Flight #17 - 2010a

This will be our first flight in five years, and we are eagerly awaiting its arrival. The primary is a brand new design, based on the Arduino archetecture. It includes an ATMega328 processor, a custom AX.25 modulator, and an integrated Inventek GPS engine. The Backup transmitter will be using our proven microcontroller design/MX614 modem. GPS signal is provided by a Garmin GPS-35LVC.

Camera equipment will be a Canon Powershot A570IS camera set on automatic using the CHDK firmware.

Flight Parameters
Launch Date/Time Saturday, 1 May 2010 at 8:30am
Alternative Date N/a
Launch Site Wells Aircraft at the Hutchinson Airport (38° 03.8', 97° 51.9'W) in Hutchinson, KS
Primary Transmitter / Antenna ArduinoTrack controller with Radio Shack HT into a vertically polarized dipole antenna. Signing W0ZC-11.
Backup Transmitter / Antenna Custom PT controller with VX-1R into vertically polarized dipole. Signing AJ0NR-11.
Balloon / Gas / Positive Lift
Kaymont 1000gram / 180 cu feet of Helium / 5lbs
Estimated Burst Altitude 90,000' MSL
Estimated Ascent Rate 1250' per minute
Estimated Descent Rate Approx. 1100' per minute at touchdown
Capsule(s) weight 2lbs 7oz + 1lbs 4oz.  Total Flight Weight 3lbs 15oz
Chase Frequencies 446.00MHz
Balloon Finder Telemetry Mode PT Mode 2

Flight Predictions

Flight Predictions
Date Created (Central Time) Dist From Launch Bearing From Launch Relative Position Map Winds
4/25/2010 9:00pm 111 miles 72° E-NE 16mi NE of Emporia Map Winds
4/26/2010 9:00pm 69 miles 52° NE 5mi E of Herington Map Winds
4/28/2010 6:00pm 119 miles 45° NE 5mi N of Wamego Map Winds
4/29/2010 9:00pm 128 miles 49° NE 4mi N of St Marys Map Winds
4/30/2010 4:30pm 116 miles 48° NE 2mi E-SE of Wamego Map Winds

Flight Results

Overall, I'm considering the flight a success, although we had plenty of surprises.

The most notable was a loss of altitude data coming from the new controller design at 32,000'.  My initial suspicions turned out to be accurate, and it was a software issue.  A buffer didn't have enough room to handle a 5 digit altitude (10,000 meters), and began to spew random data.

The most disappointing problem that we had (in my opinion) was that the glass protecting the camera frosted over several minutes into the flight, apparently after passing through a rain cloud.  Virtually all of the photos were worthless from that point on until it melted a couple of minutes before touchdown.

Touchdown was a little closer to a major highway that I would have liked.  I made a last minute call to significantly over-fill the balloon, on the order of about 8 pounds positive lift.  In retrospect, I should have put my faith in the flight predictions and stuck to the original 1200'/min ascent, which would have shifted our touch-down ~20 miles north, well away from I-70. 

The newest rendition of Balloon Finder worked very well during the tracking in my vehicle.  The only error occured when I went to close the program - it was probably a conflict during the shutdown of one of the serial ports.  I will try to fix this one and finish cleaning up loose ends before GPSL.

Flight Statistics
Launch Date/Time Saturday, 1 May 2010 at 8:35am
Launch Site Wells Aircraft at the Hutchinson Airport (38° 03.8',  97° 51.9'W) in Hutchinson, KS
Burst Altitude 95,820'
Average Ascent Rate 1500' per minute
Measured Descent Rate 1928' per minute (last measured at 9400')
Touchdown Site 39° 1.4740'N, 96° 31.3778'W
Touchdown Time Approx 10:10am
Recovery Time 11:50am
Distance Traveled 98mi
Total Flight Time 1hr 35min

Lessons Learned

  • When it comes to filling the balloon and figuring predictions, stick to the original plan.
  • The cloth bag filled with soft foam worked quite well as a payload design.  A filleting knife carved the soft foam out very well to make cubby holes for various equipment.