DIY balloon sent up 30km

Picture 4-46

Alexei Karpenko put together a system consisting of GPS, camera, sensors and communications, sent it to an altitude of 30km, and retrieved it on the ground after a parachute landing. The photos and videos he took are stunning.

High altitude ballooning is an emerging hobby, since price of GPS and communications equipment has gotten quite low. It is an excellent hobby for people fascinated by space flight and telerobotics and has many learning aspects – from systems design to electronics design to software engineering. There is also an exciting risk factor, namely, that you could lose your precious electronics if something malfunctions. In this project, many of my interest and knowledge areas came together. Also, I have verified that the Earth is indeed round and that space is black.
Bre Pettis of MAKE also built and launched a near-space balloon, but never found it. See his videos (part 1 and 2).




  1. If the plane is smaller than a hydrogen molecule, it might pass through the balloon without causing any damage.

  2. Man can send a GPS unit and a Canon digicam into space, but his server can’t handle the traffic from BoingBoing. What a comment on our modern world.

  3. A friend of mine did post-grad work on signal processing for a balloon-mounted x-ray telescope (balloon-mounted so that it would get above the atmosphere). Unfortunately, on its maiden flight the telescope prematurely separated from its balloon and the parachute failed to deploy, so it smashed to pieces on the desert floor, having failed to gather any data at all.

    So sympathies to everyone who’s lost a camera this way, but count your blessings that it was just a cheap digital camera, and not something more expensive.

  4. ok, i know this is probably totally unreasonable, but can i be allowed to view this success as only the first step in establishing a cloud city (a la empire strikes back) in the sky?


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