Feeds

Hero Playmonaut lost at sea as SPEARS ditches in Channel

MYSTERY of balloon's unpredictable strato-lunge

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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.

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
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.