El Reg space paper plane christened Vulture 1
PARIS project moves to planning stage
It's official: The El Reg "Paper Aircraft Released Into Space" (PARIS) vehicle has been christened Vulture 1 by popular vote, and with this formality out of the way we can move on to pondering just how our audacious upper atmosphere programme is actually going to work.
We're grateful to all those readers who chipped in with suggestions and opinions, and we can summarise your thoughts thus:
- The Vulture 1 must be constructed entirely of paper, although hi-tech coatings are permissible.
- PARIS should be a manned mission, albeit with a suitably diminutive crew member. Watch this space…
- APRS tracking is the way to go, with GPS capability for recovery of the Vulture 1.
- Live coverage of the event should be made available online, via APRS.
- The Vulture 1 must, of course, be able to photograph its epic journey.
This all sounds plausible enough, but we have one serious possible restriction. According to a couple of readers, the CAA has a limit on the weight of a weather balloon payload, which could be critical. We're making enquiries to see what the state of play is there.
Something else which you lot might want to ponder is just how we can release the Vulture 1 from the helium balloon at a predetermined altitude, without having to put together a mechanism which will add greatly to the payload weight. Any thoughts?
Regarding the design of the vehicle itself, we're keeping an open mind pending resolution of the weight issue, which will obviously be a major factor.
So, our first task is to get a weight limit, and then see just what kit we can deploy within that. As ever, you can post further comments to this piece, or email me right here. ®
Why not PICs?
A 10-series PIC (say, the 10F222) will work down to -40C, draws under 175µA @ 3V at full 4MHz whack- a single CR2032 coin cell would operate it for a week. This is the sort of tech we should be looking at for the interface between data modem and GPS- orders of magnitude cheaper than most alternatives, simple, infinitely reliable, light, small and incredibly low-power.
Alternatively we should use a small smartphone to take photos, handle Data and provide a GPS/A-GPS feeds. With GPRS and 3G connectivity you'd even be able to connect to APRS-IS- or just use Google Maps & Latitude to track the thing. I've got one you can use- an HTC Artemis. Just ask if you want it!
The PIC above (or another similar one) would be able to do RS232/485/422/TTL/I2C/SPI etc comms; there'd not be a problem finding a GPS or GPRS chipset to work with it.
Whatever system you end up using, commercially bought or custom, you'll want to get it conformally coated or something similar- any liquid water that gets into the system would freeze and expand as the vessel ascends, leading to problems with displaced components, lifted legs, shorts between legs or PCB tracks, etc.
Is anyone out there thinking about the physical design of the paper plane? There haven't really been any comments about it yet, and that's a pretty important bit of the design...
First off, it's "Write" not "Right" - sorry, but that made me grind my teeth and I had to say something...
Secondly, did you not read the rest of the comments above before posting? Clearly the "long string" model isn't going to work, due to the weight of the string or the possibility of something running into it. I doubt the CAA would be happy with the plan.
Furthermore, bursting the balloon (note the TWO L's everyone! Please!) would result in Vulture I dragging the remains of a balloon along with it; hardly aerodynamic!
And finally, before I take my pedantry, coat and go home, the story about NASA's pen and the Soviets pencil is not true; it's just an urban myth. Look it up on snopes.com.
I nominate the TSR2, might cost a bit, but it would look very cool :-), maybe a Black Arrow?
Or the SR71, or Concorde.
Hold on, I'm seeing a trend here :-( yes I think we are going backwards...