Explorer is a high-altitude aircraft designed for atmospheric exploration and research. It features an unparalleled array of tools and capabilities.
Explorer features a state-of-the-art custom-made body consisting of closed-cell foam layered with Kevlar to ensure maximum strength. The sleek trapezoidal shape minimizes wasted volume, and a sliding door enables quick and easy access to the contents of the container. A shelving system provides for optimal distribution of weight, with the heaviest components (including the camera equipment and power supply) and the bottom of the craft to stabilize it during flight.
Four digital protocols, three processors, two wireless links, and an inertial measurement unit comprise the building blocks of the brain of Explorer – the Command Center. Neatly packaged in a 5x5x2” box built of the same closed-cell foam and Kevlar, the Command Center is designed to be modular, interfacing easily with any future projects the YUAA undertakes.
Every contingency has been considered – and planned for. Our nichrome failsafe system guarantees a quick detachment of the payload from the balloon should it become necessary. A nichrome wire, which responds to a remote triggering from our engineers on the ground, rapidly heats up and melts through the line. Surpassing mechanical solutions, which are more prone to failure, the nichrome is also insulated from the rest of the craft to protect against heat-related damage.
Explorer features an air sampling unit called BioBay, which can be activated from the ground or automatically on a timer. It collects air samples for further investigation and analysis upon recovery of the balloon, as part of our effort to advance climate and atmospheric sciences.
Explorer is equipped with two cameras. The first provides high-definition video, while the other supplies real-time digital photographic images, which can be accessed by the public on our website. Both camera lenses are insulated in case of extreme cold at high altitudes.
Thanks to the generosity and support of one of our partners, VectorNav, we have equipped our craft with an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), which measures and reports Explorer’s velocity and orientation, as well as the effect of gravitational forces on it. NOTE: The Inertial sensor did not finally fly on the Explorer because of issues with integrating it with the rest of the electronics.
Explorer was launched on January 28th, 2012. from Hubbard Park near New Britain, CT. The craft was lost shortly after launch. The problem was later traced to a faulty connector on the ground equipment.