MCC Launch – 11/2/13

The weather was beautiful on Saturday, November 2, 2013; it was warm, clear and sunny. We decided to launch from the Strategic Air and Space museum because we could fill the balloon in the hanger and then open the doors and release from the back of the building. This is the second time we have done this and it works great in terms of not having to worry about wind and weather. One issue is that we need to wait a few minutes after leaving the building for our command module to lock on to an appropriate number of satellites to give us latitude and longitude before we let it go.

We chose to launch later in the morning, around 11 AM so we could have full sun for our solar panel experiments. They made an announcement over the intercom to the visitors at the museum so we had a group of spectators watching the fill and then walking outside to give us the countdown.


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Our prediction had the balloon landing over 80 miles away.

 We decided to overfill to try to shorten the flight and decrease the distance, but it came down very close to Mound City, MO and we had to drive well over 100 miles one way to get to it.

Nov 2 predictionOnce it was on the ground, we no longer had the line of sight for the command module to transmit its location. The back-up APRS did not give us any data during the flight. This failure was found afterwards to be because of batteries that were shaken loose. From now on, we will always tape the batteries together so they cannot dislodge from the holder. Our back-up for the back-up was the SPOT GPS locator and, for several tense minutes on our drive, we were not getting any hits from it. Eventually, when we were about 10 minutes from where it landed, we finally got a signal from SPOT giving us the latitude and longitude of the downed balloon. We breathed a huge sigh of relief, punched in the coordinates and drove right to it. We could see it from the road in a plowed field.


The balloon reached an altitude of about 75,000 feet and was traveling at well over 100 mph when it was in the jet stream. For payloads, it was carrying several new pieces of equipment. For the most part, they performed admirably. We had a Go Pro Hero 2 camera sent to be modified to take infrared, visible, and ultraviolet wavelengths. The UV band is very narrow, so we are starting with looking at the infrared. This entails modifying the images in a photo editing program and, although this feels a little more like an art than a science, it is producing some pretty interesting imagery. Here is an image in the visible and manipulated images to enhance the infrared.



7 thoughts on “MCC Launch – 11/2/13

  1. Great job! Congratulations! I find it interesting that your balloon was released next to the SR-71, which, as I recall, typically flew at 70,000 feet. So essentially your balloon gave us a view that might have been viewed from the SR-71. Black bird, white balloon. Great contrast.

  2. If you are interested in participating in a launch, we are planning to offer another workshop in the spring. Check back in a few months for details.

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