14th launch test flight KD6ITO/6

Happy Ramadan, Good Friday and Happy Passover to all. After surviving a long stretch of heavy winds, we finally had a calm morning and an opportunity to launch. With not a lot of prep time, some quick programming of the tracker and missing my call sign by just a few numbers, we are calling this one a test flight of a new balloon. Launched at 7:30 this morning from Highland Park IL and reaching a high altitude of 9,000 feet before we lost contact near Ann Arbor Michigan.

We consider a successful flight anytime we go past the launch site. In December of 2021 and February of 2022 we were able to achieve long flights of 19 days and 10 days using a $2, 32″ pillow shaped Chinese made balloon.

Now that we’ve had the taste of a long flight, we want to go higher and farther.

We’ve been testing may different balloons since we started flying in September of 2021. From September through November, we were flying the $3.50, Qualatex balloon flying as far as near Baltimore Maryland. Where we believe the Secret Service may have taken us down flying close to the White House, or it could have been that we were losing altitude pretty steadily. I like the Secret Service story.

In Pico Ballooning, we have this sweet spot that we’re trying to achieve. Flying above 40,000 feet, above the clouds and the weather. The available volume of the balloon plays an important part of achieving the sweet spot. Taking into consideration the weight of the package, tracker, solar panels, antenna and other components, adding enough free lift clear obstacles and reach maximum available altitude. While we’re still working on a smaller and lighter package, we have ordered the larger volume sphere balloons which we are now testing.

All of our balloons were never intended for the purpose of long flight at high altitudes. They’re advertised for re-use for weddings and parties. These new balloons we’ve been testing have shorter valves not easily heat sealed, so we need to find other ways to seal after filling and with the short valve, a way to connect a fishing line to hold the package. We ordered two sets of balloons of similar properties, 4 panel 32″ sphere balloons, from Yokohama in Japan and from Balloons Online in the U.S. manufactured by SAG.

Our first purchase was the Crystal Clear Yokohama 32″ Sphere priced at $22 each with shipping which was $100 for 10 balloons. We still have about 18 of these balloons in stock.

I next ordered 2 – Silver 32″ Sphere Orbs balloons from balloons online manufactured by SAG. The first one is still sitting in a tree in Highland Park which we still hope to recover the tracker. These are similarly priced to Yokohama but saving on shipping which can be free on a quantity of 10.

The SAG balloon had a similar fill valve located center right and a separate taped plastic tab for holding the package seen center left

The SAG balloon was launched today and lost after 90 minutes of flight.

I also ordered and received another Chinese made balloon labeled 32″ Sphere which is only 2 panels with a longer neck for heat sealing. We’ll have to run some tests for durability and volume. This balloon is 16″ wide, 30″ long and a long fill valve pictured below. The price was about $26 for 10 balloons.

Travelling around the globe maybe calls for a little bit of luck, being in the right place at the right time and following the successes of others.

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73, Cary KD9ITO

One thought on “14th launch test flight KD6ITO/6

  1. Wondering weather the lost balloon went down due to structural failure or other causes….
    Would be interesting to know…

    Maybe a slightly quicker ascent ( more gas) would give it a tinny bit more horse power to clear several lower obstacles including wind turbulence at low altitudes where it can be blown around.
    And I guess a healthy amount of luck is always welcome…

    Just thinking … 🎈

    73 George KD9TLS


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