JHAB3 – Flight 3 Scheduled for 4/29

We’re scheduled for our 3rd launch on Sunday 4/29/2012 @ 9:00am. Winds look pretty good. Flight 3 will attempt to use our new HAM radio tracker (KJ6UXA-1), 3rd camera facing downward, and finally capture the decent on our GoPro.

JHAB3

Launch Readiness Status: GO

Launch Scheduled: 04/29/2012 @ 9AM (16:00 Zulu)

Launch location:  Yorba Linda High School

Call Sign: KJ6UXA-1 on aprs 144.390 MHz (Voice Alert 100.0 Hz CTCSS)

Chase Team: TBD

Estimated Landing Zone: Moreno Valley 37 miles from launch site

Estimated Flight Time: 1:55

 

Flight Path Predictions:

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What a couple of HAM’s !

Josh and I passed our Amateur Radio exams, and just received our call signs from the FCC.

KJ6UXA and KJ6UXB

We’re going to start testing out a APRS tracker which gives us a much better tracking ability.

We are  looking at the Micro-Trak All in one from Byonics. It comes with a 10-watt APRS tracker, including a 2-meter transmitter, TinyTrak3 controller chip and GPS.

Once we complete our testing, we’ll be scheduling a new launch. Micro-Trak AIO (All In One)

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JHAB2 – A Successful Failure

Sunrise over California from JHAB2

The plan was a 2 hour flight, launched pre-dawn, in an attempt to capture the sunrise, then land in Murrieta valley (30 miles from launch) – Things don’t always go according to plan…

We launched the balloon from Shapell Park 33.8790 -117.7772 at 06:18, and the predicted impact area was to be in Murrieta valley, 53km (33miles) from launch.

JHAB2 Flight Predictions

This time trying to track the balloon, we used the same as the last flight, a SPOT GPS and my phone with InstaMapper on it. Again the InstaMapper didn’t work, it may have been from my phones alarm going off, but we’ll just pretend it didn’t happen. So the same thing happened last time with the SPOT, lost signal at 60k ft, and gained signal at 90k ft. However, due to a slight error with our scale, we didn’t have the desired lift we wanted so as we were tracking it and the balloon decided to give us a good scare. The balloon stared to drift closer and closer to the ocean, and we thought that we were going to lose the balloon somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, which I don’t have to tell anyone that that would be bad.

JHAB – Launch

After waking up at still dark o’clock, (05:15), we headed to the park to get the balloon ready and in the air so it could capture the sunrise, which was coming fast. We launched the balloon just in time for it to get up and start taking pictures before it hit a tree, at which point all of us thought we were doomed. Turns out wind is ever so helpful when it comes to sturdy boxes and weak branches, our capsule was able to break free of the branches after a minute or two and off the balloon went. Little did we know that in the process of hitting the tree, it knocked out the camera we set into the bottom (which worked, but took 1700 picture of the inside of the capsule) and tweaked the GoPro so that it is now taking angled videos.

JHAB was setup and ready to launch by 0610; – the planned lift was to be 5.5 lbs. with an estimated ascent rate of 1100 ft /min, burst after 93 minutes of flight with a 2 hour total flight time.

Our digital scale was giving us a hard time again and we based upon the post flight data we launched the balloon with about 2 lbs. less lift than planned.  With only 3 lbs of lift, and a 3.6 lbs payload, this caused JHAB to ascend at roughly 820 ft /min!  While sitting at Starbucks after liftoff, we watched in horror as the SPOT readings came in, and JHAB headed out towards the Pacific Ocean!

JHAB2 - Going out to sea

At almost the 2 hour mark, SPOT sent the same anomalous readings as the last flight – three of the exact same longitude and latitude for 30 minutes. This also happened on JHAB1, which caused us to wonder the desert for an hour. This time, we decided to begin to drive to the last known point and wait for another reading from SPOT – somewhere between Oceanside and Encinitas; more than 70 miles away from the launch site!

JHAB – Recovery

So after we launched the capsule at 06:18, we made our way over to our balloon headquarters, Starbucks. Once there we started to track the progress of the balloon using both SPOT and Instamapper vis the iPhone.

From the points that we were receiving it was telling us that the balloon was heading out into the ocean. So instead of driving out to the marina and renting a boat, we decided to wait a bit longer and see if the balloon was making its way back to land.

So at the hour 40 mark, we started getting some solid points from the SPOT so we left Starbucks and went on the hunt.  At first we thought it had landed because following the points, we got three points all in the same location, but we saw this strange anomaly last time too. But we had had enough coffee, so we drove out to the “landing site”; the last three points said it was, somewhere near Encinitas.

