cutting and configuring.                   Disco is life!


It's back on to mission prep. The team cut out the stabilizer fins and built the upper shelf/fin mount for Away 32 and 33. 

We began configuring the telemetry system for Away 31. Finally, what would spaceship building be without sewing.
The two halves of the first giant tear panels for the new balloon launch bags were joined.

Several team members who shall not be named, (Kevin and Bob) arrived before me on Saturday. Now, as a result,
there is a 18 inch disco ball suspended in the middle of the mission control van. sigh....

On Friday I did two hours on the Space Show radio program. Here's the mp3 of the talk.


Way back in July 1999...

We were looking for a batter way to recover the rocket launch boxes after they were released from the balloons.
In one series of experiments we attached wings to launch box. First we flew a 1/2 scale version then a full scale
launch box..
  Scale Flyback glider  Loading flyback  Flyback and carrier ultalight
1/2 scale winged rocket launch box.      Loading on the ultralight.                                       The climb.
     Release                                               Full sized flyback    
We flew nine 1/2 scale flights from the ultralight.              JPA pilot John Kirkpatrick with the full scale flyback.

The full scale flybacks were dropped from balloon. Not nearly as much fun as the aircraft drops.


On this week's episode of 'This Old Van'....

Time to install the new floor.

 Pulling up the old rug.     Stripped down to the bare floor.   Here's Kevin  and Bob
Out with the old carpet.                   Down to bare floor.              Here's Kevin!      We're thinking about making a "Bob" bobble head.  

      It's the Bee Gees!!!             Getting back to work.          Looking good!       
   And now, the Bee Gees!!!                            OK, back to work...                                          Ta Da!

If Martha Stewart has a contest for best mission control van, we are soooo there.

Next, we will be installing the new desk and bench.  Then it's on to reinstalling the command/control electronics.


This year is just flying by. The mission todo lists just keep on growing. Little by little task keep getting
crossed off. Today another thirty feet of Velcro was sewn on to the large balloon bag tear panel. One
thing that stubbornly did not get crossed off the list was removing the frame of the electronic rack out of the
mission control van. I now have a greater appreciation for the vehicle's construction. The rack mount and
siding are actually slightly larger then the space that they're in. This makes it very solid and vibration free
when bouncing over the back country. However, it makes getting it out......

                                                    Airship Motor Mount

                                              Airship motor mount
This is the motor, (with the prop pulled), and the cross truss of the Ascender 175 airship.


Another day of writing and mission control van tear down. We're replacing the rug with linoleum tile.
It's more practical for use out in the dusty/muddy desert. Unfortunately the entire electronics rack is
bolted to the floor over the rug. After unplugging a truly frightening number of wires and cables all of
the racks are out. Getting the rack frame out is a job for tomorrow.

Flat Airship

Here's the Ascender 175 airship, at least the envelope, without any air or helium.

                Flat Airship           Flat Airship 2        


     Dark Sky Station One
The balloon teams are waiting for "Go to Attach".  This is the morning of May 19, 2001. Dark Sky Station One
 is being prepared for launch. In about twenty minutes she's start her climb to 46,000 feet.


Saturdays Build Session

Paul Sewing Kevin Sorting Desk and C\cabinets gone! New build
           More Velcro squares!             What to throw away, what to keep...                  Gutted                                   Rebuilding
With more sophisticated missions on the way, the ground equipment must be up to the task.  The interior of the
mission control van is getting a full makeover. The desk and all of the cabinets were pulled out. The new desk
will be twice as long. This will give the mission control team a lot more work space.A big flat screen is getting
mounted on the wall. We will be able to monitor all the flight systems from this one screen. That will also open up
a lot of space. All this new leg room will be filled with more capacity and abilities. Old Number 14 (the van's name
from its old news station days), is becoming the premiere rolling mission control. Houston, step aside....

Next week we'll be installing the new floor and desk.

Great progress was also made on the backup balloon launch bag.  All this infrastructure work isn't as exciting as
the rockets and airships, but it sure does pay off when you're on mission.


I've narrated another video. This is the rockoon flight to 72,232 feet. We're in the process of waking this
technology back up use in the Mach Glider program.

                                           Rockoon Launch
                                          Rockoon Launch   

More writing and sewing...  The first of the new larger balloon launch bag tear panels is nearly done.
Only fifty
-six feet of Velcro and one twenty-eight foot seam to go!


Pic from the past.

        MicroSat Launcher Prototype
This was the prototype of the upper stage of the MicroSat launcher rocket. In September 1999 we flew it
to 10,000 feet. The prototype had a fiberglass airframe. The current ML, the block four, has a carbon airframe
and fins with a Kevlar nose.


