Electronics for Our Payload

Shockingly, the USLI launch is in just one week. We have very little time to complete the electronics for the payload, and with many, many roadblocks, we just might be pulling some long hours in the coming days. So here's the rundown:

We were using a program called MPLab to program the MCU, but day after day, we would spend ALL our time getting back up to the point we had left off the day before, and thus could make no forward progress.

The functionality of these electronics are so advanced that even the seniors on the team are confused (so of course, I am almost no help, but I've learned the most of everybody). These electronics have a very steep learning curve.

But basically, the goal is to have a controlled descent vehicle deploy at 2500 feet on the way down, and get data from GPS, calculate a landing zone destination, and use servos connected to the parachute shroud lines to guide it in that direction. Yah. We were pretty ambitious. But we could pull it off. Actually, our decision to make the entire thing completely autonomous stems from a laziness on our part. We didn't want to have to hassle with a ground tracking station, which is actually more work than it sounds. A computer could actually (probably) control the descent vehicle better than a human could.

But since MPLab was giving us fits, we are now using an open source system called Arduino, and is working MUCH better. Now are only serious problem (besides the fact that we're behind schedule) is that we can't get a lock on any GPS satellites.

We leave on Wednesday. The launch will be on Saturday.

I'm not really pinning any hopes on winning this competition. I don't care if we're third to last. I just want to beat the other schools I applied to: Embry-Riddle and MIT.

Well, that's all for now. I'll be sure to try and update the blog daily, so you can follow our progress.


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