The HABE (High Altitude Balloon Experiments) project was started in the Summer of 2009 after coming across some incredible photos showing the curvature of the Earth captured by high altitude balloon flights carried out by others. I set myself the challenge to take some photos of my own. Since then, I have been successful in my quest, however I have not stopped there. The project has now branched out into a couple of main directions detailed below.
My HAB blog can be found at http://habe.acudworth.co.uk/blog.
The "standard" style payload will continue to fly and continually be improved. This is simply an insulated box containing a variety of components, often including a camera to take some great snaps! The next flight, HABE 3, will be the first flight to test out the brand new next generation flight computer - a custom PCB that I have designed myself. This allows a whole flight computer system to have a tiny 5x5cm footprint (including GPS, radio, microprocessor, microSD logger, 2x temp sensors and more)!
There is always a fair degree of uncertainty around where exactly a HAB flight will land. Whilst the predictions nowadays are very good, it still doesn't offer the degree of precision I'm after. This led onto the quest to build a fully autonomous return vehicle (fancy words for a small glider that will fly itself back from apogee). Having such a vehicle would allow pinpoint precision as to where the landing site will be; also it would mean no more chasing the balloon across the country! Work has begun on a glider; I'm working with Flying Wings Ltd to build a custom solution.
Higher, higher, higher. The idea of a "rockoon" is a small(ish) rocket launch from a high altitude balloon that will be fired off around 30km in altitude. Due to the lack of air at such altitudes a rocket should be able to travel significantly further and faster than from a ground launch. This is a real engineering challenge (especially for an economics student!), a whole new flight PCB will be required to fit inside the rocket. Many problems will have to be overcome including CoCOM limits (shutting down GPS modules when travelling over 1200mph greater than 18km in altitude) and obtaining CAA permission. To try and achieve this ambitious goal I'm working with modelrockets.co.uk.