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Science in Action

The above headline and the following article as well as a picture of the balloon being launched appeared on the front page of the Sunday Pueblo Chieftain after our Saturday Oct 22nd launch. Another article on the same page was used in a state political T.V. advertisement so our balloon picture had a lot of T.V. exposure.-ed.


The whitish rubber balloon stretched and warped with each gust of wind Saturday morning as two men from the Edge of Space Science group held it to earth, waiting for the signal to release it into the crystal blue sky over the University of Southern Colorado. Around them were dozens of Pitts Middle School students and their parents, watching expectantly for the signal that would send the high-altitude test balloon up.

Attached to the balloon was a long tail of equipment including a tiny television camera that would record the balloon's flight to nearly 100,000 feet. Further along the tail were two experiments created by students in Pitts' New Generation Team program.

- The first would measure ozone layers at various altitudes between 50,000 and 100,000 feet.

- The second would measure the effect of altitude on the electrical output of several small solar collecting panels that were connected to some measuring equipment.

At 10:05 am., the signal came and the balloon was let go. As the students cheered, the balloon leaped upwards, swept over the campus and then climbed into the deep blue sky. The entire fight would last several hours with the balloon being recovered about 50 miles east of Pueblo.

Lou Lile, one of the two New Generation teachers at Pitts, credited the Alliance between District 60 and USC with making Saturday's experiment possible. He said assistant professor Jerry Sweet not only contributed time but sent engineering technology students to Pitts to help the students design their experiments.

"We hear a lot about what the Alliance is doing in the district, but this is a case where there was a direct connection with the classroom," he said. "My students will be working with the data for some time."

The balloon expertise was provided by the Edge of Space Science organization, which is based in Denver and is made up of scientists and hobbyists. They provided the high altitude balloon and the tracking equipment.

Martin Tressell, of the Pueblo Teachers Credit Union, is a member of EOSS and he got the New Generation Team involved with the launch. He also organized a fund-raising campaign to purchase the small television camera that was attached to the balloon.

Merle McCaslin, who retired from Martin Marietta two years ago, headed up the EOSS team that launched the balloon.

"Our basic idea is to let students see science in action. This gives them a chance to see how real research gets done and to participate in it," he said.

Around McCaslin, Pitts students and their parents were watching two television monitors that showed the swirling, twisting pictures of Pueblo being sent down from the tiny television camera hanging beneath the balloon. At that moment, the balloon was 7,000 feet over the city and gaining about 1,000 feet per minute.

McCaslin explained that once the balloon neared 100,000 feet, it would burst. A parachute was attached to the tail, however, and would bring the science equipment down safely.

The New Generation Team is a school-within-a-school program at Pitts made up of sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Lile said the 60 students divided up into teams to participate in all aspects of the flight, from launching the balloon to designing the experiments.

The ozone experiment consisted of a plastic box containing a tiny balloon and some test papers that would change color as they were exposed to various concentrations of ozone. The low atmospheric pressure at 50,000 feet would allow the balloon to expand and open the box lid, exposing the paper. Similarly, the box would close again as the test kit fell below 50,000 feet.

At least that was the plan, according to the students who designed it.

"And we'll be able to watch with the television camera to see if it's working properly," said Sam Pannunzio, one of the students. The other students who worked on the project were Dylan Lile, Zach Johnson, Phil Urban, Jamin Aragon, and Doug Baker.

The solar collector experiment was a little more complicated and Nathaniel Hendrix and Jon Valentine simplified the explanation by just saying that it would test the voltage output of the solar panels at various altitudes. The other members of their team were Andrew Rozmiarek, Brad Gerler, Josh Janoski, Jennifer Fox and Charlotte Bobian.

Watching the television images was a little tough, however. The camera spun as it dangled, sending back swirling pictures of the ground. Of course a tape of the flight could be stopped at any point for study, but watching the live images was a little rough on the stomach.

Lile laughed when he looked at the television pictures.

"That's our project for the next flight," he said. "Figuring out a way to stabilize that camera."

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Ballooning over Argentina


This paper presents a brief description of the flights of balloons over Argentina since 1990 when the first amateur radio balloon was launched. For these flights, we used Kaysam 78G balloons which are easy to obtain. All of the equipment was homebrew as that made more economic sense for these initial experiences.

