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HD Video From the Edge of Space, On the Cheap 205

Posted by timothy
from the commendably-few-casualties dept.
SoundDoc75 links to a page describing the motivations and problem-solving behind "a 10-minute HD video taken on August 24th with a Canon Vixia HF20 HD camera suspended from a 1500g hydrogen balloon and launched near Edmonton, Alberta. This is the first known amateur video taken from this height — 107,145 feet."
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HD Video From The Edge of Space, On the Cheap

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  • by celibate for life (1639541) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:10PM (#29520913)
    The title made me think we had finally reached the outer edge of the Universe, where God lives!
    • by eln (21727)
      God really needs to set a better example than that. Living that far out, his commute must be terrible, and he probably does it in a giant SUV. How can he expect us to take care of his little planet if he's going to be out there spreading his pollution all over the Universe?
    • What does GOD need with a Balloon?

  • It looks like slashes become backslashes in that height

  • by intermodal (534361) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:22PM (#29521121) Homepage Journal

    That's not the first amateur video from that height, I've seen the quality of the video astronauts shoot. If they're not amateur cameramen, who is?

    • Well, if you want to get technical, the astronauts aren't taking any video at 100k feet. They're still strapped in at that point, cameras stowed away.
    • by rarel (697734)
      I think their point is that it's the first HD video, not the first video.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      This is the first known amateur video taken from this height â" 107,145 feet."

      they weren't taken at the height, were they? Yes this is the first from the height...not the highest over all~

    • by V!NCENT (1105021) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:03PM (#29521907)

      Who cares? What matters is that they did something that was awesome to do. Imagine yourself lifting up a baloon with a camera attached to it, wondering what will happen. Later on you find your camera back. You wait for what seems to be like forever for the 32GB to get transfered onto your computer. You watch the video from when you were standing in a grass field and watch what happened when you were there on the ground. You watch your camera fly into outer fscking space. You feel like "WOW! Dude that's beautifull... we freakin done it! We actually did it! It worked!".

      And then you feel awesome for a complete month, figuring out what to do next, while the world gets to see what you saw.

      You're suppose to like this, given the fact that you are on /. What's wrong with you?

  • But it's still way way cool and I'd love to do something like this myself.

    I was thinking of a short-lived TV show I immediately loved and can't think of its name (and sadly, google hasn't been my friend to find it) about a group of people who launch a spaceship to the moon using stuff from a junkyard. In a similar vein, I suppose, as a way of "upping the ante", what would be the chances of attaching a couple of rockets to the side so that, when the balloon has gotten as far as it's going to go, the rockets

    • Ask, and ye shall receive... Salvage [imdb.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kuldan (986242)
      That Show would be http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvage_1 [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by karstux (681641)

      Achieving orbit would be impossible for such a project. Most of the energy in spacefaring rockets is spent on gaining velocity, not altitude. This balloon would give a lot of altitude "for free", but virtually no velocity. Gravity is pretty much as strong at 30 km as it is here on the ground, so it's not like the rockets would have an easier time lifting the payload than they do at ground level.

  • by swb (14022) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:26PM (#29521187)

    Can they control or limit the camera spin? It makes sense they can't right after the balloon bursts, but I would think there might be some kind of tricks they could do in the atmosphere on ascent and descent.

    • by Jaqenn (996058)

      Can they control or limit the camera spin? It makes sense they can't right after the balloon bursts, but I would think there might be some kind of tricks they could do in the atmosphere on ascent and descent.

      Seems to me it would be better to digitally scrub the video, and keep your hardware cheap.

    • What would have been cooler would have been a mirror that panorama makers use (the 360 ones). Point the camera at that. Do some trickery to do some anti spin, and then you could have a full 360 ascent.

      CPU processing would be insane though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Adding a long streamer to the payload to act like a tail on a kite should have done the trick.
    • by t0qer (230538) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:06PM (#29521953) Homepage Journal

      Watching the video I thought the same thing about controlling the spin. All it would take is a rudder mounted on a boom (no elevator).

      Then again, why not add an elevator, wings, ailerons, etc? They could add a pico pilot

      http://www.u-nav.com/picopilot.html [u-nav.com]

      And have the camera always pointed towards home. Then when the balloon bursts, instead of an out of control fall, they could have a nice controlled glide back to earth.

      By giving the wings a ton of dihedral, it would automagically keep the camera steady on descent.

