Project HALO Status Report

Balloon Test Day #3

Held on Saturday, September 30, 1995 at the Old Huntsville Airport

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

On Saturday, September 30, HAL5 sent its third balloon up to an altitude of 100 thousand feet.  We had hoped to use one of our newly purchased 19,000 cubic-foot balloons (with a lift capacity of about 20 pounds), and start to gain the logistical experience of handling large balloons.  Unfortunately, the weather was forecasted to be windy.  Friday night, our resident balloon expert Bill Brown, convinced us to prepare a lighter payload which could be carried by one of his latex balloons.

Many HAL5 members showed up for the event, including Greg, Bill, Ronnie, Mary, Ron, Larry Scarborough, and Larry Larsen, plus friends and family.

Balloon Launches Successfully

The forecast held true; it was a very breezy day.  Despite some awkward moments, when the entire HAL5 contingency struggled against the wind to keep the inflating balloon steady, we successfully sent a latex balloon up to 100 thousand feet.

As before, the “gondola” carried a video camera and a radio transmitter.  This time, it also carried its first supply of N2O, held in a small composite tank (bought surplus), plus the plumbing to connect the tank to two test ignitors.  The camera was pointed at the test equipment, and a timer was set to start the test prior to the balloon bursting.

Up near 90 thousand feet, with the curvature of the Earth and the darkness of space in the background, the video of the test setup looked remarkably like the Space Shuttle robot arm dangling out the bay.  Larry Scarborough later made several copies of the video for other members and for several interested teachers.  If you also would like a copy, phone him at 881-4363.

Subsystem Tests Yield Surprises

The test itself went off on schedule -- we just did not know it; for the test ignitor did not fire.  Later, we determined the most probable cause (which may explain the failure of other rockoon attempts), and have already devised a potential solution.

Since the oxidizer tank did not release its supply of N2O, and since the tank was fitted with a thermostat, we received a set of excellent data on both the atmospheric and N2O temperature as a function of time and altitude, both on the way up and down. This data will be used to validate the oxidizer tank thermodynamics program that Ron Lajoie is working on (to help estimate insulation and heating requirements).  The bottom line is that it is COLD up there!  We must use both insulation and heating to keep the N2O temperature (and thereby pressure) high enough to flow properly at rockoon launch.

Balloon Gondola Successfully Recovered

The balloon burst on schedule and the gondola landed amazingly on the other side of the mountain of our test facility in Gurley!  A chase crew tracked it down very quickly and recovered the payload intact.

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