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Earth Iphone Space Science Build

Brooklyn Father And Son Launch Homemade Spacecraft 243

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.'"
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Brooklyn Father And Son Launch Homemade Spacecraft

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  • by stjobe ( 78285 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:36PM (#33779058) Homepage

    19 miles is still in the stratosphere.

  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:41PM (#33779100) Homepage Journal

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

    This isn't news at all.

  • 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. []
  • by garompeta ( 1068578 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:51PM (#33779160)
    From this: []
    And this?: []

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

  • by mcornelius ( 1007881 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @05:57PM (#33779212)

    Actually, there is. It's called the Kármán line, and it's 62 miles or 100 kilometers.

  • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @06:14PM (#33779352) Homepage Journal

    19 miles (30 km, 100000 ft) is not in the upper atmosphere. It's in the stratosphere, which is considered part of the lower atmosphere along with the troposphere.
    For comparison, the SR-71 cruised at 85000 ft, and the International Space Station is at ~350 km, and that's still considered well inside the atmosphere.

    While it's impossible to say where space begins, I think a minimum criterion is to reach low earth orbit, or at least 160 km. This wasn't even a fifth of the way.

    Yes, it's impressive to get a home made balloon up to more than three times the height of Chomolungma, but you do these guys a disservice by comparing it to space.

  • Re:This is news how? (Score:4, Informative)

    by bornclimber ( 1476961 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @06:44PM (#33779556)
    Better than MIT is the Florida attempt... Florida students transmitted some science data, and not just download from a phone after landing... []
  • by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning AT netzero DOT 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: []

    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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 03, 2010 @06:50PM (#33779584)

    This is essentially a bureaurcratic definition. 100 km serves as a convenient line for dividing air travelers from astronauts, but there is no physical change in the atmosphere at that point. It is just an arbitrary line in the sky.

    It's not arbitrary, it's a practical definition. At 100km in an aircraft, you need to fly at orbital velocities just to stay aloft, so effectively you need a spacecraft instead.

  • by mcornelius ( 1007881 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @07:09PM (#33779694)

    That's not the bureaucratic definition. That's a practical definition. (The bureaucratic definition is either 50 miles or 76 miles , depending on whether you're coming or going. (No, I'm not kidding; NASA calls it spaceflight once you get above 50 miles, but reëntry (end of spaceflight) occurs when descending to 76 miles.) You seriously misunderestimate the stupidity and omnipresence of the bureaucratic mentality if you think they could adopt anything so practical a definition as the approximate boundary where ends most atmospheric drag.)

  • !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.

  • by Lobachevsky ( 465666 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @07:34PM (#33779852)

    The Karman line is the defined boundary for space. Your claim that "there is no clear 'line' ..." can applied to most anything, including boundaries between land and sea.

    There is no clear line, or particular grain of sand, that divides land from sea. There is a wetness gradient, where you go from completely dry, to moist sand, to ever more moist sand, to fairly wet sand, to very wet sand, to sand with frothy puddles, to turbid water, ankle high water, knee high water... you get the drift.

    Everything in nature lacks a clear boundary - due to planck's constant and such. All you can say is, with error bars, what the boundary is. We know the coastal boundaries of nations, within +/- 25m error. Similarly, the Kamran line is a decent boundary for when space stars from the Earth's surface. Is it exact to the millimeter? No, doesn't have to be. But the property is that buoyant crafts (bouyant due to density or due to propulsion with wings) cannot exist at the Kamran line. Just as the coastal boundaries of nations, while not defining the exact grain of sand land stops and sea begins, generally define the point at which you're dry or wet, within +/- 25m.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 03, 2010 @07:53PM (#33779956)

    Hubbles Orbital height is 559 km (347 mi) according to the all-knowing, never-to-be-doubted source of knowledge called Wikipedia

  • by Somegeek ( 624100 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @09:57PM (#33780574)

    I might be missing a joke somewhere in your post, and appologize if I am, but I'm getting the distinct impression that you're misinformed as to what the hardhack tag is for.

    Hint: It involves hacking hardware as opposed to software....

  • Need More Science (Score:3, Informative)

    by Somegeek ( 624100 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @10:20PM (#33780646)

    At 100km in an aircraft, you need to fly at orbital velocities just to stay aloft, so effectively you need a spacecraft instead.

    What??? Sorry, you need to go back and rethink that statement; it's not even close to true. Can you explain how SpaceShipOne, flying at 'only' Mach 3, was able to go higher than 100km? Thus, not only staying aloft at at 100km, but climbing? Or the X-15, which also flew higher than 100km, and also at significantly less than orbital velocity?

    I like how a good authoritative sounding statement, (which happens to be false), got modded +4 informative.

  • by Somegeek ( 624100 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @11:05PM (#33780934)

    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. []

  • Re:Need More Science (Score:5, Informative)

    by wesley96 ( 934306 ) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @11:16PM (#33781000) Homepage
    What the grandparent probably meant by 'stay afloat' is maintaining altitude for a considerate amount of time. SSO and X-15 reached the 100km point, but had to come down relatively quickly because, once fuel runs out, you just fall to the gravity well.

    If you're in the atmosphere, you can glide without using all that much fuel. You can't do that in space - certainly not at 100km altitude. In order to 'stay afloat', you need to do orbital velocity.

    Of course, since it's not like atmosphere abruptly ends somewhere, the 'where to draw the line' can be a bit arbitrary, but the currently chosen one isn't impractical.

New systems generate new problems.