Pegasus-NAE Articles 2016

Pegasus-NAE News Articles – Chasing the land speed record in a desert

[4]Raspberry PI Magazine
[6]ARS Techinca


Pegasus Mission Annual Report – 2016


It has been a remarkable year for The Pegasus Mission as we flew to new heights in the upper atmosphere and traversed a desert at extreme speed. We engaged over 20,000 in a global audience in 60 countries with captivating adventures centered in STEM and experimental real-time technologies running in the MS Cloud. Our team grew to 60 volunteers and partners that showed unwavering support and demonstrated the power of the human spirit to challenge assumptions about is possible. The payoff was massive real-time engagement with a global audience and acceptance by the media for our collective efforts. Over 25 million people viewed 30 plus articles written about our adventures in near space and in the remote Alvord desert.

Pegasus IIUpperAtmosphere

We made history with Pegasus II by flying 2 hours into near space and bi-directionally communicating with a global audience in real-time. Using apps for Web, mobile, and Media Services, thousands of people experienced the flight from 60 different countries as we transmitted video, telemetry, and received messages from well-wishers through our experimental technology running in the MS Cloud.

The impact was overwhelming and it deeply connected with a global audience of interested parties. Our charter of challenging assumptions about what is possible and making research an experience became a viral meme in 2016 as soon as Pegasus II lifted itself into the heavens.

North American Eagle Partnershipimg_0279

Our partnership with the North American Eagle (NAE) team built on our experience with Pegasus II and enabled us to synthesize technology to enable users to experience extreme speed in different type of hostile environment, a desert devoid of infrastructure. Using satellite communications and our experimental technology in the MS Cloud, we gave 15,000 people a real-time experience of the drama of extreme speed, i.e., 478 mph, across a remote desert floor. The outpouring of the emotional user messages we received told the same story as Pegasus II…it had deeply connected.

It is with endearing gratitude that we thank the NAE team, Ed Shadle, and Jessi Combs for allowing us to participate in a remarkable risky pursuit of a challenge that only a few will ever take, extreme speed.

Accomplishments – 2016

The Pegasus Mission derives itself from a trifecta of concepts; research, experimentation, and human consumable experiences that form a powerful gestalt when combined with taking risks to achieve what has not been done before.   Our accomplishments in 2016 demonstrated that these challenges resonate broadly across a spectrum of interest levels. Technically, we showed how it was possible to build an open-system of heterogeneous system actors on a global basis that could behave organically and communicate in real-time with the latency of an online video game, and did this will great scale and economic feasibility. We simplified communications and decoupled the system actors, which allowed us to build unique experiences that touched people from impossibly remote and hostile environments. We took the initial steps in democratizing IoT and we were rewarded with the endless appreciation from the audiences for taking them on risky scientific adventures where success is never a guarantee. Together with our partners and our dedicated team of volunteers we brought a piece of an amazing future into the present.

Looking Forwarded – 2017

2017 is shaping up to be an incredible year. Our top priority is the total eclipse of the sun occurring over North America on Aug. 21. This is a one-in-a-lifetime event. We will be creating a remarkable global event with “Flight into Totality”, where we will fly to 80-100K feet into the upper atmosphere and film the total eclipse from a floating and self-stabilizing platform.  We will provide Web and Mobile apps for a global audience to participate in the flights. To remediate as much risk as possible we will be launching redundant flights for 4 different time zones. This will be fulltime work to engineer, test, promote, and prepare for an opportunity that will not reoccur. We will expand on the number of ways users can participate and leverage more technologies. This is complex mission and time is short to begin the work. We plan to build video documentaries and promote them as we prepare for flight to amplify messaging, grow the audience, expand our connections, and capture mind-share. Using the videos and attaching to social media, we plan to build an audience that will become participants as we attempt to deliver another risky and perhaps astonishing mission to near space.  This is considered an “at-risk” project due to requirements of time and funding that we must pursue.

We plan to re-engage with North American Eagle for another run at history. One of the lessons learned from NAE was how well it connects with people, but how little has been done to message the enormity of the challenge or the engineering required to safely travel at extreme speed.   We believe that we can build a story around the challenge versus the land speed record, and maximize real-time engagement of a global audience. Our impact will be to deliver the extreme speed experience in real-time as the NAE makes it runs, and increase the ways we creativity engage with the audience.

In summary, we will be engaging more people for these events in real-time, telling true stories that capture the imagination, and putting leading edge technologies to the ultimate test. By doing what has not been done before, we energize, collaborate, partner, and go forth to challenge assumptions about what is possible.

