Jake VI – Successful Test of Cutdown

I’m happy to announce that we had a major success last weekend.  My friend launched a weather balloon carrying a GPS and an Arduino computer programmed to cut the cable on the balloon at 20,000 m (~66,000 ft).  This launch, designated Jake 6, carried out its mission perfectly.  The payload separated from the balloon 20 kilometres above the snow-covered Minnesota landscape, then parachuted down for a safe landing in a tree.  The descent was a little scary as we watched our payload parallel, then cross the Mississippi River!  We knew it was about to land, and it would have been a very poor ending to the day to have it splash down in the brutally cold water.

Click here for a video of the flight!  A good photo taken from the air is below:


What went right:

-Successful cutdown at 20 kilometers.

-Detailed GPS data of the flight

What went wrong:

-The GPS did not get a fix until about 10 kilometers above the ground, which means we lost some data on the ascent

-The camera was accidentally programmed to take RAW format images, which means it ran out of memory at around 10 kilometres.  Still got some cool pics though!

-Our faithful parachute had to be left behind in the tree, despite my friend’s valiant recovery of the payload box


6 thoughts on “Jake VI – Successful Test of Cutdown

  1. Pingback: Balloon Cutdown | Bovine Aerospace

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  3. Great solution! My robotics team is preparing a near space balloon launch for next month, and this looks like it will be a great solution to preventing the balloon from entangling in the parachute. A couple of questions: Once cutoff has occurred, what happens to the nichrome wire and it’s triggering wires – do they just float around above the parachute? Are they also cut away with the balloon? I’m a bit unclear of how you would go about preventing those wires from entangling in the parachute.
    Thank you for posting this!
    Garry Wakely
    Coach, First Appalachian Robotics
    FTC Team 7090

    • Hi Garry,

      For this balloon, the wires between the arduino/cutdown circuit and nichrome coil were set up as follows:

      arduino/cutdown circuit->wires are coiled around one parachute line->wires run along inside of parachute (sewn in I think)->wires exit the parachute top hole and enter tupperware box.

      When the nichrome coil heats up and melts the string connecting the top of the parachute and the balloon, the box containing the nichrome coil falls and rests on top of the parachute. The box is attached to the string between the chute and the balloon with a knot/hole at the bottom of the box — this makes sure there is no load on the nichrome wire during flight. The box was pretty light, and didn’t interfere with the parachutes inflated shape.

      Good luck with your launch!


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