New Heights - Part 2

High Altitude Weather Balloon

Nolan Sobel-Read

Issue 69, April 2023

An update from high school student, Nolan, about getting his STEM project into space.

In our January Issue 66, we introduced you to a young secondary school student, Nolan, who needed funding to build and launch a high-altitude weather balloon and take measurements high up in the stratosphere (That’s over 30km in altitude or roughly 100,000 feet!).

Nolan outlined the goals for the project and what electronics he needed. We were only too happy to help out, and started sourcing the parts Nolan needed.

As a trade, we’ve asked Nolan to document his journey so that we can share it with our readers who may want to do something similar or be inspired by the work that he’s doing.

The following is an update on Nolan’s project progress. We will publish more throughout the next few issues as Nolan’s project progresses.

Hi Everyone!

For those who don’t remember me from the January issue, or are new readers, my name is Nolan Sobel-Read and I am a year 11 student at the Hunter School of the Performing Arts in Newcastle.

Last year, I was in a STEM elective and my project was to send a weather balloon up to near-space and get back images and data. When I needed additional funding to proceed with the project, DIYODE was very kind and agreed to sponsor me, in return for a series of articles I would write so that you, the reader, can take part in my journey and maybe become inspired to do something similar.

The last thing I discussed in the previous article was how I was beginning to integrate all of my sensors to the satellite module, the Artemis Global Tracker.

Now we have all the sensors linked up and are going to code the Artemis to send back data every minute, feeding from those sensors. Refer to my first article for more details on this.

After my first article, the great team down at the EMDRC High Altitude Balloon Group in Melbourne and the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group in Adelaide reached out and offered for me to join their discord and have a chat to them about their experiences in high altitude ballooning. I happily accepted and they helped provide me with a wealth of knowledge from their experience that I would otherwise have no idea about (who knew Energizer Lithium Ultimate AA batteries were the best?).

I had a long discord call with a few of them and took ten pages of notes in my small notebook! They have also sent me two of the trackers they use for their launches.

These are trackers that they find from BOM balloons and re-code. (Don’t worry, this is perfectly legal, BOM doesn’t want them back, and doesn’t go out to retrieve them!) I will include one of these trackers in the balloon for redundancy, as you can never have too much redundancy!

Something that they suggested, and I will most likely follow through with, is not to use a heater. That came as a surprise for me, because as I described in my previous article I had been working the entire time with a heater in mind. The temperatures where the balloon will be going will get very very low, potentially even below -40 - 50°C. This, I thought, would be too low for the electronics. But upon talking to the folks in Melbourne and Adelaide, they said that if everything is inside of a foam insulated container, the electronics generate a little bit of heat which should be enough to keep them warm. For the camera, they said that it was actually more likely it would overheat than get too cold. This is because it takes a lot of power for it to run, and some of this gets converted to heat energy. I will run some tests in the freezer once everything is integrated to be sure all the components will be ok, but at the moment the plan is to not have a heater.

Another development in regard to the camera is that I will also launch a Raspberry Pi camera, again for redundancy. My mentor at Saphi, Cameron Owen, is very kind and will lend me a 64MP version for the flight. This will be in addition to the Lightdow LD4000.

The foam boxes that I will use for the payload arrived the other day, one is designed for a cooler six-pack and the other is designed for medical use. I will do tests with both and figure out which one works best, and dissect the other for more insulation. The picture shown here includes a plastic lunch box for size relation.

That is all the news for now, stay tuned for more in the near future!

New Heights - Part 1
New Heights - Part 2
New Heights - Part 3