9th Launch: S08

August 13, 2011

The S07 launch was a practice run with the new 2000 gram Kaymont balloons where we tested out the David Tape Machine to see if we could catch particles in near space.  This launch, S08, was the follow up where we attempted to catch some space dust from the Perseids meteor shower. Armed with the knowledge that the new balloons can get us to altitudes above 100,000 ft, and that the DTM works, we set off to grab ourselves some meteorite dust.  Little did we know that this would be quite an exciting balloon launch.

UCSD Experiments: 

David Tape Machine:
This was the most exciting device on board.  Designed and manufactured by our very own David Hernandez, the David Tape Machine, or DTM, holds two rolls of 1" wide Scotch tape.  The rolls are set up to spool into each other, sandwiching particles between the two sticky sides, and then spooling onto a third reel.  The DTM is run by an arduino programmed to spool the tape a few inches every 10,000 feet of altitude.  This way we can see what particles exist at different altitudes in the atmosphere.  After retrieval we can take the tape out of the device and analyze the captured particles using a scanning electron microscope on campus.

The David Tape Machine v1

Go Pro Camera: 
A Go Pro camera in a water-proof case was strapped to the outside of the payload box.  It was pointed outwards horizontally to get a nice view of the extremely high altitude.  This time around we added a second battery back to it in the form of the Go Pro BacPac.  

Canon Camera:
Pointed outwards horizontally.  Might catch some photos of meteors!

Data Logger:
We knew that we should be taking detailed sensor readings throughout every flight, so came up with this device to do just that for us.  Built around an arduino Uno, our logger takes temperature, pressure, humidity, and gps readings all the way up and all the way down, and has built in support for additional sensors channels for whatever experiments we might want to send to near space.  Everything is stored onto SD card so that it can be safely recovered after launch.  Yes, the gps is one that will work above 60,000 ft.  Thank you Argent Data!

Tracking Devices:

Byonics RTF
After the Byonics MT 300 didn't quite get the job done, we decided to boost the power and go with the 10 Watt micro-trak Ready-To-Go, also from Byonics.  It is much smaller than the photos make it seem, its main body compartment being roughly 3 x 2 x 1 inches in dimension.  Using an sma to bnc connector we were able to attach a flexible 2 m Jpole antenna which we hung beneath the balloon.  In addition, the Byonics high altitude gps plugged in to the RTF and performed well throughout flight.

SPOT GPS Messenger:
As always, we flew one SPOT strapped to the top.


This is where things get interesting.  We originally shot for a 9 pm launch time, but ended up leaving campus a bit late to get there on time.  The wind predictions showed our balloon heading north-west, so we had to drive all the way across Brawley and then 40 minutes into the desert before we could find a suitable place to launch.  Our launch location was fairly close to Arizona.  
The actual launch location was pretty nice, and once again the wind was dead still.  Having little wind at launch is always a good thing.
After getting everything situated, we decided to fill the balloon before closing up the payload boxes.  The wind was low enough to do this, and it helped us conserve battery life.  We got the helium in the balloon, and to our dismay realized that we had brought two instead of three helium tanks, where the two tanks we did bring were half empty.  Very much an amateur mistake!  

There simply was not enough lift to get us in the air

By this time it was 1 am, and the only place with helium open at this time is Walmart.  Yes, the trusty venue of all things anytime, anywhere.  We called the two closest locations (in Arizona, actually), and sent two of us to get 15 of the little party balloon helium tanks.  In the downtime Umar pulled out his telescope and we did some stargazing.

We make the call.  I wonder how often Walmart gets request like this at 1 am?

Looks like a party!

We hugged some of the tanks to squeeze any extra helium out of them that we could.  We ended up using 11 of the canisters, and got our balloon in the air with the desired lift.  Launch time was around 3 am.


Here, the yellow trace is from the APRS, and the blue trace is from the data logger

The balloon peaked at 104,000 ft, sailing the predicted trajectory.  It landed just outside of the town of Brawley, finally ending up somewhere easy to recover.  Unfortunately, we lost it at 40,000 feet before landing, due to the 2 m Jpole catching on the main line and ripping the antenna off.  The SPOT never worked, despite successfully initializing, so we were pretty much dead in the water.  Thankfully, a very nice gentleman named Mack called us asked for a reward for the white box his son found.  We met up with him and successfully got our payload back!


Once again, the DTM did function for the entire flight, and again only suffered minor damages upon impact at landing.  Can't wait to see whether we have space dust!

The data logger performed very well.  There are some improvements to be made, but we are happy with it.  We did determine that we want to give it the function of cutting the payloads away from the balloon after burst.  This way the balloon does not get tangled up in everything.

The APRS antenna was missing.  So was a corner of the payload box.  

Neither the Go Pro, nor the Canon got any nice photos.  It was far too dark, and our shutter time was too short.