After two consecutive years of unfavorable launch weather, NSTAR returned to the Central Plains Severe Weather Symposium for 2012 as a featured event. Winds were very light through the launch preparation north of Hardin Hall and NSTAR 12-A took to the air under a 1000g Hwoyee balloon at 1006 CDT (1506 UTC) before a crowd of about 100 or so.
We chased east out of Lincoln, then headed towards Hwy 50 and Tecumseh. This was the first flight for our new primary beacon consisting of a BigRedBee high-power 2m GPS/APRS unit. Powered by 4 AA lithium batteries, the beacon performed flawlessly with a strong signal throughout the flight. The balloon burst at 94,933 feet at 1114 CDT about 10 miles west of Tecumseh.
Our average ascent rate was nearly 1400 ft/min, so this shortened our chase distance from the expected landing north of Seneca, KS. We continued south and east toward Pawnee City, stopping east of town to observe the descent. The balloon crossed in front of us shortly before touchdown and landed in an empty field east of Pawnee City at 1204 CDT (1704 UTC) about a quarter-mile away from the road.
The payloads were largely intact. In addition to being the maiden voyage of the BigRedBee transmitter, we also used a new Spherachutes parachute for this flight. The parachute also performed flawlessly and the payloads had a very stable ride under the chute. The BigRedBee's transmitter was a stranded wire dipole and one leg of the dipole broke off during flight. The backup beacon's whip antenna apparently broke on landing, as it had good performance right until landing. The still camera did not take any inflight pictures as the battery cover was accidentally opened when the camera was put back into the payload at the start of the mission. The video footage from the Kodak Zi6 ran for about 1 hour 23 minutes, stopping on descent for an unknown reason. The video on ascent suffered from a lot of fast rotation and had to be slowed down to about 1/10 normal speed to be viewable.