An­napo­lis Royal stu­dents to live stream from the strato­sphere

Space agency teams with ham ra­dio op­er­a­tors to bring video from 30 kilo­me­tres up


Stu­dents who suc­cess­fully launched and re­trieved a space probe last year are back in busi­ness, but this time they hope to live stream from the strato­sphere.

“We’ll ba­si­cally be able to get live in­for­ma­tion sent back this year,” said Finn Haft­ing who is work­ing on project de­sign. “We’re try­ing to get a live Face­book feed go­ing so that peo­ple can log on and see what the bal­loon is see­ing as it’s go­ing up.”

Haft­ing is one of 10 An­napo­lis West Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre stu­dents work­ing on the An­napo­lis Royal Space Agency project with physics/art teacher Der­rick Smith. They’re look­ing at a mid-may launch date.

“We’re get­ting a big­ger bal­loon this year so we can com­pen­sate for hav­ing a heav­ier probe and fit­ting all of the ra­dio gear in­side,” said Haft­ing, adding he’s try­ing to nail down what brand of APRS track­ing de­vice they’ll use, the ra­dio cam­era they’ll use, and fig­ure out how to get the ana­logue sig­nal from the ra­dio to a dig­i­tal sig­nal that could be up­loaded to Face­book. Or it could be Youtube live stream­ing.

And he expects this year’s probe will go a bit higher than last year’s 30,000 me­tres. That’s 30 kilo­me­tres.

If it sounds com­pli­cated, it is. But that’s the point – prob­lem solv­ing.

The Pack­age

Last year on June 2 the space agency launched a bal­loon with a Sty­ro­foam box slung be­neath it. Three Go­pro cam­eras were fas­tened to it and it had a small com­puter board with a de­vice that recorded al­ti­tude, tem­per­a­ture, flight path, co-or­di­nates, speed, and other in­for­ma­tion onto a mi­cro Se­cure Dig­i­tal card. The track­ing de­vice in­side the probe was mo­tion ac­ti­vated and when it went to sleep dur­ing the gen­tle voy­age across the prov­ince, it failed to wake up – even when the bal­loon ex­ploded from the ex­pand­ing he­lium and the pack­age parachuted back to earth. De­spite a chase team hot on its heels, the team couldn’t find the probe un­til a month later Haft­ing checked the track­ing de­vice app and sure enough, it had pinged. They found it July 8 in New­burne north of New Ger­many – 500 me­tres from where they had pre­dicted it would land.

Ra­dio Tech­nol­ogy

This year the box will be filled with track­ing re­dun­dan­cies, Smith said. And this year’s project in­volves ad­di­tional train­ing and help from ex­perts out­side the school. Four stu­dents are work­ing with the An­napo­lis Val­ley Am­a­teur Ra­dio Club to gain ham ra­dio cer­ti­fi­ca­tion – nec­es­sary to op­er­ate the new probe.

“They’re a must,” said Smith, in ref­er­ence to the am­a­teur ra­dio club mem­bers. “When we reached out to them … next thing we know they were down here. And they’re so giv­ing of their time and we thought, ‘let’s get our ham ra­dio op­er­at­ing li­cense’ be­cause that would be an added value thing to the project. So a few of us have signed on to do that.”

Abi­gail Bon­ning­ton is one of the stu­dents train­ing with the ra­dio club. But she’s also fill­ing out grant pro­pos­als be­cause the project does have a cost. And other stu­dents are work­ing on mar­ket­ing, crowd­sourc­ing, and pub­lic­ity.

Erich Gen­nette, Ju­lia Hall, Tayler Mil­bury, Kar­lee Mil­bury, Aaron Jonitz, Grace­lyn Long­mire, Grif­fin Batt, and Adam Had­dar are also part of the group.

GPS Data Log­ger

Gen­nette was busy tak­ing com­po­nents of last year’s probe and mak­ing them smaller to cut down on weight and make them more re­li­able.

“I’m wiring up the GPS data log­ger for our space probe,” said Gen­nette who wrote code for the project last year. “Ba­si­cally what you do is you’re record­ing th­ese co­or­di­nates from our GPS sen­sor which goes on our Ar­duino Nano board now in­stead of our Uno board and that is pars­ing all that data into read­able data that we can put into Google Earth to record our path.” It still sounds com­pli­cated.

“Prob­lem solv­ing that is re­quired is the best part about this be­cause as you saw last year we tried our best, we worked at that thing sev­eral times a week and we still lost it,” Smith said. “But we found it. And ev­ery­thing had to be solved through prob­lem solv­ing. You can’t give up. And that’s the thing I like the most. There’s cer­tainly a lot of hands-on things, but it’s re­ally the prob­lem solv­ing.”

Fol­low them on Face­book: https://www. face­­marsa/

Fol­low them on Youtube: https://www.


Ju­lia Hall, Tyler Mil­bury and Kar­lee Mil­bury work on putting up an Indiegogo crowd­sourc­ing page for the An­napo­lis Royal Space Agency that plans to launch a space probe in mid May. The An­napo­lis West Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre stu­dents need money to fi­nance this year’s project that will stream live video from more than 30 kilo­me­tres above the Earth’s sur­face.

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