What a ride! Six months in the making, we finally launched our Infiniti One plywood Cubesat on Saturday at 13:00, starting a chase for the High Altitude Balloon that carried it 326.86 km from The Hague to Luxembourg, shooting through the Ozone layer 24,735 m into the stratosphere where the balloon burst, coming down to Earth at 9 m/s where we were able to recover the precious cargo: Space Beer Yeast!
Our Infiniti ONE Mission was all about testing a completely in-house developed 1U CubeSat (microsatellite) in the harsh near-space stratospheric environment. Mikelis was Chief Engineer of the project and Marco was Product and Operations Manager, and Structural Engineer. (If you want to know more about the Mission and why we are doing this, click here.)
Departure: 51.999, 4.224 at 27 m altitude, 27°C internal temp. (The Hague)
Burst: 50.3215, 5.7707 at 24,735 m altitude.
Coldest point: -37°C at 10 km altitude.
Landing site: 49.8747, 6.0242 at 458 m altitude, 9°C internal temp. (Luxembourg)
Total trajectory: 326.86 km
Map of trajectory, here.
Let’s back up for a moment: the day before Marco picked up a vial of beer yeast from Jesse and Julian from Amsterdam brewers Poesiat & Kater, to take it where it had never gone before: to the Stratosphere and back! After all, what is a satellite without a science payload? At 2,5 g the vial was easy to include into the cubesat. (Spoiler alert: we recovered it! Now we are in process of finding out if it survived the stratospheric trip, the cold and the wind, the solar radiation and the ozone layer… and if indeed it can be propagated to make P&K’s first Stratospheric Beer!)
On Saturday morning, Mikelis rode the train from Enschede while Marco drove from Amsterdam – sadly Frank couldn’t make it! – and once we were in the Hague, we met Herman, Peter and Ben (the wonderful and helpful HAB_NL team).
HAB_NL not only provided our launch opportunity, but together with Marcel, also helped Mikelis with last-minute tweaks to the electronics throughout the week, even sending a Pi with LoRa receiver so our engineer could test the LoRa transmissions to be compatible. Our rendezvous was at one of the largest auction companies in the world – that just happens to have a large, empty carpark atop of the warehouses, with ideal views and open coverage for launching High Altitude Balloons – and their cafeteria, this Saturday, was turned into a temporary Satellite Lab.
We selected the InfinitiONE – ED model to go live, with six batteries, the Nausolaris Core and a stack for the science payload. A lot of effort went into getting the last-minute configurations right, but finally the time came – and it was all ready to go!
Cubesat weight: 288 g
Foam box carrier: 77 g
HAB: 200 gram hwoyee
This time we only had the 200 g balloon, so due to wind and availability we were restricted to a max payload weight of 400 g, which meant no cameras or camera rig (sadly). Next flight we aim to have a 600 gram Hwoyee. Has 32 km burst altitude with 800 gram payload and 3 m/s ascent rate, which should support the camera.
After getting a lock on the GPS (it only took 20 min!) it was all set to launch. The HAB_NL community was given the ID to track and the feed was buzzing with excitement.
We launched the Infiniti ONE in a quick, swift operation and trusted her fate to the winds.
After watching our Infiniti ONE cubesat fly away at 13:00 (faster than we hoped, as the wind picked up) we left The Hague at 14:00 towards the projected landing site, somewhere in Belgium. We had cleared our agendas to become balloon-hunters for the day. We calculated an ascent of 2 hours and a descent of 1 hour, so we would be done and home by late afternoon. (we were so wrong)
We knew that Filip (ON8CF) and Hans (ON8PZ) would join during the rescue of the InfinitiOne, departing from Belgium. We met them later that night, and they were amazing! They had all the equipement LORA/4FSK/RTTY on board and have lots of experience with balloonhunting. Their car looked like the Ghostbusters’ ECTO-1, with antennae and keyboards and receivers everywhere.
The chase was long and took a left turn away from Belgium into Germany and then finally Luxembourg. The Belgian team was two hours ahead from us, fully committed to capture the falling sat!
Filip (not pictured), Otis, Luca, Lana and Hans, driving towards the landing site.
And… success! They found it! For a daring moment it seemed the payload would land in the thick of the mountain forest, but luckily the crash site was in an open (frozen) field, well within reach.
The rescue mission was a success. Marco and Mikelis continued driving to a meeting point, where stories and goods were exchanged, over a well-deserved dinner. Below, the fearless Belgian team with their trophy.
And finally, it was time for us to call it a night. We had driven a little over 600 km’s since departing from Amsterdam, it was late and we were tired of driving all day, but happy that we had a successful launch and recovery mission. We crossed four countries in the process (The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg) and decided to spend the night in a local hostel before heading home the next day, tired but happy… and with lots of ideas on how to improve our sat for the next launch!
Mission… accomplished! Stay tuned for the technical report coming soon to a GitHub near you!