Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Updated: UC San Diego Near-Space Balloon Breaks Campus Record

The Near-Space Balloon Team at the Jacobs School of Engineering broke its own altitude record today, with a flight that went up to more than 100,000 ft. The team launched the balloon from the desert, near El Centro.
Check out coverage of the launch in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Also, here's a blow-by-blow account of the flight and the team's adventure on a bombing range to get back their payload, posted by team member Tim Wheeler, on the Jacobs School's Facebook page:

    • Tim Wheeler Everything is set and ready for the flight. We are preparing to launch our balloon to 125,000 ft with a payload of two video cameras, a canon s95, a particle sampler, and two tracking devices. Time to set our alarms to 3 am and get some rest for tomorrow!
      19 hours ago ·
    • Tim Wheeler Time to rise and shine for launch day! Wind forecasts still look great.
      11 hours ago ·
    • Tim Wheeler ‎4 am, half an hour ahead of schedule. Everything is packed, we are full of caffeine, and we are rolling out to the desert.
      10 hours ago ·
    • Tim Wheeler Balloon has been launched! Currently sailing to the upper Stratosphere.
      5 hours ago ·
    • Tim Wheeler ‎70,500 ft of altitude and counting
      5 hours ago · · 1 person
    • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Thanks for keeping us updated Tim! We're putting your updates on Twitter too.
      4 hours ago ·
    • Tim Wheeler We broke 100,000 ft. Highest we have ever been!
      4 hours ago ·
    • Tim Wheeler The balloon has landed. 32.97652 -115.78264 Unfortunately, it is in a difficult place. We will see what we can do. It is over 100 degrees out here, so we will be bringing lots of water.
      3 hours ago ·
    • UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Good luck! Thanks for keeping us posted today!
      about an hour ago ·

  • Tim Wheeler Well, we just got back after a long day. The balloon landed in a bombing range just east of the Brawley farm lands. The larger balloon size and much smaller payload caused significant uncertainty in our predictions, not to mention the lack of wind data for altitudes above 90,000 ft. We were nevertheless determined to retrieve our payload, and after making our way past the "Danger: Bombing Range" signs, and cautiously approaching a large, ominous structure, introduced ourselves to the station leader
    15 hours ago ·
  • Tim Wheeler They were in the middle of a bombing exercise; what looked to be monitoring two fighter jets dropping ordnance. The chief was very friendly, and after we gave him the balloon touchdown coordinates he was able to give us approval to enter the base since our area of interest lay far out of harms way.
    14 hours ago ·
  • Tim Wheeler What followed was a grueling 2 mile hike in 109 F heat to retrieve the payloads. Interesting terrain, including packed sand which gave away as you walked, causing you to sink four or five inches in at times, made it all the more exciting. We were able to get to the exact coordinates using the gps lock we had, and all payloads looked great safe for a few scrapes and bruises from impact.
    14 hours ago ·
  • Tim Wheeler A quick look at the data shows great footage from the Go Pro video camera.
    14 hours ago ·
  • Tim Wheeler Unfortunately, the tracker which provides altitude information, an APRS device, was not updating to the internet as it should have been, despite working very well from our vantage point monitoring it via hand-held radios. Thus, we do not know the actual peak altitude. Our highest altitude reading was at just over 100,000 ft, on what we believe was the descent. Taking a look at the descent rate and extrapolating to burst using the flight footage should give us a better estimate. Since our previous altitude record was around 86,000 ft, this definitely was our highest flight to date.
    14 hours ago ·
  • Tim Wheeler The distance between launch and landing is 33.8 miles. The balloon did not fly a perfectly straight course, however.
    14 hours ago ·
  • Tim Wheeler All of the imagery is with the rest of the team

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