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Category: 2000
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Launch date/time:

7 October 2000 - 1028 CDT (1528 UTC)

Launch site:

Nebraska Center for Continuing Education 
University of Nebraska-Lincoln East Campus
Lincoln, NE

Payload frequencies:

Data  - 144.39 MHz (national APRS frequency)
        Callsign N9XTN-11
Voice - 446.00 simplex repeater (courtesy NSBG)

Telemetry:

AX.25 APRS-formatted location and telemetry, other raw text

Envelope:

650g Kaysam balloon

Maximum altitude:

83,675 ft

Payload weights:

5.5 lbs main capsule
2.0 lbs repeater capsule

Total lift:
Helium used:

10.5 lbs 
225 cu ft (approx.)

Flight duration:

1 hour 54 minutes

Equipment manifest:

 

 

 

Basic Stamp 2SX microcontroller
Kantronics KPC-3 v6.0 TNC (modem)
Alinco DJ-190T 2m handheld radio
Garmin GPS-35LVS GPS unit
Homemade J-pole antenna
Custom 7.2V 5400 mAh battery pack

Yaesu VX-1R dual-band mini handheld radio
Radio Shack simplex repeater
(courtesy Bill All N3KKM/Near Space Balloon Group)

NSTAR's inaugural launch took place during the Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium at UNL.  Our launch was scheduled for a break in the speakers, allowing interested persons to join us for the launch procedure.  A crowd of about 100 was on hand for the launch.  The NWS office in Valley contributed the balloon and helium used for this flight.

The launch crew arrived around 0800 to scope out the launch site and to be assured of good parking spaces - no one wants to haul 115-lb helium cylinders any farther than necessary.  The morning was clear and cold with temperatures in the mid 20s.  Winds were light in the early morning, but increased to about 10-15 mph by launch.  

 
 Paul KC0KXR, Mark N9XTN, and Bill N3KKM holding the lanyards before NSTAR's inaugural launch.

Payload prep began around 0950 and filling the balloon began about 1010.  We were in the lee of the conference center, so the fill procedure was unaffected by the increasing breeze.  The wind buffeted the balloon as we winched it out, but did not cause any problems.  After a quick check with the FAA tower at the Lincoln airport, we launched the balloon at 1028 CDT.  Click here to see additional pictures of the launch.

With the strong jet stream in the region, we knew ahead of time that we had a long chase ahead of us.  Mike N0GGU lives not far from the expected landing area, and Leonard KC0DOQ and Bob KC0FSZ drove from KC to St Joseph to await the balloon's arrival.  The crews in Lincoln packed up after launch and headed for St Joseph.  During the ascent phase, many stations were heard on the simplex repeater and was a great success.  While we weren't able to log callsigns while driving, stations from Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska were heard during the flight.  Maybe someone can volunteer to log stations for the next flight?

The flight was normal through the balloon burst at 83,675 ft.  After burst, we began to miss more packet data which was probably due to the balloon's antenna flopping around during the descent.  The simplex repeater was harder to access also.  As the Lincoln-based crews approached the landing area, the capsule became inaudible as it went behind the Loess Hills (from our view) along I-29 in the Rock Port area.  The other chase crews arrived at the landing area shortly after touchdown at 1222 UTC.  

The capsule was undamaged, but the parachute appeared to be fouled by the load line from the top of the chute to the balloon.  The parachute probably was only partially open, but still managed to slow the capsule to a 1200-1400 ft/min descent rate.  Different configurations for attaching the parachute will be explored for the next launch.

After recovering the capsule, the crews went to a steak restaurant in Savannah for a well-deserved lunch.

Thanks to W0RPK, AB8M, N0GGU, and AB0OO for providing log files!  

A Lincoln Journal-Star article describing the symposium and the launch can be found here.