Flight Recap of EOSS-4

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Student Solar Telescope Balloon Launch

by Marty Griffin, WA0GEH

The January 4, 1992 flight of the Student Solar Telescope balloon, previously dubbed the "Humble Telescope" because of its tight budget, is now history. This was this group's fourth launch. We now wait to see the photos of the sun taken through a solar telescope designed and built by students from the University of Colorado, Colorado State University and Green Mountain High School. We are pleased to report that over 130 high school and college students actively participated in this event as payload specialists, communicators, plotters, integrators and recovery team members.

To those of you who were able to monitor the video, 10 meter beacon and the 2 meter beacon with CW and packet telemetry, we congratulate you.

Special thanks goes to VE4TW/7 in Vancouver and several stations in New Hampshire for keeping the 10 meter beacon free and encouraging the fox hunters when the 2 meter and video signals failed at 92,000 feet. Their help kept the blood running in the 20 recovery teams in eastern Colorado. Here is how the events unfolded:

On New Years day, Richard Shaw, WB5YOE, and Tom Isenberg, N0KSR and a host of students and hams, set up the control stations at the Eaglecrest High School launch site. Our Project Lead, Jack Crabtree, AA0P and Dave Clingerman, W6OAL, tested the video links at the launch site. Over 50 hams and students participated in the setup and plotting preparation on a very nice holiday in Colorado.

On launch day, the entire team was on site by 6:45 am to prepare for an 8:50 am launch. Tom, N0KSR, made an early trip to the weather bureau to acquire winds aloft data from a 4 am balloon launch. Merle McCaslin, K0YUK, Balloon Team Lead, and his crew started filling the Raven balloon which was specifically designed and built to loiter at 100,000 feet.

Tim Kelliher and Kevin Keany, our student solar investigators, prepared the solar telescope with the help of Mike Manes, W5VSI and Jack, AA0P. The 8:50 am launch was a bit rough as ground winds drug the payload into a snow bank and damaged the experiment upon liftoff. Two meter signals were received as far away as Lincoln, Nebraska. Video was very strong throughout the front range. The 10 meter beacon was heard around the country as stations reported to our 40 meter net.

The system power failed shortly after the 35mm camera on the telescope was started at 92,000 feet. All payload transmitters and teh computer shut down and the balloon descended rapidly. The only beacon signal to survive was the 28.321 MHz beacon package provided by Bill Brown, WB8ELK.

Seeking only the 10 meter beacon, the recovery teams spread out over 5,600 square miles of eastern Colorado in a blanket, section by section search. As planned, two aircraft were launched with 10 meter receivers, led by our Airborne Recovery Team Lead, John Waterman, WA0RLC. Adding to the drama, a "real emergency" search unfolded. Ed Wade, KA0ZAS, and his five student teams had to suspend the search to look for an actual aircraft ELT in north east Colorado! When the ELT search was over, they returned to look for the balloon.

The signal was heard locally about 6:00 PM by Bob Ragain, WB4ETT and his newly-licensed daughter, Dawn, N0QCW. Bob and Greg Burnett, K0ELM, our Recovery Team Lead, went "10 meter portable" in the dark. They carried an HF rig and a car battery into the fields, used the "body block" method of direction finding, and walked several hundred yards to find the payload. The payload was recovered at 6:23 PM.

Recovery was 51 miles from the launch site, nine miles east of Hoyt, CO along the Morgan County and Adams County border. Elapsed time from launch to recovery was 9 hours and 33 minutes. Maximum altitude was 92,000 feet above sea level.

There will be a major evaluation of the power failure cause. To all balloonists out there, we initially would recommend the command, control and becaon power be isolated from any experiment power supplies in case the experiment fails. Additioally, we need to work with all thermal solutions required in the extreme cold. Stay tuned for a detailed mission review within three weeks.

Thanks to the hundreds of hams and students for your participation and support, and thanks to all the SYSOPS for forwarding these messages (webmaster note: originally a bulletin on packet BBS systems).

EOSS is seeking high altitude experiments conducted by students. Pleas contact our Project Leader.

Look for EOSS to launch again in 2Q 1992!