Our third flight of the year was a tandem effort with the first flight of the Central Nebraska Near Space Project (CNNSP), which is based in Grand Island , NE. We chose the Seward Co. Fairgrounds as a convenient halfway point between the two groups that gave us a good landing site. This site was excellent for our purposes as we had a lot of open space available to us.
We arrived shortly after 8am and began setting up. The winds were practically calm with a mid-level overcast and we could see a few very light showers in the area. After checking everything over, we released the payloads at 0859 CDT (1359 UTC) under a 1000g “cold-weather” Kaymont balloon.
The initial ascent was almost vertical and we could see the balloon disappear into the cloud deck around 14,000 ft. After we lost sight of the balloon, we left the launch site and headed towards Lincoln.
Our chase plan was to head around the west and south sides of Lincoln , then get on Hwy 2 towards Nebraska City , as the predicted landing was northeast of Syracuse. However, the winds between 50,000 and 70,000 ft were lighter and more from the west, which shifted our track more towards US 34. We backtracked north on 70th St towards US 34 and headed east out of Lincoln.
Burst occurred at 92,434 ft and 1013 CDT (1513 UTC). We stopped in Elmwood to see how the descent would progress, then once the balloon dropped below about 20,000 ft we headed towards the expected landing site.
Several vehicles converged from different directions on the landing site, which was near a farm a few miles northeast of Elmwood. Since the winds were so light for the lowest 10,000 ft, we could get out of our vehicles to watch the descent. We watched the payloads land in a cornfield about 20 yards off the road at 1100 CDT (1600 UTC).
While many of us were coming from the west, Tony KC0RJL came from the east and was closest to the farmhouse. The farmer had apparently seen our vehicles stop and observe the landing and was upset about a number of things. First, we had been there for 5-10 minutes but hadn’t tried to make contact (but he may not have realized we were watching the landing in progress). Second, once he heard the word “balloon” he was even less happy because some hot-air balloonists had scared his cattle the previous week. Tony, to his credit, was very diplomatic and secured permission for us to retrieve our payloads, after which we were instructed to “get the **** out”.
So we got our payloads and got the **** out. We went back to the gas station in Elmwood to check our equipment over and exchange data. The NSTAR payload logged about 4400 data records and took about 115 pictures, including one showing an aircraft passing some distance away and another one taken just a second or two before touchdown. The CNNSP payload also took quite a few pictures and the APRS beacon functioned pretty well – there were some missing reports that were probably due to poor reception when we were too far under the balloon. The CNNSP folks headed home to Grand Island while many of the NSTAR crew headed to the Pizza Hut in Plattsmouth for lunch.