Our Saturday balloon made it off the ground – time for a post-flight review!
Congratulations to Dawson and everyone on the ground crew for a successful launch, and special thanks to Audrey for helping resolve the lift problems we have been seeing on our smaller balloons!
This launch was delayed from noon until just after 1 pm due to running out of helium during the fill process. Luckily, Delphine was able to find a local supplier who was nearby and open on a Saturday to refill our tank and get us back on track. Otherwise the launch was very smooth with the various sub teams accomplishing all of our tasks correctly and on time. I attribute the success of this launch to being well organized and prepared, we worked together as a team and it showed. I’m using too many exclamation marks but I can’t help it, you all did a great job!
The payload climbed at between 5 and 10 m/s which was a little faster than we really want, but really good to see. According to the gps logs, the balloon left the ground at about 1:10 pm and hit a maximum altitude of 97,270 ft (or 29,648 m) in just 1 hour and 10 minutes, where it burst naturally at 22:21 UTC. You can find the gps path here. Overall the path was very close to our prediction from that morning, but the high ascent rate caused us to land much farther north than we expected.
This was our first in-flight test of the video payload and it worked well at first, but we lost the signal much sooner than I had hoped. At the bottom of this post is the video we recorded until we lost the connection. The automatic tracking was several degrees off, causing us to lose the network connection when the balloon was around 30,000 ft and still fairly close to campus. I spent the time we had troubleshooting the connection and trying to understand why it was off, but could not reestablish a reliable connection long enough to reconnect to the video stream. Clearly we’ll need to work with this system and improve it.
A few interesting notes:
The iridium tracker ran until 2/26 at 1600 UTC, which is almost 24 hours total. This was the first time we had to let it run until the battery ran out so that’s good to know.The APRS and Iridium trackers agreed on the path and served as redundant systems – very nice to see!We were able to quickly locate the payload stuck pretty high up in a tree, but despite our best efforts we needed professional help to retrieve it. It happens.
A big thanks to tree climber Rick Flacco, Tyler, Dawson, Audrey, the folks from Alaska, and everyone else who went hunting for the payload after it came down.
Again, great job everyone! Our next launch will be during spring break, near April 1st. In the meantime we’ll be working on the new payload box, improving our electronics, and tracking.
p.s. Please upload any photos you took to our google drive with our other pictures.