Oh, the humanity!

Well, the 40 ft solar balloon is just a tattered ball of plastic.

We tried launching it this morning, and had it about half inflated when the wind picked up, and the entire thing split in half.  Rather impressive, actually.  But the numerous hours I spent constructing the balloon are all for naught.

Ballooning-that’s how it goes!  If not for the wind, it would have flown.  A few minutes of wind, and everything falls apart.  I had success with my 20 ft balloon, and the 40 footer was such a time investment that I don’t think I’ll attempt it again.


No Launch – Too Windy

Unfortunately, the wind is gusting at 10 mph this morning (December 27) and we can’t fly, despite clear skies.  We will not be launching this morning, but we hope that conditions will improve over the next few days.

All Systems Go for Launch – Dawn Tomorrow

The short term weather forecast, while not perfect, looks like it might allow a launch tomorrow.  At 6:15 AM Mountain Standard Time, I’ll wake up and look outside.  If conditions are clear and calm, I will start the launch sequence.  If not, I will go back to bed.

Either way, I will post the results here on the blog.  Before you drive out to the launch site tomorrow morning, be sure to check and make sure the launch is actually going to happen.  Otherwise, no one will be there!


Anyone is welcome to come.

Place:  Where San Lorenzo wash crosses the low flow channel.

Latitude:  34.227576

Longitude:  -106.899946

Time:  Dawn (~7:15 AM) on Thursday, December 28.

Also, follow us on twitter:  @bovineaerospace.  We’ll be posting the tracking data on that feed.

Bring warm clothes!

Ready for travel

The balloon is packed and I’m flying out later today.  Back in New Mexico, Paul is preparing the payload for flight.  The long range forecast still looks unstable, with a storm system and associated winds coming sometime around Christmas.  Once I have a better idea of the forecast, I’ll set a new launch date.

Launch date postponed

The weather in Chicago has prompted numerous flight cancellations…including mine.  The soonest the balloon can come to New Mexico is the 23rd, so we will plan to launch sometime between the 26th and the 30th.

Check back on Christmas to see when and where we’re planning to fly!

Jake V – A Plan to Launch a 4 Story Tall Balloon: We need your help!

If you’ve arrived here at my blog recently, you’ve probably already heard about our upcoming launch.  But just in case you haven’t, or if you want some more details, here’s the project description:

In less than a week, weather permitting, we will be launching a gigantic solar balloon.  This balloon will rise at least 10 miles into the sky (possibly a lot more) and will likely travel hundreds of miles.  It will be carrying a satellite tracker, so we’ll know exactly where it lands, but it will be far out of our reach.  This is where you come in.

With Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, we have an unprecedented ability to reach large amounts of people.  I suspect that given enough starting population, we could use these social networks to reach people in any town in the United States.  So here’s the plan: tell lots of people about the launch, give them the website for the satellite tracker, and when the balloon comes down, maybe we’ll have reached someone near enough to go pick it up and mail back the two cameras, GPS data logger, and tracker using the prepaid shipping label we’ll include with the instrumentation.  What this depends on is sheer volume of people, so forward this to all your friends and maybe we can pull this off!

Be sure to like it on Facebook, and post a link on your wall so that all your friends see it too!  Also, send emails to anyone you think might be interested in watching it fly across the Southwest.

What is a solar balloon, you ask?  It is simply a solar powered hot air balloon.  The envelope (outer part of the balloon) is dark, which heats up when the sun hits it.  In turn, this heats up the air inside, causing a density difference that gives the whole thing enough buoyancy to lift off.  Solar balloons have been around since the seventies, but most launches are quite small-a few trash bags taped together and set loose from someone’s back yard.  Our balloon is 43 ft in diameter, almost the size of commercial hot air balloons.  Our balloon will be carrying a video camera and a still camera, and I think it will be the first to actually take video from free flight (if someone has already done this, they have not bothered to put it on youtube).  Plus, the data we get from the onboard GPS will tell us how high the solar balloon goes. If we’re lucky, we could get to the 70,000 ft range, where the sky is black and the Earth’s horizon starts to look slightly curved.

My 20 ft solar balloon taking off from Norwood, Massachusetts.

My 20 ft solar balloon taking off from Norwood, Massachusetts.

This isn’t the first solar balloon we’ve launched (see our successful 20′ balloon launch in the above photo, or watch the video here), but it’s by far the biggest.  Before packing it yesterday, I had to stretch it out-and it went from one end of my house to the other.  In fact, I held off writing this post until I was sure I could actually pack it, but after 2 hours of folding and pressing I managed to get it into a duffel bag.  When it’s fully inflated it will be about as tall as the tallest building in Socorro, New Mexico (my home town and launch site), but the plastic is so thin that the whole thing can be smashed into a suitcase-see the before and after pics below:

Jake V

Jake V 'big tuna' is packed and ready to go...after 2 hours of folding and stuffing.

Jake V ‘big tuna’ is packed and ready to go…after 2 hours of folding and stuffing.

The launch is set for Sunday, December 23rd from Socorro, New Mexico as long as the current forecast (clear, light winds) holds.  I will post updates as the launch window approaches.