At 10:21 am on Thursday, March 17th, 2022 Teachers in Space and the Gloversville High Altitude Achievement club launched a successful high altitude balloon mission. The balloon traveled 72.47 miles in a north eastern direction from the launch site in Blodgett Mills, NY to the landing zone in Cherry Valley, NY. The payload landed at approximately 12:09 pm for a total flight time of about 1 hour & 48 minutes. The maximum height recorded was 86,545 ft, and the highest recorded horizontal speed was 93 mph at 41,375 ft while the payload was descending with its parachute. Unfortunately the payload narrowly missed landing in an easily accessible field and was caught in a tall tree. Consequently the payload was not retrieved until March 29th when we were able to get a professional tree climber to scale the tree.
Payload Train Contents:
We used a 1500 g balloon followed by 550 paracord down to the first part of the payload which is a reflecting package for radar detection for planes. The next item down is a water tight box holding student-made postcards and a micro track PRS system. Then down below that is the prototype of the serenity 3U CubeSat which holds a lithium poly charger for 24K cameras. They are 2 Sony action cams. It also holds our flight data computer that sends down the data through APRS Lora. On top of the satellite fastened to it is a SPOT messenger tracker. The multiple trackers allow us to track the different segments in case they get separated.
Postcards to Space:
Teachers in Space is partnering with Blue Origin’s nonprofit, Club for the Future, to put student-made postcards on flights into space. This balloon mission included about 130 such postcards. While high altitude balloons do not reach space, they do travel to the higher parts of the atmosphere. These particular postcards are destined for a ride to space. They are currently being integrated into Firefly Aerospace’s 2nd orbital rocket flight along with TIS’s Serenity educational CubeSat.
Additionally, we are using the itemit asset tracking platform to track the postcards using QR codes. The QR codes are scanned at each step of a postcard’s journey so that a chain of custody can be maintained to show students that their artwork is truly on a journey to space!
Recovery & Results
After payload recovery, it was discovered that one of the battery cables had become disconnected just before or after lift-off. Unfortunately without power, the onboard computer that recorded sensor data was not able to function. This was a good reminder of the engineering challenges that often crop up at the most inopportune times in space flight.
While we were not able to collect the experimental data that we were after, the mission was still an educational and inspirational success, and we were able to recover the postcards, and send them off to Firefly Aerospace for a flight into orbit. We will take what we learned from this experience and apply it to the upcoming balloon missions that we will be conducting at our Summer Flight Experiments Workshops for teachers. If you’d like to participate in a mission like this, and learn more about using Arduino in the classroom with your students, then register here for one of our summer workshops!