Looking back at our previous launches with our first launch on September 25th 2021, which I refer to as our first learning experience. I used to call a flight successful if the balloon left the field, this was after all a big learning curve for everyone involved. It wasn’t until our 8th Launch, December 22nd 2021 that we were able to find a balloon that stayed up for more than a day. It was also our opportunity to switch from Helium to Hydrogen. So, new balloon and Hydrogen gas, equals 19 days and 10 days of flight time. This was our first awakening of the possibilities of world travel.
Though we conquered one issue, staying afloat for multiple days, we suffered from another issue, not being able to go above 28,000 feet. In our subsequent flights we were hoping to achieve the magic altitude of 40,000 feet. What 40,000 feet gets us is flight above the clouds, above the weather. The two ways to achieve that goal is a smaller package, bigger balloon or a combination of both.
The biggest obstacle we’ve had as of late is the weather for launch and the launch site. The location for our longest flight we actually hit 2 objects on different days. First there was a tree and luckily a recovery of the tracker. Ten days later with the same tracker we hit the backstop of a baseball diamond, recovery of the tracker and two hours after that, a new balloon, two more grams of free lift gave us a 19 day flight. Over the next two months and starting to name the trees, we moved to another location with a successful launch of a two balloon package, and flight from Highland Park, Illinois to the Alaska/Canada border in 10 days of flight reaching 28,000 feet.
Our long haul flights were achieved using the 36″ round pillow or pancake shaped balloon costing around $2 each from the Party World Store. This balloon was the same shape as our original Qualatex party balloon but had a better quality for longevity. One balloon got us to 24,000 feet, two balloons to 28,000 feet.
After following the successes of Tom Medlin, W5KUB who started using a 32″ Sphere Yokohama balloon. These balloons though smaller in diameter are completely round making for a higher volume to achieve the desired altitude of around 40,000 feet. You can follow Tom’s flight here https://ham-tv.com/balloon/
So now with our arsenal of balloons, 36″ clear Chinese, 32″ Yokohama Sphere and other 32″ Sphere’s we were ready to launch, though having one other small problem.
When we started naming the trees at our last location, we were on a treasure hunt for our ideal location, high above the trees. Willow Hill Golf Course was suggested by several members of our group, though it wasn’t until I went searching for our last tracker after the rain had subsided a bit, that I decided to head over to Willow Hill. It was a cold rainy day and a short drive from our last site. Willow Hill Golf Course sits 200 feet above street level with beautiful views of Chicago’s Skyline, miles away.
There I met Kari Knebelkamp who with her husband Kent own Willow Hill Golf Course and Park. I shared with Kari our Pico Balloon project and asked if we could launch at their site. Kari was very excited about our project the science of Pico Ballooning, and our work with youth. To see this beautiful Park, Golf Course and Concert venue please visit https://www.willowhillgolfcourse.com/
For those wanting to come by and cheer us on we’re looking at our next launch tomorrow May 4th 2022 at Willow Hill Golf Course and Park, 1350 Willow Rd Northbrook, IL 60062. Michael and I will be preparing the balloon and look for us meeting close to 6:30 p.m. Bring a camera, it’s a beautiful view.
I’ll post tomorrow with the launch information and pictures.