As you will read, all the payloads were lost over the Rio de La Plata (the broadest river in the world). Financial aspects don't allow searches extending beyond this balloon eating river.

Very recently an EOSS member forwarded via internet the Balltrak program for use as an aid in finding our payloads.

The First Flight

The first launch of a amateur radio balloon was on June 24 of 1990. The "Pampero" balloon experiment was successful. It was launched from Ezeiza International Airport. The flight lasted for nearly three hours. The balloon carried telemetry and beacon identifications. The frequencies used were VHF 2m FM mode and HF 10m CW mode.

The telemetry format was CW ID by tone. The first audio tone of 4 seconds indicated battery voltage and a second tone of 4 seconds for internal temperature, and the cycle restart on VHF. On HF, we flew a CW identification beacon.

During the flight, reports were received from stations more than 300 km away. The maximum estimated altitude was 20 km.

The last signals transmitted by the payload plotted the package's location at Rio de la Plata, near the Uruguay coast. It never was found.

The package was built by Jose Machao, LU7JCN, with the help of many hams from La Plata.

The Next Flights

This was the first balloon cluster that we launched. It consisted of three little balloons and was launched May 05 of 1991 from Guernica, 20 miles southeast of Buenos Aires.

The AUSTRO-1 experiment consisted of a homebrew CW beacon on VHF with only 20 mW of RF power output with a codestore that permitted the loading of a message. The flight lasted nearly two hours. Reports were received from stations 300 km away in Uruguay and Argentina. The last signals received plotted the beacon at the Rio de la Plata. The payload never was found.

The payload was made by Daniel Dodino, LU9DOG and LW2DTZ.

AUSTRO-2, a second balloon cluster was launched. It consisted of two balloons and was launched again from Guernica on September of 1991. The "AUSTRO-2" carried three homebrew beacons on HF, 10 meter; VHF, 2 meter and UHF, 70 cm. The payload was made by LU7JCN, LU9DOG, LU3EMK and LW2DTZ. We used the same codestore that flew on the previous flight and sent a long message on all the three bands. Very interesting observations in propagation were made.

The total flight duration was 3 hours, and nearly 50 hams participated in the event. The payload was lost in the Rio de la Plata.

PAMPERO-2 was launched from the campus of La Plata Engineering University in La Plata, approximately 30 miles southeast of Buenos Aires.

The payload sported a 2m FM transmitter a CW ID tone and a light sensor mounted over the +Z (top) face of the box. The light sensor sent a tone during the flight which was used to determine the attitude of the payload. It was very interesting to listen to this tone when the balloon burst and started its fall to the ground.

PAMPERO-3, (LU7JCN) This was the first cross band FM repeater launch. The original design included a two tone telemetry system that sent inside temperature and battery voltage. Some difficulties caused us to remove the telemetry module. The repeater was a 2m FM transmitter used for the downlink and 10m FM receiver for the uplink.

During the flight, possibly due to very cold temperature, the transmitter turned off. We experienced loss of signal (LOS) at about 90 minutes after lift off from the campus of La Plata Engineering University.

PAMPERO-4 and 5,(Hugo Lorente, LU4DXT, & LU7JCN) Both of these payloads flew with the same general configuration as flight number three, but with a more resistant payload container to insulate the experiments from the intense cold. Hams from Argentina and Uruguay operated through the repeater from as far away as 600 miles, perhaps a few even further away. The payload was lost over the Rio de La Plata.

CORDOBA-1, (Catholic University of Cordoba, LU9HXV), This was the first lift off of an amateur balloon from this part of Argentina. Cordoba, has terrain very similar to the state of Colorado in the US. The payload was constructed by students from the University using a basic meteorological radiosonde. The telemetry carried downlinked in/out side temperature, barometric pressure and humidity using audio tones via a 2m FM transmitter. This payload was lost.


During the flights, we used either a frequency in the 40m band or the 2m band for our launch information net. Listening to reports of the balloon's signals from stations far from the launch site was very interesting.

