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Thread: HABAXE - High Altitude Balloon Tracker for PICAXE.

  1. #1
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    Default HABAXE - High Altitude Balloon Tracker for PICAXE.

    One of the things I had been experimenting with in 2012 was using a PICAXE and RFM22B as a balloon tracker.

    I built a tracker that was light enough to use party balloons, heavy payloads need large balloons and lots of expensive helium (or hydrogen!). Small balloons are low key, simpler to launch and don't need CAA approval. These are known as Pico balloons and some of the solar powered ones have gone hundreds and thousands of kilometres.

    My original tracker design was called 'PongSat';

    http://www.picaxeforum.co.uk/showthr...Picaxe-pongsat

    It worked, but I got distracted on other 'higher' projects, and never had a chance to fly it more than a few hundred meters.

    I have been looking at this again recently, wanting to make a more versatile tracker that you could fit with one of the very small digital cameras.

    My idea was a prototype PCB about 100mm x 25mm and see if the basics of a tracker can be fitted with additional connectors\pads to allow for extra PCBs to be added to hold cameras or experiments. The radio and antenna would be on the bottom of the PCB, the GPS on the top where the balloons are attached.

    The basics of the tracker to include;

    [I]PICAXE, 28X2 or 40X2, because there are 4 program slots, and dual SPI\I2C interfaces

    GPS, Ublox 6 or 7 because they are small and light, PCB antenna

    RFM22B transceiver for up and down link, small light cheap, frequency agile, proven to work in space !

    A small Lithium Ion or Polymer battery, good range of sizes and available.

    Regulator, to ensure stable operation of Radio.

    Watchdog and power down circuit, to protect against program crashes or radiation problems.

    Current monitor, to detect possible latch ups.

    Memory for storing balloon track, if no-one but you is tracking the balloon, you would want to know the track when you get it back.

    Expansion connector with I\O and SPI\I2C bus connections, for 'experiments' and other power supply options.

    The PICAXE basic code and other stuff can be found here;

    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ddtjsxkr2..._mSmcCUlns38Ca
    Last edited by srnet; 29-06-2014 at 12:14. Reason: Added Dropbox link
    Picaxe in Space is still alive and well
    http://www.50dollarsat.info/

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    Hi there srnet.

    I am very interested in your PICAXE HAB balloon tracker. I have been monitoring spacenear.us and very keen to have a go myself! Unfortunately the last coding I did was Sinclair BASIC way back in the time so this appeals to me a lot! I have played with Arduinos and Raspberry pi but we dont get along very well! I like BASIC and it did all I ever asked of it! I am liking a lot what I have read about the PICAXE and think a hab project would be a very interesting project to get into and learn.

    I hope to hear from you and learn more of your PICAXE balloon tracker.

    Best regards.

    Tim

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    Its coming along, although slowly, as I dont work from home anymore..........

    Hope to have the draft PCB done in the next week or so, then a 2-3 week delay for them to arrive.

    The initial PCB should end up at 100mm x 25mm, using a 40X2, with an expansion connector.

    If the PCB works, then the code should not take to long as most of its working already.

    One option I hope to add is a GPS engine that calculates the distance and direction between two sets of LAT and LONG. I wrote code for this some time back for a native PIC, it should fit in one of the 14pin SOIC devices, so not big or heavy. The PICAXE code for a distance and direction calculation does work, but its limited to about 60km in the UK.
    Picaxe in Space is still alive and well
    http://www.50dollarsat.info/

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    It all soundts very interesting indeed. Please keep me up to date on your project as I would be very interested in building one as I would like to launch a pico baloon and trac it. Good luck with it and please keep me posted! If I can help in any way please let me know! Also are you using a mode that you are able to track your tracker on dl-fldigi and spacenear.us?
    Last edited by TimHAB; 07-05-2014 at 13:40. Reason: More questions!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimHAB View Post
    Also are you using a mode that you are able to track your tracker on dl-fldigi and spacenear.us?
    For the Lost Model Locator project I did (28X2) that does put out the GPS location and various bit of data as FSK RTTY, 100baud, in the format that FLDIGI HAB should support (a GPS NMEA string). Although the HAB guys prefer to use a better checksum, but the simpler one I used should be supported.

    The same code is used to send the $50SAT FSK RTTY and that seems to work fairly well..........
    Picaxe in Space is still alive and well
    http://www.50dollarsat.info/

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    Thank you, thats great news! I am just waiting for an antenna to arrive. I have an ICOM PCR1000 and I am going to set up a tracking base station very soon. I have another PCR that I am going to try and set up a chase car to. Just need a payload to learn about and experment with. All exciting stuff!

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    I have tracked a few of the UKs HABs using a Funcube Dongle, LNA and home brew Quadrafilar Helix.
    Picaxe in Space is still alive and well
    http://www.50dollarsat.info/

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    Funky antenna!

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    It all seems to fit on a 100mmx25mm PCB.

    The choice of PCB size means it will easily fit on a standard sizes 100mm x 50mm, which cost around £14 for 10.

    Default track size at 6mil is small, but I have not seen any PCB quality issues with tracks as fine as this.

    The SMT resistors being low profile are on the PCB rear, with a thin foam cover you will be able to attach a Lithium Ion or Polymer battery to the rear.

    Still some changes to be made, holes for the piano wire antenna and radials, mount holes, holes for tie wrapping a battery on. However, as its now routed complete, the optimisation has freed up quite a bit of board space by reducing track lengths and vias, so small subsequent adjustments and additions are a lot easier.

    The expansion connector is the two rows of 0.1" pads on the PCB edge, they have the same layout and connections as a DIL 40X2, and will allow a daughter board to be fitted or a bit of 0.1" strip board to allow for testing of other stuff.

    Initial idea is to address the GPS via its I2C interface, thus freeing up the hardware UART for other stuff, but the board has connections for using the GPS via UART also.
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Picaxe in Space is still alive and well
    http://www.50dollarsat.info/

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    Looks very neat.and well thought out. This is a fantastic project you are working on and I think it has great potential and is very exciting indeed. I like your idea of the daughter board. Perhaps a camera module with a micro SD card for storage?

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