The last couple weeks have been pretty wet, so even though the weather forecast was cautiously optimistic, the LBCC Space Team came out in force bright and early at 8 am to prepare for our first launch of the 2017 school year. We were rewarded by what ended up as a great day of sun with very little wind and only partial cloud cover.
We still had a lot to do before we could launch. This launch was all about practice, so we were using one of our small 300g balloons. That meant we needed a small payload to go with it.
We decided to send up our APRS tracker, a lightweight cutdown consisting of an arduino and dc motor with a cutting wheel, a single raspberry pi A+ and camera, and of course our parachute.
However, none of these systems were completely ready that morning. We needed to quickly fabricate a new payload box for the raspberry pi and APRS tracker, modify our existing cutdown system to use an arduino and timer software instead of the Montana State University’s satellite receiver, and connect all of this to the balloon using new rigging.
But the team really came together, and after only a couple hours of fabrication (and debugging), we had a full payload string built and ready to fly.
We set out for the nearby track field and set up our fill station. This was most team member’s first launch so each step was new. But again, we pulled together and each team member completed their launch task. From activating payloads, checking rigging, testing the tracking software or helping fill the balloon, this launch went very smoothly.
We originally planned to launch at 12 pm sharp, but our build ran late and we didn’t make it outside until after 12:15. So we set ourselves a new launch goal of 1 pm and I’m pleased to say we made our (adjusted) launch time.
We tried a new method of measuring lift using a digital fish scale, but the end result was a balloon that didn’t climb nearly as fast as we predicted. We’ll spend some time looking at what went wrong and figuring out how we can make a better prediction next time. We think it’s likely that we did not measure the weight of our payload correctly. This process was made more difficult by needing to measure it in 4 separate pieces due to our scale’s maximum capacity. Maybe we need a bigger scale?
You can check out some more pictures of our ground setup, photos from the balloon itself, or read some of our preparations on our google drive here.
Again, great job everyone!