Launch 002: S02

November 7 2009

UCSD, funded by California Space Grant, contacted four local underrepresented high schools in the effort to spread STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).  UCSD went to each school and gave a near space primer presentation, leaving the floor open to suggestions to which experiment the school would conduct.  Each school was encouraged to come up with its own near space experiment which was then planned, constructed, and executed by the school with guidance from UCSD as was needed.  All experiments flew together on our UCSD weather balloon in separate payload containers.

El Cajon Valley High School:

No near space launch is complete without photos, and El Cajon decided to focus their experiment around imaging.   To answer their question, "How does photo clarity change with altitude?", we worked together to create a payload box full of various cameras.  The Canon a590s from the previous year's launch were taken out again and reprogrammed to automatically take photos at given intervals.  One was positioned vertically pointing down, the other horizontally pointing out towards the horizon.  We reprogrammed the more expensive Canon SX200 as well, and it too was pointed out horizontally.  Finally, a small HD video camera was added to the mix, it too was set horizontally.

Lincoln High School:

The students at Lincoln decided to see what sort of effects near space radiation would have on plants.  Three sets of common nursery plants were selected, two of each were sent on the ride of a lifetime while two more stayed below to act as a control group.  In addition, plant seeds were sent and later compared to control seeds.  All plants were protected from the vacuum and cold.  Temperature, humidity, and radiation were monitored using an on board Java SunSPOT.  Interestingly, seeds flown in a later mission did grow faster than those kept on the ground.

Preuss High School:

Preuss came up with an ingenious experiment to test how well sound travels in the low pressure of near space.  By putting together a Lego NXT with an ultrasound speaker and microphone, the NXT would emit a sound and measure the time it took to hear it.  As part of flight preparation, the NXT setup was tested at UCSD in a pressure chamber and was subjected to vaccum and extremely cold temperatures.

Helix Charter High School:

Crickets seem to thrive in most places across the world, but can they withstand the harsh environment that is near space?  Helix Charter was determined to find out which, if any, factors of near space were survivable by these hardly insects.  Crickets were packaged into plastic bottles, and different bottles were subjected to a different mix of near space conditions.  Kapton tape was used to protect certain bottles from radiation, those inside the payload box were kept warm with thermal pads, and some bottles were punctured to allow for vacuum.  In addition, a Sony voice recorder was sent up as well, to see if one really can tell the temperature based on the intervals of a cricket's chirp.  This box did make it back, but insofar the experimental results were inconclusive.

Watch for the Pop:

In an attempt to catch the explosion of the weather balloon, a Sony HD video camera was mounted vertically pointed upwards in its own payload box, poised to get those few precious frames of bursting latex.  In addition, we wanted to see just how violent the winds get up there.