Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Google in Space

Google has so many Nexus Ss they have started sending them into space!

It looks like they got a little help from the guys at project HIBAL whom we met at Maker's Faire 2010.
Good for them!

P.S. Google, if you'd like to donate a Nexus S, we'd gladly launch it as well. Just putting it out there.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

SpaceBridge Pi Images

After much trekking we finally retrieved our payload. I even got an opportunity to flex my underutilized Spanish skilz. It landed across the street from the prison in Soledad, CA. We released at 6:24AM and it landed around 9:17AM. As far as we know it reached an estimated maximum altitude of 75,000 feet and traveled over 100 miles.

The images can also be found on my flickr:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

SpaceBridge Pi Launch Successful

The release and launch were a success!
We released the balloon at 6:23AM PST, right around dawn.
The balloon is in the air and ascending v e r y s l o w l y.
We launched from the ITT parking lot in Lathrop and it is currently heading due south -- exactly where I don't want it to go.
Current estimates are that it will land somewhere near between the 101 and Henry Coe State Park.

The balloon can be tracked live here:

SpaceBridge Pi Prelaunch

I'm here at the Denny's in Lathrop, California an hour and a half before everyone else arrives. I have the entire back room to myself and have internet by tethering my Nexus One, so I'll be here hacking until more SpaceBridgers arrive.

Monday, November 8, 2010

SpaceBridge Pi Launch Planned

We have now launched in the day, near sundown and at night; now we must launch at dawn.
The plan is to launch this coming Saturday at 6AM from Tracy. We will meet at Noisebridge at 3AM, then try setting up at the site ~4:30AM, then wait until just before dawn and launch. We will have a horizontal facing camera and a downward facing IR camera with a .35x fisheye.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spacebridge Epsilon Images

After the first failed attempt to retrieve the Spacebridge payload I decided not to attempt a retrieval, luckily someone from Noisebridge did. I still don't know the maximum altitude of the flight, but when that is determined I will update this post.
I downloaded the images and posted them to flickr.
Here they are:

All the images were 1-second @ f2.8 ISO-1600.
The horizontal images are from a CHDK hacked Canon SD1100IS and the vertical images are from a CHDK hacked Canon A700. The A-series cameras seem to have better low-light performance than the SD/IXUS series.

Spacebridge Epsilon (Night Launch) Retrieval FAIL

As you may have heard we launched Spacebridge Epsilon at night with every intention to retrieve the next morning. The launch was a success but almost immediately after release we lost communication with the APRS radio. We watched the balloon float away into the dark without so much as a ping as to its location. As we watched it fade away into the night we figured that we had lost it -- we had, until it landed and sent location packets. We had a beat on it. First thing in the morning Brian Choate plugged the GPS data into Google Maps and we were off.
The retrieval party consisted of Brian Choate, Christopher Lincoln and myself. We met up at the Starbucks in Castro Valley, CA and after a breakfast of Starbucks' McMuffin and an iced-tea we were back on the road, heading for Patterson, CA.
According to all calculations the balloon fell ~400 feet away from an access road in the foothills, so by all predictions it should be an easy scamper and grab; boy were we wrong.
The coordinates we had placed it 1,500ft above the road but still only 400ft away. It was going to be a steep climb. Christopher and I finished our iced drinks and set off thinking we would be back right away, estimating it wouldn't take more than 30 minutes to climb up the hill, grab the payload and return to the air conditioning of Brian's truck. So at around 11:45AM we set off.

As we ascended it immediately became apparent that Christopher is in much better cardio-vascular shape than I am, so he pulled on ahead of me. Neither of us thought anything of it because we were both still so close to the car, in plain sight of the road... just up a bit. After about 45 minutes of hiking I realized that I was quite thirsty and couldn't make it up any further. I found some shade in an attempt to cool off and after a few minutes decided I needed to start heading down. That was the plan, its execution was not that simple. I ran down hill for about 50 feet before I stopped again. At this point my heart was pounding, I was dry-heaving and getting quite dizzy. The sun was high in the sky and the weather was getting hotter by the minute. I thought it best to sit down in some more shade, calm down and call for help. I found a small patch of shade, called down to Brian for help and waited.
The longer I waited the more I panicked and the cries for help ended up getting more and more pitiful until eventually I was able to convey to them the gravity of my situation. In an attempt to calm myself down and take my mind off the thirst I took a panorama with my phone's camera.
I then, with my last bit of battery and a faint signal sent a single e-mail that read:


