Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth Iphone Space Science Build

Brooklyn Father And Son Launch Homemade Spacecraft 243

Posted by samzenpus
from the treehouse-not-so-cool-now dept.
Adair writes "A father and son team from Brooklyn successfully launched a homemade spacecraft nearly 19 miles (around 100,000 feet) above the Earth's surface. The craft was a 19-inch helium-filled weather balloon attached to a Styrofoam capsule that housed an HD video camera and an iPhone. The camera recorded video of its ascent into the stratosphere, its apogee where the balloon reached its breaking point, and its descent back to earth. They rigged a parachute to the capsule to aid in its return to Earth, and the iPhone broadcast its GPS coordinates so they could track it down. The craft landed a mere 30 miles from its launch point in Newburgh, NY, due to a quick ascent and two differing wind patterns. The pair spent eight months researching and test-flying the craft before launching it in August. Columbia University Professor of Astronomy Marcel Aguera said, 'They were very good but also very lucky.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Brooklyn Father And Son Launch Homemade Spacecraft

Comments Filter:
  • Cool! (Score:5, Funny)

    by raddan (519638) * on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:34PM (#33779044)
    This is a very clever use of an iPhone. I would love to see this one used as a yearlong high school science project. The ROI on materials is incredible here.
  • by stjobe (78285) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:36PM (#33779058) Homepage

    19 miles is still in the stratosphere.

    • by tverbeek (457094)

      When the atmosphere gets thin enough it's "space"; 19 miles is stretching the definition a bit, but people of good faith can disagree on where that is. The WPIX article saying they sent into "into orbit" is of course dead wrong. It wasn't even a suborbital ballistic flight (like Alan Shepard's first).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mapkinase (958129)

      Actually, my childhood definition of "reaching space" was reaching escape velocity.

      • by u17 (1730558) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @06:35PM (#33779500)
        It's entirely possible to go to space without reaching escape velocity. You will get there as long as you're moving up and your thrust is greater or equal to the force of gravity. Escape velocity only concerns something moving up without any thrust at all. Of course, we can't build anything that will maintain thrust equal to the force of gravity for long enough, but if we could, we could go to space... at a snail's pace!
      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        So hubble isn't in space? They really should give it a different name...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Auto_Lykos (1620681)
      To be fair, atmospheric pressure at 19 miles is just a little under 1% of what is at sea level and about equivalent to the atmosphere of Mars.

      But we've seen these kinds of cheap high altitude balloons cover by Slashdot for about a year now and every time it happens, it seems to be picked up as a "new" event.

      The thing that is really annoying though is that they all are doing the same thing without any improvement. Next time I have to read this story, please say someone floated a model rocket with an M
  • by selven (1556643) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:36PM (#33779060)

    Seriously, it only goes up 30km. And there is no improvement that can possibly be made to a helium balloon that can make it actually go any higher than Earth's atmosphere. It's a good accomplishment but calling it a spacecraft is a bit disingenuous.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Yvan256 (722131)

      Not to mention that we hear about similar stories every three to four months now.

      This isn't news at all.

    • And there is no improvement that can possibly be made to a helium balloon that can make it actually go any higher than Earth's atmosphere.

      Yes there is. Attach rockets.

      • by JustOK (667959)

        Rockets EXPLODE!

      • by Teancum (67324) <(robert_horning) (at) (netzero.net)> on Sunday October 03, 2010 @06:45PM (#33779558) Homepage Journal

        And there is no improvement that can possibly be made to a helium balloon that can make it actually go any higher than Earth's atmosphere.

        Yes there is. Attach rockets.

        What is so sad is that joke of a "spacecraft" this gets a strong mention in the press (and on Slashdot) while a real spacecraft... using a helium balloons as a 1st stage to get altitude is being used in a genuinely innovative fashion for something new with rocketry. See:

        http://www.arcaspace.com/en/home.htm [arcaspace.com]

        ARCA was successful with their last launch attempt.... which was launched yesterday. No video links yet, but the official page says that the launch attempt was successful. Yeah, attaching rockets to a balloon is something being considered.

        FYI, ARCA (Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association) is using this flight as a part of the testing regime in order to get TO THE MOON! They are a Google Lunar X-Prize team who is making some real progress and sending stuff up. They are also doing it on a budget of a mostly volunteer team in Eastern Europe. The main reason for using the balloons is not really the altitude issue, but that does simplify the rocket nozzle designs as it can be tuned to a near vacuum rather than having to deal with atmospheric flight (it makes a difference). Also, if something goes "boom", that explosion happens high up in the sky and over the Black Sea instead of over a populated area, making the issues of a launch pad much less of a problem.

