Three late July launches have brought the Grandville High School RoboDawgs closer to their goal of achieving long-distance weather balloon travel. Recent launches have been used to gather data to support the RoboDawgs’ upcoming attempts to set new team distance records.
Most high altitude weather balloon flights follow a familiar trajectory. The balloon and its payload are launched, and the balloon rises through the atmosphere until it pops. A parachute then brings the balloon payload back to the ground. The RoboDawgs are preparing to experiment with methods to allow their balloons to achieve neutral buoyancy once they reach a specific altitude. This would allow a RoboDawg research capsule to ride up to around 60,000 feet – and then remain at that altitude for hundreds of miles. July launches have been testing new Raspberry Pi-based control systems which allow the team to monitor and act on changes in altitude, speed, barometric pressure, or location – all while staying under the FAA weight restrictions for high altitude weather balloons. The new Pi-based processor, sensors, and servos weigh only a fraction of a pound and leave the team plenty of payload space and weight available to carry cameras and research payloads.