are the latest happenings at JPA
PongSats are arriving! Two sets of PongSats for the Away 27 mission are ready to go. That's 78 student
experiments so far. We're expecting over 1000 on this mission. Forget space tourism, this is space
science and education in action.
Another ring segment went into the mold this evening. I waited for two hours to make sure the vacuum seal,
(double seal this time) held.
Art of the Mesospheric Explorer in flight.
For the ATO program the most important part of the atmosphere is the Mesosphere. The Mesosphere starts at
about 160,000 feet. The Mesosphere is an interesting place, but we don't know much about it. There is even
evidence of life up there.
One of the ways to get some answers about what's happening up there is our Mesospheric Explorer program.
The Mesospheric Explorer, (ME) is a small probe that can be set to extreme altitude on balloons.
We flew he first ME three years ago. The prototype failed in flight at 35,000 feet. The new vehicles are a little
better :) We are going start flying ME's side by side with Away missions. This is cheaper that running a stand
alone mission. The highest we've been so far is 130,000 feet. We should be pushing that number up soon.
This Mesospheric Explorer had two transmitters, two cameras and a array of sensors. It weighed just over four pounds.
The forward ring assembly is on the vehicle. whew.... One down.
The ring assembly was reassembled with the the new strut flanges. It came out great. The entire
assembly is now very stiff. Tomorrow the whole unit gets installed on the airship.
This excellent Dark Sky Station Block Two art was sent to us by Dave Harris in the UK. I can just image
being in the Ascender and seeing this view as we approach the station.
Some days you make progress other you just break even.
The 68 degree strut flanges that we made on Feb 8th were just too flexible. They would allow too much
movement of the ring when the airship encounters turbulence. So today the part was redesigned and
a new mold was made. The laminate this time used a balsa core. This stiffens up the part without adding
very much weight. We made two parts from the mold this evening. It's a record for us. From concept to
production in a single day.
The vacuum seal on the ring segment that was curing last night failed. This caused the carbon fiber not to
be completely pressed against the mold. The part is also heavy, the vacuum presses out any excess resin
in the fibers. The up shot is that the part can't be used. This is the second time this month this has
happened, however last time it was just a small part. This time a big ring segment. Working carbon fiber is
my art, so my artist side is appalled, my business side thinks; "that's ten tee shirt sales worth of materials
wasted", and my sleep deprived side just thinks about the five hours wasted, grrrrrrrrrrrrr.
Much of the last few days have been spent writing a report for the FAA. We have a big launch
coming up in the fall and the process of getting the clearances has begun. There are three main
government agencies that we work with to get clearances for what we do. Each of these agencies
have up to a dozen levels that need to sign off before lift off can begin. It's always good to start early.
We're still working on ring two, (see ring assembly one below). The hinges are out of the molds and
are ready for trimming. As I type the first quarter segment of second ring is curing in the mold.
Morning in the Black Rock Desert prepping a Dark Sky Station for flight.
Saturday is our
big build day. It's when the team gets together for building flying machines and
eating tacos. Great job folks!
Making patterns for carbon fiber.
More patterns for the
second lower hinge. Cutting nylon.
On Sunday we continued on with the second lower hinge and got the carbon layup in the mold.
This weeks sewing tally, 1,376 feet. Can you sew your way to space?
part of working on space stuff is seeing the vehicle, the rocket, the
platform or airship. However,
often you don't get to see the ship until final assembly. Most of the
time is spent hip deep making and testing
parts. Drawings of spaceships are important and fun, but the parts are
where it's at. and there are a lot of parts.......
I'm hoping to give you a feel for what working in a small space
program is really like.
The lower ring hinge:
(attachment bracket not shown).
For the past two
days we've been working on the lower ring hinge mold. It's
more complicated then the
upper hinge, (see below for hinge making pics). The lower hinge also
has the mount to the airship integrated
into it. It is nearly complete and I hope to get carbon on the mold by
the end of the day.
We need to buy more Helium. So everybody go to our store
and buy a tee shirt, OK?
Every vehicle in
the Airship to Orbit program has a development path. The each path has
a series of
stepping stone vehicles. One of the key vehicles is the Dark Sky
Station. There have been four
Dark Sky Stations so far. We're projecting five more to go.
Here's a rough look at DSS's to come:
DSS 25: A twenty-five foot diameter vehicle.
A fifty-seven foot
Block One DSS: First Crewed
Block Two DSS:
Crewed of six, first long duration vehicle.
Three DSS: Two mile across city at the edge of space.
Now before you say anything, I know the drawings are crummy.
We spend our time building instead
Saturday we made
the carbon hinge for the second ring. We still need to build the
airship attachment for
the ring before we can mount it. Creating the parts for attachment will
be the focus of next week.
The Sacramento L-5 Society had their monthly meeting at our shop. There
is so much happening in with
robotic probes there was a lot to talk about. Unfortunately, things are
a little slow on human space flight
Speaking of big
parts, we measured and cut eighteen twenty-eight foot nylon
panels. What a workout.
