Launching, tracking and flying high altitude weather balloons in the Rochester, NY area
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OLHZN-1 :: The First Flight 2017-09-28T16:48:04+00:00

About the First Flight OLHZN-1

OLHZN-1 was the first high altitude weather balloon flight attempt for Overlook Horizon High Altitude Balloons that took place on Saturday, April 23, 2016.  The goal of the first flight was to get comfortable with the launch and recovery methods and to test all our systems.  Sadly, the payload itself was lost and not recovered.  The launch itself had a great start.  We were a little off on the amount of time needed to prepare the launch and ended up launching at 8:58:37am EDT (12:58:37 UTC) which is just about an hour later than we hoped to launch.  That’s not a huge issue, but probably slightly annoying for our live stream viewers that had to wait an extra hour for launch.  We eventually got all systems attached, powered and ready to go.  It was very cold (about 38° F / 3° C) and a little on the windy side during launch prep.  Likely, we’ll try to avoid that in the future.  The cold conditions led to us rushing a bit to get it launched and the windy conditions made it difficult to verify that the balloon was filled to the proper volume.  Upon liftoff, the balloon operations were fantastic.  The radio tracking signals were much stronger than we expected and we were receiving perfectly clear signals despite the large distance between us and the balloon.  Unfortunately, we received the last signal 27 minutes into the flight and then all transmissions ceased.  At this time, we suspect that the power on the Arduino was drained faster than we expected and the Arduino lost power and all capability to transmit its position.  We had a backup GPS locator on board that would use a 3G/4G cellular signal to report its location upon landing.  The device was quite old and we were unsure how the battery life would perform.  Additionally, we couldn’t be certain that it would land somewhere with cellular reception.  Ultimately, this tracker never reported its position and completely failed due to either battery or lack of reception at the landing site.  Unfortunately, the payload still remains undiscovered, but we obtained some great information from the flight while it was transmitting and we also learned much during the launch to refine those procedures for efficiency next time around.  Check out Launch #2 for our return to flight and first successful payload recovery.

Data Collected

The maximum recorded altitude was 22,174 ft before we lost contact with the payload. Based on the measured ascent rate, we suspect the balloon continued to a height of 89,665 ft. before bursting.

The maximum recorded speed before we lost contact with the payload was 301 mph ?! Much faster than we expected to see. We only received 1 transmission with that speed so it’s likely that this reading was a fluke, but we received multiple transmissions over 100mph and we predicted 100+ mph jet stream speeds so high speeds aren’t that unusual.  301 mph seems a little excessive, though.

The minimum temperature we received prior to losing the signal was -3° F (-19° C) outside of the payload package via our external DS18B20 temperature sensors. Inside the payload package remained a toasty 57° F (13° C) throughout the recorded flight. We expected to receive external temperatures as low as -67° F (-55° C), but lost the signal before we were high enough to record those temperatures.

The total distance we were able to measure was 11.85 mi (19.07 km) from the launch site, after which we lost communication with the payload. We suspect that the payload traveled a total distance of about 50 mi (80 km) for the entire flight.

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Flight Path

Our actual flight path that was recorded prior to losing contact with the payload.

External Temperature


External Temperatures

Actual recorded temperatures outside of the payload package prior to loss of signal.

Internal Temperature


Internal Temperature

Temperatures recorded inside the payload package prior to losing contact with the payload.

Fight Map


Flight Map

The actual recorded flight path prior to loss of signal.


Landing Estimates

Based on the data we were able to record, the image above represents the rough location of where we expect that the payload landed.


Predicted Flight Plan

The prediction above was the intended flight plan we expected prior to launch day.

Launch Day Photos

Technical Specifications

  • Launch Date: April 23, 2016 at 8:58:37am EDT
  • Launch Location: 42.907202,-77.273467

  • Ascent Rate: 4.53158 m/s
  • Burst Altitude (unmeasured): 89,665 ft.

  • Time to Burst (unmeasured): 100 minutes
  • Helium Volume: 88.76 cubic ft.
  • Payload Mass: 1152g (2.53 lbs)
  • Neck Positive Lift: 717g (1869g total lift)
  • Landing Speed (unmeasured): 4.47 m/s
  • Expected Descent Time after Burst: 39 minutes
  • Estimated Landing Site: 42.756134, -76.372511
  • Final Result: Payload Lost