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Saturday, November 18, 2023

These Raspberry Pi-Powered “Knowledge Restoration Programs,” Flown on a NASA Balloon, Ship Knowledge by Airdrop

When NASA is lofting a “super-pressure balloon” skyward so as to seize astronomical imagery from above 99.5 per cent of the Earth’s ambiance, you want a method to get loads of knowledge safely again to floor — and researchers figured one of the simplest ways was with a payload bundle pushed by a Raspberry Pi single-board pc.

“In April 2023, the superBIT telescope was lifted to the Earth’s stratosphere by a helium-filled super-pressure balloon to accumulate astronomical imaging from above (99.5 per cent of) the Earth’s ambiance,” the crew answerable for the information restoration mission explains.

“It was launched from New Zealand after which, for 40 days, circumnavigated the globe 5 instances at a latitude 40 to 50 levels south. Connected to the telescope had been 4 ‘DRS’ (Knowledge Restoration System) capsules containing 5TB strong state knowledge storage, plus a GNSS [Global Navigation Satellite System] receiver, Iridium transmitter, and parachute. Knowledge from the telescope had been copied to those, and two had been dropped over Argentina.”

The issue the DRS {hardware} was designed to resolve is easy: the telescope generated an excessive amount of knowledge to be simply transferred wirelessly, however its descent post-capture was not anticipated to be a delicate one — an expectation which proved prescient when the telescope, its balloon deflated, destructively crash-landed on the finish of its mission. The answer: a number of redundant capsules which will be ejected, every with a replica of the information and a way to find it post-landing.

The present-generation DRS is constructed round a Raspberry Pi 3 Mannequin B single-board pc, the crew explains, powered by the primary balloon payload whereas tethered then by two inside 9V lithium batteries when launched. Enclosed in a 3D-printed shell with foam for impression resistance and a small degree of waterproofing, the Raspberry Pi reads knowledge from the telescope over Ethernet and writes it to 5 1TB microSDXC playing cards.

When triggered, a DRS detaches from the balloon and begins its descent slowed by a parachute. The onboard GNSS receiver tracks its location and transmits this to the bottom crew. Whereas the monitoring system on each jettisoned DRS items failed to trace their journey to the bottom, the crew admits, each started transmitting their location post-landing — and triggered an audible sounder on the provider board, making it simpler to search out them on the bottom.

“We recovered equivalent copies of all the information from each launched DRS capsules and later from the unreleased DRS and the primary knowledge retailer on superBIT (which additionally had barely extra telemetry knowledge),” the crew writes. “Nevertheless, superBIT had been utterly destroyed upon touchdown, when its parachute didn’t detach (maybe due to comparable thermal points because the DRS capsules; evaluation is ongoing), and it was dragged for 3km via comparable terrain, leaving a path of particles.

“It’s, due to this fact, outstanding luck that superBIT’s solid-state exhausting drive was later found intact,” the crew concludes. “We didn’t want it as a result of knowledge had already been retrieved from the launched DRS capsules, however having the unique copy enabled us to confirm that no knowledge on the SD Playing cards had been corrupted.”

The crew’s expertise with the DRS system has been revealed within the journal Aerospace below open-access phrases; the {hardware} design is revealed to GitHub below the reciprocal Inventive Commons ShareAlike license, whereas a Python device for simulating balloon trajectories is offered below the GNU Lesser Basic Public License 3.

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