        • by cloricus (691063) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @09:39PM (#33780512)
          http://www.copenhagensuborbitals.com/ [copenhagen...bitals.com]

          These guys are doing some thing almost as cool though sticking to purely amateur ideals. Luckily for science loving people they've gotten a lot of press coverage. Unfortunately their latest launch failed on the pad, due to an issue with power, and they wont be able to attempt another test for six months odd. Still it is great to see people attempting to move past the generic rocket club stuff people have been doing pre-fab for 40 years.

          They definitely, along with some other examples, inspired me to push my friends to start doing serious engineering projects for fun. So far our list of things to attempt comes from any thing cool on TV that come with the stupid warning 'don't try this at home!'.
        • I have to disagree with your statement that ARCA is doing something 'genuinely innovative' by using a balloon for the first stage. The concept is called a 'Rockoon' and was pioneered in the US in 1949 and has been used extensivly by JP Areospace, (among others), a small US company that has been working with balloons and rockets for over 30 years.

          http://jpaerospace.com/rockoons.html [jpaerospace.com]

  • Since apparently nobody linked to the original video as far as I can tell, here it is:

    http://vimeo.com/15091562 [vimeo.com]

  • I wonder how high this could fly if a big model rocket was added, so it started when the balloon burst?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Spy Handler (822350)
      that 19 inch helium ballon doesn't have much of a payload, so you can't stick a big model rocket in there.

      You *could* possibly stick a small model rocket, and have the iPhone fire it when they reach high enough an altitude. A small rocket with 5 seconds of thrust maybe.

      You could even modify the shape of the exhaust nozzle for optimum vacuum performance since there's almost air there .

      while that would be cool, it's still nowhere near enough to actually get it in space....
      • by sjames (1099)

        You could use either a larger balloon or more of them to carry a more significant rocket up there

  • This is news how? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Onomang (1822906) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:49PM (#33779150)
    Nearly the same exact thing was done over a year ago for a budget of only $150 by college students from MIT.
    http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/09/the-150-space-camera-mit-students-beat-nasa-on-beer-money-budget/ [wired.com]
  • by garompeta (1068578) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:51PM (#33779160)
    From this: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/digitalcameras/mit-students-snap-space-photos-of-the-earth-with-40-canon-a470/1805 [zdnet.com]
    And this?: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1260323/British-aerospace-enthusiast-takes-NASA-style-photographs-using-helium-balloon-pocket-camera.html [dailymail.co.uk]

    Seriously, are we going to be calling it spacecraft? What is it going to be next? The Flip based UFO?
    pleaaaseee.... gimme a break...

    • It's all part of the downward trend here. Any ideas on a better site, with functional editors and useful comments?
  • As others have already pointed out you have to be at least 60 miles up to be in outer space so this wasn't a true space craft. It probably did get high enough to see the curvature of the earth and a black (or at least violet) sky. Aircraft with air breathing engines have gotten up this high so there is still atmosphere up this high. Maybe someday someone will try attaching a large model rocket similarly equipped to a balloon that will ignite at 100K ft. Something like that might get into space. (This h

  • by Nemyst (1383049) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:58PM (#33779222) Homepage
    I remember many similar stories already making the headlines here. I don't want to downplay their achievement, it's cool, but it's not really new or exciting anymore for anyone but them. I was hoping a real heavier-than-air craft, not another weather balloon.
  • Sigh! You can never reach space in a balloon. Something that floats in the atmosphere cannot rise above the atmosphere. It's as ridiculous as thinking you can rise above the surface of the water in a submarine. This thing doesn't even get a third of the way to space.
    • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

      Actually, you certainly can rise above the surface of the water with a submarine. You just need a good deal of momentum, and you're not going to stay up there very long... Try holding a beach-ball below water, as deep as possible, then letting go.

      But yeah, not really going to happen with a weather balloon.

  • Isn't this (Score:3, Funny)

    by JustOK (667959) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @06:13PM (#33779342) Journal

    Isn't this some sort of aid to terrorists? Combined with the Plane Finder AR app, oooooo spooky. They should ban helium.

