PiBalloon III (on the PHAB-11 string) had a successful flight on Saturday, July 11. Launch was at 9:30AM from Bonham High School, and landing was at 12:23 in Sherman. The balloon narrowly missed a populated area, and some high-tension power lines. The average descent rate was 3500ft/min. Conversely, the ascent rate was 675ft/min.
The balloon launching went off without a problem. We laid the balloon out, and connected it to the hydrogen tank, but waited for PiBalloonIII to be fully operational before filling began. Once the crossband repeater, SSTV, and APRS were all verified, we inflated the balloon. When the balloon was filled, we rigged the payloads, and walked it over to the field. The PARK Balloon group uses a method called a tethered launch, where a rope is fed through the ring on the balloon. This allows a final check on all of the payloads to be run before the balloon is let go. When we’re ready for launch, one end of the rope is let go, and it slowly feeds through the ring allowing a jolt-free release.
All systems functioned as intended, with the exception of one experimental tracker (W5ADC-7). Based on the data received over the APRS network, the GPS was not in “high altitude mode,” and capped out around 40,000ft. The other two trackers (KE5GDB-11 and W5ADC-11) functioned exactly as intended.
The crossband repeater sustained a lot of traffic! There were about a dozen check-ins, and a constant chatter about the balloon.
The slow-scan TV package sent amazing photos from the edge of space.
Pi Camera Photos
Watching the Balloon Come Down
One of the coolest parts about this flight was that we nearly intercepted it on the descent. Landon (N5AET) and I were able to see the balloon come down. I was able to take the video recorded from the balloon and locate my vehicle (or maybe the one just in front of us).
(BEWARE: Clenching may occur as power lines become visible!)
Flight path in final few minutes:
A still from the video above:
How it looked from the chase vehicle (taken about 10 seconds later):
This was a fantastic launch with great results. The pictures were amazing; both the real-time SSTV and the ones pulled from the SD card later on. We had a little fun with the SSTV when the balloon was in “descent mode,” and will probably continue the tradition. It was a pleasure to launch with the PARK Balloon group, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity.