Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/10/06/paris_main_payload/

PARIS unveils impressive box

Main payload container ready for lift-off

By Lester Haines

Posted in SPB, 6th October 2010 11:00 GMT

It's all go down at the Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) headquarters ahead of our planned 23 October launch.

Earlier this week we wrapped the construction of the main payload box, which contains the vital Vulture 1 aircraft release mechanism, cameras, GPS tracker and radio beacon.

There's more on the successful test of the Mk 2 release mechanism here, and following our trip to QinetiQ we were ready to box the whole thing up for the flight.

Cue lots and lots of styrofoam, and on with the job...

The main payload styrofoam box components with release mechanism

Because of the way the release mechanism operates, we had to go with a long thin box, but this offers a big advantage: the Vulture 1 has to sit underneath, so its wings can be orientated along the length, with the release wire coming out of the centre of the fuselage.

Note the black plastic seal where said wire will pass through the floor of the payload box for attachment to the release rod. That's to prevent too much cold air passing through the hole, and in any case the whole release rod and guide channel will be packed with low temperature grease to ensure things run smoothly.

The release mechanism in the box

To make absoultely certain, though, that the release mechanism's oxygen tube assembly and PVC tube housing don't freeze, we boxed the whole thing in...

The release mechanism in the box

... and packed it with fibreglass roof insulation:

The release mechanism surrounded by roof insulation

I'd like to take a quick break from construction at this point to offer thanks to my son Rui for his help. Every project really needs a glamorous assistant, but the budget's tight so the poor lad got volunteered to stand in.

Rui poses with the payload box

Back at the box, we fully encased the release mechanism...

The release mechanism boxed in with styrofoam

... except of course for the plunger and release rods. The bit of plastic trunking acts as a guide and stops the connecting bracket digging into the styrofoam as the plunger rod extends and droops under its own weight:

The plunger rod an release rod emerging from the styrofoam insulation around the release mechanism

With the release mechanism enclosure fully gaffered in (yes, it's not a real science project without gaffer tape)...

The release mechanism completely enclosed with gaffer tape

... we could press on with installing the Canon A560 stills camera:

The Canon stills camera inside the main payload box

The camera has been given the Canon Hack Development Kit treatment to run an intervalometer script, so it'll be capturing the view every ten seconds. You can enjoy a vid of our previous test right here.

To ensure it stays snug-ish, we lined the camera compartment with space blanket:

The Canon compartment lined with space blanket

The Canon peers out through a bog-standard photographic UV filter, which we fixed in place with silicon and a rubber seal. Here it is before a final clean-up of the filter:

The Canon lens looking out through the side of the main payload box

The Kodak Zx1 video camera is a slightly less orthodox set-up. We wanted it to look down on the Vulture 1 cockpit, so we wedged it in the top of the box wall, with a view down to where our pilot will ride out the ascent:

The Kodak Zx1 mounted through the wall of the main payload box

There's a rubber seal between the box wall and the camera to keep the cold out, and since the batteries are mounted in the bottom of the camera, and therefore are inside the box, we lovingly crafted an insulating sock to keep them toasty.

The box lid houses the GPS tracker (test details here) and radio beacon (more here). When the lid's closed, they share a space with the stills camera:

The GPS tracker and radio beacon mounted in the main payload box lid

Finally, we stuck some draft excluder strip around the top edge of the box walls to provide a seal for the lid:

Rubber strips to seal the lid to the box

Well, it just remained for my glamorous assistant to hoist the box aloft by the parachute attachment cords. The choice of shirt is certainly questionable, but you can't argue with PARIS's impressive box...

Rui holding aloft the completed main payload box

Now we merely have to finish the Vulture 1 aircraft and we're ready to roll. We'll have an update on that for you next week... ®

Additional PARIS resources