Here are some photos from the February 11, 2012, Launch Preparation.
The BLT-28 Launch Preparation begins in ernest! The excitement is HIGH and HUNDREDS of hams are READY to FLY! Do I have the right photo? Anyway, we finally found a spot on the south side of the old rice silos at No Label Brewery that was protected from wind and wasn't under water. Helium King Charlie K5ENG is absolutely CAMPED OUT. Helium Czar Darrell KC5JAR carried the tank out to the final spot. We tried to help, but Darrel had most of the weight.
We found Payload Master Thomas KT5TK having a brew with Astrid on the other side of the silos. We convinced him that it would be a good idea to check out the precision scale power system. It was simple... First you have a 12 VDC battery. Convert that to 110 VAC. Transform that to 220 VAC. Finally add one PSU to provide 49 VDC to the scale... Yes, it worked, but testing is good under these conditions. Thomas has done some INCREDIBLE software for the flight. I don't even want to ask how many hours/days/weeks he has invested in this project... IMPRESSIVE...
More diehard balloonatics are beginning to congregate! We have an extra tarp from Mike Richardson to protect the ballon during the early filling process. This Chinese 2000 gram balloon was NOT cheap. The final cost was $250! The K6RPT crew likes these balloons. So do we.
Payload Master Tom K5SAF discusses radio with Ray while setting up a nice 2M receive system with radio, PC and Yagi. We want to collect as many APRS beacons as possible during the early stages of the flight. Moises, Elba and Candy K9TEX have beverages in hand and look on with others. Moises wants to get in the fray, but first a brew, and then the latex gloves.
High Coordinator Andy W5ACM wants things to GET ROLLING! Let's put some GAS in this thing!
We do. This is our first time to try a really big balloon with a really light payload. It's VERY different! There is a slight breeze and we have to keep the balloon stable during inflation. Charlie is doing a great job with the helium, and Ron AG5RS is helping out.
Meanwhile, on the OTHER side of the silos, the party is in full force! Live entertainment, great catered food and Great Beer! The final count for the day was over 500 brewery attendees. About 200 came over for the flight. The weather was exceptional considering the previous rains and the frigid temperatures that followed on the next day.
Just WHO is this guy, where did he come from, and why is he checking out our endeavor??? Are those GUNS?!? Is that a USA flag on the tail, or WHAT??? You don't think... Naw... Hmmm... Just how high can a helicopter fly anyway???
Things are getting SERIOUS! Is Moises praying, or just hanging on to the balloon? We over-gassed it. In order to get down to a free-lift level of 125 grams, we had to undo knots, open it back up, and squeeze out some He juice. We did - TWICE. Tom K5SAF has his system READY to record all packets. We are almost ready.
Here it is! We have adjusted the free-lift value to about 125 grams. We are sealing things off for the last time! The preparation for flight is complete! Charlie is still barking orders and Payload Master John AB5SS is now part of the balloon balancing team, but it is looking really good! The estimated lift rate should start just below 200-ft per minute, and perhaps bump up a bit to just over 200-ft per minute when things get going. John likes these numbers. He has been doing a lot of calculations for the optimum rise rate. But first, we have to clear the trees, power lines and buildings... The good news is that we will get a "running start" with an excellent vertical rise until we clear the tops of the silos. This is complicated!
Launch happened at 3:19 PM on February 11, 2012, from the No Label Brewery in Katy, Texas!!! We were THERE!!!