Mission SammyOne

Launch Day!



May 5th, 2010. Originally May 8th was planned. But looking at the weather forecast I decided to launch three days earlier.

Jan, Jurgen and Inge joined me for the launch of SammyOne. I just sum up what happened that day. It was quite amazing.

05:00 - Getting up, waking up Inge.

05:45 - Jurgen calls. He is delayed because of road construction.

06:15 - Jurgen arrives.

06:16 - We leave for the launch location

06:17 - We return for my passport (thanks Jurgen)

06:45 - Jan phones in, he is already at the launch location

07:05 - Inge, Jurgen and myself arrive at the launch location. Clear blue sky, calm winds. Ideal!

07:10 - We start filling the balloon. I'm very, very nervous. One thing is for sure, I needed a checklist. Out in the field everything is a lot more difficult. The pressure is on.

07:20 - The balloon is almost filled and we try how much lift it has by letting it lift the bucket with stones. And then in a split second...DISASTER! The balloon slips of the filler and disappears into the sky without the payload string attached. Mistakes can happen and we look at each other and smile. Actually to see the balloon disappear into the blue sky is quite beautiful.

07:25 - After a short evaluation we decide to tape the spare balloon to the filler and have two people watch the balloon.

07:30 - In the mean time I prepare the capsule and parachute. I'm very nervous and do things way too fast.

07:35 - The balloon seems full and we try to estimate its free lift. That is very difficult because we do not want to loose another balloon. We decide that it's lifting power is more or less OK and tie the payload string to the balloon. Inge covers the capsule in another layer of duct tape as I did a bad job with my nervous hands.

07:40 - Ready to launch! Oh no wait. Jan asks where I taped the data sensor. I forgot about the whole thing! In a hurry I tape the data sensor to the top of the capsule, using black tape. A big mistake as it turned out later.

07:43 - Launch! We see SammyOne disappear slowly out of sight. A big sigh of relieve. First part succeeded.

07:45 - I get the first and last text message from the balloon. It's over the water and traveling at a speed of 24 km/hr.

Search and Recovery

07:46 - The big wait starts. The balloon is out of reach from the GSM network. We just have to wait.

07:50 - Ehhhh, did I turn the camera's on? I honestly cannot remember it anymore. Inge tells me to shut up.

08:00 - We decide to start driving towards the estimated landing place. Inge goes home.

09:00 - We drink some coffee and juice at a gas station. Waiting...

10:00 - We arrive at my parents home. Nothing...

11:00 - The estimated flight time was about 2 hours and 15 minutes. This means that the balloon is already 1 hour and 15 minutes late. We decide that we wait until 14:00 and then call it a day and hope that the balloon is found somewhere and returned to me using the small note which I attached to the side of the capsule.

11:16 - a text message from the balloon!! But it's showing coordinates from the launch location and not the current location. Oh no! I can see that it is a live message and not a delayed one as it reports the battery power to be only 20%.

11:21 - The text messages keep on coming now. All with the old coordinates. Nothing from the Spot Messenger. I try to reset the GSM tracker by sending it text messages with reset codes. But nothing.

11:30 - Still text messages with old coordinates. I keep trying to reset the tracker.

11:46 - YES, YES, I get a text message with other coordinates and with speed=0.00 km/hr. We type the coordinated into Google maps and see that SammyOne has landed just over the border in Germany, only 30km away! I was right after all with my landing location prediction.

11:48 - The Spot messenger finally shows a sign of life and reports the same coordinates as the tracker. We are looking good!

11:50 - I grab my laptop and jump into the car with Jurgen.

12:30 - The car's navigation system cannot get us any closer to the balloon as there are no more roads. We figure out that the balloon must be on a piece of farmers ground, just across from a little canal.

12:35 - We arrive at the scene and Jurgen spots the balloon immediately and confirms it using his binoculars.

12:40 - We walk for 5 minutes across the land and arrive at the balloon. It's completely intact and on it's side! The remains of the balloon are tangled into the shrouding lines of the parachute. The little brave Canon is still clicking away. The low air pressure has sucked all air out of the isolation material so the capsule looks shrunk. Jurgen and I exchange high fives and we take some pictures and walk back to the car with a big, big smile on our faces.

13:00 - We arrive at the car and open the capsule. Everything is in order. The Zi6 has shifted a bit from it's position, probably because of the landing. It turns out that the Zi6 recorded more than 4 hours of video. The Canon IXUS took over 1300 pictures and was still happily clicking.

14:45 - We arrive back at my parent's home and have a first look at the pictures and video. Amazing how good the pics and video turned out. The photos are bright and clear. The burst from the balloon and the roller-coaster ride back to earth are nothing short of spectacular.

15:00 - The data sensor was taped on top of the container with black tape. Above the clouds the sun warmed up the data sensor to a temperature of almost 40 degrees Celsius. Hotter than Spain in the summer. That was a bummer. Mistake made by me. I should have taped the sensor underneath the capsule, using white or silver tape.

23:50 - Project SammyOne was a complete success! I spent almost two months getting this project together and now finally everything came together with amazing pictures and video. I went to bed with a smile.

Please have a look at the gallery. I hope you enjoy the pictures and video just as much as we did!


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Launch Day!

Passing 30km altitude. The moon and our atmosphere are clearly visible.