back to article How our shaken Reg Playmonaut survived a 113,000ft stratodangle

We're pleased to report that the intrepid Playmonaut who last weekend soared to 34,571m (113,421ft) during the test flight of our Special Project Electronic Altitude Release System (SPEARS) control board is, although somewhat shaken, otherwise none the worse for suffering a dramatic stratodangle. Our intrepid miniature pilot …

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  1. Evil Graham

    Your boffinette is sporting a pipe, I see

    Good show, carry on.

    1. Irony Deficient

      boffinette?

      Boffine! /baˈfiːn/ (bah-FEEN)

      To paraphrase Professor Pnin and Chancellor Gorkon, bouffin and bouffine sound better in the original French.

      <span attribute="foghorn-leghorn">That’s a joke — I say that’s a joke, son!</span>

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You guys get paid for this, eh? :)

    1. A. Coatsworth Silver badge
      Happy

      I don't know how much is The Reg paying to the person who came with the idea of using the Grauniad for the plane's left wing and Daily Mail for the right... whatever amount it is, it's not enough!

      1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

        I agree wholeheartedly.

        1. Pet Peeve
          Boffin

          I'm not sure I understand exactly what happened to CHAV. Did it did detach, but hung nose-down from the payload box (tangled up in one of the hanging lines)? When I first read this, I was thinking that it stayed in launch position the entire time, but a nose-down dangle makes the video make much more sense.

          Is this considered a successful igniter test? In the full mission, it has to light off rocket propellant, which will probably happen just fine if it burns at all, even if it can't burn through a nylon line.

          1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

            It did detach, but only when the metal attachment wire snapped off. It was left dangling by the parachute static line.

            It was a successful test of the SPEARS board and clockwork back-up. We now need to see why the igniter PIC didn't burn, and sort that issue.

      2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Too bad it did not work out.

        Probably saved those for a next endeavour, with wings and nuts.

  3. TeeCee Gold badge

    Aha!

    ...the igniter failed to burn through the release cord...

    Right. So the igniter burns. Eventually the flame reached the cord, which burns through.

    One question: Exactly where is the oxygen to promote combustion of the cord material coming from?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Aha!

      No, the PIC in the igniter didn't burn, so no flame ever reached the nylon cord. In theory, the thin cord should just melt...

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Aha!

        Why not have a piece of fuse wire in-line on the cord? Or is that not strong enough?

  4. David Given

    No video of the release?

    I'm surprised there's no video of the white-knuckle stratodangle moment itself --- surely that's one of the primary reasons to have the camera aboard the mothership at all? Was there a camera failure, or is this just yet another Tory/Labour/Green/Reptilian coverup of Things They Do Not Want Us To Know?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: No video of the release?

      Ask the makers of the HD Hero 3. Camera shut itself down at 60,000ft. May have been the cold, but other people have reported similar problems with this model. We're looking into it, and getting more cameras (not all 3s), and more insulation, to make sure we're covered in future.

      1. Parax

        Re: No video of the release?

        Having a camera that will record everything is as important as all the release/trigger components, any one without the other is a poor show.

        1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Re: Re: No video of the release?

          I agree. We'd never used a Hero 3 before. The Hero 2 is tried and trusted. As I said, we're going to get more cameras, to be sure.

          1. Gordon861

            Re: No video of the release?

            I see a new article coming, get a bunch of action cams and try to kill them. Start with water and keep trying different things until you reach the weather balloon trip.

      2. Drem

        Re: No video of the release?

        If you're looking at other cameras, this one might be of interest: http://www.techmoan.com/blog/2013/6/9/sj1000-at-lasta-good-cheap-action-camera.html

        I'm thinking of getting one for on my bike, would be interesting to know how it copes with altitude :)

        1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Re: Re: No video of the release?

          Looks like a budget back-up option. I'll get one and see how it goes.

          1. David Given
            Unhappy

            Re: No video of the release?

            Ah, so a cover up it is, then.

            That sucks. I wonder if it's cold or pressure the camera doesn't like...

            1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

              Re: Re: No video of the release?

              Cold. That's going to be the problem here.

        2. Andyf
          Coat

          Re: No video of the release?

          I'd be interested to know how your bike copes at 60k altitude too :)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No video of the release?

        It's always wise to be covered when there's a video camera about.

        1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Re: Re: No video of the release?

          Yup. Cue loads more video cameras.

      4. Pet Peeve
        Boffin

        Re: No video of the release?

        Condensation inside the case could kill it as easily as direct cold. If the case looks airtight (and I wouldn't be surprised if the HERO is), you may want to drill some holes to let air pressure equalize, as odd as that may sound.

        1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Re: Re: No video of the release?

          We always use the skeleton back, exactly because of condensation inside the sealed waterproof case. I suspect cold getting to the battery is the issue here. We're looking into insulating the back of the camera.

  5. Annihilator

    Outsourcing

    Can't tell, was Lester there? Or have you outsourced this particular venture? A protest at the use of hydrogen? :-)

    Disappointed not to see any pics of the mighty orb though!

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Outsourcing

      I was there and am working on an entertaining short vid which proves it, and also features the mighty orb. Tune back in next week...

