We have a saying in Chicago, if you don’t like the weather wait 15 minutes. That works both ways
Some things we have control over, the weather, not so much.
What we’ve learned in Pico Ballooning, is the precision of planning. The weight of the package to create free lift for maximum altitude. Since we don’t live in a vacuum, we learn to live with what we have.
Living in an urban area limits the available launch sites, we have many parks, parking lots, and fields, with many trees.
In our earlier launches, we discovered the hit or miss of a successful launch had to do with how far a tree, fence or light post was from the launch site. A gust of wind could catch the tail of the antenna and bring our launch to a halt.
To increase the odds of a successful launch, we try to plan around the weather, sometimes waiting weeks for that perfect launch date. Though we aim for a nice sunny day, the wind occasionally puts a hamper in our plans.
Early on in our project, one of our younger members had an idea to sacrifice a filled balloon to lift quickly and release from the package that would complete the journey. Once the device was designed and built, we discovered it weighed 35 grams. This led to the ongoing discussion how to launch and successfully recover an assist device, too much weight for a balloon to lift quickly. That turned into a discussion about a drone, and the problems associated with that. The last discussion was with a pole, 7 feet expandible to 30 feet.
What started out as a what if scenario. What if we could launch a balloon assisted by another device? to sacrifice a balloon to save a balloon. This idea was proposed by then 13-year-old, Noah Berg KD9RDT at a group planning meeting in November of 2021. With a computer presentation he insisted this could work.
From an idea, discussion, design, build and launch.
Last Saturday July 9th our group met for a breakfast meeting, made our final preparations and launched a test balloon with 17 grams of lift, a monofilament line and 10-gram weight simulating a Pico Launch.
Our assist device now named Icarus is a timer attached to a Pico Servo, 3D printed top with a lever and 9 volt battery. A 3D printed holder was devised to sit on top of the pole holding the Icarus in place. The line above the tracker is attached to the lever. A button is pressed on the timer that begins a 10 second countdown. The pole is lifted as we count down and the release. Adjusting the pole gives us a little more control. The whole package is above the ground for the release and slow and steady ascent.
Assisting us with our test launch is Michael Seedman, AA6DY who designed the Icarus package. Jim Janiak KD9UQB who provided the 3D printed holders, John Walsh W9BLN and his son Collin, Doug Mulley KD9TPM, Henry Fiely KD9SRZ and his dad Bill, and Cary Willis KD9ITO
Now that we’ve run a successful test, it’s time to put it to the real test.