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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Launch time!

The helium tank is loaded up in the back of my vehicle, and the two cameras have been positioned and tested. I spent some time earlier this week balancing the payload and checking a few things here and there. I have prepared, I have read all I can find, and I figured up a few calculations. The best time I found to launch is tomorrow morning at about 5:30 a.m. on Friday, March 26th. Sunrise at 100K feet occurs about 24 minutes sooner than where I am currently at, so I have to factor that in. Also, with a calculated 4 pounds of free lift I'll have an ascent rate of 1200 feet per minute (which should be great). Given the balloon is 500 grams (larger than some, smaller than others), I calculated the burst diameter & height at various amounts of free lift (from 1 to 8). It's an educated guess, to be sure, but I am hoping it will take about an hour to reach optimum altitude. At that point, it's up to a bit of luck and certain variables coming together in a fashion that results in what I am hoping to accomplish: sunrise from space. The two cameras each have their own settings: one will take still photographs every 5 seconds, and the other will take video. Fresh lithium batteries have been placed into each device, and it's all up to the wind and fate at this point. As far as a launch site, I considered my front yard, but there are far too many tall trees and I don't want to risk the balloon getting tangled up and popping. Even the Quad at HSU has quite a few risky objects that could spell potential doom before we get over a thousand feet. So, where to release? About a week ago, I was looking through my 10" dobsonian out near Lake DeGray and found an area that is free from trees and other obstructions. The dike on your way out to Hot Springs (Highway 7?) offers a good spot to release the craft. I'll pull out to the end of the dike to fill up the balloon and make final preparations, and then walk out to the crest of the hill to release it. Even though it will be dark, I might be able to see the craft for quite a while. There you have it! The next post will either be my endless lamenting on how it didn't work out, or photos from near-space. Wish me luck, I'll need every bit I can get!


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