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Flight #8 - 2003b

We are sending up the same package as flight 2003a to try testing the cutdown device and the new balloon controller/software. A few minor revisions to the controller's firmware have been made to avoid wasting pictures if the GPS glitches. It should also send a packet every time the cutdown device tries to trigger.

Flight Parameters
Launch Date/Time Saturday, 16 August 2003 at 8:00am
Alternative Date Saturday, 23 August 2003 at 8:00am
Launch Site East fairgrounds parking lot near Fairgrounds Pool (38º 04.6'N, 97º 54.9'W) in Hutchinson, KS (subject to change)
Primary Transmitter / Antenna VX-1R HT running APRS on 144.34MHz / Vertically polarized dipole
Backup Transmitter / Antenna PC Electronics 1.5W ATV Transmitter on 434.00MHz / Horizontally polarized Little Wheel antenna. The transmitter is keyed on for about 7 minutes, and then off for about 3.
Backup Transmitter / Antenna Modulated CW transmitter at 200mW on 146.55MHz / Horizontally polarized dipole
Balloon / Gas Kaysam 1200gram / 240 cu feet of Helium
Estimated Burst Altitude 90,000' MSL (altitude due to cutdown device) - 94,000' MSL in case of cutdown failure.
Estimated Ascent Rate 1050' per minute
Estimated Descent Rate Approx. 950' per minute at touchdown
Capsule(s) weight 6lb 6oz (2876g) including parachute, rigging, batteries, etc...
Chase Frequencies 146.52MHz, 7.2535MHz
Cameras/Films Live ATV footage on 434MHz (cable channel 59 if you're hooked to an antenna)
Canon Elph LT APS camera with 25 exposures of ISO800 speed film.
Balloon Finder Telemetry Mode PT Mode 2

Flight Results

An absolutely perfect launch. Clear skies, 80 degrees, 0kt winds, etc... All systems ran 100%. We were even able to watch the balloon burst!

Near 56th and Nickerson Blvd (K-96), we were sitting practically directly under the capsule. In the clear skies, the balloon stood out very clearly as a small white dot. Once it hit 90,000 feet, the cutdown device dropped the capsule and allowed the balloon to soar upwards. About a minute later, we saw the white dot suddenly get slightly larger, then kind of fuzzy, and then quickly fade out.

Flight Statistics
Launch Date/Time Saturday, 16 August, 2003 at 9:07am
Launch Site East fairgrounds parking lot near Fairgrounds Pool (38º 04.6'N, 97º 54.9'W) in Hutchinson, KS
Burst Altitude About 90,670ft (27,615m) MSL
Average Ascent Rate 1185ft/min (6.02m/s)
Measured Descent Rate 1295ft/min (6.58m/s)
Touchdown Site 2 miles east-southeast of Sterling, KS (38º 11.610'N, 98º 09.987'W)
Touchdown Time Saturday, 16 August, 2003 at 10:56am
Recovery Time Saturday 16 August, 2003 at 11:15am
Distance Traveled 26 miles as the crow flies
Total Flight Time 1 hour 49 minutes
Downloads Lat/Lon File, Log File, Flight Analysis



Lessons Learned

  • The Nichrome 'hot' wire had de-soldered itself by the time it make it on the ground. Next time we will be using some sort of compression method for attaching the Nichrome (probably small bolts).
  • We still had some sun glare around the camera. We need to put sun shades on all sides of the camera port to help reduce this.
  • While watching the balloon from the ground, it appeared that the balloon was moving erratically, especially in the wrong direction. We finally decided that perceived motion at that range (85,000'+, directly above us) is not necessarily accurate. Initially, it appeared to be moving in the opposite direct that it really was, and later it appeared to be moving in short jerky movements. I think cloud movement, as faint as they may be, will inhibit much of any ability to determine direction of flight.
  • If we intend to watch the balloon from the ground, especially in groups, some sort of tripod should be set up for the binoculars/monoculars. It took quite a while to find the balloon in the binoculars, and it was very difficult to try to hold them steady.
  • For some reason my KPC-3 TNC suddenly lost all of its configuration on the morning of the launch. In the future, all necessary settings should be documented to prevent having to look through the manual and old emails at the launch site.
  • There are a couple of rough edges in Balloon Finder that need to be cleaned up immediately: the file open dialog for the imported winds file does not have an extension mask, the descent rate for the predictions is not being saved to the registry, the descent rate algorithm needs to be redone, the live flight predictions need to be logged to a file in case the APRS quits and/or the laptop crashes. Also, switching the GPS with the TNC serial ports (native vs. USB adapter) seems to have fixed our crashing problem.