Eclipse Balloon Launch


Taken just before launching as we waited for the end of the launch window

Taken just before launching as we waited for the end of the launch window

A time evolution of the best photos taken

A time evolution of the best photos taken

It was an early start for our team as the first car set off from the University of Southampton at 4.30am. The first group, containing Chris Frohmaier, Jo Barzycki & Matt Brejza, arrived at the Pepperbox hill launch site (just south of Salisbury) for 5am to begin the preparation of the payloads. The second group, containing Phil Crump, Sophia Maria, Matthew Brown, Alex Lay & Jessica Korzeniowksa, arrived half an hour later with the remainder of the equipment.

We wanted to launch the balloon so our maximum altitude coincided with the peak of the eclipse, unfortunately a strict NOTAM limited us to launching no later than 7am and so we had to under fill the balloon to reduce its ascent rate, giving us a longer flight time. Previous launches made us extremely efficient so we were ready to launch by 6:45, allowing us to launch at exactly 30 seconds before the deadline.

Jess adding our address in case somebody finds it after it lands. Olaf is the egg on the left while Majora is the heart on the right

Jess adding our address in case somebody finds it after it lands. Olaf is the egg on the left while Majora is the heart on the right.

We had two payloads each comprised of a raspberry pi and pi camera, joined together to reduce the problem of spinning we had during the previous day’s last minute tests. Our primary payload was Olaf, which had a Mylar filter and was pointing slightly up to capture the eclipse. The second payload was Majora, with no filter and pointing down to capture the shadow of the moon on top of the clouds.

The wind picked up just as we were launching which added to our spinning problem

The wind picked up just as we were launching which added to our spinning problem.

Unfortunately the payloads still spun, leading to the majority of our images from Olaf being streaks for the first half of the flight. Even worse, Majora stopped transmitting data around 80 minutes into the flight, instead only transmitting a single, uncontrolled tone. We believe it was a software crash but it may still have been saving images to its micro SD card.

As the maximum eclipse approached, Olaf begun to spin less and started sending back much better images, much to the excitement of the team.  After 3 hours and 20 minutes, the balloon reached its maximum altitude of 34,369m, burst, and began to spin again on its descent, finally landing in the ocean just north of Cherbourg, France.

We hope the payload will wash up on a beach or a boat spots it and sends it back to us, allowing us to determine what went wrong with Majora, and get the unprocessed images off of the micro SD cards.

The final flight path of Olaf (Majora's GPS went a bit awol, actually went along exact same path)

The final flight path of Olaf (Majora’s GPS went a bit awol, actually went along exact same path)

 

Our Results

You can view all the raw images taken at http://ssdv.habhub.org/OLAF  and http://ssdv.habhub.org/MAJORA, and the ground launch photos on our flickr album.

Matthew Brejza Compilation

Matt Brown's Eclipse Timelapse

A photo from Majora half an hour after launch. We hoped to catch the moon's shadow on the clouds.

As seen on Stargazing Live! A photo from Majora half an hour after launch. We hoped to catch the moon’s shadow on the clouds.

See the balloon’s flight path at http://tracker.habhub.org/ (not up much longer, screenshot below)

Or if you want to help find the balloon (currently in the sea north of Cherbourg, France), you can follow this guide, with transmissions as follows:

‘MAJORA’ – 434.211MHz, 600bd RTTY, 600Hz Shift, 8n2 – (SSDV + GPS)
‘OLAF’ – 434.149MHz, 300bd RTTY, 880Hz Shift, 8n2 – (SSDV + GPS)
Please note the batteries will most likely be completely used up by Saturday morning.
You can also find us on twitter at @SUSpaceflight, where we’ll keep you up to date with any news on finding the balloon and posting edited photos.
It's 11pm D:

It’s 11pm D:

Our filtered payload being assembled

Our filtered, Olaf payload being assembled (named due to the polystyrene nose, egg head and his fascination with the sun).

Our no filter Majora payload being assembled

Our no filter, Majora payload being assembled.