The Future

At this time some new informal groups are working on simple payloads. Plans are afoot for a ROKCOON (rocket) flight, placing a little rig in space for a few seconds near an altitude of 160 miles. For this flight we are planning to use a cluster of balloons and powerful rocket motor; a live TV camera and a photographic camera are planned payloads.

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EOSS-19 Flight

On Saturday, October 22, 1994, E.O.S.S. teamed up with Pueblo Pitts Middle School's New Generation Team (N.G.T.) to launch their nineteenth high altitude, helium filled balloon. N.G.T. is a school within a school which began this fall. It consists of sixty, 6th, 7th and 8th graders integrated into math, science, social studies and English. The programs individualized, interdisciplinary curriculum together with flexible blocks of time lends itself nicely to partnerships like the one developed with E.O.S.S. and the University of Southern Colorado (U.S.C.).

Launch number 19 went 88,000 feet into the air before it burst and came down north of Jon Martin Reservoir (southeast of Pueblo). On the balloon's payload were two experiments created by N.G.T. students. One was to test solar cell efficiency at high altitudes, and the other tested ozone pollution above 50,000 feet. The balloon launch took place at the University of Southern Colorado campus. Dr. Jerry Sweet, a professor at U.S.C. coordinated efforts between the E.O.S.S, N.G.T. students and the university.

The N.G.T. students had eight different teams, each with its own responsibilities. For example, their public relations team was in charge of informing the public about the balloon launch before it took place, inviting people to attend, and keeping all that attended informed about what was going on around them. On the P.R. team were Sean Baca, Katie Fimple, Stacy Haptonstah, Paula Lund, Trish Pacheco, Jeremiah Shields, and Kristen Stewart.

A second group of kids to create and experiment was the ozone pollution team. Members were Jamin Aragon, Doug Baker, C.W. Davis, Zach Johnson, Dylan Lile, Sam Pannunzio, and Phil Urban. Their job was to create a device that exposed ozone paper (paper that chemically reacts to ozone pollution) to the atmosphere at 50,000 feet and above. The ozone kit was donated by Science Kit and Boreal Laboratories, a national science supply company that the N.G.T. does much business with. With only five days to work on the project, the team came up with an amazingly simple device that actually worked. The results may have been altered, though, because when the device hit the ground, it cracked and let air inside while the shuttle was waiting to be recovered. The team is continuing to work on a device which would withstand the payload's impact, and which could possibly be used on a future launch.

The solar cell team's experiment linked solar cells together in a series. Mike Manes (EOSS member) linked the solar cells to the shuttle. It relayed temperature readings back to computers at the ground control center. This team was composed of Charlotte Bobian, Jennifer Fox, Brad Gerler, Nathan Hendrix, Josh Janoski, Andrew Rozmiarek and Jon Valentine. The team converted the temperature to voltage, and plotted it on a graph throughout the flight as they discovered that the voltage varied with altitude changes.

The balloon helpers team assisted Merle McCaslin with the balloon itself, and among other things ensured that it would not be damaged prior to and during the launch. The team helped transport and stabilize the balloon, which was being battered by sudden high winds just before the launch. They were totally excited with this opportunity!

Mr. McCaslin showed Hannah Cruz, Monica Garcia, Chris Gronbach, Mark Lucero, Jimmy Sims, Nick Vegas and Jodie Wodiuk how to use the helium and all of the other equipment needed to get the balloon ready for flight.

The launch helpers team was in charge of the launch check list. Monique Brasselero, Stephanie Bravo, Sheri Dougherty, Matt Gomez, and Jon Ybarra went around the launch site making sure all the other teams did their jobs so the balloon launch and flight would be a success. After everything was checked, the launch team told the balloon launchers to send the balloon on its way.

The radio operations team consisted of five N.G.T. students: Lori Branham (team leader), Kristal Baca, Nathan Archuletta, Grant Morris, and Clint Housh. They actually monitored some radio communication as well as the balloon's position via LORAN C. This information was sent to the command center, which relayed it to the tracking and recovery team, letting them know if the balloon's location had changed. This process occurred every thirty seconds until the payload landed.

