GPS – Global Positioning System

When the HAB returns to earth, we will need to retrieve the payload which is only possible with high quality tracking equipment.

We found a wide variety of different approaches in regards to payload tracking. Some used microprocessors equipped with GPS modules, some used old cellphones that would send a text message with it’s current latitude/longitude, and some used retail GPS systems.

I would say the most commonly used were the SPOT GPS trackers. They are easy to use, with no technical knowledge required. Many hikers use them since they do not rely on spotty cell coverage. You can also track the SPOT’s movements via Google Maps or their own custom tracking page. Here is our custom tracking page¬†SPOT let us set up that we will distribute to people who want to follow our launch online.


While many groups use the SPOT Messenger, we will be using the newly released SPOT Trace. It is promoted as a theft-alert GPS tracker that you would attach to a boat, ATV, or car – but it’s small size will work perfectly for our uses. Testing was successful as it tracked our students as they did a test run to the convenience store.


One downside to the SPOT GPS trackers is that they must be facing skywards so that it can communicate with satellites overhead. If a box tips over during landing, theoretically the SPOT could face sideways (or even downwards), not be able to transmit its GPS coordinates, and we’d lose the payload.

So… we came up with this neat idea to take a “gyro-bowl” that parents use so that their toddler won’t spill his Cheerio’s and integrate it with the SPOT Trace so that the SPOT always faces upwards! In the world of HABs, this is probably the only part of our project where we devised something not yet done before (that I’ve seen). All in all I think it turned out pretty great.

Here is our student who constructed the gyro-bowl/SPOT contraption.

photo 5


Another challenge was somehow placing this apparatus in the box since it has a rounded bottom. We suspended the device inside the box by attaching string to the handles of the gyro-bowl and tying them together outside the box.




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