Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Seabrook Intermediate School Balloon Launch

My daughter attends the Science Magnet at Seabrook Intermediate School.  Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with a large group of her teachers and classmates about one of my obsessively favorite hobbies, which is building, launching, and chasing high altitude amateur balloons.  After the talk, we all went to the football field to launch a floater balloon, but had to abort due to a tracker failure (good GPS lock, but it just would not transmit...)  So, we sent a bleacher full of kids back to class and I went home to troubleshoot the problem.  

The Pecan Pico 5 tracker is usually flown with a LiPo and solar cells, but this tracker's onboard power supply had failed and I had kludged together a make-do supply out of a CR123A battery, a 5V up converter & a 3.3V regulator.  Not efficient, but good enough for a few days of service.  The "failure" was all my doing, as I forgot to disable the battery protection code that keeps it from discharging below a certain level.  Once I made that change...boom, the GPS locked and it transmitted in less than a minute.  Now, just have to wait for the weather to cooperate.

After a weeks delay, we finally were able to launch the mylar floater balloon and tracker payload.  We had a much smaller gathering of teachers & students, but everyone was excited...they all love this stuff.  My daughter released the balloon and it rose slowly in the sky, heading North until it was out of site.  We continued to monitor it's flight on and on  A little over 5 hours into the flight, it descended and landed somewhere east of Orange, TX, just short of the Louisiana border.  Maybe it didn't have a Cajun Visa?  Or more likely the thunderstorms in East Texas were too much for the balloon resulting in a slow leak and a much shorter flight that we'd hoped for. 

As background, this all started when I invited two of my daughter's teachers, Chris Lowe () and Joe Miller, to come out to the Wharton Intergalactic Spaceport for the South Texas Balloon Launch Team's BLT-42 flight last August.  They took it all in and even participated in the chase, which was awesome!  Afterward the flight, we thought it would be a great experience for the students to participate in a smaller scale balloon launch at their school. Chris even wrote about the experience on his site.

The next flight will be BLT-44.5, another floater, to be launched as part of the Great Plains Super Launch 2016 ( on Saturday, June 18th @ 9:00am.  Right now, only myself and Bill Brown, WB8ELK, will be launching floaters.  Everyone else is launching high altitude latex balloons.  Now, I just need to finish building the payload and write my presentation :)

73 de John

South Texas Balloon Launch Team