Once there we realized that the GPS had brought us to a ravine. So against our better judgment, we trusted the GPS and went looking for the capsule. This feeling seems awfully familiar, but after about twenty minutes of figuring out how to cross the ravine, with such ideas as a branch pal vault and just jumping over at full speed, we got another hit from the SPOT and that relieved some of us. Off we went further south to El Cajon, which was another 25 miles away from where we were. Upon reaching the city limits of El Cajon, we were able to use Google Maps to find the exact spot where the capsule landed, again in someone’s yard! We were really lucky – the 8 Freeway was less than 100 yards from the impact zone!

Once we arrived at the house, the owner saw us and came outside and asked if we were looking for the balloon, – “yep, that would be us.” We were relieved and excited to have found our wayward JHAB – 106 miles by road and more than 85 miles by air from the launch site.

Josh and Tyler - JHAB2 Recovered

Josh and Tyler - JHAB2 Recovered

We are calling JHAB2 a successful failure. Due to the fill and lift error, the planned 2 hour flight turned into a 3 hour 41 minute total flight, but we did manage to capture some incredible images!

We caught the sunrise!

And one of the canon’s caught the balloon burst! Even though we added a 2nd battery pack to the GoPro, it cut out after 3 hours, and didn’t capture the decent, but the canon caught the burst, and we time lapsed the descent. It was very rapid this time; as it appears the parachute didn’t fully open. The GoPro images were amazing, even though they’re at an angle, the images of the California coast are spectacular.

Our USB Datalogger worked this time as well. It captured temperature readings every 10 seconds for the duration of the flight. The lowest temperature recorded was -40 c !

The video of JHAB2’s flight turned out great!, We found a composer from Germany, Jan Jendrkowiak, who did a score for another HAB project, and we asked if we could use it again.

That’s our report, see you next time!

Here are some of the best images:

Sunrise over California

Sunrises over California

Sunrise over California from High Altitude Balloon - JHAB2

Sunrise over California from High Altitude Balloon - JHAB2

JHAB 2 - Sunburst at Altitude

JHAB2 Ascent at 20K ft

JHAB - Ascent at 25K ft

JHAB2 - Around 95K feet ASL

JHAB2 - around 85K feet above California Coast

JHAB 2 - at 107,000 feet, great view of San Diego

JHAB2 Balloon Burst!

Flight Data

JHAB Test Flight #2

Description

Value

Launch Date

10/08/2011

Launch Time

14:18 Zulu (06:08 PDT)

Launch Point

Lat: 33.87967, Lon: -117.77644

Landing Time

09:59 PDT

Landing Point

Lat: 34.49163, Lon: -117.24806

Flight Time

3 hours 41 minutes

Payload Mass

1660 (g) 3.6 lbs

Balloon

1200 g Kaymont Weather Balloon

Balloon Lift

Planned: 5.5 lbs , Actual 3.2lbs

Helium Volume

~3 m3

Parachute

4FT.

Flight Trajectory

Predicted:

JHAB2 Flight Predictions

Actual:

JHAB2 - Actual Flight Path vs Planned

Highest Altitude

107,0753ft

Sensors

Temperature, Dew Point

Camera 1

Canon PowerShot A480

Camera 2

Canon PowerShot A495

Camera Shots

C1: 1881 (15 seconds using CHDK) 1302 Flight Pictures

C2: 1749 (12 seconds using CHDK) Zero flight due to dislodging and all pictures were of the inside of the capsule

Camera 2

GoPro HD

Camer 2 time

19 gb of video, total elapsed time of 2:50

GPS 1

iPhone 3G, Instamapper

GPS 2

SPOT GPS

Altitude vs Time Chart 

JHAB2 Altitude vs Time

External Temperature Reading

JHAB2 External Temperature Reading

Lowest temperature reading was -40c. Our assumption for the secondary dip is due to the rapid rate of descent.

Canon A480Temperature and Battery Readings

JHAB2 Canon A480 Temp Readings

JHAB2 Canon A480 Battery Readings

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JHAB – 2 Scheduled to Launch Oct 8th

Our second launch of the JHAB Project is scheduled to launch on Oct 8th at 14:00 Zulu (6 am).

The goals of JHAB 2 are ambitious:

  • Capture the Sunrise by launching pre-dawn – Sunrise is schedule to be at 06:50. If we launch on time, at 50 minutes, JHAB should be around 57K feet, and hopefully capture some amazing sunrise images.
  • A second canon a495 camera has been added to the payload pointing downward.
  • The GoPro has been fitted with the extra battery pack to attempt to capture the entire flight

We are going to be launching from Shapell Park 33.8790 -117.7772 at 06:00, and the predicted impact area will be in the Murrieta valley, 53km (33miles) from launch.

