Weather Ballooning in the White Mountains


I just returned from three weeks on the road, the latter two of which I was helping out on the Northeast leg of the SparkFun National Tour! On tour I lived with Jeff and Dav out of the awesome 29-foot RV and taught workshops in a handful of states to a bunch of different folks ranging from librarians to Yale. We had a day off in a rural part of New Hampshire, and we thought it might be a good idea to launch and track a weather balloon!

I’m no stranger to high altitude projects, and recently even sent a SparkFun box up to 130,000 feet, so I thought it would make a great project on our rest day. Nice and easy. We had done a workshop with a nice guy named Bill Church, and he and some high school students he works with are interested in putting a launch of their own together. What a perfect way to get some folks involved and interested!

Needless to say, putting a big project like this together at the last minute is nerve-wracking and probably not a good idea. But bad ideas have never stopped me before, and Jeff was super keen on getting a balloon in the air. Why not?

Long story short, we ran some predictions the day of and found that the payload would have gone straight into the Atlantic, so we fashioned a cut-down device on the morning of the launch. I don’t want to ruin the full story, but I’ll just say that the payload was tough to track in the mountains and the recovery location was interesting.

But the mountains and the changing of the leaves made a fantastic chase!

Lake/Yagi
Chasing a payload

And we got some great views of the lovely town of Bethlehem, New Hampshire.

Fall
View from Above Bethlehem, NH

Read the full story, complete with all the pretty pictures, over on my personal site.


Comments 17 comments

  • An “Oh My” Fact for you all. The height of the mountain they climbed was about 300 feet lower than Longmont, CO (about 10 miles north of SFE’s offices).

  • Whew. Nice launch Dave! Love the photos. Thanks for writing up the adventure!

  • It was a real pleasure meeting Dave at the Vermont Mini-Maker Fair–he gave me an update on flood recovery there in Boulder. Glad the Sparkfun team could get out and enjoy a bit of New England foliage and some Tuckerman brew.

  • Some notes on the tech would be interesting - radio\antenna(e)\cut-away and so on…

  • You got it back this time! Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.

  • Whoa. Getting an entire HAB up in a day? Impressive. Kudos, and awesome pictures!

  • WOOO!!! +1 for being in NH!!! (totally not an NH resident………)

  • Nice blog writing. Really enjoyed the story.

    Some day I want to launch a weather balloon. It’s like the lay-mans space race.

    I wonder if you could make a weather balloon platform stable enough to launch a smallish model rocket. Reason for asking is many moons ago I purchased a rocket from a long defunct company called the “Mach Buster”. Supposably able to break the sound barrier and go a mile up. It’s basically a casing for a G engine. I suspect launching said rocket at such an altitude would probably go pretty damn high. However fitting small enough electronics on it to determine how high it actually went (and report back since I’d probably never see it again) would be challenging.

    Hmm I found a website for the rocket… http://www.rocketreviews.com/mach-buster—rocket-vision.html

    • Google up on “rockoon”, there’s definitely a following of folks looking to do just that!

      • the name rockoon makes me think of the song Rocky the Racoon, which then makes me think of Rocky and Bullwinkle, although I know not related to the song at all :).

        Thanks for info.

        Question is even if I got all the weather balloon thing going would I be willing to sacrifice my now collectors Mach buster. :D.

  • What a beautiful mountains and lake

  • Nice! Congrats on another successful flight… it’s always nice when the last-minute mechanical design (and associated code change) works. Well done.

  • How did that steak dinner taste?

    • It turned out to be a hamburger at The Mt. Washington Inn, they tried to convince us that the establishments further along the highway might be a better choice. We would have none of it. We were sweaty and jubilant and soon a crowd of people had gathered around Dave’s laptop to view pictures and ask questions. We told and retold the tale into the night until I had to drag everyone from the bar and load them into the Rv for the next adventure.We can’t wait to go back.


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