Balloonerang Bounces Back

As the race for autonomous parafoil recovery system fares on, Stanford student engineers are busy stirring up competition.

On the cold, windy morning of May 18, 2018, Stanford Student Space Initiative's (SSI) newly coined Balloonerang Team successfully launched its parafoil system for SSI-69, surpassing expectations not only once, but twice!

Balloonerang zooms in on its circuit. The new payload design features 3D printed funnels through which the parafoil support strings thread.

The goal of this launch was to fly our payload via a high-altitude latex balloon to low altitudes in range of vision and control direction of flight with servo controllers upon cutdown. Cutdown occurred at 328ft for the first test, and 426ft for the second test; and despite the box's graceful but inconvenient landing in a local river, the team was able to recover the fully functional payload for analysis.

SSI returns to launch site after recovery.

This new structure incorporates secure and optimized features, including 3D-printed funnels and a sturdy Duron shell. The circuit, code, and the deployment mechanisms worked as needed, but still remain a work in progress. Brian Tanabe (left) and Jason Kurohara (right) prepare the parafoil for flight.

To prepare for the flight, the team worked long hours late nights planning, debugging, and falling asleep to the whir of 3D printers.

For our next flight, the Balloonerang team will focus on gear motor functionality, revamp both mechanical and electrical design, and more precisely follow the scripted flight. Future goals include installing a live update panel and designing a way to support heavier loads.
Our final payload design!
Balloonerang team hopes to continue uncovering new insights about parafoil recovery systems, and work toward its eventual goal of automated flight. With a guided recovery system, our high-altitude balloons team will be able to save significant costs and time in retrieving the payload. Along the way, we'll be gathering invaluable data about material properties and sharing what we learn with the public. The possibilities are endless!
SSI team celebrates a successful flight. Pictured from left to right: Davy Ragland, Brian Tanabe, Danna Xue, Grace Hu, Jason Kurohara.