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03-18-2010, 11:41 PM   #1
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Pentax k10d in space III

Well we flew the k10d on another mission today, and I thought you might like to see some pictures, and hear a bit of the story. To those that have not seen this before, we are flying a k10d on a high-altitude sounding balloon to the edge of space. Flights I and II can be found in these threads below. I am posting this in the DSLR thread since that is where the other two are, and the focus is on the performance of the k10d in this harsh environment.
Flight I:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/31970-pentax-k10d-space.html
Flight II:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/43930-pentax-k10d-space-ii.html

The lens used today was the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8. We were expecting a somewhat rough ride, so shutter speed was set to 1/4000. Tv, Auto ISO 100-400, Matrix metering, all shot in RAW. In all there are 530 images. I won't show them all here. Minimum external temperature during the flight was -71F.

Today we launched out of Weatherford, which is in far western Oklahoma where the terrain is quite flat (it makes for nice recoveries.) Unfortunately, the atmosphere was quite hazy all the way up today, and the haze layers were stratified. This really reduced the contrast of the images today. The first layer started at about 5000 ft. as you can see here:


The town of Weatherford from 8000 ft. Note the wind turbines in the distance:


Here we are crossing through 36,000ft. Note the contrail of the airplane passing just underneath. In the full-rez picture, you can just barely make out the plane at the end of the contrail at 100% crop.


The view of Weatherford (center bottom) from 41000 ft:


An interesting picture of the ground from 70,000ft. The camera is almost pointed straight down here. The payloads are really swinging around quite violently, which is why the view changes considerably from shot to shot.


73,000ft:


Here we are at the peak: 98,500 ft. just before the balloon burst.


Here is what the balloon looks like from the ground using a 400mm lens, when it is at 98,500ft. You can see it with the naked eye. At this altitude, it is between 35-40 ft in diameter:


78,000ft. on the way down now:


Last clear shot before going through the lowest haze layer where the humidity was high (approx 5000 ft.) Note the condensation starting in the upper left of the lens:


The lens is really fogging up now at about 4000ft. Below this there is so much condensation that you can't see anything. Note that the camera lens was really cold soaked from being up at altitude. The ride down only takes about a half an hour. After landing, the camera and lens are quite wet for some time.


Here is a picture I took from the ground. We were able to get ahead of it today with our tracking gear, and we parked at the predicted landing site, and watched the last 6000 ft. descent. Note the k10d is in the large silver box. You can see the Tamron lens and hood sticking out the side:


Camera still shooting away on the ground after impact. (Note the lens has had time to warm up, and you can see us at the site.)


What the landing site looked like as we walk to the payloads. Note the parachute center frame along the fence:


Here are the folks that were with me for the flight. The gentleman on the far right was the land owner:


Launch to completed recovery took only two hours today!


Last edited by PentaxPoke; 03-19-2010 at 09:40 AM.
03-18-2010, 11:46 PM   #2
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Neat idea... I am amazed the camera holds up to this... and i worry about it on the ski hill!
03-19-2010, 01:48 AM   #3
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A fine workhorse of a camera.
Thanks for posting.
03-19-2010, 02:28 AM   #4
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Wow! Was this for a school or something? I also can't believe the camera survived down to -71 f. That's nuts! Great pictures.

03-19-2010, 02:37 AM   #5
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Pentax should market their cameras to NASA. Heck, they should use this in Ads too.

I read through your first two expeditions, and I'm just as interested in this one! Thanks!

And I baby my equipment...
03-19-2010, 02:45 AM   #6
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These are spectacular.
What fine expeditions.
With such a clear sky, those aerial views are simply phenomenal.
Great stuff and thanks for sharing.
03-19-2010, 04:13 AM   #7
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Great photos. I have to say, the year you sent up the fisheye was the most spectacular.
03-19-2010, 05:58 AM   #8
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Excellent job. I ask myself how difficult must have to be to track the landing place. Beautiful pictures, I like the one at the peak altitud.

