Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Icarus Project

The Icarus Project is a home brew project to send a camera high into the stratosphere to take pictures of the Earth from near space. The camera is enclosed in a flight box and attached to a helium weather balloon which lifts the camera to an altitude of approximately 35,000 meters above sea level. The camera is controlled by a small micro computer which takes pictures at timed intervals in various directions. Other sensors to measure temperature, barometric pressure and altitude are incorporated into the flight box.

The on board computer transmits location and altitude data to the ground station. This information is transmitted using radio teletype (RTTY) which is faster and more reliable than CW (Morse Code).

A secondary communication system will soon be implemented using a GSM / GPS tracking device to aid recovery of the payload.

The resulting photographs and videos, which he published online on flickr, were so impressive that Nasa has been in touch.

“A guy phoned up who worked for Nasa who was interested in how we took the pictures,” Mr Harrison told The Times. “He wanted to know how the hell we did it. He thought we used a rocket. They said it would have cost them millions of dollars.”

The UK Met Office sends up similar balloons every day to measure a range of weather conditions but Mr Harrison holds the record for the highest HAB flight at 22 miles (35km). He is working on his third model, which has a rotating-lens camera and a rear fixed-lens camera, as well as pressure, temperature and humidity sensors.

More Info:
The Icarus Project