Result: Success!! 91,462 FT.
OLHZN-6 was the sixth high altitude weather balloon flight for Overlook Horizon High Altitude Balloons. This flight launched on May 20, 2017 at 1255pm ET (16:55 UTC) from Canandaigua Academy. This flight featured our first upward facing (balloon facing) camera that was intended to record the moment of the balloon burst in slow motion as well as the parachute performance during the descent phase. Unfortunately, this camera stopped operating approximately 75 minutes into the flight and did not capture the balloon burst event. This upwards facing camera was shooting video in 1080p at 60fps utilizing our new Lightdow LD-V3 Action Camera. We also still included two onboard side cameras that were comprised of our flight-proven Lightdow LD4000 Action Cameras. These cameras captured the entire flight. This flight was also intended to feature a much larger 1200g balloon that would have almost certainly push us over 100,000 feet in altitude. Unfortunately, during the launch preparations, a small hole was discovered in this balloon and we were forced to switch to our smaller 800g balloon instead.
The Flight Day Story
OLHZN-6 started out great and ended well too, but had some hiccups along the way. IT was a beautiful clear day and would b one that would allow us to watch the balloon ascend for quite some time after launch. During setup, items were progressing on time and normally with no major issues. Our first minor issue occurred just prior to the start of the live broadcast when we began having severly low mobile bandwidth to power our broadcast. Sadly, we had to abandon the YouTube broadcast and we were only live on Facebook for this launch.
As preparations continued, the original 1200g balloon was filled in a normal timeframe, however, the countdown clock was held at T- 40:03 when a small hole was discovered in the balloon. We quickly assessed how to proceed and decided to deflate this balloon and switch to an 800g backup balloon that would provide a lower altitude, but still hit roughly the same landing zone. This cause a delay of 55 minutes.
The countdown then proceeded normally with 2 other brief holds at T- 20:00 while we adjust the payload backup GPS and again at T- 4:54 when we had to switch radio antennas. Launch occurred at exactly 12:55:30pm ET (16:55:30 UTC).
Shortly after launch, we experienced at “close” flyby from Southwest Airlines flight #4621 enroute from Providence, RI (PVD) to Chicago, IL (MDW). SWA4621 was flying at 38,025 ft. and passed nearly directly over the top of our flight which was flying around 20,000 ft. at the time. Another, even closer flyby occurred with Qatar Airways Flight #713 enroute from Qatar (DOH) to Houston, TX (IAH). QR713 was flying at 36,000 ft. and passed nearly directly under our payload which was flying around 41,000 ft. at the time.
The balloon burst at 2:26:50pm ET (18:26:50 UTC) over Poplar Ridge, NY and descended for 35 minutes with a landing in Summer Hill, NY. When we first arrived on site, we had a hard time locating the payload, but we found out that the landowner located the payload and brought it inside their house. We were able to quickly connect with the landowner and retrieve the payload and head home.
This flight featured our first upwards/balloon facing camera which recorded 1080p at 60 frames per second with the intention of capturing the weather balloon burst event in slow motion. Sadly, the camera died around 75 minutes after liftoff and 20 minutes prior to the burst event. We suspect that this camera may have used more power than expected and subsequently drained the batteries faster.
Some minor software modifications were also made to address a power cycle issue that occurred at the very end of OLHZN-5 to allow the landing alarms to proceed normally, even if a power cycle event occurs. This update appears to have corrected the issue, however, the landing alarms inexplicably shut off a few minutes after landing. This isn’t a huge issue, since the payload had already landed, however, the landing alarms serve dual purposes which are to alert bystanders of the impending landing and also to alert the chase team of the payload location. The inexplicable shut off eliminated the second intended purpose.
We also added additional logging to our data set to log and save the exact ascent and descent rates as well as a few other onboard system status messages that we wanted to see. These events were all recorded as expected and new graphs of the measured ascent and descent rates have been published.
This flight focused heavily on quality photography so a relatively clear day was chosen to get the best photos and videos possible!
This flight will feature a larger 1200g balloon. This will result in a longer flight time of around 2 hours and 55 minutes. We expect to reach an altitude of around 108,500 feet. Unfortunately, during the balloon filling procedures, a hole was discovered in the 1200g balloon due to a manufacturer’s defect. We were forced to use our 800g backup balloon instead for this flight and subsequently achieved a lower altitude of only 91,462 FT.
The maximum XY ground speed was recorded at 98 mph which was observed at 38,805 FT. This would be right in the midst of the jetstream altitudes which is where we would expect to see the maximum ground speeds.
The payload officially landed 52.73 miles from the launch site. If you watch our flight videos, you’ll notice a travel distance of 63.7 miles. The 63.7 mile reading is the total travel distance. This flight had two events, at launch and just prior to burst, in which the payload did not travel towards the landing site. These events would cause the “total travel distance” to increase, but not increase the distance to the landing site.
The minimum temperature reading outside the payload box was -67° F (-55° C). This is actually to lowest reading our temperature sensors will register so we have no way of knowing whether the temperatures actually registered lower than this number. This temperatures were registered between 46,648 FT. and 49,469 FT.
Inside the payload box, our lowest ambient temperature reached was 18° F (-8° C) which was registered between 24,500 FT. and 22,835 FT. during the descent phase. This is typically the coldest portion of the flight inside the payload due to the rush of air that enters the payload box while the box is falling. During ascent, the lowest internal ambient temperature registered was 30° F (-1° C) from 77,800 FT. all the way to the burst event.
The on-board computer reached its lowest temperature during descent as well which was 34° F (1° C). During ascent, the lowest temperature reading was 48° F (9° C). The altitudes were about the same as the internal ambient temperatures.
Launch Time: May 20, 2017 at 12:55pm EDT (16:55 UTC)
Launch Location: Canandaigua Academy, Canandaigua, NY, USA
Ascent Rate: 5.03 m/s (Target: 4.35 m/s)
Burst Altitude: 91,462 (Expected based on ascent rate: 91,902 ft.)
Time to Burst: 91 minutes (Expected: 93 minutes)
Helium Volume: 132.3 cu ft. (Target: 114.1 cu. ft)
Payload Mass: 1685g (3.71 lbs)
Neck Positive Lift: 1360g (Target: 831g)
Landing Speed: 6.03 m/s (Target: 5.23 m/s)
Descent Time: 35.15 minutes (Expected: 37 minutes)
Landing Location: 42.64032, -76.29953