BalloonSat Construction
Ideas and Suggestions
L. Paul Verhage
9 July 2013
What is a BalloonSat?
• Functional Model of a Satellite
• Carried by Weather Balloon into Near
Space (> 60,000 Feet)
• Carries Experiments (active and/or
• Collects and Returns Data
• Designed for Launch and Descent
• Exposed to the Near Space Environment
Parts of a BalloonSat
Possible Design Limitations
• Maximum Weight
• Experiment Requirements
• Minimum Amount of Data and Frequency
of Data Collection
• Available Design and Build Time
• Maximum Dimensions
Exacto Knife
Metal Straight Edge
Right Angle (Triangle or T-Square)
Ball Point Pen
Felt-tip Marker
Hot Glue Gun and Glue Sticks
Files/Emory Board
Circle Template
Hot Knife
Styrofoam (various thicknesses)
Plastic Tubes
Plastic Lids
Rubber Bands
Nuts, Bolts, and Washers
Some Design Considerations
• Sufficient volume for datalogger and
• Securely attach components to airframe
• Multiple plastic tubes for tether lines
• Easy access to interior through hatch(es)
• Hatch placement on the side of the
airframe, not the top where tethers are
More Design Considerations
• Minimize airframe openings to minimize
cold air infiltration
• Minimize bolt hole diameter and use
washer and nylock
• No window over camera opening
• Must function during all phases of the
• Quick and simple hatch closure that uses
rubber bands
• Cameras do not time-out and switch off
Keep in Mind
Be aware of design specifications
Paper design before cutting
Measure twice, cut once
Watch glue temperature, don’t melt
• Styrofoam has thickness
• Let function determine shape of
Physical Layout
• Connect and position the components,
then measure dimensions
Styrofoam has Thickness
• Take Styrofoam thickness into account
when designing the airframe
Use a Sharp Exacto Knife
Rough Edge vs Smooth Edge
Use a Metal Straight Edge
• Wood and plastic rulers get nicked and the
lines aren’t as straight
What angle is the Exacto knife held
while cutting?
Files and Emery Board
• Smoothes and shapes
• Don’t inhale Styrofoam dust
Cutting Slots
• Two parallel lines
• Chip out and file flat
Embed Tubes
• Embed and glue into place for strength
• Interior slots for tether tubes and exterior
slots for hatches
Extend Tether Tube to Airframe
• Tubes protect Styrofoam from being cut by
Use Four Tether Tubes
• BalloonSats spin less when they have
more than one tether line
Include Battery Box
• Confine battery so it doesn’t bounce into
items inside the BalloonSat
• Add block of foam rubber inside battery
box to fill empty volume and absorb

BalloonSat Construction part 1