HacDC Spaceblimp 5

From HacDC Wiki

Sb5 IMG 9220.JPG

Spaceblimp-5 Launched: July 9, 2011


This time we were going for altitude, and we got it! The max recorded altitude was 118,533 ft! (Getting us the 16th highest altitude record on [] !)

The launch site was: Strasburg VA, in a open area near the town on Rt 11, near the I-81. Lat: 38.9968 N Lon: 78.3508W

Sb5 launch still.jpg Sb5 track.jpg

The path the balloon took was pretty strange, with the wind shifting between ascent and descent, and so we had a lot more driving to do than usual. The primary GPS/radio worked perfectly, and we got super-lucky with the recovery, picking up the package ~15 minutes after it hit the ground. The video camera overheated and failed before launch (booo!) and we're still working on the instrument data, but all signs point to some new and interesting results at the highest altitude we've ever run.

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Pictures and Video

Photos have been uploaded to



For now, here is the raw accelerometer data: Media: spaceblimp5_accelerometer.csv.gz

Analysis to come in the next few days....

Flight Tracker

Launch Plans

Planned launch date: Saturday, July 9, 2011
Launch time: 10:00 AM, Launch should take less than an hour.
Launch Location:

Strasburg, VA

Coordination/Talk-in: 146.685 MHz simplex (this might change, please monitor Twitter (@HacDCSpaceblimp) and mailing list for updates.
Planned Altitude: 120,000 Feet
Planned Ascent Rate: 1,000 feet/minute
Planned Descent Rate: 1,000 feet/minute
Primary Beacon: Son-of-WhereAVR with ublox GPS. Yaesu VX-1 handi-talkie with 1 W Transmitter, call sign W3HAC-11 (map), Frequency 144.390 MHz
Secondary Beacon: GSM mobile phone modue, uBlox GPS
Payload: 9 DOF IMU, Geiger counter, temperature, pressure, humidity, and light sensors



There were two radios on board the blimp that transmitted out the GPS data:

  • The primary radio was tied to the GPS and transmitted out to a network of amateur radio enthusiasts who then passed the location information on to get mapped here: We also ran some custom software that passes this data on to a Twitter account (once per minute!) which you could follow on your phone: DC Spaceblimp Primary Twitter Feed. (Click the link in the Twitter to pull up a map!)
  • The secondary radio was actually a GSM cell phone module, and broadcasted its data when in range of a cell tower. It broadcasted both GPS data for tracking, and a lot of the sensor data for science. It also twittered through Society Of Robots Twitter Feed.


The payload contains a couple cameras:

  • a video camera (Canon Zi6)
  • a still camera (Canon Powershot A-480) running custom firmware to get better exposures from space


and a lot of instrumentation:

  • a geiger counter
  • 9 degree-of-freedom IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit on Wikipedia)
  • high-speed (50 sample/sec) accelerometer
  • internal and external temperature sensors
  • humidity sensor
  • air pressure sensor
  • IR and visible light sensors
  • a solar panel, hooked up to measure the voltage
HacDC Spaceblimp Project:
Main Page Press Page First Launch (Found) Second Launch (Successful)
Third Launch (Successful) Fourth Launch (Successful) Fifth Launch (3% short of goal) Sixth Launch (Successful) Seventh Launch (Successful)

HacDC Spaceblimp Team Contact Info:
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