High Altitude Test Platform



Easy inexpensive access to space like conditions is conducive for component testing and collecting scientific/engineering data. This is the goal of the HATPlat System.

Many educational groups and amateurs have launched small payloads to the edge of space using latex balloons designed for high altitude exploration. Most of those systems are used to collect impressive black sky curve-of-the-Earth photographs and videos. The HATPlat System is designed to be a reliably powered and tracked platform with quick and consistent recovery so that engineering payloads of up to 8 pounds can be flown within a weeks notice. Larger balloons can be stabilized and carry over 20 pounds of payload, but take more time to prepare with FAA required waivers and nearly an order of magnitude higher costs. NASA Balloons capable of carrying 8000 kg or more can cost well over $100,000 and take many months to prepare.

The HATPlat System can be released almost anywhere as long as there is not an approach or take-off corridor nearby, and can even be launched at night with a beacon. An FAA waiver is not required for payloads under 12 pounds (FAR 101 rules), and a courtesy NOTAM is filled 1 day before a mission. The HATPlat System carries a tertiary redundant tracking system and its own experiment power capable of up to 5A at 12V, 5V, or 3.3V DC. Still cameras and video are available to record the actions of any engineering test hardware during the flight. Flight data consisting of 3-axis acceleration, 3-axis magnetometer, temperature at various points, and pressure are recorded for full flights.

The HATPlat System typically climbs upward at 1200 ft/min reaching altitudes between 105,000 and 120,000 feet, where the balloon bursts and begins to fall until thicker air slows down the platform via its parachute. The typical flight time is between 1.5 and 2.5 hours, with much longer flights possible with slower climb rates and smaller payloads. Temperatures reach a minimum of -60 degrees Celsius and pressures less than 1% atmospheres (5 torr). The platform reaches the middle stratosphere where there is increased photon radiation in UV and X-ray realms.

System Block Diagram of Major Systems
HATPlat is divided into two major systems. The Sky system includes all components released to fly to high altitude. The Ground system includes all components and people that launch, chase, and recover the platform. Most systems are comprised of COTS hardware with legacy software systems.
Structure & Rigging
Carbon-carbon nomex Primary structure ( http://www.acpsales.com/Panels-Sheets-and-Laminates.html )
Parachute ( http://www.the-rocketman.com/chutes.html )

<APRS Tracking System> :: This system used an automated capability of the KPC+ to receive GPS coordinates and send them and activate the PTT (push-to-talk) on the radio to send coordinates every 45 seconds -- this includes the GGA and RMC sentences so that speed and altitude are transmitted with lat/long. The TNC is programmed by the users so that ground radios of specific call signs will be received and repeated from altitude so the chase vehicles can send position updates and messages through the balloon.
Kenwood TH-K2 Amateur radio single band (http://www.kenwoodusa.com/Communications/Amateur_Radio/Portables/TH-K20A)
Kantronics KPC3+ TNC ( http://www.kantronics.com/products/kpc3.html)
MTK3339 GPS module (https://www.adafruit.com/products/746)

<SPOT> :: COTS backup tracking solution (http://findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=102)

<Radio beacon> :: Tertiary recovery system. This small radio beacon uses 220MHz frequency to send a pulse every second. A Yagi-antenna and ground receiver will turn the pulse into an audio beep which changes intensity as the Yagi is pointed closer to the beacon's location. The Walston Retrieval System (http://www.walstonretrieval.com/main.htm) has been fundamental in the recovery of at least one payload which landed in the crags of a small mountain and GPS coordinate alone was not enough.

Battery (http://www.batteryspace.com/LiNiMnCo-26650-Battery-14.4V-3.6Ah-51.84Wh-10A-rate-with-PCM.aspx)
PDC- Power Distribution Circuit: This custom circuit uses three solid state switching power supply modules to provide 12V, 5V, and 3.3V at up to 5A of current. The efficiency of the PDC is over 90%.


Chase Vehicle(s)
Base Station
Internet Systems

The entire Sky system and a minimal Ground system can be contained in one commercial vehicle.

VIDEO of the HATPlat System used by NASA Ames for a Science and Education payload mission


External Requirements (FAR 101 Rules)


Professional Balloon Group PPT

Hydrogen balloon ignition
Rockoon: Launching a rocket from a balloon

UAlberta Procedures

Wireless Charging -- TI