Events & Media / Hobbyists

Space-Bound Instrument Packages

Instrumentation packages are often sent into the upper atmosphere via high altitude balloons in order to collect a wide range of data.

Data requirements can vary from down range velocity, vertical ascent rate, latitude, longitude, elevation, system health, signal strength, down range distance, heading and trajectory, and more. What’s more, transmission of data can be achieved using both satellite and microwave links.

Eldorado Space Program

A 17-year veteran of Sandia National Labs and founder of a Silicon Valley nanotechnology company, teacher Paul McWhorter established his high school’s first Space Program.

Edorado High School sends instrumentation packages, called Eagles, to the edge of space and transmits back temperature, pressure, and GPS data, as well as live video. In all, twenty different data channels are telemetered back to ‘Mission Control’ in the classroom.

Due to technical and regulatory requirements, a high-gain microwave antenna on the ground is needed. A RockBLOCK is used as a back-up system to help the main microwave array maintain a connection, and regain a link if lost.

“Mission Success depends on reliable transmission of GPS coordinates from the instrument package back to the ground, We have chosen the RockBLOCK modem and Iridium satellite network because it
provides rock solid connectivity.”

Christine Lindsey – Mission Specialist

The Challenge

High-gain antennae are generally required for microwave links. The challenge here is that a high-frequency microwave radio beam has poor propagation so it must be pointed extremely precisely at the space-bound instrument package.

Pointing errors of just a few degrees can lead to loss of signal, so a separate and reliable way of transmitting the GPS location of the remote device is needed to help keep the microwave antenna aimed in the right direction and re-establish a link if lost.

The Solution

RockBLOCK is a versatile, compact, low-power, and dependable way of sending and receiving data from remote locations. It uses the Iridium satellite network, giving truly global coverage.

GPS data is transmitted via RockBLOCK to Ground Control’s servers. It’s then pushed via HTTP post to the client’s server which adjusts the high-gain antenna position accordingly, thus maintaining the links.

Why choose the RockBlock?

  • Truly global two-way coverage
  • Low power usage, small antenna
  • Plug and play product, simple setup
  • Reliable data transmission with acknowledgements
  • Lifetime phone and email support.

More information, see RockBLOCK product details.