Feeds

Hero Playmonaut lost at sea as SPEARS ditches in Channel

MYSTERY of balloon's unpredictable strato-lunge

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

It's with heavy hearts that we report the loss of the Special Project Bureau's heroic playmonaut, after the Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) balloon launch on Saturday ended in the English Channel off the coast of Sussex.

Click here for a bigger version of the LOHAN graphicThe flight was intended to test the Special Project Electronic Altitude Release System (SPEARS) control board at altitude - specifically to see if it would fire the igniter for our Vulture 2 rocket motor at a predetermined height.

Despite a favourable flight path prediction, which had the payload landing well inland to the south of the Berkshire launch site, a dramatic change in wind direction carried it over Worthing for a splashdown some 8km offshore.

Readers should rest assured that we did everything possible to rescue our intrepid pilot and the payload - as you'll see later - but sadly it appears both have succumbed to the salty seas.

Before we get down to to details, let's hear it for Anthony Stirk, Dave Akerman and Neil Barnes (seen left to right, below) who were up bright and early on a very nippy Saturday morning to send SPEARS to the stratosphere.

From left to right: Anthony Stirk, Dave Akerman and Neil Barnes

The night before the launch, we assembled to put together the payload (details here) at Dave's NASA-style mission control complex. Here's the man himself posing in front of a mighty bank of monitors...

Dave Akerman in mission control

..as Anthony contemplated an altogether more modest set of displays:

Anthony Stirk in mission control

Neil, meanwhile, tackled some final programming of the SPEARS board:

Neil programming the SPEARS board

For the purpose of the test, SPEARS was set up to fire the igniter at 23,000m (79,459ft), well below the predicted balloon burst altitude of 27,000m (88,580ft).

Dave's calculations, based on an "absolutely ridiculous" payload weight of 1,900g and a target ascent rate of 6.6 m/s, meant we'd need to fill a 1,000g balloon with 5.4m3 of hydrogen to create a "neck lift" of 5kg.

The hydrogen cylinder and safety warning notices

Down at the launch site, we took a moment to grab a pic especially for the Reg readers' Hindenburg fan club...

Lester poses with cigarette and lighter while sitting on the hydrogen cylinder

...before Neil brought forth the payload:

Neil with the styrofoam payload box and flying truss

Our playmonaut opted to ride the truss, as you can see, although we did insist he be tethered to the structure with a safety line.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?