The Black Rock Desert is
stunning in the spring and it was beautiful morning for a launch. The
team was up at 4:00am and at the launch site setting up at 5:00am.
Contrast to the ground conditions the upper atmosphere was less than inviting.
With deep cold, (down to -87 F), for nearly full mission duration and winds aloft of 130 mph, it was if the sky was just daring us to fly.
The first task is always to set up the antenna farm. Uriah, Paul, Jill and John jump on it and up it went.
Tracy was the jack of all trades and moved from team to team working as needed. Kevin and JP prepped the vehicle. Natalie readied the ground radios and starting taking the mission pictures and video. Bob set up the van and got mission control up and running. We had guests from The Technical Basis. Bob and Tom were there to install one of the payloads and film the launch. They were put to work and cheerfully moved helium tanks and other fun jobs. Thanks guys!
On this mission each team member had to play several roles. After the antennas, awning and operations setup, antenna team became the balloon fill team.
The team really moved on this mission. We all worried that ground winds would pick up and abort the flight, (this is what happened on our last attempt). It normally takes three to four hours to conduct a launch. On this morning the time from arriving at the site to lift off was 2 hours and 15 minutes. Way to go team!!! At times the morning was a little chaotic, but, all the ‘I’s were dotted and ‘T’s crosses and the system was running.
On Away missions we ‘hand’ launch the vehicles. We call it the launch dance. Paul and Kevin handled the balloon release and Tracy and JP danced under the balloons to get the stack vertical for release. Dual rubber balloon launches can be tricky, however, this one was very smooth.
Once in the air the vehicle belongs to Bob in mission control. He served as ‘Flight’ for this mission.
As Away 26 crossed 10,000 feet Recovery 1, Natalie and Kevin, and Recover 5, Uriah and John, set out across Nevada.
It was a wild ride for Away 26. The turbulence over 20,000 feet was very extreme. Watching the on board video on a full stomach is not advised. At 77,905 feet one of the balloons gave up and burst. The vehicle began to descent slowly at 400 feet per minute. We rode the single balloon all the way to tough down. This gave the experiments a long flight at high altitude in spite of not getting as high as we wanted.
Away 26 landed 93 miles downrange. It took the recovery teams eight hours to reach the landing site. It was a very long day for them. The vehicle landed much softer under the balloon then it would of under parachute. Away 26 was in excellent shape.
The purpose of the flight was to test several new systems and provide a ride to high altitude for 240 separate payloads. Several systems performed excellent and other need work. Over the next few weeks we’ll be pouring over the data, watching and rewatching video, redesigning, modifying and figuring it all out.
It was a great mission for us. The team was humming and having a good time and all came home safe and sound, (very tired and sun burned, but, safe and sound).
Max altitude: 77,905 feet
Landing: 93 miles downrange
Total flight time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.
Minimum Temperature: -87 F
Liftoff time: 7:15 am
Maximum wind speed: 130 mph
Away 26 The traditional team signatures.
Ready for Release! There 202 PongSats on this mission.
Uriah filming the launch. From the on board camera.
GP DEVA the prime sponsor of Away 26.
On the way down.
Landing on Mars? Touchdown!
The Away 26 Flight Team
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page was last edited on February 20, 2006
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