Being an employee at Sundog entitles us to a number of different benefits. One of our benefits is having our birthday off. Figuring out what one should do on their birthday when everyone else is working can be difficult. This year I decided to go the adventure geek route and do some upper-atmospheric exploration! Upper-atmospheric exploration? What is upper-atmospheric exploration? If you have been reading this blog for some time you will know that I have done this type of thing before. Long story short, I explore this region by launching a weather balloon. The payload for the weather balloon has different types of sensors, cameras, and tracking equipment for successful recovery.
The maiden voyage had just one piece of hardware on board which met all these requirements, an Android phone. With that successful launch, I had another launch last year which was not as successful as the first. With that failure, I learned from my mistakes and rebuilt from the ground up.
This launch I went with a small cooler which was the perfect size to hold the equipment. The equipment for this launch included the trusty old HTC Incredible 2, a GoPro HD Hero 2, and a SPOT Connect. The Incredible would be running my custom software I created, SpaceTracker and findMe. This software would take care of taking pictures at a specified time interval, tracking, and recording location data including speed, latitude, longitude, and altitude. The GoPro would be taking video of the journey and the SPOT Connect would be for backup tracking since it communicates location information via satellites and does not rely on cellular networks.
Learning from my mistakes from last launch, everything with this launch went according to plan. My dad, brother, and I got together in the morning of the 24th, did preflight checks which included lift and hardware functionality and everything was good to go. We launched the balloon, received tracking updates of it’s flight, and three hours after it launched, we were rewarded with information of it’s final location.
The day before the launch I had made a prediction based off of ground winds and jet stream of where it would land. My prediction was essentially a 13 mile stretch of Hwy 34. It ended up landing just east of where I predicted. I was very happy about this as when we received notification of where it was, we only had to drive about 18 miles to go get it. Also, retrieving the payload was much easier than last time. We only had to hike about 100 yards into thick forest/swamp off of a main highway. Recovery when we got to the site only took about 15 mins. To my surprise, my software was still running. I would have thought that the battery would have died but some tweaks to the efficiency of the phone really paid off as there was still half a charge left.
Out of everything in the payload, the phone worked the best. The SPOT did eventually send us a location update approximately two minutes before we actually recovered the payload. And the GoPro, well, let’s just say that it doesn’t like 64GB class 10 cards. There was no usable data that we could recover from the GoPro. If you check the forums, there are a lot of people that have had the same issue with 64GB cards which is why I will be sticking to a 32GB card from now on. Since the GoPro didn’t work and I really wanted video, there will need to be another launch. I should be able to incorporate the Thermodo when I get it. I am still happy that it worked out even though I didn’t get all the data that I was hoping for.
Max Speed: 117.87 mph
Max Altitude: +/- 90,000ft
Distance Traveled: 84.37 miles
Flight time till balloon burst: 2 hours
Total flight time: 2 hours 28 minutes
Total images captures: 2169
The atmosphere is so small…
The balloon bursts!