Recap of EOSS-92

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by Randy Reynard, NQ0R

After watching our package depart in close formation with 4 others a group of us from EOSS stayed around the launch site to assist another group in getting their balloon off. Because it was carrying the other ATV package we thought it would be the neighborly thing to do.

Once that package was aloft, I departed the launch site enroute to a yet undetermined intermediate point from which to track. The use of the telescope for tracking was precluded by some high clouds and partially due to lack of personnel to assist. After having some problems raising our team on the radio (I really need to remember that the "squelch knob" on the FT-100D also acts as an RF attenuator), Marty suggested that I attempt to get "downrange" and setup the scope.

I decided to go very near the predicted touchdown location and try to find a place to setup, however when I got there I didn't find a place that seemed good for a scope, so I got out my astronomical binoculars to try to catch a glimpse of the balloon.

My APRS receiver indicated that it was at 268 degrees and about 82,000 feet at about 9 miles away. I did some quick calculations and figured out an approximate angle for observation and by some stroke of pure luck found the balloon in the binocs within about 30 seconds of starting to look.

I was watching as the balloon burst, lucky shot! The burst was different from others I've observed. The first two I saw, the balloon seemed to rip from the side and fall away off to one side. This one burst out the top with a puff of powder. In the process of reporting the burst on the radio I temporarily lost sight of the descending package.

After about 12-15 minutes (time seemed a little compressed at this point) I got a couple of good APRS packets and gave another shot at finding the - now parachuting - package. Again my S.W.A.G. and good luck was working, and I spotted the descending package, with the balloon shards still attached. I was able to watch and track this for a long time. I saw something (still not sure what part of the system it was) leave company with the descending system after one of the cut-down commands, but haven't been able to confirm this. It could have been just a piece of the shredded balloon tearing off in the wind.

For a while it looked as if I was going to be able to stand right were I was and catch the payload as it came down, but when it got into the low level winds it curved around south and east of my location. As I was watching this another of our members showed up as did a farmer and his sons. They inquired about what we were doing and I pointed out the parachuting payload to them. We watched the system drift south, then east of our location, then turn north and start to drop out of sight. I hopped in the van and turned around to head to the top of the hill, the farmer who had stopped was off to the side of the road pointing and I was able to just see the "chute" collapse as it landed.

I think the recovery team just followed my beacons and then the balloon's right to the site. The farmer who stopped knew the land owner and gave that information to Marty (WA0GEH), who went and retrieved the land owner (Doug), who in turn took the recovery team to the touchdown site.

I'm thinking I'm a pretty lucky dog, I've been on 3 tracking and recovery events and have seen 2 touchdowns - thanks to Rick's (N0KKZ)predictions, APRS, and SA9.