The flight of FS4 and recovery!
FS4 launched at 10:09am PDT into light winds. The flight followed the predicted route very closely, however the balloon burst at 83,936 feet altitude. The prediction was for 100,000 feet. Had the balloon reached the predicted altitude it would have followed the route closely to the end.
When the balloon burst, it was over the Roadman Mountains between the Johnson Valley and Stoddard Wells OHV areas. The team was positioned in Victorville, to the west, expecting the balloon to fly back over us.
Immediately after the burst, the signals dropped to a very low level and into the noise. Some telemetry was decoded showing a sudden drop. We surmised the antenna tangled up and that in effect shorted the antenna causing the low signal levels.
The chase team sped off to the East towards the last known recorded location of the balloon, still at 31,000 feet. The signal was completely lost after that report, but we had a good idea on where to look for the balloon.
CA Hwy 247 runs north/south between Barstow, CA and Lucerne Valley, CA. The last position was very close to the 247 and we drove up and down the highway and managed to pick up a vary faint signal that appeared to be from the balloon (It has a recognizable pattern to the signal). We found a point with the strongest signal, parked, shut off the engine (Lowers the static noise on the radio) and managed to start decoding signals from FS4 on the ground. By luck, the balloon landed just 600yards off the highway and in terrain that was not too difficult to hike into.
FS4 was recovered on the top of a small hill. The payload box was remarkably undamaged by impacting the ground. The latex balloon was still attached (Most of it). We noticed that the lower antenna wire was tangled very tightly on the upper wire next to the balloon neck. (The lowest part was wrapped around the highest part)This tangling explains the loss of signal strength. The antenna bas basically “shorted” out.
After bursting the payload seems to have spun as the wires were very neatly spiraled together. My attempt at avoiding tangling when the balloon suddenly drops was a fail! (Will work on something better next time)
There is more to share but I am one very tired Ground Squirrel and the rest will come soon.
73s de Don KJ6FO