We had another beautiful day for a flight. Sunday dawned clear and calm, with just a little bit of fog over the rivers and creeks. There was also some frost here and there on the ground. Most of us arrived at Scott’s a little after 7 and we started filling our Kaysam 1000g balloon about 7:35.

With nearly zero wind, we decided to let it go from our usual fill position. Doug read off the checklist for me and we were just about finished at 7:55. However, the main payload’s packets were not decoding well on my car’s TNC/laptop tracking combination. I cycled the power on the main payload hoping that would clear things – it couldn’t hurt, and would restart the EEPROM log anyway.

We released the balloon just after 1301 UTC. Everything looked normal for the first couple of minutes, so our attention turned to packing up to start the chase. We knew we had little time to spare if we were to be in the vicinity of the payloads as they landed, so we got underway about 7 minutes after the balloon was released.

The first thing we noticed was that the SSTV signal rapidly became too weak to decode. The first couple of pictures were OK, but after that we were lucky to decode even a callsign. Later in the flight, the signal hardly broke squelch. Later I did get a report from near Bethany MO (about 70 mi away) that the signal was decodable using a beam and horizontal polarization – the SSTV whip was oriented horizontally. In the past the cross-polarization has not been a significant problem, but this time it was.

Next was the backup beacon. During the ascent, the altitude became "stuck" around 4400 ft for 3 minutes, then began increasing normally again. Later, at about 24,000 ft, the altitude became "stuck" again, then within 10 minutes the position, speed, and time also stopped updating. The backup beacon did get a 2D lock again about 20 minutes before landing, and got a 3D lock with its last posit before touchdown. The FindU logs showed the transmitter was still beaconing at one-minute intervals pretty much throughout the flight, so that indicated the TinyTrak and the transmitter was still working. After reviewing our previous flights, it seems we have never had acceptable backup beacon performance when flying the SSTV. I believe the SSTV may interfere with the GPS and prevents it from maintaining 3D lock.

We got on US 59 and drove south to US 34, then headed east. Our landing forecast was in the vicinity of Osceola near I-35 and US 34. We maintained a steady pace, but the balloon was outrunning us in the 85-mph jet stream. As the balloon ascended above 55,000 ft, it slowed down to a 25-mph pace and we began to get ahead of it as we went though Afton.

Burst occurred at 81,292 feet and 14:39:05 UTC. Looking at the logs, the Basic Stamp 2p underwent a reset about 1 minute later. Because the GPS appeared to maintain 3D lock and produced valid positions and altitudes within 10-15 seconds of the upset, I believe only the BS2p lost power/reset and not the GPS. I am not sure of the cause of this upset, but will be looking the power connections to the BS2p’s circuit board.

During the descent, we had to follow some Iowa state troopers and behave ourselves for around 10 miles, but soon they turned off and we were able to resume our customary chase speed. We made contact with N0BKB and some of the other Iowa chasers west of Osceola. As we went through Osceola, we began to discuss whether the payload would go south of US34 and how far east of Osceola it would get. We turned north on a gravel road about 8 miles east of town and pulled off to wait a couple of minutes. As the balloon began to turn from it’s southeasterly course to northeast, we drove north another mile and began to look for it.

We were finally able to spot the balloon about 5000 ft MSL and a half-mile west of our position. The balloon was still drifting northeast, so we went a little farther north and turned west. By then it was less than a thousand feet up and coming more or less towards us. I got out of the car to get a clear view with my camera and snapped a few telephoto pictures as it came down in front of us about 200 yards away. Landing occurred at 15:20:00 in a cow pasture about 50 ft from the road.

As the chase team pulled in, a van I didn’t recognize pulled in front of the gate to the pasture. The driver asked if that was our parachute that just landed. I said it was, and he said he was the landowner. He and his family happened to be coming down the road from either the north or east and they saw the parachute come down. He opened the gate for us and we walked in and shut down the payloads. We took a few minutes to explain what we were doing to the children that were along and then carried everything out. I left an NSTAR card so they could look up the web site later on.

Because the Iowa chasers had other plans for the afternoon, they headed back home from the landing site. The Omaha group made their way to the Osceola Pizza Hut (our second visit – we were there last year for Flight 02-F). This landing was about 7 miles due east of 02-F’s landing. After lunch, we started the long drive for home.

The still pictures from the payload were excellent. The launch site was visible in four of the early photos, and, more remarkably, the chase crew could be seen in three of the landing photos. In fact, in the last picture the lone figure in the road is me trying to get a picture of the payloads as they’re coming down.

The videotape was good, but shorter than expected. The first 40 minutes was test footage taken during SSTV testing – I forgot to rewind the tape afterwards. Unfortunately the tape ran out before burst so we couldn’t use that to determine whether it was rougher than usual.

The EEPROM recorded about 1760 records while in flight, including readings from our Honeywell ASDX015A24R barometric sensor.  The sensor readings tracked well with altitude, but I have not calculated how well calibrated they are.  Because of the payload restart, the records from launch to 37,000 ft were overwritten.  

A big thank-you goes out to an anonymous donor who provided for most of the expendable costs for this flight!

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