      • Those are interesting ideas. I hope that the hobbyists will get into a friendly competition to see who can make the best video and achieve the highest altitude. It would be fun to see what they come up with. I'd consider trying it myself.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by SoundDoc75 (1640327)
        shhhhh! If you read over our website http://bear.sbszoo.com/bear3-4/bear4.htm [sbszoo.com] you'd see thats allready in the works... ;) The thought of adding a tail for stabilization was there, just never implimented, its always shoulda/coulda after the fact lol, next time will be different/better/bigger! Gyro's may have been a option, but powering one over the full 4.5hr flight, and having one that would work at -30C and at that altitude would be another challenge. We were just happy to have the camera work the whole t
    • You mean like CosmoCam http://www.cosmocam.com/ [cosmocam.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Can they control or limit the camera spin? It makes sense they can't right after the balloon bursts, but I would think there might be some kind of tricks they could do in the atmosphere on ascent and descent.

      I debated that one myself. A gyroscope would help keep it from pitching but it won't stop spin. There are tracking rigs that lock to fixed points but it would add a lot of weight and expense. Building a vertical wing onto the housing might help but it could make it worse. The best thing would be to use three balloons in a triangle configuration hopefully with ridge rods to space them out a bit. The problem with the rig is it's far too easy for a single balloon to rotate given it has little wind resistance.

  • This is the first known amateur video taken from this height — 107,145 feet.

    Yes, and I bet it remains the only one taken from that (exact) height. ;)

    (If they'd said "this high", I'd have interpreted it to mean "or higher", but strangely "this height" doesn't strike me the same.)

  • by rarel (697734) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:35PM (#29521371) Homepage
    Dupe or not, I don't care, I missed it the first time and I'm glad I didn't this one.

    In the beginning it reminded me of how cool it is to fly, and I don't mean airliner, I mean small plane, ideally old-school open cockpit. It's not only all kinds of fun, it always detaches you from the world below and its petty concerns, in a way. Up there, you're literally free as a bird, it's magic.

    Second half of the vid was one hell of a skydive! :D

    Awesome flight, kudos guys!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:36PM (#29521373)
    This kind of error gets posted routinely.

    The boundary of space is conventionally defined at 100 km, or about 260,000 feet. Sending a weather balloon to 107,000 feet is nice, but it's only 40% of the way to the "edge of space."

    Which, of course, you could have realized just by thinking about it. We define "space" as meaning "above the sensible atmosphere," and if you get there in a balloon, it couldn't be above the atmosphere.

    • by jguthrie (57467) <jguthrie&brokersys,com> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:51PM (#29521663) Homepage

      100Km is about 328,000 feet. That's why Space Ship One had a tail number of N328KF.

      Also, the North Texas Balloon Team [edtexas.com] and the South Texas Balloon Project [qsl.net] routinely (with launches approximately annually) send balloons with video cameras to altitudes in excess of 100,000 feet. Those are just the two balloon projects I'm familiar with. I am sure there are others because it's not particularly hard to do.

      So, this is pure ho-hum to me. Let me know when they've done it a couple of dozen times.

      • So, this is pure ho-hum to me. Let me know when they've done it a couple of dozen times.

        No one is claiming this is some astounding breakthrough or unheard of application of technology. They're saying "Hey, these guys sent a video camera up to 100k feet and this is the footage they got. Cool, huh?" Most of us would say we could/would do something like this if we had the time... initiative... willingness to get off our lazy butts and do it. But most of us never will. These guys actually did, and we're applauding them for it.

    • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @05:38PM (#29523239) Homepage

      The boundary of space is conventionally defined at 100 km, or about 260,000 feet. Sending a weather balloon to 107,000 feet is nice, but it's only 40% of the way to the "edge of space." Which, of course, you could have realized just by thinking about it. We define "space" as meaning "above the sensible atmosphere," and if you get there in a balloon, it couldn't be above the atmosphere.

      It's an exponential decay. There is no sharp cutoff. Nothing special happens at 100 km. The scale height [wikipedia.org] of the earth's atmosphere is about 7 km, so the pressure at 107,000 ft (32 km) is about 10^-2 of what it is at the surface, while the pressure at 100 km is about 10^-6 of surface pressure. It's not like somewhere in between 10^-2 atm and 10^-6 atm there's a mystical barrier that suddenly makes balloon flight impossible. It just gets harder and harder; to stay aloft with a given volume of hydrogen, a balloon at 100 km would have to have 10^-4 of the weight of a balloon that's neutrally buoyant at 32 km. It just happens to be difficult to make a balloon with sufficiently thin walls, high strength, and low surface-to-volume ratio.

      If you watch the (very cool) video, the sky is black, there is no sound, and the curvature of the earth is extremely obvious. I would call that the "edge of space" -- for some definitions of "edge of space." There's not some international standards body that defines terms like "edge of space."

