Aether I - 3/14/2014

Bryant's first encroachment on space - Aether I.

A brief introduction to the 2014 Aether project

Sample video from the Aether I

The Challenge - Aether I was the first stab at space made by Bryant Hornet Engineering's Aeronautics and Space division. Students from our Aerospace Engineering class headed the charge with additional support from H.E.A.T. members. Mr. Williams, Aerospace Engineering instructor and project supervisor, had conducted a similar experiment in the past, bringing some experience to the project. This capsule, however, was destined to be much more advanced than Williams' previous effort.

Initial capsule construction

Design - Aether I 's shape was decided upon early in class discussions after it was determined that re-purposing a commercially available cooler was not ideal for this application. The pyramid shape offers reasonable interior volume and very low/centered center of gravity, offering great stability upon (sometimes rough) landings; better ensuring that the capsule would remain upright upon rough landings. All loaded weight/equipment was positioned as low and centered as possible. Students designed the capsule's shape and dimensions in Autodesk Inventor before construction.

Further capsule construction

Construction - The bulk of the Aether I capsule materials can be found at Lowe's. As you can see here, the capsule was constructed of rigid insulation. It was critical to insulate the interior of the capsule to ensure that batteries continued operate at max altitude where atmospheric temperatures can drop below -40 degrees. Great Stuff sealed seams nicely. In these photos, you can see a final wrap of reflective, semi-flexible insulating material that adds to the overall R-factor while looking great and "spacey."

Beware: Wrapping with a foiled material such as this one, while being an excellent and lightweight insulator, can cause a significant Faraday Effect - blocking radio signals from entering or escaping your little Faraday Cage. Due to the last-minute completion of the Aether I capsule, we had little opportunity to test all equipment with the door of the capsule closed. Lesson learned.

A peek inside the completed Aether I capsule

On-board Equipment - Aether I carried significant tech along its journey.
- A GoPro equipped with battery bacpac recorded 1080p bird's eye video through the bottom of the capsule.
- A Canon Elph point-and-shoot camera captured stills out the side of the capsule thanks to a CHDK hack that allowed the small camera to run a script, firing the shutter every 60 seconds.
- An APRS unit equipped with a specialty GPS chip (unlocked to work above the federally regulated 60,000' ceiling typically imposed on civilian GPS) allows for telemetry to be radioed over amateur bands and bounce off digi-peaters until an internet gateway is found. The location of the unit can then be tracked in real-time over the internet.
- A flight computer, again equipped with a similar GPS chip, served as a redundant telemetry recording device and recorded additional data such as outside temperature, atmospheric pressure, and humidity. An attached probe protruded from the capsule to monitor conditions outside the capsule.
- This equipment was powered by eight Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA batteries. Lithium batteries, while much more expensive, are significantly lighter and operate at much lower temperatures than their alkaline counterparts; making them ideal for this application.
- A voltage regulator (you can see the attached heat-sink) was utilized to allow our 12V APRS unit and 5-7V flight computer to use the same eight batteries rather than hauling additional batteries along.
- A pair of credit-card-sized temperature loggers were stowed in the capsule to record internal temperature and later evaluate the performance of the capsule's insulation.

Fully equipped, flight-ready weight - 45.9oz.