Volume 5, Issue 1 --- March, 1995

This is the electronic version of the Stratosphere Newsletter. Occasionally final editing is done to the actual layout of the newsletter and spelling checks, and other corrections may not make it into this edition. The content is complete (except for graphics).


EOSS Debuts on the Internet!!

OK, we've talked about it for months, years even. And it's finally here. EOSS now has its own home page on the internet. There are lots of ways to make your presence known on the internet. You can start up your own full time node for thousands of bucks, and hundreds in monthly expenses. You can "rent" space on another machine for an FTP, WWW site costing big bucks too. Or, you can create a home page for "free". Well, that last one isn't exactly free. You need an account and enough disk space on that account to hold the material but once you've done that it's no extra charge. I've been on Internet Express for the past year. I have the space. So ... I did it.

Why did it take so long?

Well, I really didn't have a good connection into the internet until recently. Previously, I had a shell account. You call a number and connect to a BBS like interface. This type of access doesn't allow for Mosaic browsers (the best way to surf the internet see figure 1). Now, I've got that capability! In my case it's called PPP (Point to Point Protocol). It connects my computer DIRECTLY to the internet and I can go anywhere and see and HEAR anything that I have privileges to. Some areas do require passwords and accounts. And, thanks to Tom Isenberg's relentless exploration of his account, it was revealed that I could indeed create a home for EOSS.

EOSS Website in NCSA Mosaic web browser (one of the first Graphic based browsers)

How do you get there?

Well, you need at least a real internet account that offers some type of WWW browsing software. Most systems offer text based browsers on their systems. One of the most popular is "LYNX". Poke around your system and look for WWW. The best way to get online to the EOSS Home Page is to use a fully graphic interface. To do that you need a SLIP, CSLIP or PPP account that connects your computer directly to the net. Once you're in a browser you need to give that program an address to go look for information. The EOSS Home Page is located at:

note: Old time users may expect a file extension of html. Don't worry, this extension should work fine with all machines. It just means I created my pages on a Windows system. That character before rickvg is a tilde(~). It's located above the tab key on my keyboard. On yours ... who knows.

When you give this address to the browser you're transported across the internet to the home page located in my user area. The page is displayed on your screen. If you're using a graphic browser you'll see the EOSS LOGO, a title, and a table of contents. It's possible to link navigational commands to text (hypertext) in this system. So, you can point your mouse cursor (graphic system) or use your cursor control keys to "point" to hot links. Pressing a down arrow will consecutively highlight different items moving down the table of contents. Pressing the up arrow key will move the highlight back up the list. The cursor jumps to the next hotlink in the text so it may jump up a page skipping over lots of text. This is normal operation. Pressing a right arrow or hitting the enter key or mouse button 1 (usually the left button) clicking will activate that navigational link and move you to the area of interest. Where ever you move to, you can always go back at least one step to the previous location. In a text based system you hit the left arrow key. On a graphic system there's usually a "back" icon. Well, this announcement isn't meant as an HTML primer. It's all highly intuitive. Just get in there and jump around. The EOSS home pages have been up on the internet for over a month now. In that time, I've added LOTS of information. Back issues of the Electronic Version of the "Stratosphere" are available back to February of 1993, there are flight recaps for ALL flights, a videotape library is listed, there are several pictures, there is a series of graphs from one flight and there are links to other areas of interest to high altitude ballooners. If you have any suggestions, or discover any problems, email me at and I'll take care of them. That's it folks. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

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The Recovery of the EOSS-20 Beacon

The following experience from Flight 20's beacon recovery is offered as some "Lessons Learned" to improve both the success and safety of future recoveries. These lessons were learned during a difficult recovery. After the balloon burst, we rapidly lost all communication with the package including the beacon. The only trackable signal was the weak and sporadic ATV signal that could be heard on occasion. As a result, there was little that could be done to predict a landing spot since bearings could not be taken during the parachute descent phase. Also, the recovery area was at the far edge of radio repeater coverage due to a late wind shift that occurred. As a result, the recovery teams had a difficult time communicating and coordinating their efforts. Flight 20's recovery was difficult because of several factors beyond our control. However, there were factors within our control that affected the recovery difficulty and form the following Lessons Learned:


The first thing we did was to head out on foot without anybody knowing exactly where we were with the exception of the airplane. Even we were not sure where we were. Based on a bearing and range from Air 1, we headed into the general vicinity of where Air 1 had regained signal contact. After much driving, we recovered the signal also, but did not know where we were. What had happened is that we had come into the area across some farm fields, and we did not know what road we had happened upon. The maps we were using showed some roads that did not exist, and there were roads that did exist, but were not on the map. This lead to some confusion on our part. In our haste to recover the beacon, which the airplane had spotted, we decided not to take the time to determine where we were.


