Vulture 2 spaceplane brain surgery begins with remote incision

Autopilot wrangling from Australia via OpenVPN

The programming of our Vulture 2 spaceplane's autopilot was going pedal to the metal yesterday as we finally resolved a cantankerous Raspberry Pi issue and got down to some proper Pixhawk wrangling.

Linus Penzlien is in Spain to work with APM:Plane lead developer Andrew "Tridge" Tridgell on implementing some custom Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) mission parameters.

Tridge is in Canberra, but that didn't stop him getting inside the Pixhawk via OpenVPN, while chatting to Linus on Skype. Linus in turn relayed instructions to yours truly such as "move the plane around a bit", as the two started to get stuck in.

Here's Linus in the thick of it...

Linus talking to Andrew Tridgell in our temporary HQ

...and here's Tridge on the other end of the line:

Linus talking to Andrew Tridgell via Skype

This being LOHAN, things didn't go exactly according to plan. We immediately identified a possible faulty canard servo, with the servo rail voltage jumping around a wild 1V. The issue won't affect progress on the custom parameters, which are in summary an "ascend wait" mode, wherein the Pixhawk twiddles its thumbs while the fantastical flying truss soars majestically to motor ignition altitude, "launch detect" and subsequent autopilot activation into flight mode parameters and, of course, an obligatory magnetic tree detection and emergency avoidance algorithm.

Crafting the parameters requires some detailed predicted aircraft performance figures, and a few rejigged calculations based on the final centre of gravity - a position we now have following the installation of the last few bits of avionics.

Thanks very much to Chris Dodd and Amrith Surendra of our magnificent spaceplane design team for taking the time to provide the necessary info.

So, we're in good shape, and looking forward to taking the Vulture 2 out for a spin later in the week to at least test the ascend wait mode, while checking the GPS, airspeed sensor, etc, and making sure all the bits and pieces hold together.

As we previously reported, we've hewn a van-mount platform from the living wood, and here's a nice snap of the whole thing strapped down and ready to roll:

The Vulture 2 mounted atop the van

Now, if you'll excuse us, we'll get back to it...®


More from the lovely LOHAN:

  • You can find full LOHAN coverage right here.
  • If you're new to LOHAN, seek out our mission summary for enlightenment.
  • There are photos our our magnificent Vulture 2 spaceplane here, and detailed structural plans here.
  • For your further viewing pleasure, we have all our photographic material stored on Flickr.
  • Our LOHAN and Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) videos live on YouTube.
  • We sometimes indulge in light consensual tweeting, as you can see here.

LOHAN - A Special Projects Bureau production in association with...

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  • University of Southampton logo
  • Applied Vacuum Engineering logo
  • Escher Technologies
  • Flashpoint Fireworks logo
  • HAB Supplies logo
  • Rock 7 logo
  • Random Engineering logo
  • Space Graphic Solutions logo
  • 3D Robotics logo
  • Edge Research Laboratory logo


Paper Aircraft Released Into Space

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