The tracking and recovery team was responsible for knowing where the balloon was at all times, by plotting its latitude, longitude, and altitude. Although the global positioning system (G.P.S.) had limited use on this launch, N.G.T. students were familiar with its potential thanks to U.S.C. engineering student Marco Vegas, who brought a setup to school a week earlier and actually demonstrated its use to the kids. Students who helped the E.O.S.S. team track and recover shuttle nineteen were Matthew Carpenter, Tressa Channel, Rebecca Chase, Chris Ferry, Nicole Gist, Christi Kurtz and Andy Nesbitt.

In preparation for their role in the balloon launch, student members of the latitude and longitude team learned how to plot positions on a map using latitude and longitude coordinates, and did so virtually throughout the flight. Students were patiently assisted with this job by E.O.S.S.'s Tom Isenberg who was in charge of monitoring the position of the balloon as he relayed its coordinates to the "fox team" in the field. Student members were Andrea Cochran, Eli Dingman, Keira Martinez, Isabelle Ortivez, Judy Pacheco, and Dynel Smith.

This balloon launch was definitely a first for the students of Pitts New Generation Team. Many people helped make it possible, not the least of whom were all the E.O.S.S. members who brought the launch to Pueblo, and allowed the N.G.T. students to take part.

Martin Tressell arranged the fund raising to provide the first color video camera ever on an E.O.S.S. flight.

Dr. Sweet of U.S.C. provided the N.G.T. with four excellent engineering students -- Marco vegas, Jackie Meinzer, Dan Cardinal, Pat Valdez and Bryan Kinsey. They actually came into the N.G.T. at Pitts for several weeks prior to the launch to assist our students in preparations for the launch, and also arranged for several departments at the university to be open on launch day so the students could learn about U.S.C. when they were not immediately occupied with launch business.

Todd Seip of KCSJ news radio lent his expertise to the students on the public relations team.

Don Middleton, a former U.S.C. professor spent time with the radio operations team, sharing his wisdom about Ham Radio.

Marty Griffin and Merle McCaslin came down from Denver to present the program to the N.G.T. students and got them started. Countless parents worked with teams of students, on the day of the launch, and before. They were just as excited as the students.

Middle School principal Lynda Quillen allowed the N.G.T. students to have the Friday before the launch off, since they would be at the balloon launch all day Saturday.

Lou Lile, Cathy Blackmore, and Toni Vensor, the teachers of the New Generation Team, guided the effort to coordinate school curriculum with this "real-life", scientific event.

Without the efforts of these, and other people together with the tremendous effort put forth by the Pitts New Generation Team students themselves, this joint effort would never (pardon the pun) have gotten off the ground!

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EOSS and US Air Force Academy Join Forces in Balloon Flight

The US Air Force Academy has asked EOSS to act as their sub contractor to test various methods of determining altitude. This is part of the US Air Force Academy's curricula that introduces cadets to the intricacies of project management. The instructor, Captain Bill Nace, has given the cadets the task of confirming which of four methods of determining altitude is most accurate. A device has been given to the students which has a barometric altitude sensor with the four different outputs. The students will contract an organization to take their device to altitude and downlink the telemetry of the four outputs of their device. EOSS will provide the lift for the cadets.

The flight of EOSS-20 is scheduled for December 3rd from the parade grounds of the Air Force Academy. This will also be the maiden flight of EOSS's Shuttle II and the second flight of our new color camera. Shuttle II will have GPS (Global Positioning System) on board for the first time. The cadets will use the altitude readings from the onboard GPS, which will be time stamped, as the standard with which they will compare their readings.

In addition to the Air Force Academy balloon, there may also be a flight with High Altitude Balloon Experiments (HABET) the balloon group from Iowa. They will be coming to town to fly along with us at the Academy if all goes well with getting the necessary permissions, etc. They too will have GPS on their payload and are looking to demonstrate new software they are working on. Their new software is CD-ROM based. It should receive the packet GPS information from the payload and display their positions on a map on the computer screen. The HABET group will have demo software for those who have CD-ROM drives on their computers and would like to try it out.

Please plan to be there. This is a great chance to check out new technology, get some free software and join in launching two balloons and (hopefully) recovering two payloads. Come join us at the Air Force Academy.

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Part II of 11/94 Stratosphere