      • by Eevee (535658) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @06:09PM (#29523545)
        Except that the atmosphere isn't a smooth medium; 100,000 ft. is still inside the stratosphere. To go to 100 Km, you're going through the stratopause (the boundary between the stratosphere and mesosphere) and the mesopause (the boundary between the mesosphere and the thermosphere.) All three layers have different characteristics as far as temperature and circulation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Amanitin (1603983)

        It's an exponential decay. There is no sharp cutoff. Nothing special happens at 100 km.

        Yes it does. At around that height the theoretical speed that would be required to generate enough lift to stay in the 'air' surpasses orbital speed in vacuum.
        Look at 'Karman line'.

    • by dapyx (665882)
      At 32 km (107,000 feet), the atmosphere is practically inexistent (the air pressure is less than 1% of the one at sea level), but the gravity is 99% of the one at sea level.
  • for those who are interested, this bear project [sbszoo.com] has a twitter page [twitter.com]: https://twitter.com/BEAR_HAB [twitter.com]. (linked twice)

  • by Skapare (16644) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:45PM (#29521543) Homepage

    ... and memory cards, ham radio operators did this one [youtube.com] in 1989, which was just standard definition, but it went further (from Illinois to nearly Indianapolis) and higher. It just transmitted the signal back via the UHF transmitter on board.

    • by mdm-adph (1030332)

      That one had a much better soundtrack, too. 4 stars.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      I wonder how accurate the altimeter is.
      At 4 minutes it goes 125k, 110, 119 k per-second.

      • The altimeter was a GPS device. The post-flight analysis showed that the camera's DC-DC converter was interfering with the GPS reciever; so, the signal was intermittent.
      • by dapyx (665882)
        The altimeter was pressure-based, so it was not very accurate, hence the constant changes.
  • Valve (Score:3, Interesting)

    by l0b0 (803611) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:47PM (#29521589) Homepage
    IANAAE, but I can't help thinking that a valve on the balloon would enable it to survive longer, siphoning off gas when the inner pressure gets too high. What other cheap improvements are available to these guys?
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Encasing it in a plastic shell.

    • Re:Valve (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheHawke (237817) <rchapin@nOSpam.pelicancoast.net> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @04:15PM (#29522117)

      Weight restrictions vs performance. The envelope is filled to 25% capacity with helium, then released. As the balloon ascends, the gas expands, filling the envelope completely. Once it reaches altitude, it will stay there until either the membrane fails or programmed cutter severs the the tether, letting the payload descend back to the ground. A release valve would prolong the flight, but with amateur rides like this, they usually let it ride up until it bursts at a calculated altitude from the overpressure. 100K feet is impressive and the video is stunning.

      • Why wouldn't they fill it with hydrogen?
      • by Alomex (148003)

        Does the buoyancy of the balloon change with height or does the increase in volume perfectly cancels with the reduction in density of the air mass displaced?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by clintp (5169)

        A mechanism to vent gas introduces a rather tragic possible failure vector: equilibrium. Your balloon floats along until it's out of reach of the chase team and you don't get your payload back. (Which might be fine if you're using telemetry.)

        At least with this method you're guaranteed that the payload will come back sooner rather than much, much later.

    • by CarlDenny (415322)

      I'd been thinking similar things. Venting gas would limit their ultimate height though. I wonder if they could:

      Underinflate the balloon at ground level so it's got just enough bouyancy to get off the ground. Then the ballon inflates itself as the external pressure drops. It'd still pop eventually, but might last a good bit longer.

      Carry a second (third? smaller?) balloon that inflates off the main ballon when the internal pressure gets high enough. I don't know how much a second balloon would weight thi

  • now I know (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Luyseyal (3154) <[swaters] [at] [luy.info]> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:49PM (#29521627) Homepage

    Now I have some idea of what it was like for Joe Kittinger [wikipedia.org], a guy who sky-dived over 102,000 ft. back in the Fifties.

    -l

  • My favorite parts were the brief glimpses of the sun surrounded by black space. That's a very rare sight and I feel like I might not have even seen that before. Every other image I've ever seen of the sun has the bluish atmosphere surrounding it. Very offputting to see the brightness of the sun surrounded by black.

    Seth
    • by grahamwest (30174)

      NASA records video from the Solid Rocket Boosters on Space Shuttle launches. 6 minutes or so from the pad up to around 200,000ft and then all the way down to the sea. You can see the orbiter fly away, the other SRB as they both tumble, and the sun in the blackness of space although it's often too bright for the camera to cope with.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FadV-VwuXWo [youtube.com]

  • I can tell from the canned graphics they edited the video using Pinnacle Studio. Since I also use that for home movies [blogspot.com], I am giving myself 5 Insta-cred points (tm). Who ever said a $99 application has no place in space (well space-flavored sky anyway)? Suck it Adobe Premier Pro!
  • As long as you consider a couple of guys on a BBC show to be amateurs in the sens that they were only professional TV presenters, not pro space people, they did it for about $500. They showed the footage on the TV show "Bang! Goes the Theory."

