Report -- Balloon Test Day #1
Held on Sunday, July 31, 1994 at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama
The following text was taken, with permission, from an article by Craig Presson and Ronnie Lajoie, which was published in the September-October 1994 issue of the Southeastern Space Supporter, newsletter of HAL5.
On July 31, the Huntsville Alabama L5 Society (a chapter of NSS), and the Alabama Space and Rocket Center co-sponsored a balloon launch. The payload, launch, and recovery were supervised by Bill Brown, for whom this was his 45th launch. Tracking and recovery assistance was provided by many enthusiastic local ham radio operators.
The balloon carried two major payload modules: a VHF HAM repeater (144.34 MHz), and an amateur TV module. Additionally, a packet of new membership cards for HAL5 was flown, duct taped to the top of the VHF module.
Bill started the day with a presentation to a group of teachers at International Space Camp, while we waited the predicted breakup of cloud cover. The teachers later came out to the launch site to witness the launch of the balloon.
A picture-perfect launch was achieved at 9:55 AM Central time, from the lawn next to the Apollo 11 lunar crater mockup at the Space and Rocket Center. The balloon reached an estimated 115,000 feet, at which point the limb of the Earth was visible through more than half of the camera's field with space above it.
The balloon burst at 11:58 AM, and continued to transmit video essentially all the way down. TV reception was reported from Rolla, Missouri; Springfield, Illinois; Melbourne, Florida; and many points nearer. The whole adventure was recorded by WHNT-TV reporter Dick Curtis, himself a ham and a bit of a space nut. He went to Tennessee with the chase team and filmed the payload recovery from a cow pasture belonging to a rather surprised farmer.
Usually, Bill flies a GPS circuit and adds telemetry from that to the video, but this time the GPS box would just not talk to the TV transmitter, despite all-night hacking. Also, the VHF repeater froze up between 40,000 and 80,000 feet, but worked again from 80,000 feet on up. Outside of those minor flaws, it was an outstanding flight, and a big thrill for all concerned.
HAL5 would like to thank Bill Brown and his crew for providing a flawless launch and an exciting ride on-board a balloon to the edge of space.
HAL5 members used the edge-of-space balloon event to promote the next step, launching a rocket from a balloon at high altitude. While Bill Brown's balloon made the slow ascent to 115 thousand feet, live video from the balloon was shown inside the Space and Rocket Center cafetaria, where a special Rockoon exhibit was set up. The exhibit included a small model rocket hung from a toy balloon. Many employees, Space Campers, and visitors picked up free literature on HAL5 and the NSS, and discussed hopes and dreams with HAL5 members.
Many thanks to Larry Scarborough and Ronnie Lajoie for preparing the exhibit materials, and to Laurie Wiggins for helping to set up the display.
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