Another successful flight!  NSTAR Flight 00-B was launched from Valley NWS at 1450 UTC (0850 CST) before a crowd of around 30 or so.  The launch crew arrived around 0730 to look over the radiosonde building which was used for filling the balloon out of the wind.  Launch prep began shortly after 8.  Some extra care was required filling the balloon as it was nearly as tall as the space inside we used for filling.

Flight Details

Launch date/time:

4 November 2000 - 0850 CST (1450 UTC)

Launch site:

National Weather Service - Omaha/Valley Office
Valley, NE

Payload frequencies:

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


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


650g Kaysam balloon

Maximum altitude:

74,242 ft

Payload weights:

6.0 lbs main capsule
3.0 lbs camera capsule

Helium used:

250 cu ft (approx.)

Flight duration:

1 hour 39 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
Yaesu VX-1R dual-band mini handheld radio
Radio Shack simplex repeater
Custom 7.2V 5400 mAh battery pack

Canon Elph LX camera
Basic Stamp 2 microcontroller
GPS unit
(courtesy Bill All N3KKM/Near Space Balloon Group)

The wind picked up to about 10 knots near launch time, but the winch procedure makes such winds easier to deal with.  After release, three vehicles (N9XTN, N3KKM, and KA0O) headed back to Omaha and then east on I-80 to Council Bluffs.  During the case, many QSOs were heard on the simplex repeater from surrounding states.  Click here to go to the audio clips.

The crews stopped in Treynor, IA for a short break as the balloon was ascending through 65,000 ft just a few miles to our east.  Since the winds at that altitude were light, we figured we would be able to wait about 15-20 minutes until burst at around 82,000 ft.  The balloon was visible to the naked eye with the clear skies that morning - the low sun angle helped too.  

Shortly, however, we noticed from the telemetry that the balloon had burst about 8000 feet lower than expected.  Maximum altitude reported was 74,242 ft at 1600 UTC for an average ascent rate of about 1040 ft/min.  We immediately got back in our vehicles and resumed the chase to the east.  

As the balloon came down, we were positioning ourselves to be close to the landing site.  However, the balloon came down just out of sight about a mile away from us.  The simplex repeater was in the middle of a playback when it suddenly cut off, probably from jarring a connection on impact with the ground.

Landing was at 1629 UTC at 41o12.50'N 095o11.72'W, or about 3.5 miles WSW of Griswold, IA.  The capsule landed in a harvested soybean field and was undamaged.  The chute deployment appeared good from the telemetry and from the configuration on landing.  A swivel connector between the parachute and capsule appeared to prevent twisting of the lines, which probably helped.  The attached photo capsule had several good pictures during the flight, but appeared to have shifted a bit on descent.

Thanks to all who participated -- at the launch site, during the chase, and on the simplex repeater which was quite successful.  I have created an audio CD of the simplex repeater traffic and will make it available for cost of media and postage - e-mail me for details. 



Aerial photos from NSBG capsule



Ground Photos