After a month of delays, NSTAR 04-C finally got off the ground on Memorial Day. We arrived at Scott KC0MTH’s place around 0645. The winds on the ground were calm but the tops of the trees were in motion, indicating the morning inversion was breaking and that we’d better hurry along. We started filling our Kaysam 1000g balloon shortly after 0700 with a full T-tank of helium.
We strung the lanyards and started letting the balloon out to launch position. As the balloon rose, the wind began to catch it and rotated it around. This twisted the lanyards around the load line and was impossible to untangle. We reeled the balloon back down by the load line and still could not sort out the lines, so we cut the lanyards and let the balloon back out by the load line. After a final check of the payloads, we release the balloon just before 0726 CDT (1226 UTC).
When the backup beacon, the bottom payload of the string, was let go, it swung into the nearby shed with a resounding "bang". This was a repeat of our previous flight, where the backup beacon struck the school after release and cause the battery cover on the enclosed HT to open and power off the beacon. This time, we were reassured when the 12:26:04 beacon was transmitted on schedule. The backup beacon continued to function normally the rest of the flight.
The main beacon and the simplex repeater also checked out fine, so we packed our gear and headed off about 10 minutes after launch. Before long, though, the simplex repeater became progressively more difficult to understand even with an S9 signal. This was due to weak batteries in the recorder for the simplex repeater. Well before burst, the voices on the repeater were completely unintelligible.
We chased east on Hwy 92 to Massena for a brief stop, then headed to Bridgewater and south on a main county road. We stopped for a while to wait for the balloon to burst, and were able to see it with the naked eye and binoculars. Because it was 45-50 degrees above the horizon, I got a stiff neck and looked down to relax it. Just a few seconds later, Wayne KE6DZD said "it just burst" – I had missed seeing a burst yet again. Burst occurred at 89,197 ft at 0903 CDT.
The payloads landed in some mud and standing water, but were undamaged. We walked in and retrieved the payloads, shut them off, then posed for our usual "trophy photo" of the chase team. Since it was too early to find someplace for lunch, those of use who had to go north or east went back to a gas station to pick up some snacks for the ride home.
The camcorder and still camera worked fine – the pictures were of good quality but did not catch anything too remarkable. The descent spiral noticed on previous flight was not quite as fast this time. There was more payload swinging and rotation on ascent though, which tended to blur several of the still photos.