  • Because the craft made it so high and the fact that they put an Iphone inside it now becomes a threat to our spy staelites (read"we may not be able to spy on our own citizens")and the NSA has deemed it a security threat and removed the story from most major news outlets. Sheesh this country's gone to hell.
  • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Sunday October 03, 2010 @06:26PM (#33779442) Homepage Journal

    If slashdot ever allows real article moderation (and not that firehose abortion), in addition to 'flamebait' and 'troll', can we have a '-1, pedant bait' article? Seriously, at the time of this comment, of 35 articles, at least half are arguing over whether or not this is truly a spacecraft. It's really easy to shit on others from the safety of your parents' basement. Whether it has been done before is also irrelevant. This father and son is doing something. There's too many complainers to call someone else out specifically, but what have you people done lately? I don't claim to have done anything interesting of late, but I also am not shitting on what others have done.

    • by BitHive (578094) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @06:31PM (#33779476) Homepage

      People are mostly objecting to the headline, not 'shitting on what others have done', unless you're referring to sensationalizing this story.

      • by buback (144189)
        My annoyance is that calling this a spacecraft craps all over groups that are working very hard to develop ACTUAL spacecraft. This is a balloon, which has a well defined definition.
    • by causality (777677)

      If slashdot ever allows real article moderation (and not that firehose abortion)

      Slashdot staff consists of the "editors". Real article moderation would make it more difficult for the "editors" to remain in denial that they are failures as editors. Therefore Slashdot staff are unlikely to implement real article moderation.

      in addition to 'flamebait' and 'troll', can we have a '-1, pedant bait' article?

      That'd just be another form of trolling.

      I don't claim to have done anything interesting of late, but I al

    • by nloop (665733)

      I agree! Good for them for doing something! Every time someone launches a weather balloon with a camera we should have it on slashdot! I for one could use a weekly uplifting story about the inane.

    • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @08:17PM (#33780076) Homepage Journal

      I think it is one thing to accomplish an interesting, even astonishing deed, it's a very thing to misrepresent the accomplishment as something greater than what it is. We have definitions of where space begins, and they didn't reach that. Balloons are also useless vehicles in space, so that should be another indication.

  • !Spacecraft (Score:3, Informative)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @07:13PM (#33779724) Journal

    1. It is a balloon. Not even the people who fly these for a living call them spacecraft. Says WikiP: "A spacecraft is a craft or machine designed for spaceflight." This thing popped when it rose above too much atmosphere. It was not designed for space. It was still in the stratosphere when it failed according to design.

    2. The Karman line is the generally accepted edge of space at 100 km (62.5 mi). This is where an aircraft would have to fly so fast to get lift from the thin air that it would achieve orbital velocity in the attempt and so wings would be superfluous. The US has awarded astronaut wings to pilots flying above 50 miles. This doesn't change the objective criteria of the Karman line.

    3. The CSXT GoFast achieved space altitude (72 miles) on May 17 2004 and is the only unmanned civilian craft to do so to date. It was designed for a flight profile carrying it into space and so was a spacecraft. As was SpaceShip One, the only civilian manned spacecraft to date.

    4. Reaction Research Society hit 50 miles in 1996. Hunstville L5 passed this 19 mile mark, but was ballooned launched and so not entirely spacecraft.

    5. No amateur spacecraft made from off the shelf or home made components has achieved even a 50K ft altitude according to Tripoli records. With Tripoli and the National Association of Rocketry's recent facing down ATFE over the definition of 'explosives', the FAA et al. is redefining amateur rocketry to include power up to 200,000 lb-ft sec and a concominant (and easily achieved with this power) 93 mile altitude. Most motors in this range are "experimental" ie. home made, but there are a few commercially available motors that can be staged and/or clustered for this power, the 152mm dia + 96" Loki Research P motor at 80kN-sec each being the largest you can currently put on your credit card. 11 of these will put you just under the FAA's proposed limit. 12, and you have to apply to NASA's office of space transportation for a permit. Expect an amateur spacecraft to make the flight, because now it's a matter of qualifying for the license and buying the parts.
     

    • 2. The Karman line is the generally accepted edge of space at 100 km (62.5 mi). This is where an aircraft would have to fly so fast to get lift from the thin air that it would achieve orbital velocity in the attempt and so wings would be superfluous. The US has awarded astronaut wings to pilots flying above 50 miles. This doesn't change the objective criteria of the Karman line.