JHAB 2 Flight Prediction

JHAB 2 Flight Prediction

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JHAB1 – First Flight – 09/18/2011 – 17:08 Zulu

JHAB 1 – Initial Test Flight

The balloon was equipped with a still and a HD video camera – Canon PowerShot A480 and a GoPro HD video camera. The GoPro camera we used was mounted outside of the payload filming at an angle so that it would capture both the horizon as well as some of the ground level. The battery life of the GoPro, was a major issue as we came to later find out. However, the A480 had plenty of battery life as well as excess space left over on the memory card, which lasted for well over the entire flight. Unfortunately the pictures after the burst of the balloon were rather one sided; as they were pictures of either inside the box once it landed or of the sky as it descended tilted. Still fantastic shots of the descent.

Descent at approx. 5000ft

Inside of the payload

JHAB – Tracking –

We were able to track the balloon, to an extent, using a combination of InstaMapper, downloaded onto my iPhone that we sent up, and a SPOT GPS device. After we retrieved the capsule we found out that my phone either died due to lack of battery life, or magically turned off. Yet the SPOT was able to give us regular GPS coordinates every 10 minutes or so. We did however, lose track of the SPOT once it reached about 60,000 ft, but strangely enough started to get GPS signal again at 90,000 ft, which shouldn’t have happened.

JHAB 1 - Payload Container

JHAB 1 - Payload Capsule

JHAB1 - Capsule Temperature Control System

JHAB1 - Capsule Temperature Control System

JHAB 1  – Temperature Control system were two hand warmers, embedded into the lid, then taped with Kapton tape.

JHAB Payload Contruction

JHAB PayloadConstructionOur lab - (Mom's formal table, we cleaned up... honest)

JHAB – Launch

After making multiple predictions using http://habhub.org/predict/ to chart the wind patterns for a chosen day. We were deciding on whether to launch the balloon somewhere near Victorville, which we ended up choosing, and somewhere in Barstow, California. If we launched the balloon in Barstow it would have landed somewhere in the desert, while if we launched near Victorville, it would have landed in someone’s yard, according to the predictions done. After making multiple predictions for a little over a month, we charted the wind patterns early the morning of, as well as the night before, and planned to launch the balloon at 08:00PST. Due to a slight error in balloon handling we lost our first balloon, and didn’t end up launching until 10:17

Flight Path of JHAB 1

Amazingly – the impact site was only 11 miles from the original launch site, and only 5 miles away from the predicted landing site!

Actual Flight Path vs Predicted Flight Path

After arriving at our launch site with our capsule, 1 balloon and a spare, plus our 244cu ft of helium, we started to set up the launch zone.

Launch Pad

Launch Pad

The first balloon was setup at 08:05am, but the scale wasn’t giving us a proper reading, and by the time we did get a proper reading, it was at 7lbs of lift.  Which if we launched at that much of lift, the balloon would have ascended at a rate faster than we wanted and burst at a lower altitude that we wanted as well. So our plan was to just remove the neck of the balloon filler and release enough helium to get the correct amount of lift we wanted, which was about 4.19 lbs of lift. In the process of doing so my father and I lost grip of the neck and off it went (wish we had a picture of our faces when the balloon took off by itself!). Luckily it wasn’t attached to the payload yet, and we brought a spare 1200g balloon!

Josh and Tyler completing the fill

The second balloon, we did with a lot more precautions. We attached the balloon to the counter-weight with nylon string, which we then attached a second string to my friend’s hand, as to not lose it again. We then adjusted the scale every so often to check to make sure the reading was accurate. We inflated our 1200 gram Kaymont balloon to a little more than 5 lbs of buoyancy with the payload attached. The balloon rose at about 20 feet/second until it reached 111000 feet where it burst due to the expansion of the balloon in the low pressure of near space.

The First Flight of JHAB

JHAB 1 – Launch Video

JHAB 1 Pre Launch

Josh and Tyler - Prelaunch

With the prelaunch checklist completed, it was time to let JHAB- 1 fly! At 10:08 am on September 18, we let her go. And go she did! As we had calculated with the 4lbs of lift, it ascended at a rate of 1200 ft/min. It was a very clear morning in the high desert and we were able to watch it climb for nearly 30 minutes. We met a very nice local Gary (Nicholson Forklift Service) who also helped us launch and spot JHAB on its climb with his binoculars

JHAB 1 - Begins its ascent

JHAB 1 - Begins its ascent

JHAB 1 - Ascending over Hesperia

JHAB 1 - Ascending over Hesperia

JHAB1 - -Roughly 15K feet in ascent

JHAB1 - -Roughly 15K feet in ascent

JHAB1 - -Roughly 30K feet in ascent

JHAB1 - -Roughly 30K feet in ascent

JHAB1 - -Roughly 85K feet in ascent

JHAB1 - -Roughly 85K feet in ascent

JHAB 1 - Now floating at its highest point of 111K feet

JHAB 1 - Now floating at its highest point of 111K feet

JHAB 1 - At 111K Feet

JHAB 1 - At 111K Feet

JHAB – Recovery –

As the balloon rose into thinner atmospheres it expanded to almost 5 times its original size until at about 111,000 feet, at which point the balloon popped and the capsule began its descent. With a parachute attached to the payload, it slowed the fall of the payload and the SPOT GPS was able to triangulate once again. When the capsule landed we were able to locate it using the SPOT, alone, because the InstaMapper didn’t work on my iPhone.

