Saskatoon Amateur Radio Club
High Altitude Balloon

Buddy can you give me a lift?

Saturday, October 3
15:00 UTC, 09:00 local (Due to later sunrise)
SARC Home Station
Alvin Buckwold School
715 East Drive

As the days wore on we began to wonder about planning a flight this late in the season.  There was talk of frost or even snow and the mornings were getting colder with each passing day.  On the morning of the flight, the weather looked as though it was working against us.  Winds were light but there was a significant cloud layer at 1000 feet and complete overcast at 10,000.  We decided to prepare for the fight anyway and decide on the spot whether to fly or not.  As 08:00 passed, the lower clouds were breaking up and there were some openings in the upper could layer on the horizon.  We decided to fly.

To try to avoid delays waiting for the GPSs to lock, we adding an auxiliary external power pack to the payload.  This allowed us to power everything up long before liftoff without putting any drain on the internal batteries.  This worked very well up until the power cable pulled loose when a gust of wind caught the payload.  Despite our auxiliary power system, the problems with our VE5AA-12 tracker continued to plague us.  It had worked fairly well during tests prior to the flight but it still seemed to have difficulties getting a lock.  On Saturday it simply refused to lock onto the satellite signal even after running for over an hour.  Since VE5AA-11 was working correctly, we decide to take the risk and fly with just one tracker.

As 09:00 neared, the lower clouds were nearly gone and a beautiful strip of clear sky was directly above us.  With the Helium tank now empty, we lifted off at 09:02, ascending at about 800 feet per minute.  As the balloon drifted south of the city, the three chase vehicles headed for our planned rendezvous point near the Borden bridge as it crossed the North Saskatchewan river.

By the time we all reached the rendezvous point, the balloon was over 60,000 feet and barely moving. It had traveled around the south edge of the city and headed north west just as predicted.  Since our ascent rate was slower than expected and the upper winds were slightly higher than expected, we recalculated the new landing point as between Borden and Radison and very near the highway.  With that knowledge, we departed to Borden where we could monitor the flight from the edge of town and could gain access to an internet connection.  At Borden we laid in the grass and watched the balloon as it ascended through 109,000 feet.  At just shy of 110,000 most of us saw the balloon burst.

Recovery Team at Rendezvous Point

One of the things we saw on the SABRE-7 flight was the VE5AA-11 GPS lose its satellite lock shortly after burst.  In that case, it never did recover lock and gave erroneous position reports throughout the decent.  We saw this again with SABRE-8 and were worried that we would have to DF it again.  Gord and I moved a few kilometres to the north east while Gus and Lori move to the south east.  Each team had a DF unit that could establish a bearing on the 220mHz micro beacon.   As the APRS position reports came in, they matched the position established by DF triangulation.  We knew then that the GPS was locked again and we could believe the APRS reports.

Bruce, Gord and Mike at Borden

As the balloon dropped below 10,000 feet we positioned ourselves where we expected it to cross the highway.  Just as we were plot another prediction, Gord yelled "I see it!".  We all jumped from our cars and watched as it drifted down and over our heads, narrowly missing the main highway.  We at the point of touchdown only a few minutes after it landed in a summer fallow field.

Launch - 09:02
Burst - 11:02
Touchdown - 12:02
Even the railroad can't keep a schedule like that!

What a great way to end the season.

Predicted Track

Actual Track

Temperature vs. Altitude

Burst video

Landing video

Payload and Recovery Pictures