Nova 1

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Nova 1

Launch Card

No launch card was filled in for this flight.

Date 09/09/06
Description First flight of a CU Spaceflight payload.
Launch Time 14:14 GMT
Balloon Size 800g Latex
Target Neck Lift 600g excess lift, neck lift and payload weight not known
Target Asc. Rate 5m/s
Neck Load
Neck Lift
Parachute Details 45" parasheet
Estimated Burst Altitude
Cutdown Criteria
Telemetry Details 2x radio transmitters on 434Mhz, 10mW, one transmitting Morse and one RTTY (50 baud?). Also flew cellphone sending position via SMS.
Notes from Launch Card

Flight Vitals

Maximum Altitude 32200m
Ascent Rate
Sea Level Descent Rate 5.5m/s
Telemetry Log
Flight Computer Log CSV, Raw TXT
Photos Photos
Videos Launch video

Notes and Details

Text from the launch report published shortly after the flight

The balloon itself was an 800 gram meteorological balloon and the payload consisted of two completely independent custom-built tracking devices with three communications methods: SMS over a GSM cellphone, high speed radio data and low speed radio Morse code. Both radio transmitters operated at 10mW in the 434MHz licence-exempt band. There was also a 5 megapixel digital camera. A 45" parachute and hot-wire cutdown device were included for the recovery.

The main objectives of the launch were to gain experience operating balloon payloads, to test the hardware and firmware of the latest generation tracking device in situ, to test the viability of a radio link as sole communications method for recovery, and to return some good photographs from high altitude. After a tense night of debugging, integration and tests we took the balloon and payload to the launch site at Churchill College, Cambridge. The automatic preflight test found a problem with the GPS reception which was traced to epoxy covering part of the antenna connection and causing an intermittent contact - with that resolved, the electronics all checked out perfectly.

The balloon was filled with enough helium to lift the payload and an additional 600g of "excess lift" to encourage a speedy ascent at about 5 meters per second. As a balloon rises it expands and the ascent rate decreases only slightly, so it will keep on rising until it bursts which it did exactly two hours after liftoff at an altitude of 32.2km or 105,600 ft above sea level. The descent was initially rapid in the thin air, reaching a peak descent rate of 45m/s, 100mph. Once the parachute had fully opened and the air thickened the descent rate fell to a terminal velocity of 5.5m/s, 12mph. Nova 1 landed 2 hours, 46 minutes after liftoff in a field near Great Livermore, 7km north of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. From the ground we tracked the balloon visually until it was at about 5km altitude. The data radio was beginning to get weaker signals at about 17km altitude and cut out altogether at 20km altitude; at present this is believed to be due to low temperature affecting the frequency of the crystal oscillator. The morse code transmitter was clearly audible throughout the flight until the antenna connection on our receiver physically broke off while the payload was at 5km during its descent.

After plotting the track from the telemetry on computer mapping software we determined that it was heading east and followed it in a car to Bury St Edmunds with the Yagi antenna held out of the sunroof. A text message came through from the mobile phone once the payload was on the ground with the precise coordinates, making recovery easy.