Dare Mighty Things

Pegasus-NAE Update

We are working on completely the story, while being both swamped with work and exhausted. Our team will complete final leg of travel back to originations today.  Dust storms, plane crash, 2 flat tires,  geomagnetic storm, 2.5 hr commute, are all part of the real-world experience of challenges assumptions of what is possible.  Of course, a team of like-minded friends that can only be found in a desert racing a supersonic fighter jet with wheels makes this all possible.  The Pegasus Mission offers a huge THANK YOU to the North American Eagle team and Jessi Combs for letting us again turn research into a reality at a global scale from a remote outpost in the Alvord Desert.

The pilots of the NAE, Ed Shadle and Jessi Combs.



Pegasus-NAE Day 6

The day started with flat tire on the 32 mile unpaved road into the Alvord Desert to meet up with the NAE.  Once arriving late we encountered some sad news regarding the daring night plane flight carrying parts to the NAE…the plane had crashed in the darkness and had mistaken a cattle truck as the marker for the makeshift runway.  Fortunately, the pilot was unharmed, but the plane was destroyed.  During the hectic rescue attempt in complete dark, the pilot was miraculously located and his first words were “I got your parts.”

We were informed that the hydraulics had been altered to a previous state, ca 2013, and that Ed Shadle was going to attempt a late afternoon shakedown run.  Fingers cross the NAE prepared to make the critical test run.

The run was a complete success with Ed Shadle reaching an official 362 mph.  Our real-time telemetry and user message interaction also worked flawlessly with the apps.  Users could taste the thrill the NAE’s speed quickly accelerated from 150 mph to over 350 mph.

Our drone video coverage allow us to capture these amazing views below:

Orbit prior to start
Aerial view of start

The plan is for Jessi Combs to pilot the 1st run tomorrow.  Godspeed Jessi.

Our field crew departed NAE base camp to make the drive back to the hotel, only to experience another flat tire on our favorite 32 mile unpaved road.  Minutes later, “Tiny” from Les Schaub Tire Service appeared from nowhere out the utterly complete darkness on the road. Tiny quickly backed his truck toward our vehicle and changed the tire in a jiffy with his pneumatic drill.  Refusing to accept payment for his services, Tiny, speeded off and disappeared into the dark from which he came.   The only vehicle we saw in the 40 mile stretch of desert road know as the Steen Highway.  Perhaps our luck is changing.

Dare Mighty Things (and thank you “Tiny”)


Pegasus – NAE IoT Story

The Pegasus Mission has been very pleased with our ability to bidirectional communicate with a global audience during the 2 NAE runs.  Our device located behind the pilot’s left shoulder has been able to transmit telemetry and receive messages from users without flaw.  The run length is 10.5 miles and we anticipate a continuously connectivity.

The expensive and heavy satellite communications gear that we had hauled on a 15′ truck to the base camp is the lifeline to the Internet.  It’s capabilities allow us to bridge networks and communicate directly with Piraeus, our real-time technology in Microsoft Azure. Piraeus also allows our global audience to seamlessly connect with the apps and have a personal real-time experience as NAE makes it run across the desert floor.

Simplicity is the key.  Build an app, securely connected it to Piraeus, and experience a real-time adventure in high speed racing and exploration from a location without native connectivity.

The Pegasus device is onboard the NAE and communicates across the local NAE network using static IPs between the device and field gateway.  Our choice of UDP as a channel for communications has well worked well and both field gateway and device can communicate with each other rapidly.  The field gateway is tethered to a Android phone that is connected to our satellite communications network.  The field gateway makes a Web socket connection to Piraeus and uses CoAP protocol for bidirectional communications with resources.  The user apps (Web + Mobile) also use a Web socket and CoAP for communications to Piraeus.  This configuration allows the user app to see the telemetry directly from the NAE is a few milliseconds from when it is generated by the device.  The users can also send messages to the device, which is displayed inside the cockpit and recorded on a GoPro camera.  Effectively, the users become a participant in the event as NAE makes it run.

North American Eagle is certainly an extreme real-world condition, but it also allows us to test, learn, and imagine new possibilities with devices, communications, and the Microsoft Cloud…in real-time.  The applicability of what the Pegasus Mission has accomplished with our partnership with North American Eagle will yield real-world and tested examples of how IoT can be used in simple or challenging commercial environments and bring the meaning of real-time to a  global scale.

Our mission is to challenge the assumptions of what is possible and what success we may have whether at 21 miles in the upper atmosphere or 700 mph or land, fuels the imagination of the possibilities.  If you “Dare Mighty Things”,  you may inspire others to use their imaginations to change the world.

Dare Mighty Things !!!

Pegasus-NAE Day 5

The NAE’s 2nd test run began Tuesday Sept 27, 2016 with the purpose of verifying all systems were operational. This run tests the steering and the engine’s capability to move in and out of its different modes, including full afterburner. Shortly after NAE began down the course , the hydraulics on the steering system failed as in the 1st test run, but with a different issue.

