Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/07/26/spears_snaps/

SPEARS joins the 19-mile-high club: Intimate snaps

Spaceplane test flight mission photos for your viewing pleasure

By Lester Haines

Posted in SPB, 26th July 2013 14:29 GMT

Pics and vid The Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) team is just about done sifting through the photos and vid from our recent test flight of the Special Project Electronic Altitude Release System (SPEARS) control board, and we hereby present highlights for your viewing pleasure.

Click here for a bigger version of the LOHAN graphicRoll over the photos for the name of the snapper in question, or for a bigger version in a new window where available.

Since this is a photo-round up, we're not going into much written detail about the flight. There's more on our heroic Playmonaut's 113,00ft stratodangle here, while you can get details of the SPEARS element of the mission - the control board which fires the rocket's igniter at an altitude of around 19 miles (100,100ft) - here.

We'll bring you full coverage of the mission trackers and Raspberry Picam rig in a dedicate piece next week.

On Saturday 13 July, we assembled at Blighty's Baikonur (Brightwalton in Berkshire) for the big event, to find Dave "Pi In The Sky" Akerman sitting in mission control behind his improbably expansive wall of monitors:

Dave Akerman sits at his mighty bank of monitors

Dave does do low-tech too, though, as this snap of him knocking together lunch proves. Look closely, and you can see the obligatory bacon sitting with the burgers on the barbie. Lovely:

Dave man the barbecue

Neil Barnes was the man charged with SPEARS-fiddling, a task which appears to have knocked a couple of years off his life:

Neil Barnes programmes the SPEARS board

Myself and Anthony Stirk, meanwhile, got on with prepping the Covert High Altitude Vehicle (CHAV), a peripheral bit of fun designed to have a pop at our own Guinness World Record for the highest launch of a paper plane...

The CHAV aircraft

... and here's Anthony Stirk wrangling a miniature tracker into the CHAV fuselage:

Anthony inserts a tracker in the CHAV's fuselage

With the CHAV prepped, Anthony and Dave posed for this fetching portrait of two blokes with plane...

Dave Akerman and Anthony Stirk pose with the CHAV

...before the whole team assembled at the village hall for the obligatory pre-flight group shot:

The test flight team pose with the payload before the flight

From L-R we have rocket motor geezer Paul Shackleton, custom igniter chap Rob Eastwood, apprentice boffin Katarina Haines Barbosa, the aforementioned Anthony Stirk, Neil Barnes and Dave Akerman, plus Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) vet John Oates.

Some of you have questioned whether I was actually at the event, having not yet appeared in published photos. I was, and here I am attaching the CHAV to the main payload...

Lester Haines attaches the CHAV to the main payload box

...and explaining how in the future paper aircraft missions will be levitated by amazing anti-grav telekinetic power alone:

Lester Haines with the main payload box

Those powers will also extend to firing solid-fuel motors for rocket-powered spaceplanes simply by staring at them very hard. Until then, we'll have to rely on custom igniters, seen below during fettling by Paul and Rob:

Paul and Rob connect the custom igniter

While the lads got on with assembling the kit, the unsung heroes of stratospheric missions - their partners, on hand to lend moral support and pitch in the with the photography - wisely decided to seek the shade:

Julie and Anita and Katarina relaxing at the launch site

It's a tip of the hat to Julie Akerman (left) and Neil's missus Anita Wegner, seen here with our apprentice boffin.

Dave's the LOHAN hydrogen head honcho, so he's the one who gets to inflate LOHAN's mighty orbs...

Dave Akerman inflates the balloon

...although it was John and Rob who ended up holding the impressive engorgement:

John Oates and Rob Eastwood with the fully-inflated balloon

For those of you who missed the live feed of the launch, here's a tasty time lapse sequence video of the whole thing, with a bit of music thrown into the mix:

Watch Video

Behold, the payload aloft

So, once in the air, we were recording video on the main payload camera...

The CHAV aircraft just after launch, from the main payload camera

Another shot from the main payload camera, as the CHAV ascends

The CHAV rises above Brightwalton, as seen from the main payload camera

The CHAV aircraft seen from the main payload on its ascent

The CHAV aircraft seen from the main payload camera at 60,000ft

...while the Raspberry Picam in the CHAV's nose grabbed stills:

Montage of flight images from the Raspberry Picam

In pursuit, our impressive six-vehicle convoy pulled over from time to time to check the flight's progress...

The pursuit convoy parked up waiting for the payload to land

...anxiously staring at the live tracker map on a laptop, as Dave's main onboard Windows PC agonisingly installed updates and generally faffed about:

Rob and John outside Dave's pursuit car, as we wait for the payload to land

High above our heads, the Picam continued to grab spectacular images from aloft...

Montage of flight images from the Raspberry Picam

Another montage at altitude from the Raspberry Picam

Montage of images from the Picam at around 100,000ft

...before balloon burst at 34,571m (113,421ft) and a fairly rapid descent. This video has footage from the main payload camera and then a video sequence from the Picam as the plane and payload crashed into trees just south of Perham Down on the edge of Salisbury Plain:

Watch Video

Defoliation required

When we got to the scene, we found the payload up a particularly tangly tree...

The payload up a tree

...which proved no match for Paul and his mighty pruning saw:

Paul saws down a tree in pursuit of the CHAV

After a bit of defoliation, the plane and payload could be gently extracted:

The plane dangling from the payload in the tree

The CHAV aircraft is extracted from the tree

The Picam continued to grab images throughout, and here's how our Playmonaut saw the rescue:

Montage of stills from the CHAV Picam as the aircraft is teased from the treetops

The aircraft was pretty well intact, as the following photos show. The chap in the background in the first snap is Philip Crump, who'd been following the flight live and nipped up from Southampton, arriving at the landing site before us and in time to see the whole shebang crash-land:

Anthony inspects the CHAV after recovery

The CHAV after recovery

Having recovered the plane and payload, the LOHAN team posed for a commemorative group shot:

The LOHAN team poses after the flight

Actually, they posed for two in quick succession, leading one wag to create this animated gif:

Animated gif of the LOHAN team

We couldn't help feel we needed some music to go with that, so try this for size:

Radio RTFM Episode 4

Lovely. Thanks to everyone who participated in a successful and entertaining mission. ®


Further LOHAN resources:

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

  • 3T RPD logo
  • University of Southampton logo
  • Applied Vacuum Engineering logo
  • Escher Technologies
  • Flashpoint Fireworks logo
  • HAB Supplies logo
  • Rock 7 logo

Paper Aircraft Released Into Space