Since amateur radio operators have been sending near
spacecraft skyward, there’s been
amateur science imaging of Earth and
its resources. The resources imaged
from near space include natural
resources like forests and rivers, and
artificial ones like roads and cities.
Until now, however, a huge portion
of that imaging was done in visible
frequencies using film, and lately
digital imagers. With the advent of
thermal imagers and easily
modified digital cameras,
the spectral range open to
amateurs has increased
Along with that expansion, the
information gleaned has expanded
also. This article will briefly describe
the Imaging BalloonSat and then
show some of the images it returned
over three near space missions. With
luck, I’ll find additional ways to
expand the spectral range
of the images returned in
the near future.
To make imaging
practical for any near
space mission, I decided to
create a BalloonSat whose
sole purpose was to carry
and operate several cameras. The
cameras I described last time
included long-wave infrared (a Seek
Reveal thermal imager), near infrared
(a modified Mobius Action Camera),
and an inexpensive digital camera.
It’s important that they’re rigidly
mounted inside the airframe and easy
to access for their SD memory cards.
I decided this time to create a
framework inside the BalloonSat
airframe to hold the cameras and that
could be removed between missions.
My solution consists of a
Coroplast (corrugated polypropylene
plastic) frame and a Styrofoam shell.
The flight computer, battery pack,
and cameras attach to the Coroplast
frame, and then the frame slides into
a Styrofoam shell for protection from
Last time, we discussed testing simple
multispectral imaging from a quadcopter
platform. This time, you’ll see what
happens when it’s taken to higher
altitudes, and get acquainted with the
results of taking visible, near infrared, and
long-wave infrared images in near space. I
find these missions return a lot of eye
candy and I hope Nuts & Volts readers
will enjoy the scenery as much as I have.
■ BY L. PAUL VERHAGE NEAR SPACE
Taking Cheap Multispectral Imaging
into Near Space
12 February 2017
The Coroplast frame packed with three imagers, a flight
computer, and battery pack. The four AAA battery pack is
mounted to the left wall and the flight computer to the top. The
imagers (from left to right) are an inexpensive Vivatar digital
camera, Seek Reveal thermal imager, and a Mobius Action
Camera modified for near infrared.
I built the Imaging BalloonSat shown here
to carry three imagers into near space.
They include long-wave infrared, near
infrared, and visible. The images returned
exceeded my expectations and point the
way to further experiments.