Here are some photos from the August 23, 2008 Flight of BLT-24!
Most of our balloon flights have started HERE at the Wharton Municipal Airport since the early 1990's. We were featured in the July 27, 1994 issue of the Wharton Journal Spectator. The article, "High In The Sky" by Burlon Parsons, gave some of the history of the South Texas Balloon Launch Team, along with fun facts about BLT-9. We just keep coming back! Wharton is a perfect place for our flights, and the folks there have really supported our activities.
Scott Hughes with the Hughes Aero Corporation let us share space with their PREDATOR Powered Parachutes. No problems. No Hassle - just super hospitality in a beautiful hanger!
Here we go! There were a few delays with the flight, but we've got it ready to go. Due to problems with the new color video camera, we had to switch to the older color camera, but it looked great. Both APRS systems were performing flawlessly, the digital camera was taking photos every 15 seconds, the UT PARADIGM satellite was beaconing, the new 1500-gram Totex balloon was filled with precision, and the march to the runway has begun.
The weather was excellent! We had some clouds, but very little wind and reasonable (for South Texas) temperatures. Payload Master Mike WA5TWT carefully lets the balloon go up while Helium King Charlie K5ENG makes jokes and takes pictures. Rocket Man Michael W2CVZ and Payload Master Ron KE5WAM carry the line and satellite.
Here's the last thing to leave the airport - PARADIGM - from the University of Texas at Austin. The long antenna is a two-meter whip made of tape-measure material. Two switches can be seen on the left side of the styrofoam covering. Appropriate stickers and duct tape were employed.
Up, Up, and AWAY - To The Edge Of Space! It's BLT-24 and PARADIGM!
Payload Master Mike WA5TWT and High Coordinator Andy W5ACM watch the path of the flight via the primary APRS beacon W5ACM-9.
Payload Master Charles W5BAA is running UI View on his laptop. Other folks are taking a break from the (not really that hard this time) launch campaign.
Here's a broader view of the shaded area just outside the main airport office. On the far left some of the TV gear can be seen. The TV from the Edge Of Space was very popular. APRS data from W5ACM-9 was made available on the Internet thanks to Walter K5WH. Allen N5LKJ (MD) and Ron AG5RS (Dubai), along with many others around the world kept up with the payload location. An audio Internet connection was provided by Craig WD5BDX to Camera Master Pete's KD5ELH crossband repeater. There were some issues toward the end of the flight with the frequency and power output, but we had some great contacts logged via the repeater.
Video Master Tom K5SAF captured some stills from the recording of the 1255 MHZ FM ATV downlink. This one clearly shows the Wharton Intergalactic Spaceport from just a few hundred feet up.
We're gaining some altitude!
And yet another great screen capture with some SERIOUS altitude!
THIS looks like SATELLITE territory!
We're done with the Hughes Aero Corporation hanger. It's time to close the doors and begin the CHASE!!
Here's the path of BLT-24. I would have preferred touchdown closer to Hinze's BBQ, but we settled for this.
BLT-24 landed just a few miles North of Ganado. Note the lat/lon labeled flay in the upper-left-hand corner of the map. The balloon fragments were right in the middle of CR259. The parachute was dangling from a tree. The main payload landed a bit hard, but survived well. PARADIGM sustained some foam bending, but it was an easy find.
Here's a ZOOM of the map showing the road names.
Patrick and James Clarke show how difficult it was to get to the landing site. Master Prediction Wizards Dr. Dan W5DF and John AB5SS were close enough to the landing site to see it coming in - if they had been looking that way!
The recovery crew is dedicated. They KNOW that they will be in the late seating for BBQ, but they tough it out...
Dr. Dan heads out through the jungle to retrieve the payloads on the other side of the fence.
After a nice flight to 91,400 feet and back, the BLT-24 main payload looks good! While crashing through the branches of the tree, the 70-cm antenna supports snapped, but that's OK. There are plenty of quarter-inch wooden sticks where those came from!
PARADIGM landed in an equally payload-friendly location - stickers intact!
Mark Clarke and his sons pose with John and BLT-24. It's time to load up the Hummer and head to Hinze's!!
Charlie wants the parachute back. It's all he has left to show for all that expensive helium and the biggest balloon ever flown by the BLT. Dr. Dan complies. John, Patrick and James observe. They are careful not to get between Charlie and the chute.
It looks like we may want a new foam box for future flights. When the Earth attacked BLT-24, the 1255 MHz antenna took the brunt of the force.
Hot! Hot! Hot! What happens when you take a bunch of power-hungry radios, turn them on, and stuff them in an insulated box? Eventually you may cook a few things! Power Down EVERYTHING! There's Pecan Pie in need of rescue!
Pete checks out some of the still images snapped by BLT-24. It looks like his research and tests have paid off. The camera appears to be LOADED with excellent, hi-res, digital photos!
Everyone got a chance to check the pix. Here Spaceport Liason Mike WB5QCC gets his chance during the BLT-24 Banquet and Festival.
Tom caught Andy (in his Hinze's Camo T-Shirt) and Moises, along with most of the BLT Team, during COOL DOWN. What's next for the BLT???
Launch happened at 10:53 AM on August 23, 2008 from the Wharton Intergalactic Spaceport. Were You There? WE Were!!!