Trial Launch (without the Launch)

It was decided that a “Trial” launch should be performed to:-

  • Test and refine deployment procedures
  • Test cut-down mechanism
  • Confirm all the components work altogether
  • Familarise the team with procedures

In terms of outcomes, the documented procedures were not too far off what was followed on the day. It does appear that some of the preparation tasks, like inserting the cut-down mechanism will be done on the day of the launch, rather then trying to install the previous night to save time.

It would be beneficial to have an additional team member to assist in the launch, particularly ensuring we follow all documentation and assisting in cleaning up quickly just before we let go of the balloon.

The cut-down mechanism unfortunately did not work as hoped. The first time it fired off, it was unable to burn/melt through the thick throat of the balloon. We moved the cut-down mechanism approximately 10mm further up. We then fired off the cut-down mechanism and a small slit was produced, from which Helium escaped. It did not create the rupture we were hoping for. We eventually popped the balloon manually. What we do know is that if the balloon expands more, then the likelihood of a successful cut-down increases, but it is quite conceivable that a cut-down at a lower altitude may be required, and the balloon may not have expanded much by then. So we will need to put some thought into the cut-down mechanism.

All other components seemed to work:-

  • Spot Messenger produced 5 way-points, 3 to 5minutes between them. This is quite satisfactory.
  • HackHD camera worked
  • Communication worked – good signal strength (210)
  • LinkSprite camera worked okay (was downloading a picture)
  • GPS worked well – 7 satellites “seen” very early on.
  • Temperature/pressure sensors worked
  • Health indicators worked

Below are are some photos of the day:-

Helping inflate or watching on with curious eyes

Helping inflate or watching on with curious eyes


Almost finished inflating

Almost finished inflating


Sealing balloon throat prior to "dummy" launch.

Sealing balloon throat prior to “dummy” launch.

I believe we worked very well effectively as a team. This was helped by an initial brief with the team before the “pretend” launch. I believe it was a very rewarding experience for all involved.


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