Introduction: How to Send a Camera to Space

Picture of How to Send a Camera to Space

Have you ever wanted to get your own pictures of space and the landscape of your surrounding area? If so, building a payload with a camera to send to space on a professional weather balloon may be the project for you! This Instructables has everything you need to create your own space-bound camera!

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

This is a list of all the required supplies:

1. 600g Weather Balloon

2. 70 Cubic Feet of Helium or Enough to Fill 140 12" Balloons

3. Foam Cooler

4. 70'-100' of Rope

5. SPOT Trace GPS Tracker

6. Aluminum Foil

7. 1m Parachute

8. Duct Tape

9. Zip Ties

10. GoPro

11. Nozzle for Helium Tanks

12. Latex Gloves

13. Bright Paint (Optional)

14. Hand Warmers (Optional)

Step 2: Preparing the Cooler (a.k.a. the Payload)

Picture of Preparing the Cooler (a.k.a. the Payload)

1. Cut off the top half of the cooler

2. Paint the outside of the cooler and lid (optional but assists with recovery)

3. Cut out a hole large enough for the GoPro lens and a smaller one for the power button (test camera before sending it up to make sure it can see clearly through the hole)

4. Crumple up aluminum foil and put in the cooler to reflect radar (not necessary, but can help planes see where the package is)

5. Tape GoPro into the cooler and ensure that it will not be jostled around in high winds

6. Secure the SPOT Tracker to the lid (or anywhere it will stay secure) of the cooler

7. Put lid on cooler upside down (since the top half of cooler is removed lid fits better upside down) and tape the lid to the box

8. Tie rope securely around cooler

9. Tape rope down to box

Step 3: Inflating Balloon

Picture of Inflating Balloon

1. Attach the inflation nozzle to the tank

2. Put the end of the balloon on the tanks nozzle

3. Put latex gloves on so the oils in your hands do not eat away at the balloon

4. Put your hand around the balloon to make sure no helium escapes

5. Release helium into balloon

6. Make sure all of the necessary helium goes into the balloon (accidentally forgot a tank and trust me it is not fun to have to unseal the balloon and try to get helium in when your first launch crashed to the ground)

Step 4: Attaching the Rope to the Cooler, Parachute and Balloon

Picture of Attaching the Rope to the Cooler, Parachute and Balloon

1. Tie the rope around the cooler similar to tying a present

2. Tape the rope down to the cooler

3. Tie the other end of the rope to the bottom of the parachute

4. Put latex gloves on

5. Get another piece of rope to tie to the top of the parachute and to the balloon

6. Make a noose (look up images on Google or use your own knot) and put the nozzle of the balloon through the knot

7. Fold the nozzle of balloon over and put zip ties around it to secure the nozzle

8. Put tape around the zip ties to secure and protect the balloon from swaying into sharp edges

Step 5: Launching and Tracking

Picture of Launching and Tracking

1. Make sure all connections are secure

2. Release balloon into an area that has little to no power lines or other obstructions

3. Download the SPOT app

4. Set the updates for every five minutes

5. Watch the balloon until it lands (up to 200 miles away not 20 miles like I accidentally miscalculated)

6. Enter coordinates into Google Maps and figure out how to retrieve your payload

Comments

Jw2789 (author)2015-05-13

Do you know if there are any FAA restrictions for doing this?

GrantS6 (author)Jw27892017-09-25

There were none at the time we did it, but things may have changed!

Tanju-B (author)2015-05-06

wow looks awesome and inspiring. definitely makes me miss that big bright blue AZ sky

GrantS6 (author)Tanju-B2017-09-25

Gotta love the nice weather!

tomatoskins (author)2015-05-06

I'd love to see some of the pictures you were able to get.

GrantS6 (author)tomatoskins2017-09-25

Check above! We commented a few of them!

trailogy (author)2015-05-05

I've also been wanting to send a weather balloon into space! What did you use to track the payload?

GrantS6 (author)trailogy2015-05-05

We used a SPOT Trace, you can buy it for $70 at REI. The downside is that you have to buy a $99 service plan that is good for a year. The SPOT worked extremely well, tracking it into the middle of nowhere with no cell service.

trailogy (author)GrantS62015-05-06

Thanks for your reply! I'm on a budget of 75-100$ for the tracker. I have been looking around and I could find nothing. Do you know of any other options?

GrantS6 (author)trailogy2017-09-25

Sorry, but the SPOT was the cheapest we were able to find.

VealH (author)2015-10-01

Not sure why tracking a payload with a cell is illegal but we do it legally all the time with amateur radio and APRS..........just got www.aprs.fi

73 Paul N0AH

AB0BX Club Trustee

DavidW500 (author)VealH2016-08-13

A cell phone is simply a radio transmitter that tries to talk to any
cell towers it can. When it's on the ground, that's about 3 or 4 cell
towers with an active connection to you. When it is 100,000 ft up, your
phone can transmit a several state radius (thousands of cell towers).
Each tower will connect to your phone, potentially overwhelming the
system. It's like yelling in your room versus yelling in a library, with
a bullhorn.

APRS is the way to go. It transmits at low power, once a minute, and the worst you can do is piss off the ham radio operators, not the national cell network.

GrantS6 (author)2015-05-06

Finding the tracker was the hardest part of this project. We found some trackers that use cell phone towers but your payload would have to land somewhere that there was cell reception. Tracking a payload by cell is also illegal in the U.S. We really did not find any other viable options.

jcarroll5 (author)GrantS62015-05-19

Can you please expound on your statement that, "Tracking a payload by cell is also illegal in the U.S."? That's what I was planning to use. If it's illegal, then how is the "Find My Phone" app on iPhones legal? Isn't that the same thing?

GrantS6 (author)jcarroll52015-05-19

I am not sure exactly why that law is in place I just came across it in my research. There was no reason why. It just said a payload can not be tracked by a cellular device. So it seems it could interfere with planes or other things up in the atmosphere. I am sure you could find out the exact law.

GrantS6 (author)2015-05-09

These are a few of the 2800+ photos we got from the launch.

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