Nevada BalloonSat Missions

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NBS-03-01 Mission Data

Date: July 3, 2003
Time: 11:26 AM PST
Objective: Test launch of ballooning system and methods.

Balloon Weight: 300g
Free Lift at Release: 3000g
Ascent Rate: 950 ft/min (average)
Descent Rate (at landing): Not Available (750 ft/min est.)
Conditions: Clear, moderately windy (15 mph), ~85 F.

Summary: The filling and launch went fairly smooth. The chase went well for the first hour or so, but eventual loss of APRS packets occured prior to touchdown. Therefore, we did'nt have any data below about 29,000' and only one data point on the descent to use in the chase. Having very little clue about the landing point, we did as much driving along the projected path as possible, listening for radio contact, but none was heard.

Post mission, one additional packet was obtained from Findu.com. Apparantly, the balloon reached 74,000' and from this vantage, reached a digipeater and an I-Gate. This additional data point has provided a much needed additional descent data point, allowing a much more meaningful prediction of the landing point. It turns out, we really didn't look much in that area, although we did manage to drive 550 miles, mostly on dirt roads through Northern Nevada. We plan to return to Paradise Peak (North of Winnemucca) to do a careful ground search for the hardware.

Supplement: We returned to search Paradise Mountain in the area of our calculated landing spots. We also checked the west side of the mountain along the flight path. The mountain is MUCH bigger and more rugged than it appears on paper! We had no luck. The calculated landing spot is in an area of fairly dense sagebrush vegitation and stands of trees. We hiked the bowl for 3 hours in nearly 100 F and found nothing, although an orangish cow in the distance had some of us going off on a wild cow chase for a while. The lesson learned is that the mountains and terrain can be very deceiving from below. On this terrain, we felt we had little chance of finding the system...and we didn't.


Launch site off the south edge of the Black Rock Desert Playa



Assembling the control bus and payload string with the parachute and deployment system.


Filling the balloon


Readying for tie-off and release

The chase was long (550 miles!) and hard through very rugged terrain. Payload was "misplaced".

Mission flight map. BalloonTrack's predicted ground track (cyan and red solid lines), actual positions via APRS telemetry packets (pushpins) and chase vehicle path (orange line). (larger image).

Predicted landing area on Paradise Peak based on post-flight analysis of all available APRS packets (larger image).

Paradise Mountain range viewed from the west along Rt 95. Panoramic image taken 2 miles from base at 4300' altitude. Santa Rosa Peak (left peak) is ~9500' and Paradise Peak (right peak) extend to ~9,300' altitude. The range extends ~25 miles North-to-South. Of course, our calculations put it right on the top of Paradise Peak, and there are no trails to the summit (or even close).

Paradise Mountain viewed from 7450' due west of peak. Image taken 2 miles from base while exploring a canyon. The trail snaking along the trees is about 1500' below the photographer (distances are deceiving!).

The west side of the mountain was infested with Mormon Crickets, especially along the creek areas. Crunchy little fellas.
   

Coordinating the search plans before heading off on our hikes. GPS and radios were helpful as this was all bushwacking.

View from near top of ridge line, at our turn-back point at 7750' (1300' above our hike's start). We realized that this place was just too big and vegitated to have a real chance of finding the payload.

The main search area (east side). The ridge's terrain was steep (48% ave, up to 60% near the top!) and very rugged. Wearing gaiters was really a necessity for comfortable hiking through the sage and sharp grasses. Our goal was to reach the top of the ridge to the left. Once we got into the dense sage, the going got real slow. We did set foot on the "best-guess" landing site, which was in the foreground of this image.

180 degree panoramic image. It was quite a pretty area.