On this flight, we had hoped to make an EBBE (earth-balloon-balloon-earth) using the NSTAR payload and a simultaneous flight by the Experimental Sub-Orbital Society (ES-OS) in Colorado. However, ES-OS encountered some equipment problems prior to launch and had to scrub. Since their participation was not critical to our flight, we launched anyway.
During the few days prior to launch, the wind forecasts indicated a fairly long chase. We chose to launch from west of Omaha instead of our usual site near Treynor. This kept the landing farther west in Iowa in a more favorable area. We had four chase vehicles downrange for this flight: Doug KA0O left from Bellevue, Scott KC0MTH left from Treynor, Larry N0BKB from Greenfield IA, and Mike N0GGU came north from Missouri. It would be impossible for the chase crews at the launch site to keep up with the balloon give the 130-mph winds at altitude, so having other chasers downrange already would ensure the payload could be located and recovered soon after landing.
The launch team proceeded back to Omaha to get on I-80, then on Hwy 92 east of Council Bluffs. As we went along, we found the simplex repeater rapidly became unusable and the backup beacon was not functioning. The logs revealed the backup beacon stopped transmitting shortly before launch. It appeared the simplex repeater could hear OK, but was not transmitting well. I plan to attached something to the repeater's J-pole to stiffen it and cause it to hang straight below the payload.
Since we had the digipeater enabled on the main payload, we were able to communicate with the forward chase teams. The Omaha-based group continued east to US71, then south to US34 and east to Osceola. Burst occurred a few miles NW of Creston IA at 105,581 ft at 0941 CST.
By the time the Omaha teams reached Creston, the balloon was on the ground. We made a quick restroom and fuel stop in Creston, then continued on to Osceola. We had a little difficulty reaching the landing site, as one road that was supposed to be continuous wasn't, and an Amtrak train chose that particular time to stop in the middle of Osceola.
Unbeknownst to us, several other chasers had come from the Des Moines area and were also at the landing site. We had a crowd of close to 20 at the landing. The landing site was in a cow pasture about 50 yds from a gravel road and a set of probably 6kV power lines. After recovery, we all went to the Pizza Hut in Osceola before returning home.
Two stations set telemetry reception distance records during this flight. K5OL and K9KK in the Oklahoma City area received the data at distances of 440.5 and 439.2 miles, respectively. Several quick keyboard QSOs via the digipeater were also noted.
The still camera worked perfectly. Every picture commanded by the BS2 program was taken. A few extras were taken on the way up due to GPS altitude glitches. The photos on the way down were not very good due to rapid payload motion. On future flights I will inhibit taking photos on descent until near ground level. Check out the 02-F photo album.
The camcorder was set to SP record mode, which yielded only 40 minutes of video. Without a working viewfinder, it is very difficult to change or verify the settings on the camcorder. I have purchased another used camcorder off eBay for use in 2003. This one has a color viewfinder that should hopefully not go bad at high altitude.
Lots of interference to the camcorder was noted from the main payload transmitter on 144.34 MHz. When this payload transmits on 144.39 MHz, there is far less interference. I will check this again with the new camcorder to see if there is the same frequency dependence.
These payloads flew on 02-F:
Primary APRS: 144.34 MHz, callsign N9XTN-11 (vertical polarization)
Backup APRS: 144.39 MHz, callsign N9XTN-12 (vertical polarization)
Simplex repeater: 446.300 MHz (new vertically-polarized J-pole)
Elph still camera