  • 1) How much power would it take to get to orbit from that height?

    2) How hard would this be for a person to accomplish? (Human flight)

    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      Almost identical to a ground launch. Getting 100 km up is the easy part (note: they didn't, they got less than 33 km up), getting over 7 km/s of horizontal velocity is the hard part. It's so hard that most boosters start accelerating as soon as they leave the ground.. that makes them supersonic in the low atmosphere, which means they need a fancy aeroshell or they'll burn up.

      • Actually, they may have only gotten ~33km up, but those are the densest 33km of the trip. When you take into account the extra fuel they would need to overcome atmospheric drag at lower altitudes, each km of travel at low altitude is worth more than each km at high altitude. My understanding was that this leads to a significant fuel savings, which means a lighter vehicle, which means less energy to get it up to that 7km/s you were talking about.

        • by QuantumG (50515) *

          A balloon that could lift a 100t rocket.. yeah, that's likely to be cheaper than just making the rocket a little bigger.

          • by Hadlock (143607)

            No, no you're thinking about this all wrong. You get 10,000 balloons, each carrying 0.1t, and attach them like you would baloons to a lawn chair. Then, when you get the the desired altitude, you just pull out your BB gun and... wait, I think I read about this somewhere else already...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Almost identical to a ground launch. Getting 100 km up is the easy part (note: they didn't, they got less than 33 km up), getting over 7 km/s of horizontal velocity is the hard part. It's so hard that most boosters start accelerating as soon as they leave the ground.. that makes them supersonic in the low atmosphere, which means they need a fancy aeroshell or they'll burn up.

        Right. To be fair, though, although getting to orbital velocity is the hard part, you do gain a bit by starting from outside (the dense part of) the atmosphere. Turns out that, for a SSTO, that's significant (mostly because SSTOs are so sensitive to small variations to start with). Ages ago I calculated [harvard.edu] that starting out above the atmosphere would give a typical SSTO about a 20% gain in mass to orbit. Interestingly, a significant fraction of this is due to the increased performance of rocket engines in v

  • by gone.fishing (213219) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @06:52PM (#29523855) Journal

    For those of you complaining about the jerky video: STFU!

    For those of you saying it isn't practical: So What!

    I want to take my hat off to these dudes and give them a hearty round of applause and say "Great job guys!"

    My point here is these guys had a vision, that led to an idea, that lead to an exparament where a couple of pretty normal folks did something extrodinary. It is the same kind of curiosity that Ben Franklin had when he flew the kite and "discovered" electricity.

    Those of you who have offered criticisim, I ask you to reply to this post and tell me what you have done without backing that approximates or bests their very cool accomplishment.

    Those of you who have a vision share it, maybe someone will help you make it an idea so, I invite you to share your vision.

    For those of you who have an idea, share it and maybe someone will help you make it real.

    We don't need government, business, or universities to make the world a better place; just a few ordinary folks who try to do extrodinary things!

    Those of you who think this is just very cool, use this thread to virtually offer your applause and (real) encouraging comments!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by SoundDoc75 (1640327)
      Thank you. I blame YouTube in part for the jerky video, as well yes, there were MANY things we COULD have done in order to try to stabilize the camera, Gyro's, Fins, etc..etc..etc... Don't think that many wern't considered (you don't go sending a $1000 camera & spending the time/money doing this on a whim) but when it comes down to it KISS won out. at 107K feet fins don't help, no real air to push against, a gyro might have helped though, but the package was kept small for a reason. External fins might
  • What is it with people massively overhyping fairly routine balloon flights? 32km is not the 'edge of space' anymore than London is on the 'edge of France'
  • (Read this 7 minutes into the video) Ah ... ! What's happening? ...it thought. Er, excuse me, who am I? Hello? Why am I here? What's my purpose in life? What do I mean by who am I? Calm down, get a grip now ... oh! this is an interesting sensation, what is it? It's a sort of ... yawning, tingling sensation in my ... my ... well I suppose I'd better start finding names for things if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so let's call it my st
  • And here's a spreadsheet showing the rate of climb/descent vs. altitude. Fairly simple with a little grep | cut | ...

    http://trygnulinux.com/bear4-speed-vs-alt.ods [trygnulinux.com]
  • These guys http://natrium42.com/halo/flight2/ [natrium42.com] made a video from 30 km altitude (100.000 feet) almost 2 years ago.

Programmers do it bit by bit.

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