The University of Nevada, Reno

Nevada Student Satellite Program

This program is generously supported by the Nevada Space Grant Consortium


HALE was successfully completed Tuesday, July 29, 2008.

To help commemorate the 10th anniversary of LEGO
® Mindstorms®, Nevada Space Grant, the University of Nevada-Reno, National Instruments, The Energizer Battery Company, and the LEGO Mindstorms Team conducted the High Altitude LEGO Extravaganza.

H.A.L.E is an event that carried nine LEGO Mindstorms-based payloads into the Earth’s stratosphere. At that altitude H.A.L.E. was above 99.9% of the atmosphere. Two balloons carried payloads from the USA, Taiwan, Luxembourg, Sweden, and Denmark to an altitude just over 99,500 feet. Brian Davis's payload set the world record for the longest NXT freefall at 80-seconds. We are pretty sure HALE also set the record for the most NXT's flown at once (5 on one balloon and 4 on the other)

balloonsat burst
Mission photos are being posted at

Two balloons were launched the same morning:

First launch at 6:52:43: carried and NXT-controlled SLR digital camera payload, FLL Team 90, LEGO Mindstorms Team, Gypsy, communications payload (a.k.a NXT payload) and Little Joe. Little Joe was successfully deployed at 82,000 feet and survived an 60-second freefall before deploying its parachute.

Second launch at 7:41:45: carried LUXPAK, Brix-Catcher, Peeps-in-Space, student payload (no name), communications payload (a.k.a Energizer payload), a video camera payload (a.k.a National Instruments) and Reel-E.

The two balloons were tracked by participants in real time on and The balloons launched used the KD7UCE-11 and KE7BQV-11 call signs. We transmitted once every minute. Note that the balloons had to be at least a few thousand feet off the ground in order for our transmissions to be picked up by the repeaters & Internet gates. The chase teams on the ground used additional HAM radio frequencies to track the balloons during the mission. The final landing locations were determined by using our SPOT personal locators.

Check out Brian Davis's live report on blogspot.

 balloonsat altitudes
balloonsat payloads

Here is a brief description of payloads being flown:
  • Brix-Catcher, coached by Eugene Tsai (Taiwan): payload used sticky tape to capture particles and/or chemicals in the air during the balloon ascent and/or descent periods. The LEGO Mindstorms NXT was used to provide a mechanism to capture the materials in the air and then keep the tape clean. The sticky tape samples will be analyzed back in Taiwan for particles and chemicals that exist at different altitudes.
  • Gypsy by Brian Davis (USA): Gypsy (a.k.a. Nadar 2.0) is an automated camera platform that takes both video and still images. The NXT controlled all image timing as well as pitch angle.
  • REEL-E by SpaceMasters Robotics Team (Sweden). Team is lead by Jurgen Leitner and David Leal Martinez. The Reel-E payload measured the change in g-forces as a function of altitude. The payload repeatedly dropped a tethered bluetooth sensor package at different altitudes to measure the acceleration experienced by the package.
  • Little Joe by Brian Davis (USA) performed the record setting automated NXT free-fall The payload was detached from the main balloon at 82,000 feet and was under free-fall for 80 seconds, when the NXT deployed the parachute. Check out the YouTube video on how to pack Little Joe.
  • LUXPAK (Luxembourg): This student team is mentored by Claude Baumann, Francis Massen, Jean Mootz, and Jean-Claude Krack. The payload measured ozone-concentration, air-pressure, temperature (inside/outside), and reflected light from earth during ascent. In recognition of the 10th anniversary, LUXPAK was th only payload to an RCX instead of an NXT for all command and control functions.
  • Peeps-in-Space: Barbara Bratzel and Chris Rogers are coaching a group of 4th grade students from Shady Hill School (USA): The students wanted to investigate the impact of the flight conditions on yellow marshmallows (a.k.a. peeps). The NXT recorded the expansion of the peep as well as temperature and pressure during the mission.
  • FLL Team 90 payload (USA). This team is coached by David Levy. The payload measured UV radiation as a function of altitude. The NXT not only data logged the UV sensor readings, but was also used to manipulate various UV filters and control the payload heater.
  • LEGO Mindstorms Team: this top secret classified payload was lost during the mission. How and why it was lost is still under investigation.
There are also 5 infrastructure payloads that were built at UNR specifically for the HALE event:
  • Balloon #1 communications payload (a.k.a the "NXT"). Contained two fully independent HAM radio tracking systems, SPOT tracker, GPS data logger, DTMF board (for cutting Little Joe loose), and our LEGOnaut "JD".
  • Balloon #2 communications payload (a.k.a the "Energizer"). Contained one HAM radio, SPOT tracker, and a logging GPS.
  • Video payload (a.k.a. the "National Instruments"). Contained a video camera that we hoped would capture the balloon rupturing and parachute deployment, but shifted during launch and ended up recording only sky (still good video, but not what we wanted).
  • SLR camera payload. Contained a digital SLR camera that has flown on many of our missions. The camera is controlled by an NXT, which also controls the heater (using a temperature sensor) and datalogs both temperature and vertical acceleration.
  • Student payload (no name): this is a payload built by a local high school student who is interested in getting in to BalloonSat. It has nothing to do with HALE, so it was just hitching a ride.

All payloads used Energizer Lithium batteries because of their lightweight and extreme operating range (click for more details).

National Instruments     Energizer
Nevada Space Grant

The University of Nevada, Reno
The LEGO Mindstorms Team
National Instruments

Energizer Battery Company

LEGO® and Mindstorms® are trademarks of the LEGO group of companies.
National Instruments® is a trademark of National Instruments.
Energizer® is a trademark of Energizer Battery Company.
Participation is at your own risk. All applicable FAA and FCC regulations must be followed.