sent from my android

I then thought it best to sit myself down in my patch of shade and wait for help to arrive. The very next thing I know, I'm laying on the ground and my patch of shade has moved far away from me; I had passed out. Panicked again I called out to Brian.
He had sent Christopher out looking for me, but I didn't hear him because I was unconscious when he walked past me.
This time, Christopher and Brian found the owner of the land on which we were probably trespassing and informed him of the situation. He then drove Christopher around the back side of the mountain with his son and a jug of water. After what seemed like an eternity (but was probably more like 15 minutes) they found me and they had brought water. I drank deeply and could feel the life returning to my body. The desire to vomit was the first to leave, next my heart finally stopped racing.
After regaining some strength from the water we set off down the hill, stopping every couple of minutes to catch my breath and drink more water. One thing I did find interesting was that Christopher kept walking wide around the thickets of shrubbery I was carelessly trampling through. When I asked him why, he told me it was because the shrubs I had been walking through were poison oak.
We continued down the mountain until we came to the last portion. The final 50 feet was a scree run, small broken loose rocks. We descended as well as we could, then right before getting to safety I fell the last 5 feet. Not bad after climbing a hill.
Once I back in the safety of Brian's truck I asked if he knew how hot it was. He told me that some of his electronic equipment reported being 113º, but he wasn't sure because he was in the shade the whole time.

I learned a few things that day:
  1. I am more of a "lab scientist" than I am a "field scientist"
  2. Always bring water whenever going outside
  3. Never go to the Central Valley in the summer time
  4. Always bring radios if you are going to be doing any outdoor group activities where you can loose sight of each other
  5. I am immune to poison oak, Christopher is not :-)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Night Launch Landed

Looks like it landed. Now we need to go get it. I'll get my hiking pants on.

View Larger Map

Saturday, June 26, 2010

First Night Launch Planned

We had planned on a night launch two weeks ago, but scrubbed it due to lack of interest, so we have rescheduled for tonight 2010-06-26.
The plan is to meet at Noisebridge at 7:00PM PST then whomever is planning on coming can caravan en-mass to the proposed launch site (below). We hope to launch around 10:00PM PST and recover in the morning.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spacebridge Delta SUCCESS!!!

Sunday June 5th we set free the fifth launch of the Spacebridge project and it worked!
We successfully launched and retrieved in the same day, for the second time ever.
This launch was slightly different from others in that we launched from a small neighborhood park in Dublin, CA and we were trying something new with the camera configuration.
We had one horizontal facing camera (as we always do) to get interesting shots that build interest and provide contextual information, and one upward facing camera to take light/exposure measurements of the journey through the atmosphere -- this was my main interest in this launch.
The up facing camera took shots every 30 seconds starting from the ground, through apogee and back down to landing. The data I was hoping to get was auto-exposure shutter-speed, iso (CHDK creates custom ISOs dynamically) and aperture. Since all digital cameras are is three color brightness averaging machines that also happen to record pixels, I wanted to see what settings it would apply to images of the sky without the majority of the atmosphere in the way (how bright is it w/o all the UV diffusion caused by the oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere).
The horizontal facing camera also took a shot every 30 seconds.
Images from the launch and both cameras from the flight are posted to my flickr account.
The images are organized based on time taken so the images alternate between horizontal and up-facing cameras. Unfortunately the time on the camera I used to take pictures of the launch from the ground was set wrong, so they don't show up until the end.