Saturday it was inflated structures and carbon shells.

Here is the inner and outer carbon shells that makeup the core of Away 31.

                                      Away 31 structure

Our first airbeam gave us all a surprise. It was intended to give us a feel for the technology.
I didn't expect it to hold any real load and half expected it to burst before it obtained any rigidity.
The airbeam weighed in at 6 ounces yet held 40 pounds. All that weight with less then two psi
of pressure inside. The airbeam was significantly stiffer then an equivalent weight carbon structure.

   Outer shell and inner cell Just a few pounds A little more... Full load              


It's been a huge week for writing. Reports, proposals, and promotions have meant a lot of time in the
office and little time in the shop.  However, we couldn't resist a little work on the air beam.

                   Air beam shell
Fabric shell of the air beam


There is so much enabling technology out there, I'm appalled that we're not on Pluto by now.
The trick to harnessing it all for space systems. 

Today we're building an air beam. An air beam is an inflatable strut. Mach gliders, Ascenders and
Dark Sky Stations will all be using these.  Later this year we'll haul one up to 100,000 feet on an Away
mission and see what it can take. This is one of those technologies that should work better at altitude
than at sea level.


56 feet of Velcro was sewn on today. I think it's my personal best. If sewing launch systems were an Olympic sport,
I'd be in the running for the gold. This was part the launch bag modifications. 

The Video page had gotten an update. Between here, Revver and YouTube, JPA has a lot of video out there.


We've gotten a great media response from the video ads. Here are a few news pieces:


                                Ad Rant:


                                Blackhole News

                               Balloons are cool...
                 Paul and his balloon
Sometimes we work hard and sometimes we just lay around playing with balloons. Actually we're calibrating
the helium flowmeter. We put one hundred cubic feet of helium in the balloon as measured by the meter. Then
we see how much the balloon will lift. After a little number crunching and part weighting we know how to
adjust the meter values.


JPA is now offering video ads. The press releases are out. The media response has been great.
Superbowl commercial, here we come!

On the assembly front the instrumentation for Away 31 is moving along. Assembly the tachometer in on the
list for today.  And yes there's been more sewing, sigh... The pocket runs for the new launch bag are nearly all
hemmed. The last two will be done today.


Lots of companies out there have offered space related ad space. JPA's own high altitude ads
have been a
great success. However, it's time to turn space media up a notch.  Watch this space tomorrow...


Calibration, Cutting and Cleaning.
Saturday was a odds and ends day. We calibrated the voltage monitoring system, pressurized and leak tested the
helium flow meter, and the always patient Paul cut fabric for the backup balloon launch bag.

We also started stripping down the mission control van. We got the first task done, pulling all the stuff out. It's amazing how much
stuff can accumulate over the years. Some of the broken woodwork was pulled and is getting rebuilt.  

  Karl Measuring      Space Cabinetry     Van
I know there was a electron here somewhere...    Space Cabinetry!!!!                                           It hasn't been this clean since Mercury.


Here's one for the Art Page.

                           Sending out the Fleet  						
    Senting out the Fleet


A heartfelt thank you out to Kevin !!!

He sent a great Christmas present to JPA in the form of laptops, electronics, books and a new solder station.
All will be put to good use in the intense year ahead.

We've got a big year planned. Here's what's in the pipeline.

    Away 31 Plasma Drag Reduction Experiment
    Away 32 Reel Down Test/PongSats

    Away 28 Roller Deployed Balloon High Mission, (we're already flown 28 on tether flights).

    Airship to 100,000 feet.

    Away 33 Plasma Drag Reduction Experiment Two

    Common Architecture Crew  Module completed.

    All Carbon Spaceflight Rocket Ground Launch

    Full Spaceflight Dress rehearsal, Platform, un-fueled rocket to 100,000 feet.

Missions are just the tip of the iceberg. This list represents a huge amount of  testing, gluing, cutting, soldering
and composite work.  One of the other big projects for this year a referbing the mission control van,
"Pimp Mission Control".

This big push will lay the basis for advanced ATO testing in 2008. This will give us the tech to fly missions like
airship and rocket deployed inflated hypersonic vehicle flights, (Mach Gliders).

As much fun the advanced projects are we're not forgetting where the important work lay. With the PongSats and
students. If we're in the sky you can be sure that thousands of folks are flying with us.

This is the year we really need your support. If you were thinking about buying a DVD, nows the time.

October-December 06 what's new page.

August-September 06 what's new page.

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 March 29, 2007
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