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CNNSP-09 (02-Sep-2007)

Launch Time:  14:01 UTC
Launch Location:  Grand Island, NE
Max. Altitude:  96,949 feet
Max. Speed:  48 mph
Avg. Speed: 12 mph
Avg. Ascent Rate:  1239 ft/min
Avg. Descent Rate:  4834 ft/min
Flight Duration:  2 hrs, 17 min
Distance (Great Circle):  2.13 miles

Tracks - actual vs. predicted
There are days when you should just stay in bed. This would have been one of them. My last minute decision to move the launch site back to Walnut Middle School from DoniphanNE was not the smartest thing I've ever done. I was concerned because the predicted landing was very close to Interstate 80 from the Doniphan launch site. I figured launching from Grand Island would take care of that, and it did.

We had a great turn out for the launch. I'm always excited when we have more people interested in the hobby. I finally got to meet Chris AC0DN from ColumbusNE (about 60 miles northeast of Grand Island). He had made the drive out early that morning to help with and observe the launch. Chris and I had never met face to face until Sunday. We've spoken a few times on 75 meters, but this was a first. Chris is a great guy and I hope to see him more often. As I prepped the payloads prior to starting the inflation process, dark clouds loomed to our northwest and the rumble of thunder was heard in the distance. That should have been a sign, but I pressed on. I had reprogrammed the Basic Stamp to take pictures every 30 seconds and had a brand new 1 GB card in the camera and had it properly positioned. I thought I would have hundreds of cool photos this time. Unfortunately in my haste, I neglected to turn off the flash and the lithium batteries were toast after 200 pictures. Didn't even make it to burst. I've been working on a cut down system, to get rid of the balloon soon after it bursts. This keeps it from tangling in the parachute cord and load line during the post-burst chaos. I wish I had finished that project, but after this...it's been moved to the top of the priority list.

We stayed put at Walnut Middle School until the balloon burst. Once it burst, we stopped receiving the KC0ZWX APRS beacon. We found out later it was due to the antenna, connectors, and adapters, being torn away from the coax. The majority of the balloon flight took place directly over Grand Island and the landing wasn't much of an exception. Once we realized the payloads were hurdling towards the Earth at a faster than normal rate, we got into our vehicles to start the chase. It looked at one point like the payloads might actually land outside the city limits, but that didn't happen. Fortunately they came to a crashing halt on the east edge of the city. It narrowly missed power lines, trees, houses, cars, and people. The Styrofoam soaked up the energy and saved the electronics, the parachute and load lines were a knotted mess, and the balloon and antenna were nowhere in sight. I won’t put much faith in the summer time forecast predictions after this near-miss. I guess this flight would be Chapter 9 of the lessons I’ve learned.