Project HALO Status Report

Balloon Test Day #2

Held on Saturday, March 18, 1995 at the Old Huntsville Airport

The following text was taken, with permission, from an article by Ronnie Lajoie, which was published in the May-June 1995 issue of the Southeastern Space Supporter, newsletter of HAL5.

Balloon Payload On Saturday, March 18, HAL5 helped launch Space Week by sending a balloon once more to 100,000 feet.  This time however, the balloon carried a student experiment and vital test components for Project HALO (see photo at left), in addition to the color video camera, HAM radio relay, and new HAL5 membership cards carried previously.

The day opened with a mini arsenal of model rockets firing up into the sky, sponsored by HARA, followed by several launches of sounding rockets sponsored by Project SOAR.  HAL5 member Ed Stluka flew many student experiments aboard the rockets, to the delight of the students.

Flawless Balloon Launch

Around noon, HAL5 began preparing the weather balloon for launch.  Tim Pickens and Steve Mustakis had worked hard to develop and prepare both a test ignitor and a test valve for the flight.  Bill Brown stayed up late the previous evening preparing the electronics.  Unfortunately, a power surge fried the circuit board, and ruined the chance of sequencing the tests and relaying test data to the ground.  As a quick fix, an on-board timer was set-up to start the test 90 minutes after launch, and the video camera was positioned so that we could at least watch the tests.

Balloon Inflation 1   Balloon Inflation 2   Balloon Inflation 3

Balloon Launch The balloon inflation was very interesting -- to say the least.  As can be seen from the above photographs, it involved many team members holding their palms (not fingers) towards the latex balloon to keep it steady during inflation.  The method proved highly sucessfully and will be used for future balloon missions.

The balloon launch itself was flawless and the crowd cheered as it quickly climbed into the sky (see photo at right).  Directly beneath the balloon hung the parachute, ready to carry the payload home once the balloon burst at altitude.  Below the parachute hung the payload, followed by a small radar reflector.  The video downlink was great and both Ed Stluka and Ronnie Lajoie recorded the flight.  Bill converted the Morse-code-like telemetry from the balloon, which provided us with altitude and temperature data.  At one point, the temperature inside the test chamber was a quite frigid -30°C.  By test time, though, the chamber temperature had risen to a less chilly -10°C.

Frozen Battery Halts Test

The test time came and went, yet the video showed no change to the test canister.  The most likely cause was a frozen battery, since the selected 9V alkaline battery is not meant to operate at such a cold temperature.  The next test will probably use a lithium battery.

Balloon Launch The balloon burst and the payload parachuted back to Earth, landing high in a tree just a few miles away from Lake Guntersville.  The homing beacon led the search party right to the location and, with a little ingenuity, the group recovered the payload.

The test parts were recovered and actually used successfully in the first ground tests.  The student X-ray experiment was sent for processing, but no difference was seen.

Ad Astra per Ardua -- “To the Stars by Our Own Hands”

For more information on Project HALO, contact HALO Project Manager Yohon Lo at (256) 658-2043 or via E-Mail at:

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This file was last modified on Saturday, 15-Apr-2017 13:19:38 EDT