03-19-2010, 09:46 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by jjdgti Quote
Excellent job. I ask myself how difficult must have to be to track the landing place. Beautiful pictures, I like the one at the peak altitud.
Thank you. We have doubly-redundant GPS receivers that we connect to small ham-band radios. That gear is in the orange boxes you see. For the ground crew, we have another ham receiver (2m band) that we connect to the computer. We wrote software that predicts the path of flight using National Weather Service data before the flight to allow us to predict the landing location for planning purposes. During the flight, the software uses the GPS data to update the winds aloft, as well as the aerodynamics of the balloon and parachute. It constantly updates a new predicted landing location. Accuracy of the prediction depends on how much the wind changes between the time we measure it, and the time we descend. On one flight, we predicted the landing location within 1 mile of the actual, just 2 minutes after the balloon had burst when the payloads were still over 85,000 ft. It really helps us to have a chance to get near the site so we can watch it come down.

Our biggest challenges in the recovery phase are (in order):

a) Trees
b) Trees
c) Road access
d) Mud
e) Trees

Last edited by PentaxPoke; 03-19-2010 at 09:54 AM.
03-19-2010, 10:34 AM   #10
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Excellent as always!

Quick question - what's the limiting factor in the altitude? Sounds like the balloon popped. Was it thermal stress or something exotic like outer space particle or radiation?
03-19-2010, 11:07 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by PentaxPoke Quote
Thank you. We have doubly-redundant GPS receivers that we connect to small ham-band radios. That gear is in the orange boxes you see. For the ground crew, we have another ham receiver (2m band) that we connect to the computer. We wrote software that predicts the path of flight using National Weather Service data before the flight to allow us to predict the landing location for planning purposes. During the flight, the software uses the GPS data to update the winds aloft, as well as the aerodynamics of the balloon and parachute. It constantly updates a new predicted landing location. Accuracy of the prediction depends on how much the wind changes between the time we measure it, and the time we descend. On one flight, we predicted the landing location within 1 mile of the actual, just 2 minutes after the balloon had burst when the payloads were still over 85,000 ft. It really helps us to have a chance to get near the site so we can watch it come down.

Our biggest challenges in the recovery phase are (in order):

a) Trees
b) Trees
c) Road access
d) Mud
e) Trees
Thanks for the response. Did you use some kind of time lapse to take the pictures? Or it was controlled by a PC on the ground and one device on the camera?

Did the lens was exposed to any moisture? A WR lens would be more appropriated?
03-19-2010, 12:34 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by johnmflores Quote
Excellent as always!

Quick question - what's the limiting factor in the altitude? Sounds like the balloon popped. Was it thermal stress or something exotic like outer space particle or radiation?
Just a guess, but wouldn't it be due to the lack of atmospheric pressure in space causing the gas inside the balloon to expand thereby popping it?
03-19-2010, 12:41 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kirivon Quote
Just a guess, but wouldn't it be due to the lack of atmospheric pressure in space causing the gas inside the balloon to expand thereby popping it?
It could well be, but this could be overcome with a simple pressure release valve. There must be some other practical reason to have the balloon popping around that altitude.
03-19-2010, 02:04 PM   #14
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GREAT job! but I have to tell you something... that is NOT the only flying K10D...

Mine has flown too! here's a shot from... mmm... lets say... a few feet LOL


03-19-2010, 02:20 PM   #15
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Since I am currently here in Whistler doing weather balloon releases for the Vancouver Paralympics, this interests me greatly. I would love to strap my K20D to one of the balloons but the increased payload would mean we would need to use way too much helium to achieve the needed ascent rate. And we only track to burst, not through descent. Also,we do not have the luxury of flat prairie here in BC to aid recovery. I would love to see you launch a 21Ltd glued to f8 on the next launch!!
Are you using Totex 800 gram balloons, btw?

Jack

In answer to one of the other queries, yes, the balloon expands beyond its structural limits due to decreasing oressure and bursts. It is usually 8 to 10x its launch diameter at burst.
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