Disappointed and with only 2 days left for speed runs, the NAE team need parts to address the steering issue. The parts are available, but it will take a 24-hour trip to just retrieve them and return to base camp, thus loosing another day. Hope is not lost, because NAE is both master of innovation and resourcefulness.

Plan – Build a Runaway in the Desert
The parts will be delivered to an airfield near Tacoma, WA, where a pilot will make a daring night flight to carry the parts to base camp. The Alvord Desert is a remote and dark place at night increasing the difficultly of even spotting it. Add the fact that Alvord is “sandwiched” inside Oregon’s Steen mountains, which rise over 4,500 feet above the desert floor and you need an exceptional pilot to meet this challenge. The NAE team will create a makeshift runaway in the flat smooth desert and light it up with flares for the pilot. A safe landing and the parts should be available by 10PM PDT, saving an entire day for racing.  WOW!!!

Geomagnetic Storm
One of the most interesting discoveries on Day 5 occurred when a check on the GPS data from NAE’s onboard telemetry system yielded some brief gaps. GPS measurements are taken at a rate of 50/sec and use both American and Russian GPS satellites with a lock on 12-19 satellites. You can see from the picture taken below that gaps exist in the satellites transmissions. Intuitively, the thought was that either the GPS sensor or board had an issue…not the case.


Weather is certainly a factor for NAE, but we never thought that space weather would come into play. The issue with the brief gaps in GPS is not NAE’s electronics results from geomagnetic storm which impacts the GPS satellites as well as some of the radio communications in the field. Mystery solved and will have to live with the issue for the duration of the event.



The North American Eagle team is an amazing group of experts. Their ability to address these challenges comes from what all STEM explorers know…regardless of how well you plan and prepare, the real-world is not a controlled lab and will throw you some interesting obstacles to overcome. It is the necessary WILL to make these attempts in the face of obstacles that is required to advance STEM and learn through difficult experiences,  and inspire others.

Dare Mighty Things 🙂




Pegasus-NAE Day 4

NAE Base Camp Video

A big THANK YOU for your interest yesterday in the early evening test run attempt.  We had ~1,400 people from around the world watching the live telemetry stream and a some sending messages to the North American Eagle…even one message from Australia.

The test run was necessary to ensure that safety of the pilots, Ed Shadle and Jessi Combs.  Ed Shadle was to take the vehicle through a series a maneuvers that would be required for speed runs and verify the operational condition.  Unfortunately, an issue with the hydraulics of the steering system occurred shortly after Ed began the run and had to abort.

Make no mistake, Les Holm and the NAE field crew are doing what is required to remediate and get the NAE back in operational condition for speed runs on Day 5.  We update status on Twitter and SMS notifications to the upcoming runs.  Please remember to follow us on Twitter (@PegasusMission) and sign up from text message notifications.

You can follow in the Web and/or download mobile apps for searching for “Pegasus Mission” or “PegasusMissions” in your app store and select the NAE app.

We captured outstanding drone footage on Day 4 of the base camp.  Plans for Day 5 include expanding the drone coverage for the NAE runs and augmenting with still video.  We have high expectations for the video coverage in the desert.

The device and telemetry system worked well on Day 4 with the vehicle positioned 4.5 miles south of our communications command center.  We expect to maintain communications throughout the 10.5 length of the course and be able to transmit telemetry and receive messages from around the world.  FYI, these communications occur in a few milliseconds from the actual event…what you see and send is VERY real-time.

You can be a part of history today by tuning in on social media and using to the apps to send a friendly message to the pilot of the NAE.  Your message will be a part of video record as NAE zoooOOOMS into the history books.


Dare Mighty Things 🙂















Pegasus-NAE Day 3

Leaving Boise, ID in the morning we traveled over 180 miles to the NAE camp in the Alvord Desert.  The terrain varied from bucolic to mountainous, but always sparse in terms in people or conveniences. Once arriving at the camp, we quickly greeted the NAE team and began the process of setting up the Internet satellite communications network (SATCOM).  The SATCOM is critical as it bridges communications begin the global audience and the NAE vehicle on the ground.

Our surprise of the day was the 507 lbs. SATCOM would not be able to get into its upright position was in the back of the truck.  The problem required us to offload the equipment to the desert floor and get a clear line of sight to the satellite at ground level.  The task was not overly difficult and the SATCOM’s automated procedures created the link and operationalized its WiFi network.

The next task was to ensure that the Field Gateway is connected to the NAE local network.  This required that the MAC address of the Field Gateway’s computer be added as a static IP client to the NAE gateway node.  This did not initially work as expected and with the help of Steve Wallace from NAE, we quickly diagnosed the issue and resolved.

The device is operational, but exhibits a temperamental behavior. When the device’s app starts after boot, the serial connections from the sensors do not always begin transmitting measurements.  However,  if the app is restarted the behavior is resolved.  If the device is rebooted, the issue is reintroduced. Mark is trying to find a workaround to resolve and reduce complexity in the field.

