to the antenna boom. Since the antenna gets exposed to
the cold air of near space, don’t use nylon zip ties to affix
it to the antenna boom. Instead, attach the antenna plate
using small bolts and nylocks. Don’t make a hole in the
lunch box for the antenna cable to pass into the lunch box
just yet; make it after placing the radio tracker inside the
Finally, add the luggage tag to either the zipper
handle or to a split ring. On the luggage tag, write your
contact information. That way, if the tracker gets lost
during a mission someone coming across the lunch box
will know how to contact you.
INTERIOR OF THE AIRFRAME
At least two sheets of foam rubber and a sheet of
Coroplast are stacked together to fill the volume of the
lunch box airframe. Measure the interior dimensions of
the lunch box, and cut the foam rubber and Coroplast to
size. If this stack of material is too thin to fill the volume of
the lunch box, then add additional sheets of foam rubber.
These additional sheets are stacked inside the empty
lunch box before the other three layers.
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The bottom sheet is cushioning for the radio tracker
and GPS receiver when the module lands. It also holds the
battery in place. Therefore, cut out a pocket in the bottom
foam rubber sheet large enough to hold the battery. Place
the cutout near one edge of the foam rubber so that it is
easier to insert the battery prior to stacking the radio
tracker. Also, make the cutout just large enough for the
battery so the fit is tight and the battery doesn’t bounce
The second layer is the sheet of Coroplast. This is the
avionics pallet and holds the radio tracker. I use nylon zip
ties to attach the tracker PCB (printed circuit board) since
the board isn’t all that heavy. I also like to sandwich a thin
sheet of foamed neoprene between the PCB and the
Coroplast to fill in space between them that’s created by
the soldered wires and mounting hardware.
Before going any further, insert the bottom foam
rubber sheet and avionics pallet into the airframe.
Determine the natural place for the antenna cable to pass
through the wall of the lunch box and melt a small hole
through the wall.
The final top layer of foam rubber stacks on top of the
radio tracker and provides cushioning for the GPS
STACKING THE AIRFRAME
Lay the battery into the bottom layer of foam rubber
and connect it to the tracker. Now, stack the avionics
pallet on top of the bottom sheet. Next, attach the
antenna cable and the GPS module to the radio tracker.
For now, let the GPS receiver dangle over the edge of the
lunch box. Then, stack the top layer of foam rubber over
the avionics pallet.
The GPS module is thin, so place the GPS on top of
the top layer of foam rubber, making sure the antenna of
the GPS is on top. In other words, make sure the GPS isn’t
upside down. Now, zip the lid of the lunch box closed.
The lunch box airframe is now ready for its recovery
parachute and the other modules that will accompany it
on its near space mission.
Onwards and Upwards,
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