Forget pumping iron, try six hours cutting nylon. These will
be assembled and used on the Away 27 mission.
Later today we will begin make a duplicate of the ring assembly seen
below. It should take just over a week.
parts and sometime bigger ones.
motor and propeller are back on. She's looking ready to leap off the
Sometimes the hardware store's high altitude airship aisle is a little
lacking. I looked and they just didn't
have a lightweight, carbon fiber, 68 degree strut flange. We try and
keep custom parts to a minimum,
but sometimes there's no way around it. This is the seventh molded
component of this vehicle. We need
to make four. The first one came out of the mold beautiful.
On the second, the vacuum system failed during
baking and the part was ruined. Well, if it were easy.......
Like with many
things it's easier to take apart then put together. Saturday we added
stiffening plates to the motors
mounts on the airship. To do it we had to disassemble both entire
motor/propeller assemblies. It was fast to take
apart, but took the whole day today just to get the port
motor/propeller back on. In the process we replaced all the
metal washers with nylon ones, every bit of weight counts. Tomorrow,
the starboard assemble.
There has been a tremendous amount of traffic on the website today.
However, I can't find any new news article or
web story behind it. If you've seen what it is please drop me
a note. John Marchel Powell Thanks!!
We had a great
build session Saturday. We built a carbon hinge for the big carbon ring
(see Dec 05 log), did more sewing,
programmed the flight command uplink system, did more sewing and added
stiffening plates to the airship motor mounts,
and did I mention we did more sewing....
This is the real secret of getting to space. Build, build, build and
Making a carbon
A proud bunch of
PongSat the Movie.... or at least
the ABC news story
right click to
This news piece, by our
favorite news guy Dale Schornack,
has aired several times, the
latest being over the holidays.
launched two weather balloons in a 15 to 20 mph wind. The new system
made it easy.
The wind was irrelevant. After a few more training launches
like this and we'll be ready to declare
problems with wind over.
A big thank you goes out
to K'John for donating three boxes of gloves!!!!
Finished Nose Cone
Once again out
of the mold.
All cleaned up and ready for Mach.
huge THANK YOU to Mike for the donation of a new Dremel tool and a set
of electrical tape, solder and shrink tubing!!!
Creating a Nose Cone
This nose is for
our three inch diameter rocket. It was originally designed to be all
carbon and flown to Mach 5.
For the next flight of this rocket we only need it to handle Mach 2.
We also need the cone to be RF invisible.
A antenna will be inside the cone and needs to transmit out. This means
Kevlar instead of carbon fiber.
We're building a new mold for this cone, we don't use this technique
anymore, however this mold was good
for one more cone.
The layups; Kevlar core capped in glass.
All the layup in and vacuumed.
out of the mold.
Starting to look like something.
Now back in the
mold for joining.
The mold halves are
aligned then clamped. A strip of glass fiber
inside of the seam and the nose is joined.
IT CAME FROM THE MOLD.......
Saturday Build Session
forming up and the team has hit the ground running. The team worked on
a wide cross section of
projects on Saturday.
Efforts included creating a Kevlar nosecone for the three inch diameter
hardware, (oh my god we have legacy hardware?!?!?!), sewing launch
and writing software for the main flight controller.
A great big thanks goes out to team members Tracy, Bob, Ed, Mike, Paul
and K'John for an excellent job.
the most important tests don't occur in space, but rather in the
parking lot. While developing
high altitude platforms we have created some pretty strange flying
machines. Common to all of them is
they flew in the parking lot before heading to the edge of space. This
video shows three very different types
of platforms. This work was done in 2000 and 2001.
Flying Contraptions. Platform experiments in the
For some of the
developement missions this year we're bringing back a design from a few
ago. This three inch diameter rocket is called 'Spaceflight'.
It is designed to be launched from
100,000 feet. It was a very reliable vehicle for us with many
successful flights. It's a real mover.
When powered by its full sized motor, (7000n/s), it's so fast we've
never seen it flight and the videos
only shown smoke.
Spaceflight in Action
planning stages of the 2006 flight campaign. Our over all
plan/Mission list guides us in general.
Funding, clearances and resources though, have their impacts on which
missions to fly and when they get flown.
from the Past
Here's a shot of balloons being readied to lift a rocket for launch
back in February 1995.
New Video: There and
From launch to
77,000 feet and back to the ground again. The remains of a balloon got
wrapped around the
vehicle on the way down making an interesting effect.
Work comtinues on the Away 27 vehicle. With so many PongSats on board
we may seperate the mission into
two vehicles. If we fly two, we will try and take pictures of one
vehicle from the other at the edge of space.
Be sure to stop by the PongSat store for cool space tee shirts:
JPA's plan for 2006:
November ,December 05 what's new page.
September what's new page.
what's new page.
what's new page.
what's new page.
what's new page.
what's new page.
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page was last edited on February 28, 2006
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