[islandlabs] Balloon Launch II - Preflight Questions

Amy toolfox at gmail.com
Sun Apr 11 21:49:02 EDT 2010

I certainly understand that John T. wants to get his deposit back on the 
helium cylinder a.s.a.p.  I haven't forgotten this, and I hope the rest of us 
haven't either.  I don't blame him.  I for one would like nothing better than 
to launch another bird.  Heck, my dream is to get at least one other flight 
under our belts before the Harbor Country Day School talk on 5/14.

However, I would sure hate to p!$$ through $60 worth of perfectly good helium 
just replicating what we did a month ago without trying to learn something new 
about high altitude ballooning in the process.  As much as I got a rush from 
the 3/7/10 flight (and believe me, I was trippin' on the natural endorphins), 
if I'm going to become an adrenaline junkie, I'd like to get "edumacated" at 
the same time.

If we want to get John T.'s deposit back, we need to launch another balloon 

If we want to launch another balloon soon, we need to be ready when the 
weather smiles on us.  

If we want to be ready when the weather smiles upon us, we need to accomplish 
four things:

  (1) nail down what we're going to be doing for the next flight, 
  (2) get all the gear back together in one place, 
  (3) determine what still needs to be obtained, and 
  (4) assemble our second craft.  


Lots of new and interesting stuff has been talked about; some of us are 
pursuing little projects, researches, and purchases independently on the side.  
This is great!  But it's time for us to catalyze ourselves into a team like we 
did back in February.  To wit:

Joe S. has fabricated a prototype capsule (dubbed "tuna-can") which is 
supposed to be less susceptible to spinning on the end of its tethers than the 
picnic cooler was.  Joe, is it flight-worthy?  If not, what has to be done to 
make it so?  How long before it's ready to go up?

John A. was working on a data-logger to track air pressure data so that we can 
more accurately calculate altitude.  How is that coming, John?  I recall you 
having some problems with the device.  Have you sussed it out?  How long do 
you think you'll need to have something working?

The last I heard, Kupo was working on this.  What's the status, Kupo?  How 
long before you have something working reliably?  

Do we have any HAMs on this mailing list right now who are willing step 
forward and keep us legal when we have the APRS up and running?  By this, I 
DON'T mean, "I know somebody I can ask..." or "I'm sure I can get somebody..."  
We need someone who'll *commit* and say, "I'm your guy (or gal)."  Is there 
anyone on this list like that?  If not, then we *will* have to ask around.

Even if we have APRS ready, do we want to abandon the cellphone yet?  I'm 
reluctant to ditch it altogether until APRS has proved itself (and more than 
once).  I've read a number of accounts of balloonists having their APRS fizzle 
out on them and they're left wondering where their payload landed.  In any 
case, APRS may not be ready, so we'd still need to use the cellphone.  I know 
that for the first launch, we had some snags regarding attaching an external 
antenna to the phone (To extend range?  To improve signal strength?).  Is 
anyone working on that?  If so, is anything needed to get that moving?  If 
not, is it worth pursuing?

John T., you had said that you'd wanted to send your camera up on the next 
flight.  Is that still the case?  If so, is it ready to go?  Do you need 
anything?  Joe S. had also talked about purchasing a lightweight spycam.  
What's the ETA on that, Joe?  Will it need modification once you receive it?  
If so, can you give a guesstimate as to how much time you'll need to be ready 
for flight?  Also, I'd heard a rumor that Jonathan D. had a small video camera 
he was willing to send up.  Is there any truth to this rumor, Jonathan?  If 
so, is it ready to go or is there anything you need to get it flight-ready?

I've discussed this with Joe S., but I haven't mentioned this to the rest of 
the group since it seems trivial and doesn't impact the group, the project, or 
the flight.  Nevertheless, I should keep you folks informed.  I've assembled a 
tiny clear plastic capsule with marigold seeds (it's about the size of a large 
gumball and probably weighs even less).  I would like to affix the capsule to 
the outside of our next payload to see if near space conditions (cold, lack of 
air pressure, UV and cosmic radiation, etc.) affect them.  I have a control set 
of seeds as well.  My thought is that if we get the launch done before 5/14, 
we can donate some of the seeds to Harbor Country Day School so that the 
kiddies can follow through on the experiment.  They might find it fun and 
interesting and might get them even more engaged.  The seeds are all set; all 
I need is a payload to attach them to.


Everyone, if you have any of the supplies or equipment that was used for the 
first flight -- even if it's small stuff like gloves, string, tubing, or rolls of 
tape -- please bring it in to the next Island Labs meeting (or have someone 
bring it for you).  Then we can...




Then with everything assembled and in one place, we'll be ready to go on short 

Apologies if I sound bossy or like a mother-hen.  I'm not trying to take over, 
especially since I don't want to be in charge.  I just don't want to see John 
T. wait any longer than necessary to get his deposit back, or for interest to 
flag in the balloon project (enthusiasm was running high a couple of months 
ago; I'd like to keep it going).  Trying new things keeps the project alive 
and interesting.  As they say, if you ain't movin' forwards, yer movin' 

Amy C.

P.S.:  A belated thank you for helping me celebrate my birthday.  It was fun.  
Let's do it again next year!  :D

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