Hot on the heels of this success we plan on launching again this weekend, so stay tuned.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spacebridge gamma result

Failure is what makes success feel like an achievement.
It was a very windy day, we under-filled the balloon, so when we released it smashed into a barbed-wire fence and started dragging up and down hills.
At least I saw a rattle-snake.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Spacebridge gamma planned for Saturday 2010-05-01

Spacebridge is planning the next launch for this Saturday, May 1st 2010.The plan is to launch from Tracy, CA again.
The planned launch payloads consists of:
The up-facing A700 is to see what nature of light we can get at altitude. I think it would be awesome if we could get some good shots of stars, but I don't expect that. I am hoping to get interesting information on how long an exposure takes when aimed at the sky when there is hardly any atmosphere in the way.

There may be more, but that's as much as I know at this point.
I will keep you all updated and post the photographic & kml gps data

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Yuri's Night 2010 at NASA

The Spacebridge project has been invited to present at the Exhibition of Space portion of the Yuri's night celebration at the NASA Ames Research Center near Mountain View (California).
The plan is to fill a balloon, tether it to three points on the ground with paracord and float a payload above our display.
The payload will consist of:
1) A USB Webcam
2) A Canon IS1100 camera taking still shots on an interval
3) Maybe other random electronic junk

We will also have a booth setup where we will be displaying a slide show of images from the first successful Spacebridge launch.

The schedule is as follows:

0800-0830 - setup "booth" and inflate balloon
0800-0900 - inspection of exhibits
0900-1500 - Education day exhibitor hours.

0800-1000 - setup of Saturday exhibitions
1100-1200 - inspection of Saturday only exhibitions
1200-2100 - festival exhibition hours
2100-2400 - festival/party & exhibit tear down by hand

0900-1600 - tear down & load out.

If anyone out there in internet land is planning on going to Yuri's night at NASA, come on out and say hi.

Yuri's Night:
2010 Event at NASA Ames Research Center:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spacebridge beta launch results

Well as I'm sure you have heard now, the launch of "Spacebridge beta" was a fail.
First we didn't bring enough (or the correct type) of batteries for the cameras.
Secondly we ran out of helium while filling the balloon.
Then when we lightened the payload in an attempt to send something into space it immediately flew into a tree.
From 2010-03-27 Spacebridge beta fail
Since we did have a balloon and a handful of stuff, we decided to send the "If found please call" tag with the balloon in hopes that maybe someone will find it and let us know where it landed.

2010-03-27 Spacebridge beta fail

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spacebridge beta launch today

The second Spacebridge launch is scheduled for today.
We'll be launching from Tracy, CA again.
Will be posting images from the flight after we retrieve the payload.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Noisebridge successfully launches And Recovers Spacebridge Alpha.

After two launches and total success having eluded us, we teamed up with the hackers from Noisebridge to assist in the launch of their project Spacebridge Alpha.
This proved to be quite the excellent merger of talents. They had been geeking-out on the positional tracking and long-range communication parts of their project but had little experience with successfully deploying a payload and seemed to lack photographic expertise. Luckily, that's what we had gotten right; where our flights had come short is what they excelled at -- we were experiencing synergy in action.
So we donated what we had, a hacked camera, parachute and anecdotal experience, and joined them for the launch. Below are pictures from the launch, photos from the flight and the on-board video. We do still plan to pursue our own space program, but for the time being, our two groups have merged.

Here are the images from the flight:

And the video of the launch:

Special thanks to our sponsor!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Second Launch

Well, we promised a launch in October but we didn't end up launching until November. Nothing was posted about it because it was a total failure.

The day we launched was super windy, but we tried it anyways -- this was a mistake.
We also tried to save money by buying less helium, but that was also a FAIL.

We filled the balloon with as much helium as we bought and it was only slightly lighter than neutrally buoyant but we went for it anyway. We let the balloon go, and it immediately went into a nearby tree. I climbed up after it, cut it down and jumped out of the tree. Unfortunately when I landed, one foot went into a bush, the other landed perfectly on the ground.
Two and a half months later, physical therapy is over and I can walk again. I tore many ligaments in my foot/ankle and I hairline fractured my leg.

Hopefully we can try for our third launch soon. Now its just a matter of scraping together enough cash to buy a balloon and some more helium.

If you, or someone you know, would like to donate large quantities of helium to our project, we'll stick your name on the side of our camera. You can even come launch with us. Just contact us through this website.