As previously stated, the aim of the launch was to give the project group experience at launching and recovering a high altitude balloon with a payload. We also planned to fly SHARP in its modified form for the first time carrying with it the BLAST smartphone running the custom built application. Data from the smartphone sensors such as location and temperature was to be measured and stored for later analysis.
The launch was arranged for 12pm, since there was a radio frequency clash with another launch from HAB enthusiasts in the Netherlands. However, problems with SHARP’s electronics meant that at 2pm SHARP was still not operational and, due to the few sunlight hours left for the day and the predicted landing site drifting further away, we decided to abort the launch of SHARP. Instead we launched two back-up trackers (Alpha & Fizzle).
At 2.45pm we finally managed to launch. At 18km Alpha stopped sending data due to the absence of a flight mode in the GPS board which caused the onboard system to hang; however, Alpha kept transmitting a flat signal on the carrier wave. Later on, Fizzle completely stopped operating (this is believed to be due to the temperatures). We continued to move towards the predicted landing site, and we regained signal from Alpha as it fell below 18km. At 17.05pm the payload landed in the fields near Bexley, North-East of Oxford. The parachute (not designed for such a light payload) was entangled with the balloon and the strings, preventing it from deploying properly. This wasn’t deemed to be a problem to do the extremely low weight of the payload.
While it was disappointing that the modified SHARP platform and BLAST smartphone were unable to launch on this occasion, the group gained a great deal of experience launching and recovering a HAB payload. We are confident that this knowledge can be brought forward to ensure future flights are successful.
Below are two albums documenting the setup, launch and retrieving of the payload (thanks to Phil Crump).
We are currently investigating and trying to replicate SHARP’s issues and we’ll hopefully be able to perform a full configuration launch at the next occasion.
We are planning our next launch on 17th March, and we are also going to be present at the University of Southampton Science and Engineering Day on 16th March. We will be posting more news in the next few days regarding these events.