On July 25, 2015 we launched NSL-40 for a bit of photographic fun: instead of a mascot or a business card in space, this time we wanted to fly a spacecraft. Chris and Bryan spent time in R&D developing a new payload and outrigger design and working on the best camera techniques to get the shot above. Ground experiments were conducted with various cameras and lighting. The small payload ended up with a GoPro, a Spot Tracker, and a AP510 APRS tracker. An additional Mobius camera acted as a backup for the GoPro and an additional 808 #16a camera was mounted looking down. The entire payload was ~800g and flew under a 600g H2 balloon.
Stills from apogee at 105k feet
About to touchdown on the planet Fuquay
We returned the following week with several recovery ideas to try. James was able to cast a fishing weight over payload and we then used that to pull up progressively stronger lines. Eventually we hauled up a heavy rope and steel hook that snagged the payload.
We had a pretty steady ascent rate that increased, as expected, as it passed the tropopause and solar heating started to kick in. Descent was about 8m/s which is a little bit faster than desired. A rate of 5m/s may have landed it in a set of nice open fields. But where is the fun in that?
Our use of a clear container with black foam seemed to pay off. Our payload's internal temperature was kept relatively toasty by solar heating, and we were able to limit the inflow of cold air during descent. The brand new AP510 unit had plenty of battery power and continued to operate well into the evening.
As mentioned on previous flights, the Mobius camera generates strong interference in the GPS frequencies. Our Mobius was directly next to our Spot Tracker, so we covered it in aluminum foil for shielding. It apparently wasn't enough. The Spot Tracker refused to send packets while the Mobius was active. The Mobius shutdown just before burst, due to a counterfeit microSD card; so with it out of the way, the Spot came back alive.
Oh, and during the recovery, Paul had a run-in with a tick and ended up with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.