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Launch

Curve_One was originally scheduled for launch on May 16th, 2010. Although suitable launch locations were available for the predicted wind model, overcast clouds were forecast and the launch had to be scrubbed; it was rescheduled for June 26th. Wind forecasts were consistent in the days leading up to the June launch and acceptable cloud cover was forecast. 14 hours prior to launch, the Harrisburg Air Traffic Control tower was notified of the launch. They were provided the requisite launch, trajectory, ascent, and landing information and they asked to be notified again one hour prior to launch.

 

The launch crew (Me, Brad, and Erika) drove 150 miles from Philadelphia to Blain, PA. We then followed the Curve_One launch manual. Note: The only step not utilized from the initial manual was the concept of using a 16.5' rope loop to check the balloon diameter. There was reasonable concern that a rope would puncture the balloon, so instead a tape measure was held a reasonable distance from the balloon and the general diameter was estimated. A known weight was tied onto the balloon in an attempt to verify that the anticipated free lift would be achieved; during this test the balloon 'pretty much' balanced.

 

The ascent was in the anticipated direction and appeared to rise at an acceptable rate. After watching it rise for a minute, the helium tank and launch tools were loaded into the chase vehicle. We could still see Curve_One as we pulled away approximately 10 minutes later.

 

The flight path was anticipated to take Curve_One towards Harrisburg, along the Susquehanna River, landing Southeast of Lancaster. The flight time was anticipated to be 2hr 14min and would cover a distance of 82 miles.

 

 

We proceeded towards the anticipated landing location with an iphone and palm pre attempting to track the payload trajectory. Data services were spotty while driving, but we eventually got a few blips from the initial launch. We lost contact very quickly, which was expected, so we focused on driving to the general landing area. 2hr 14min came and went. 2hr 25min, stopped at a roadside Amish farm stand and bought honey, black raspberry pie, jam, and corn on the cob for a hopefully celebratory dinner. 2hr 35 minutes, still nothing. We were getting hungry. We stopped at a local diner and grabbed food while mashing the refresh buttons on the cell phones. Battery power was dwindling, lunch was finished, ice cream was being served... when blip, blip, blip the payload appeared 16 miles away.

 

The payload had landed at a horse stable/hospital. After the short drive, we arrived to find an undisturbed, still functioning, payload, exactly where the GPS said it was. No dents, no bruises, no injuries, no passage through restricted air space. Beautiful. I opened the payload, turned the camera off, loaded the SD into the laptop, and then rejoiced.

 

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