      Oh, fucking bullshit. Someone in Europe arbitrarily chose 100 KM as a nice round number, then came up with a bullshit derivation

      • by Ocker3 (1232550)

        2. The Karman line is the generally accepted edge of space at 100 km (62.5 mi). This is where an aircraft would have to fly so fast to get lift from the thin air that it would achieve orbital velocity in the attempt and so wings would be superfluous. The US has awarded astronaut wings to pilots flying above 50 miles. This doesn't change the objective criteria of the Karman line.

        Oh, fucking bullshit. Someone in Europe arbitrarily chose 100 KM as a nice round number, then came up with a bullshit derivation after the fact to justify it. It's no more objective than 50 miles

        Brett

        Wrong Wikipedia on the Karman Line [wikipedia.org] Theodore von Kármán, (1881–1963) a Hungarian-American engineer and physicist, calculated what approx altitude would force you to achieve Orbital Velocity (27,000 kph) to stay there, and came up with about 100km. It's not exactly 100km, and it varies slightly, but it is indeed a nice round number, so they decided to keep it.

  • 1) Gyroscopically stabilize the camera platform so the footage doesn't look like it was shot by Michael Bay on the Vomit Comet.

    2) Use the balloon to bring an ordinary Estes model rocket to 100,000+ feet and fire it. If the rocket could reach 2,000 feet if launched from the ground, how high would it go if launched at 1% atmospheric pressure? In other words, what limits a model rocket's altitude performance -- drag or gravity? How long would the launch rod need to be to stabilize the rocket during launch a

    • by blixel (158224)

      Use the balloon to bring an ordinary Estes model rocket to 100,000+ feet and fire it.

      Would an ordinary model rocket engine function at such high altitude? I don't know much about model rockets ... but I had a couple when I was a kid. I think model rocket engines require oxygen in order for the black powder to burn?

      • The Estes-type solid engines contain both a fuel and an oxidizer, so they should do OK in a vacuum or near-vacuum. They'd never be able to burn quickly enough to propel a rocket if they didn't.

  • According to wikipedia, Japan has the balloon record at 53 km (33 miles).
  • Isn't it illegal under FCC regs to operate a cell phone at high altitudes? Doesn't the RF signal get detected by large numbers of cell stations, thus confusing the cell phone system? This is supposedly the rationale for making you turn off your cell phone on commercial jetliners.

  • 5 bars! (Score:5, Funny)

    by binarybum (468664) on Monday October 04, 2010 @01:51AM (#33781800) Homepage

    The Brooklyn man was quoted as saying "it all started as a way to find out if there was really any place at all where I could get good reception on the iphone". When the phone landed there were 7 voicemail messages, 13 text messages, and 16 emails that were all sent several days prior but had managed to download at about 5 vertical miles.

  • Weather balloon != spacecraft

    People do this sort of thing all the time. A year ago it was MIT students (camera + cell phone ZOMG!), then it hit Digg and inspired a flurry of imitators, including these no-talent hacks.

    Wake this section when someone launches a private vehicle into orbit, then we'll have stuff that matters.

  • by FunkyELF (609131) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:16AM (#33783260)

    Its hard to tell how high the craft actually is because of the use of the wide angle.
    When its tumbling around up high and the camera goes upside down you can see the curvature of the earth inverted. Pretty weird looking.
    In fact, on its way down where you can still make out trees and stuff, there seems to be a curvature.

    I'm not saying they shouldn't have used wide-angle, indeed they should have for something like this. Its just a little misleading.

  • Nice try. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Twinbee (767046) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:18AM (#33783268) Homepage

    Nice try, I'll give it that.

    But there are about 10 dozen reasons why this can be considered fake, and that the real motive behind the video is to try and brainwash the public into thinking the Earth is round.

    Like as if. For those who are still in denial, this is what would happen if the Earth was round:
    http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/flat/rounwrld.jpg [lhup.edu]

    Well, this PROUD flat-earther will NOT BUDGE.

    Thanks for playing.

  • aid? (Score:3, Funny)

    by evilviper (135110) on Monday October 04, 2010 @04:20PM (#33787812) Journal

    They rigged a parachute to the capsule to aid in its return to Earth,

    Actually, I think the parachute HINDERED and delayed it's return to earth, if anything. It would have been perfectly capable of returning to earth without help, as NASA scientists discovered some time ago...

"Indecision is the basis of flexibility" -- button at a Science Fiction convention.

Working...