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HABE - High Altitude Balloon Experiments


This is a A Level Student run project based in Worcester. Blog -

HABE 1 was a partial success - full run down on my blog - Now I have a working tracking system, different experiments can now be carried out. HABE 2 is planned for launch in early August.

More info coming soon!

Update: 23/10/10

Payload construction is complete and has been for a few months. It is proving difficult to get CAA permission to launch from my area (Worcester) due to restricted airspace all around me! I am currently in contact with the CAA trying to negotiate a window to launch. I plan to launch whenever I get the permission and the weather conditions are right! (hopefully soon).

Update: 25/04/11

It has been a while since I last messed around with the payload so decided to get it back out and have another mess around. I remembered that the last time I tested it the radio link seemed rather patchy and kept turning on & off. The problem was dodgy connections between arduino and radio (used some metal plug type things which the wire didn't solder to properly). Removed the metal plug things and resoldered. Seems to have worked a treat! I “walked” (sounds quite sad!) the payload around the local fields whilst I had set up the yagi, FT-817 and computer back home (receiving the telemetry and uploading to the tracker). Got back to find It had tracked me almost perfectly; a relief! The Canon A570IS was also dusted off and fired up running the HABE1 CHDK script (modified from the EOSS script). After 2hr & 21mins the camera stopped taking photos, this was due to the limit for photos to be taken reached (not that the SD card was full or camera had died). Further modification of the script happened today and I will test at a future date. I also created a quick timelapse video from the stills which was good. Alterations to the payload box are also underway: Extra polystyrene layers have been added and slots/holes created for different bits to slot into (I hope this will help with insulation and secure the objects inside when being battered about in the jet stream!); currently I'm contemplating whether or not to add a loud piezo buzzer to help find the balloon once it has landed (if gps fails on touchdown). Current thought is to operate the buzzer after a certain time has been reached or below a certain altitude (this will prevent it going on throughout the flight and wasting battery juice!). This weekend would have been perfect weather conditions for a launch with predictions for landing only about 10km away! I've got the CAA permission form to send off once again to hopefully get clearance for 1st week in July launch.

Still need to get: Balloon (probably will go for 1000G rather than 1200G to save extra cost ~£20); Parachute (likely to be 24“); String (has to break under x amount of force incase an aircraft flies into it) and last but essential the helium! Helium will not be purchased until I have CAA clearance and predictor is indicating we're good to go.

Update: 03/06/11

HABE 1 has progressed a considerable amount since last update. First off; I had some Dallas 1 wire temperature sensors lying around from a while ago when I ordered a few samples for possible future use. As I had some time on my hands before launch (1st week of July hopefully) I decided to try and integrate 2 of them so the payload would now report back both internal and external temperature. After some initial problems with the code (for some reason the Dallas arduino library wouldn't work with my sensors) and a fair amount of fiddling about (to convert the F to C and some other code to make the temp reading cosmetically better e.g. 20.5C rather than 205C) it came together nicely. I have soldered them into the flight computer circuitry and now 1 sensor is inside the payload and 1 is outside on the underside of payload box. The piezo buzzer I was contemplating adding before has been added and it is very loud! It has been coded in to come on after 160mins of flight time for 10mins, then off for 10mins… after about 40mins of doing this it remains on constantly. The only reason I decided to code it in for 10min bursts was to try and save battery power however I don't think this should be an issue as I'm using 6AA lithiums. A switch to turn the buzzer off has been fixed to the outside of the payload to prevent the destruction of all my hard work by some annoyed person who finds the payload and can't shut it up! A 1000G Hwoyee balloon has been purchased from Random Solutions (Steve Randall) and I would thoroughly recommend him; parachute has been kindly donated (see below) and I have got my hands on 100m of braided nylon cord courtesy of TimStar Lab supplies (see below also).

The payload is now complete and final testing has commenced. If no significant problems are encountered then pending CAA clearance (still haven't received), helium and weather conditions HABE 1 should be set to launch in around 4 weeks from now.

Update: 12/07/11

Well, HABE 1 was a partial success! Apart from complete camera failure the rest worked very well indeed, so overall, I'm very pleased with the flight. I have since created a blog where future updates will be posted (before they hit the wiki here!). So, check it out -

Launch Status - HABE 3

Update: 16/02/12

CURRENT LAUNCH DATE: Spring/Summer 2012

CAA Permission - Too far in advance.

Landing Predictions - Too far in advance.

Launch Status - Not Ready

This area will be updated in due course if the status of launch changes.

Launch status page for NOTAM: Launch Status (NOTAM use)


Equipment that will be entering near space (hopefully):

* Radiometrix NTX2 434.075Mhz - The radio module of choice for HABers. Has been proven to reach over 500km despite the spec sheet saying 500m! (This is due to LoS and sensitive receiving antennas)
* Arduino Duemilanove - The crooks of the payload. This mini computer takes the info from the gps, decodes it, packages it up and sends it off to the radio.
* Trimble Lassen iQ GPS - Proven by fellow HABers to work at the altitudes required. 
* Canon A570IS - Hacked using CHDK and running a custom script which will take photos with certain time interval throughout flight. Again, proven to work by fellow HABers.
* SMS Tracker - A backup tracker purchased off eBay (chinese made) for around £40. Just have to text a code to the trackers phone number and it texts back with location, alt and other variables.
* Dallas Temperature Sensors - 2 x DS18S20 temperature sensors to record internal & external temp. Free samples from Maxim.
* Polystyrene box - A HABing favourite; light weight and offers good thermal insulation. I've also added extra polystyrene sheets to all outside faces of box for further insulation. 
* Balloon - A 1000G sounding weather balloon from Hwoyee.
* Parachute - A 24" hexagonal ripstop parachute.
* Cord - 1mm diameter braided nylon cord.

Equipment remaining firmly on the ground:

* Yaesu FT-817 Transceiver - A highly sensitive radio used by many HABers. Expensive though, picked mine up fairly cheaply (~£150 I think) on eBay.
* 7 Element 433mhz Yagi Antenna - Highly sensitive antenna to maximise range from NTX2. 
* Tripod - Useful to hold antenna so you can track the balloon for a length of time without getting arm ache!
* Dl-FldigiHAB - A customised HAB version of Fldigi, used for decoding the telemetry received from balloon (available on this wiki).
* More coming soon...!

Media (Photo & Video)


I would like to thank the following companies for their kindness and support of HABE. Without them I wouldn't be able to launch a high altitude balloon.

  • Diamond Group International - Supplied Trimble Lassen iQ GPS Module and Antenna
  • Radiometrix - Supplied NTX2 Radio Module
  • Energizer - Supplied Lithium Ultimate Batteries
  • Low Power Radio Solutions - Supplied Yagi 433Mhz Antenna AND 2 easyradio advanced modules -
projects/habe.txt · Last modified: 2012/02/23 17:32 by acudworth