Tim Squires
Tim Squires Equal Experts Alumnus

EE Life Thu 20th April, 2017

The latest from EESA – getting higher…

The appearance of favourable weather conditions recently allowed team EESA to test its balloon apparatus – and we now have plenty of new data to work with (and some more problems to solve – just the way we like it).

We’ve already written about the aim of our Equal Experts Space Agency project on this blog, and you can check out the entire project on our dedicated EESA page. In short, we’re aiming to fly our drone higher than has ever been achieved.

For our latest test, we sent our balloon up with a 3kg payload to simulate the eventual drone weight). We also included the flight computer, to check it all works as planned at high altitude. Here’s some video taken from the test; as you’ll see, we are getting seriously high:

As well as being good fun, the aim of this test was to get answers to some vital questions:

Can our balloon equipment take the drone high enough?

A definite YES! The balloon reached 34,632 metres before going pop. We’d predicted 33,000m, so that’s a great result. We’re getting our equipment up to altitudes where it can potentially break records, which is great news.

The gear came down to earth within 10 miles of where we’d predicted, too, in Worksop.

Can the flight computer cope with the altitude?

No – not yet, anyway. Things were less positive here, as the GPS stopped recording at ~21km. We suspect that the GPS receiver failed when it became too cold, so we now need to repeat this same balloon test, while trying some new ways to keep the GPS receiver sufficiently warm.

We can’t progress to the next stage without confirming that the GPS will work. Without it,the plane will not know when to release from the balloon, where to fly to, or how fast it’s going.

All in all then, a mixed bag for this test – but getting the GPS to work at altitude should not be an insurmountable problem, and it’s exciting to know we are reaching such heady heights with our gear.

Stats, glorious stats

Here are a few details from the test for anyone interested in the more technical details:

Burst altitude: 34,632m
Burst temp: 6°C
Min external temp: -63°C
Max internal temp: 21°C
Min internal temp: -2°C
Avg. internal temp: 9°C
Min temp on ascent: -53°C
Ascent rate 5.1 m/s 11.4 mph

EESA balloon test stats