The Balloon Launch Project

Balloon project payload housing and spare GPS parts

Balloon project payload housing and spare GPS parts

I’m forming a group to work on a balloon-launch project. With a tentative launch date of June 2013, we plan to launch a weather balloon-powered payload to the mid-stratosphere, take measurements, and recover it.

The first question I always get is “Why”, and I invariably look up, seeking the depths of the sky for an answer. George Mallory, one of the first hikers to climb Mount Everest, was once asked why he felt compelled to climb the world’s highest peak. His famous answer was “Because it’s there”. Those that have ever felt the call of the explorer know how irresistible that is. I’ve come to love hearing people tell me “Well, people have done that before.” True, but *we* have not. Not yet, but we will.

We will not be the first to get to this altitude, nor will we be the last, but it isn’t a trivial task. For the trouble we’re going through to try to achieve our goals, we’re serious about doing some science while we’re there. Up there, we’ll be outside of typical FAA flight zones – this airspace is usually reserved for military use. We know its cold, we know the air is thin, but we also know it’s beautiful up there – a silent and rareified place where, in the words of Felix Baumgartner, you feel as if “you’re on top of the world.” We will collect temperature measurements, pressure measurements, and, of course, take some pictures. We will have the rare opportunity to change our perspective on the world for a little while, and maybe even make some ‘firsts’ while we do it.

In the end we’ve got so much going for us: a legacy of flights to build and improve upon, a hackerspace full of know-how and ingenuity, and the patience to know that we may fail here and there, but what we learn will get us to our goal with that much more experience.

We’re always excited to hear from people who are inspired by this project and we welcome anyone who wants to join the group, learn how to move the project forward, and contribute to the team effort.

8 replies
  1. allen says:

    Came across an article about South Korean activists sending balloons across the border into North Korea and what struck me was the balloons they used.

    They don’t use latex weather balloons but what appears to be lengths of very thin plastic film in tubular form, like maybe the stuff dry cleaners use, tied at both ends. I’m going to guess that the stuff is cheaper then latex weather balloons and, coming of a roll, is more flexible in that if you want more lifting power you just use a longer piece of plastic.

    Here’s a link –

  2. Ron says:

    Can we put LED’s and EL wire all over the balloon so it gets on the news as a UFO? lol…. has some $18 weather balloons. They, or a similar site, had some really long 30+ foot tubular ones a few years ago, but I do not see them now…

  3. Brad says:

    You are welcome. Let me know how things are developing. I would like to get involved if I have time.

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