The 2 drones were successfully tested and will be able to perform some aerial video in the field.  Our hope is to get some incredible aerial shots of the NAE as it speeds across the desert floor.  The run is an outstanding 10.5 miles, which increases the safety factor and possibly speed.

We are operationalized for Day 4, which includes a test run by Ed Shadle in the afternoon. We will test our equipment and software in the hostile conditions of the Alvord Desert and attempt bring a glimpse of what is about to come.  We will fly 1 drone for video and check the connectivity with the Field Gateway and NAE local network across the 7-10 mile stretch of the run.  I am sure a few unexpected surprises all be waiting for us.

Be sure to sign up for SMS notifications, so we can notify you when the runs starts.  You can check out the Web site or use the mobile apps (search Pegasus Mission and download the Pegasus Mission – NAE app) to watch the test run on Tuesday.  You can send friendly message to the NAE vehicle over the Web site and mobile app…we encourage it after notifications are sent.   We will send link out to the Day 3 pictures on the Twitter feed @PegasusMission.

Buttoned up on end of Day 3, we begin the 2.5+ hour, 150 mile drive to the hotel.

God speed Ed Shadle and Jessi Combs.

Dare Might Things 🙂


Pegasus-NAE Day 2

The Pegasus team has arrived in Boise, ID to make the 180+ mile drive to the NAE camp in the Alvord Desert in Oregon on Monday Sept. 25, 2016. The last of the logistical needs were finished with brief shopping trips to Best Buy, Target, and Home Depot. We will caravan a car, SUV, and the truck with the SATCOM to the base camp Monday morning with an expected arrival around 12pm. The truck, with SATCOM, will remain at the base camp until NAE’s mission is finished.

The team will be staying at night in Burns, OR (130 miles from camp) until after the last NAE run.

Our job Monday will be to operationalize the SATCOM, then run a test confirming bidirectional communications between the Field Gateway, the device running on NAE local area network, and the user applications.

How hard can it be?

There is one tongue-and-cheek thing we say about a Pegasus mission, which the North American Eagle (NAE) team has their own version:

“How hard can be it?”

While NAE is focused of racing near the speed of sound, the Pegasus Mission team is focused on delivering a global audience this dramatic event of fire and speed in real-time through research technologies. Our part is small in comparison to the NAE effort, but is also extremely challenging.

The difficulties are far beyond what a person using an app might expect. That is because we are dealing with a real-world situation and extreme circumstances, not a tightly constrained demo. Because of the realities of doing something live, in real-time, and not done before, it accentuates everything. A slight miscalculation, bad weather, wonky sensor, loss of Internet, or hardware malfunction, and the show is cancelled for the moment you have been preparing. All the man hours spent in preparation by a large team can be lost. That is the chance our team accepts and it is truly noble effort. The conditions that we are working limit your ability to test something. For example, you cannot setup a 9 mile WiFi network with someone else’s equipment to test connectivity, or test a device while undergoing extreme G-forces and speeds up to 700mph…it just not feasible. It is risky business to be public about these endeavors, but if we didn’t the audience could never witness an extraordinary event. This is the place where technology meets harm’s way, and it drives meaningful innovation.

The sensor package, camera, and display in the cockpit of the NAE weigh very little, but is takes nearly 800 lbs. of equipment, including a 500 lbs. satellite network, to get operationalized. There is networking to be done to get our Internet connection established, as well as the networking provided by the NAE to us to connect to the cockpit. There also end-2-end system testing to produce the results from runs. That is only the cost of admission. We must coordinate our drone flights with overhead airplane observations as well as follow (to the letter) all the safety protocols. Once we have established the operational frame, we must choreograph the event. Timing cannot be off by even a single minute; people must be in position up and down the run line and technology fully operational at the same time…stuff must work together at the right time.

The other invisible part of the Pegasus-NAE mission is logistics. The environment is a desert devoid on anything. You must take everything with you, food, water, restroom, equipment, etc. If you forget something, then it’s not available. The daily round trip to and from the hotel is 320 miles, not feasible to make a “quick” trip to pick up and odd or end. It is a guarantee that you will not have something you need at some point in time. Some of the most humorous moments can occur when forced to be resourceful…your war stories.

We try, and try hard, but success is still never a guarantee. This is the nature of pushing the envelope, of doing what has not been done before. When success is gained, it very earned. None of the Pegasus or NAE teams will receive any monetary benefit, in fact it will cost us financially. There will be no reward beyond the personal satisfaction of an accomplishment of something previously impossible. If our work inspires a single person to become a STEM explorer, that is reward enough.

God speed Ed Shadle and Jessi Combs, god speed.

Dare Mighty Things