Project Update

With the school holidays over and only a few weeks left before the launch, it’s important that the loose ends in our project are tied and finishing touches are made before the big day. All of the separate components of the project are beginning to fall into place, and everyone is working hard to finalise their part.

Prototypes for every aspect of the project have been complete, including the case, parachute, rudder, circuit board and vital code.
Almost all have minimal viable products:

  • The data logging software is collecting and even feeding data from the payload’s sensors into a visualiser in real time, displaying important information about the location of and readings from the payload.
  • The steering algorithm runs a PID algorithm that effects the position of the rudder using a servo motor. The rudder itself has also been cut and sanded onto balsawood, and the final product will see that the shape is correct.
  • The circuit board has been printed and one board has been soldered on already.
  • The case, made of foam, is cuboid and thick, ensuring the components inside are protected against damaging forces. It is also taped tightly, in multiple layers, making it also waterproof.
  • The parachute does a few spirals, but does soften the fall. The final will provide a more stable flight.

These are now being polished into final products, fully functional and ready to go.

Other aspects of the project are still “works in progress”, however the challenges they present will be overcome.

  • The GPS has proven difficult to cooperate with our software and hardware. More testing and debugging will help to make this work properly.
  • Soldering the circuit boards is also difficult, as it requires extremely small connections. These are being done using micrsoscopes and a toaster oven solder reflow.
  • Fine tuning the PID is still required, as well as ensuring offsets and landing procedures work correctly in the code.
  • Design for a manual mechanism used to release the parachute in case of emergency is still being worked on, or, in place of that, a drag chute that reduces the speed enough so that the components do not break, but also not causing the descent to be too slow (carrying the payload further during the freefall). This requires thorough testing and simulation so that the freefall time and drag fits the correct range for our preferences.
  • Testing, testing, testing, is a hugely important task that the team will be doing in approach to the launch date. All of the components of the project will be subject to pressure, force, water-proofing, simulation and worst-case-scenario testing in the next few weeks, making sure the real thing can go off without a hitch.

And last but not least, we must also complete:

  • Code which will decide when to release the parachute. This hopefully can be optimised by analysis of the wind speeds at different altitudes and what will work best with our steering algorithm. This could greatly assist the steering if done thoroughly, however it must also be kept in mind that the wind speeds will change.
  • Connecting all of the final pieces of the project together, ready for take off.

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