A look into what went on last semester in the 'Space Ice Cream' Club, plus a video from their launch!
Video Link: https://youtu.be/_HzO9TpylRo
In the Fall Semester of 2018, Simon’s Rock students founded the first ever ‘Space Ice Cream Club’. With the goal of sending ice cream to ‘the edge of space’ on a high altitude weather balloon, the club had a tall order. Students Lexi Loyot, Lucy Merriam, Charlie Pottow, Jonah Schaecher, and Sebastien Franck, got to work designing a payload that would be able to carry freshly mixed ice cream all the way to the edge of space, allowing it to freeze as much as possible. No engineering project is complete without mistakes however, and Space Ice Cream Club was no exception to this principle.
The project required many calculations to be made including the amount of helium filling the balloon, the lift speed of the balloon, the descent rate of the falling payload, and many other factors. All of these calculations were critical to ensuring that the payload would make it off the ground and that it would be traceable once it left. Outside factors such as the winds patterns and the outdoor temperature also greatly affected the fate of the payload.
Unfortunately, a miscalculation in the volume of helium required to fill the balloon and unpredicted snow proved to be the main two obstacles of launch day. Fortunately, these hurdles proved to be great exercises in improvisation. In order to change the density of the helium inside of the balloon, rubber bands were used to constrict the volume of the helium inside. By increasing the density of the contents of the balloon, it was able to make it off the ground when it didn’t before.
After getting the payload off the ground, recovering it was a whole other venture. A team of four, Lexi, Lucy, Sebastien, and Charlie, set out after launching to chase after the payload. With a GPS tracker mounted on the payload pinging its location to a paired phone every 5 minutes to an accuracy of five meters, the initial chase seemed easy enough. Despite going off course of the projection, the team was able to narrow in on the payload to roughly 50 miles north of the launch site on campus, squarely on top of a mountain. The team was committed however and scaled the mountain to find the payload nestled in one of the mountain’s few snowy clearings.
While the balloon was initially intended to reach as high as 30,000 feet, it is instead estimated to have reached roughly 10,000 feet instead. Learning from the mistakes made is the only way to better prepare for future launches, and future launches are certainly planned. Expected at least one more launch from Space Ice Cream Club this semester and become a part of the team!
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