JHAB Recovery Team Driving

The payload landed in Apple Valley, in someone’s backyard, but we first thought it had landed in the Silver Mountains, according to three distinct GPS coordinates from the SPOT. We found out later after hiking through difficult terrain, in somewhere around 100 degree weather, that the SPOT was broadcasting a signal at 90,000ft.

Josh, Walking the desert

The search begins

Searching for JHAB 1

GPS says where??

So after searching the Silver Mountains for over an hour in inadequate hiking apparel, using a car GPS to locate the capsule, we entered the data that was given to us from the SPOT, after that GPS ran out of battery we walked back to the car, and once there we checked the SPOT’s signals again and found that it was still on the move. After about 15 minutes of driving we tracked it down to a small community in Apple Valley, to someone’s backyard.

JHAB 1 – Found it !

JHAB 1 - Recovered!

JHAB 1 - Recovered!

JHAB – Lessons Learned –

Overall, the project went very well. We did learn quite a bit about launching High Altitude Balloons. Here are a few notes:

GoPro Pro tip: We learned that the GoPro can fog up if sealed at a different environment (we used the waterproof housing, and sealed it at closer to sea level) than the area you launch it from, which caused condensation on the inside at about 10K feet. Next flight we’ll use the non-waterproof housing and the gopro anti-fog strips.

Canon A480 and the CHDK script: The script we used (and tested, then tested, and tested again), worked great. One item we missed during prelaunch was to turn off Autofocus and set to infinity. With Autofocus on and the spinning of the capsule, we didn’t get as clear as picture as desired. We’ll follow our prelaunch notes for next flight and ensure the camera is set properly.

Battery Life: The standard GoPro battery wasn’t enough to last the entire journey. It only lasted a little bit over 2 hours, while the whole journey lasted a little over 3 hours. Next launch we have the extra GoPro battery back which should double the record time.  The Lithium batteries in the Canon worked flawlessly, providing power for the entire flight, and was still taking pictures at recovery.

Lift Test: We learned after the small hiccup with the first balloon, to test the amount of lift frequently, and have several safety strings attached to the filling device.

Multiple GPS devices are never a bad thing: If you can get your hands on multiple GPS devices to track your balloon, it’s in your best interest. If we didn’t have both the SPOT GPS as well as the InstaMapper, we would have never found the capsule. The iPhone stopped recording after only 15 minutes of flight time. The SPOT, sent consistent reading every 10 minutes (no altitude) until 60K feet, then three of the exact same reading at what appears to be 90K feet for some reason (this is what caused the recovery team to go four wheeling, and a nice 4 mile desert hike), but then at ground level sent very accurate readings, the final reading at exactly where we found it.

A tight grip can save time: We learned that a tight grip when adjusting anything on the balloon is probably a good idea.

Bring spare parts: Learned this the hard way, it’s a good idea to bring spare parts for assembling the balloon filling device, as well as spare balloons. We ran out of helium due to the first balloon prematurely launching. Luckily we found a Party City a mile down the road, and the manager was kind enough to open 30 minutes early and allow us to rent another tank to complete the fill of the second balloon.

JHAB Technical Information:

JHAB Test Flight # 1

Description

Value

Launch Date

9/18/2011

Launch Time

17:08 Zulu (10:08 PDT)

Launch Point

Lat: 34.4282, Lon: -117.37704

Landing Time

13:11 PDT

Landing Point

Lat: 34.49163, Lon: -117.24806

Payload Mass

1179 (g) 2.9 lbs

Balloon

1200 g Kaymont Weather Balloon

Balloon Lift

~4.1 kg Gross lift, ~3 kg Net; with payload resulting in Free Lift of >1.7 kg

Helium Volume

~4 m3

Parachute

4FT.

Flight Trajectory

Predicted:

Actual:

Highest Altitude

111,059ft

Sensors

Temperature, Dew Point

Camera 1

Canon PowerShot A480

Camera Shots

703 flight pictures (15 seconds using CHDK) 1189 total pictures

Camera 2

GoPro HD

Camer 2 time

14 gb of video, total elapsed time of 2:04:52

GPS 1

iPhone 3G, Instamapper

GPS 2

SPOT GPS

JHAB 1 - Alt vs Time

JHAB 1 - Altitude vs Time

JHAB 1 - Canon CHDK temp log data

JHAB 1 - Canon CHDK temp log data

JHAB 1 - Canon CHDK battery log data

JHAB 1 - Canon CHDK battery log data

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