The planning phase of the project took the most amount of time. We spent hours researching the project before we drew a single design. We looked a lot of YouTube videos and read a lot of weather balloon sites that provided a lot of information on weather balloons. One of our favorites is called High Altitude Science; this is also where we purchased our balloon, parachute, flight computer, and temperature pressure sensor.
When it comes to planning, you need to think about the design, materials, schedule, and budget.
Doing a project plan and a task list can help keep you organized. We kept everything in a big binder with a bunch of tabs, and we always knew where it was.
Design is when you create a model of your spacecraft, and get ideas for what your spacecraft is going to have on it. You have to think about how heavy it will weigh and how it will function in the air. You’ll want to take into account aerodynamics and the position you want it to be in when it’s going up and coming down. As we discovered, you may have to change your design midway through the project.
We wanted to make sure that the SPOT Trace landed upright, because if it landed upside down, it might not be able to send GPS coordinates back, and we would not be able to find the spacecraft, which would have been a disaster. So we wanted to use a design where we were confident the craft would land upright.
We also wanted to keep things as simple as possible and minimize opportunities for the spacecraft to fail. Putting the parachute inline (between the balloon and spacecraft) made it so when the balloon burst, the parachute would open automatically.