APPROACHING THE FINAL FRONTIER
■ BY L. PAUL VERHAGE
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A NEW BALLOONSAT
When teaching students to make BalloonSats, I give them six sheets of
Styrofoam and ask them to cut and glue them together to form a hollow box.
During their construction, students also must cut channels for tubing and
determine where to mount the electronics and sensors. However, if you look
at a CubeSat, you'll notice that they are assembled by stacking planes. So I
asked myself, why not attempt something like that for BalloonSats?
Since starting my dissertation on the effects of BalloonSats on student attitude toward science, I’ve
been giving some thought to the design of the BalloonSat
airframe. This is partly because I already have a good
BalloonSat flight computer design and would like an
airframe design to match. Somehow, just giving students
six sheets of Styrofoam and asking them to make an
airframe seems crude and undeveloped in comparison.
For readers not familiar with CubeSats, they are small
satellites that follow a simple design standard. CubeSats
are 10 centimeter cubes containing a flight computer,
sensors, batteries, and solar cells. All the components are
stacked together like the shields of an Arduino. Then, solar
panels are clipped to the outside faces of the stack. Many
universities have purchased a kit for their aerospace
students to build. After students have finished their
CubeSat, it can be launched into earth orbit.
So, why not try something similar for BalloonSats?
Now, I’m not claiming to have the perfect solution to
BalloonSat design, but I did test the following design and I
am very happy with the results. Therefore, this month let
me share the design and let’s see how far it can evolve.
CELLFOAM 88 AND PLASTIC TUBES
The traditional Styrofoam used in the construction of
■ FIGURE 1. University of Kansas AE360 class
BalloonSats on their way to near space.