UKHAS Amateur Balloon Conference 2012


Balloon from BALSAMINE with Mini Moke - 1979, LMD France

The United Kingdom High Altitude Society’s 2nd Annual Conference, Sept 22, 2012, in London, UK, will feature high altitude balloon talks from several balloonists, including myself, this year in person!  I gave a talk last year on a few challenges facing small superpressure balloon development.  Since then I have discovered much an incredible amount of historical information on the subject.  This year I will be speaking about the fascinating engineering history of hundreds of small superpressure balloon test flights that have taken place around the world since 1950.

Watch live at the UKHAS conference page.  After the conference, expect video, slides and references on that site, as well as my ballooning advice website, High Altitude Balloon Consulting.


SpeedBall-1 Has Great Flight

SpeedBall-1 “Lally” was the culmination of 2 years of very hard volunteer work. The flight flew as a test flight to see if our engineering worked, even though we had run out of time to do the really good science that could have been done.

More details will be posted soon, in the mean time check out for the flight data.

Launch Announcement – SpeedBall-1:The Real Deal!

I’m Proud to announce the first, and possibly only major flight of White Star, our pride and joy, on the cutting edge of amateur science and engineering, SpeedBall-1, “Lally“:

Link for live video stream and chat will appear here.

Tracking page:  (note this may show (and be marked as)simulated testing data up until about 5PM ET Saturday.

Launch time: 7:45PM ET Saturday (2345 UTC 12 May) 10:00PM ET (02:00 UTC) May 12th.

Launch Location: Spaceport Indiana (KBAK Airport)

Cruise Altitude: 70,000 ft  (We’re movin’ on up!)

Flight Duration Expected: 24-72 hours

Estimated Ground Track:  Very slow wandering around the middle USA for several days.

Balloon System: A hybrid floater, with a latex balloon doing the heavy lifting to 21km altitude, far above the ZP’s original design altitude of 10km.  The ZP will still provide the function of venting helium to arrest the climb and establish a float.

  •  Zero Pressure Polyethylene envelope, 660 ft^3, custom made Global Western design, with White-star designed one-way plate valve, featuring a silicone seat, and PVC pipe port at the top for He temp sensor.
  • Latex envelope, 1600g, Hwoyee latex tow balloon balloon courtesy of WB8ELK, Bill Brown.

Payloads of note: 

  • Remotely triggerable Go Pro Camera (Simultaneous wide angle view of both balloon above and horizon/ground in front)
  • Supervising AVR Flight Computer communicating with 3 Arduino modules via I2C, including SatcomController (Mega 2560), SensorController(FIO), and BallastController(Boarduino)
  • Iridium-Arduino Satellite Communication Shield by White Star with command uplinking and adjustable telemetry intervals
  • Nichrome deadman cutdown by Carl Lyster, WA4ADG
  • ZP balloon lift gas anti-dilution valve by Gary Flispart
  • 54 Energizer Lithium AA Batteries
  • 5.5lbs of C2H6O ballast in a SNOX-style electric solenoid drain ballast bottle
  • Humidity Sensor
  • Cloud particle sensor
  • Temperature sensors
  • Helium internal temperature sensor
  • Raw battery pack voltage sensor


Lift Helium proudly provided by SpacePort Indiana and Praxair Gases.

White Star Balloon Valve Vacuum Test Video

We have been fairly quiet publicly, but many subsystems are coming to completion rapidly, including the  helium gas overflow vent valve.  Completion of anything flying on a ballon means it’s time to do some science!  Tests must be done, data must be noted, hypotheses checked.  Gary Flispart and I put together a detailed technical video explanation of the vacuum leak test system we’ve made.

Stay tuned for more updates at , we are on track to launch in the next month or two!

Dan Bowen
White Star Team Lead

SPITBall-1 Flight Initial Recap

Hi All, the flight of the SuperPressure Initiated Termination Balloon Flight 1 was successful as far as we can tell so far.  We don’t know for sure because we haven’t gotten the SD cards that hold the video and science data on them.  Technical results as they come in over the next week will be posted on our wiki site, here.

With just skeleton assembly, launch and mission control crews preparations for this flight had to be less organized than we’ve done in the past for SpeedBall flight attempts.  We allowed for that by targeting an early launch time, with plenty of daylight left for schedule slip.

The massive zero pressure balloon was launched from SpacePort Indiana around 3:30 PM EST, by having the payload support crew run with the wind as soon as they released the balloon, allowing the balloon to rise straight up as it lifted each payload.

The balloon landed about 1.5 hours later on a family’s home in Miamisburg OH and was recovered shortly after.  The family made a youtube video of the balloon on the house!

Thanks to all who helped!   Some science observations follow.  The three pics above were emailed to us by the recovery crew in Ohio.   More pics available on Flickr here.

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