What happened?


The balloon landed 15 miles from the anticipated landing location, the flight took longer than anticipated, the camera had condensation problems, the GPS barely worked, and hundreds of clear images were captured and recovered.


The differences between the model and the actual Curve_One flight are likely attributable to the intertwined calculations of ascent rate, free lift, inflation size, the effect of humidity's drag force, and trying to balance a weighted balloon in an open field. As a result, the balloon was not inflated with sufficient helium to achieve the desired ascent rate. As a result, the ascent was extended over a longer distance, swept further East before reaching burst altitude, and achieved a higher elevation.


The descent rate was also faster than the shown model, but I always believed that the payload would drop faster during the initial decent than what was show in the University model. I observed that the model didn't show that the payload would free-fall without the parachute opening for quite a while. This is because there isn't enough air pressure at the higher altitudes to actually open the 'chute. All that said, Curve_Two will likely need a new parachute because it may be heavier and because I want to sneak in a few extra photos on the way down.


The lens had serious condensation problems on the ascent and decent; however, a sufficient number of clear photos were obtained to consider the 'mission' a success. For future launches I believe the heat packs should be removed and the payload better sealed.


The GPS phone provided information for the first minute of flight and the landing location. Nothing else was reported. All future flights will include a GPS tracking device with better transmission of data and reporting capabilities. It succeeded in being a cheap source of tracking, but real-time tracking would be more revealing and would cut down on photo analysis time.


While I did learned some of the necessary principles of this launch during my civil engineering studies at Drexel University, or even high school when I learned the scientific method and put it through many tests, I do not claim to be an expert in many of the topics associated with the what's, why's, and how's of this launch. I did sufficient research, and identified accepted practices and procedures, and was comfortable that this launch would not harm someone. If you are considering a launch, I recommend having a good level of confidence in your setup and procedure, and an understanding of how the experiment works.


I do not claim to be an expert in photogeometric analysis. I am comfortable presenting my analysis of the data with the understanding that there is some margin of error pertaining to x,y, and z coordinates of the payload.


This project was a rewarding experience. I enjoyed the time spent researching various fields of study that were unfamiliar to me, and refreshing my memory on a few basic principals that I'd used in college. Some of the most helpful were:

- UTC "zulu" time and Eastern Standard/Daylight Savings

- Solving Simultaneous Equations

- Reading Wind Map "Flags"

- The Ideal Gas Law

- Canon CHDK scripting

- Converting (and documenting) Unit Conversions


The photos are pretty cool (if I do say so myself) and putting a 'mission' spin on the project made it more enjoyable. Future flights will occur, and they will utilize the skills and lessons learned during this project. I am also considering making myself available to provide aerial photograph using a tethered balloon. Let me know if that's something of interest to you.


Now head on over to the photos.