  6. kororas
    Coat

    Video

    Im would'nt be suprised if the little man was coughing his plastic guts up after that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Video

      The astronaut sounds like a bit of a coward -- given there was no mention of the frogman who was strapped to the side of a box and seemed to take it all in his stride.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Video

        Typical, the SAS get all the plaudits and the SBS go unnoticed...

  7. MrT

    I hope that...

    ... the University of Southampton will be awarding their coveted Doctorate of Boffinry to all involved. Long may this kind of thing continue.

  8. Tempest8008

    THIS is what you get...

    This is what you get when you don't involve your beloved commentards in your construction process.

    100 other sets of eyes could have seen that particular potential flaw in your plan and assisted in correcting it.

    Your PRISM-like secrecy surrounding this project (I certainly saw nothing regarding it prior to launch in the SPB section) has caused science itself to suffer and deprived us all of an opportunity to ogle some CHAV-tastic footage of the glide and descent.

    Shame on you! Shame on you ALL!

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: THIS is what you get...

      Actually, I saw the flaw coming a mile off. The flaw started with the requirement to have a parachute at all. It's this kind of thing which has strangled British science initiatives, Now, when I was a lad, etc, etc.

      Regarding secrecy, the "Covert" bit kind of gives a clue. Didn't want our American cousins getting wind of it, did we?

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: THIS is what you get...

        So what perceived mischief does the parachute requirement claim to address?

        ... and can't it "accidentally" fall off just after release?

      2. Pet Peeve
        Boffin

        Re: THIS is what you get...

        It's hilarious how wonderfully structurally solid paper straws, bulkhead, and laminated shell construction looks. The removable nose reminds me of a photo I saw years ago of a ridiculously large 747-based cargo jet prototype where the whole front of the aircraft came open.

        It's a shame CHAV didn't fly. Did it get any wind tunnel tests?

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: THIS is what you get...

        If you need to have another go with this config, put an arm on the main box sticking out backwards, at least one linguini past the CHAV's tail. Then attach the chute pullout line to the end of that arm, so that it is more or less taut. This will keep the chute from tangling.

        1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Re: Re: THIS is what you get...

          Alternative solution: take aircraft to country where parachute is not required, throw parachute in bin, get down to business...

  9. Mr Young
    Happy

    Risky, risky!

    So soon after our hero hit the drink you send another one up in a dangerous craft? They guys must have steel balls etc

    1. Martin Budden

      Re: Risky, risky!

      Plastic balls, Shirley?

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Risky, risky!

      So soon after our hero hit the drink you send another one up in a dangerous craft?

      My parachuting friends used to call it a "bottle jump". If the main canopy failed, and you had to deploy the reserve, you needed to get back up straight away before you lost your nerve...

      They guys must have steel balls etc

      As long as they're not brass, it's nippy at 100K ft.

  10. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Are you saying...

    ...The parachute is a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) requirement, ...

    ...that the CAA won't allow an aircraft to make a descent under autonomous control or radio control? and that all descents have to be ballistic, retarded by a parachute?

    Other countries don't seem to have made that ruling... :(

    1. daveake

      Re: Are you saying...

      Anything dropped from weather balloon *must* descend by parachute.

      No gliding, guided or otherwise.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Are you saying...

        Is this a new rule since PARIS dropped her load over the Iberian Penisula without a safety harness or does it only apply here in Albion?

        (yes, it was a typo, but worth leaving in!!)

      2. M Gale

        So...

        ...paraglider then?

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: So... ...paraglider then?

          Believe me, I've tried to work out how to make a paper paraglider. I believe it is possible, but I can't see how we qualify the bits of string as paper... also, while a solid wing section is not too difficult, doing it with a flexible paper pressurised by airspeed ain't quite so easy!

          (But if it helps, I got some paraglider airtime at Long Mynd the day after the attempt!)

          1. The First Dave

            Re: So... ...paraglider then?

            Paper chain, along the same lines as those used at Christmas time?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Are you saying...

      Surely the requirement is that it -has- a parachute... Now, if there were to be an unfortunate failure, or if there was a design error which caused the Chute's size to be a factor of 100 too small, surely having gliding as a backup option is acceptable... :)

  11. Charles E

    Just as last time..

    This airplane did not "fly" so much as it "plummeted."

    1. Bill B

      Re: Just as last time..

      Surely it's called "falling with style?"

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Just as last time..

        Well, we might call it 2D - "dignified descent". Next time, 3D would be better though - "deliberate dignified descent"...

  12. Richard Altmann

    Frogman

    Now, where comes the frogman in?

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Frogman

      In case of unexpected ditching in the English Channel: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/12/04/spears_flight/

  13. Adam White
    Thumb Up

    It seems very appropriate that the text ad on this article is "Experts discuss disaster recovery challenges and cloud-based solutions"

  14. A J Stiles
    Happy

    Stratodangle :)

    Brilliant word!

  15. Mark G Forbes
    WTF?

    Launch technique?

    Just curious...why the running start for the launch? It's a balloon...so aerodynamic lift shouldn't be a concern. Launching a glider (hang or para), then sure...but a balloon?

    MGF

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