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AEM 1905: Spaceflight with Ballooning (Freshmen Seminar) Balloon Launch page

Instructor: James Flaten, MN Space Grant

Page last updated:  Friday, Oct. 29, 2010 -- 11 a.m.

Contact information:    James Flaten    651-399-2423 (cell)

Activity synopsis:  On Saturday, October 30, 2010 we will launch a large helium-filled latex weather balloon to lift a "stack" of experimental payloads and GPS tracking boxes to about 90,000 feet, also known as "Near Space."  At the launch site you can observe ground operations, examine the payloads and talk to the students who built them, watch inflation of the balloon, and see the ground GPS tracking systems.  The balloon will be about 8-9 feet in diameter when released and grow to more than 30 feet in diameter by the time it bursts.  The balloon is expected to be in the air between 1.75 and 2.25 hours.  The MN Space Grant ballooning team from the U of MN and freshman seminar class members will track the flight using GPS and radio communications and "chase" it into Wisconsin, to recover the payloads once they return to the ground by parachute.

Weather update:  Weather predictions suggest reasonable weather (possibly cloudy but not too windy nor rainy) on Saturday morning.

Launch time:  The balloon (carrying Freshman Seminar payloads) will be released around 10 a.m.  Ground operations will start about 8:00 a.m., with filling the balloon and finalizing the payload stack occuring mostly during the hour prior to launch.  If you want to watch the launch we recommend you arrive no later than 9:00 a.m.

Launch location (essentially final; if coming out to the launch, call Saturday morning to confirm):  Weather predictions have been evolving all week.  Right now they suggest a flight of nearly 120 miles east southest from the launch location, so we are considering launching from Pierz, MN (about 30 miles north St. Cloud) so as to land in the vicinity of Barron, WI.  For the most up-to-date information, call 651-399-2423.

Internet tracking:  It is possible to use the internet to monitor the flight of balloons which transmit their GPS location using APRS (ham radio) format, as long as you know the ham radio call sign of the radio(s) on board.  One web site where this can be done is  One transmitter on the balloon will have the call sign WØJH-11 or WØJH-12 (both registered to the Stillwater Amateur Radio Association (SARA ham radio club)).  We also plan to stream video of the launch and telemetry data during the flight to http:/// and/or to .  Note:  APRS tracking data on will be close to "live" whereas there is often a delay (sometimes up to an hour!) between when we stream information to and when it actually appears on their web site.



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