At this point we told George, NONJM (logistics coordinator), that we were going to walk in 1-1/2 mile or so to retrieve the beacon. This is when we made our second mistake. We left on foot with one hand-held radio. Note we had DF equipment, or extra radio in the event we split up. We acquired the beacon signal on the HT for a while. Well as you might imagine we lost the signal on the HT, and we did split up. I found what I believe the airplane reported as being the beacon caught in a fence. This was after we had split up, with the other part of the team carrying the HT, me without one. It turned out to be some deflated party balloons and streamers. If I had brought my HT along I probably would have heard a strong beacon at this location. As it turned out the beacon was approximately 100 yards West of this location. The team finally rejoined and started walking back to the point where we originally heard the beacon's weak signal on the HT. The signal was recaptured after much walking. After even more hiking with no luck, it was decided to hike back to the vehicle to get another radio and a beam antenna in order to start a third foot search of the area.


Another tracking team, Jack (AAOP) and Mike (NOPEP), joined us from their location about 1/2 mile to the west. We coordinated a triangulation on the beacon, which placed it at the same spot where we had heard it on the HT. So we started heading to that spot for the THIRD time, now convinced that the beacon must be under a log, in a hole, or some such. When we finally came near the triangulation plotted position, the beacon's signal "moved" to the West. It turned out that we were tracking a false signal that was bouncing off the hills. After hiking close to 2 miles further south, the beacon was recovered (finally). Now we only had to walk about 3 miles back to our vehicles.


The sun was setting at time of final recovery and it was getting dark and cold. We even had a difficult time seeing the beacon (suggest reflective paint or strips as sublesson 4A). In the long walk back to the vehicles, it became REAL cold. Fortunately, our discomfort only made us want to move out more quickly, but what if someone stumbled and twisted an ankle or broke a leg, or became lost in the dark? How long would he have had to wait in the increasing cold for some outside help?? If we had put a jacket or sweater in a backpack, a potential hypothermia risk could have been avoided. While hiking back to the vehicle, we had to cross under three barbed wire fences, plus cross fields with numerous potholes in them. The team had two flashlights doing no one any good back in the vehicle. If we had the flashlights, we could see the barbed wire fences better and avoid injury. At the least we could have avoided walking in at least some of the many cowpies in the field. These are some very simple things we plan to do to improve safety and performance in the next recovery. We hope they help other recovery teams, and that the next package drops right next to a state highway, near a restaurant, in the warmth of a sunny afternoon, while emitting a +20dB beacon, and in full visual sight of every recovery team. Probably not. In summary, the location of the beacon was finally found to be:

103deg 10min 30sec West
39deg 8min 45sec North

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As the old saying goes, "There's a first time for everything." The flight of EOSS-15 was the start of many firsts for me.

Before I became a ham radio operator I spent many hours listening on my scanner to folks talk about the latest projects going on at EOSS. The more I listened the more excited I got about what was going on. I became more determined to become a "Ham" and join the group. Don't make the same mistake that I did and assume that you have to be a "Ham" to belong to EOSS. The are many areas that non-hams can get involved in at EOSS.

After I did become a "Ham" I joined the group. This has been the start of many firsts for me. At first I was a little intimidated being surrounded by all these Techies. Here I was in a group with all these people talking about all these high tech things and half the time I didn't have a clue what they were talking about! But I kept listening and learning! At first I thought, "what can I contribute to the group?" But as time went on I soon found out that I didn't need to come into the group with a whole lot of specialized knowledge. Everyone is willing to share their knowledge and experience. Where else could I get the education that I have gotten for only $10 per year. As I sat back and listened, I found that I could contribute something myself. All I needed to do was to speak up and someone was there willing to lend a helping hand. If I wanted to know more about packet radio and how we communicate to the payload, I would ask Mike Manes or Jack Crabtree. If I wanted to know more about how we find the payload I would ask Paul Ternlund or Bob Ragain. If I wanted to know more about the education aspect of EOSS I would ask Tom Isenberg. And if I wanted to know more about....., you get the picture.

Before I decided what area that I wanted to concentrate on I decided to experience several different aspects of EOSS. The first area that I experienced was tracking a payload. Mike Manes spent several hours explaining to me how the process worked, how we got the data and how it was plotted on a map. Then I moved on to the launch process. The first launch that I went to was the launch of EOSS 12A AND 12B. What a day that was, two launches in one day and two very successful recoveries. That was a very nerve racking day but, I learned how this group can improvise and get the launch off and get it recovered. The next area that I experienced was the actual tracking of a payload. I operated from my home and contributed to the tracking and recovery reports. All of the above areas were very interesting. The area that held my interest the most was the technical aspect and the ground station.

I started to have more conversations with Rick von Glahn about the ground station. One launch that I attended I stuck close to Rick and observed the process and decided that this was it. The pressure to put the station together and have it up and running by launch time is something that everyone should experience. The satisfaction doesn't come through until the TALLY-HO is announced and you can take down all the equipment that you just spent the last 3 hours putting together, hovering over and babying along.

I soon decided to take the plunge and store the ground station computer at my home, along with the TNC and the pre-amp. Of course, with the storage responsibilities comes the responsibility to see to it that the equipment is kept in good working order. I have never had a computer in the house so I was curious. Mike Manes brought the equipment over to my home one cold snowy day in November and hooked things up and showed me some basics on how to bring up the computer and I was off.

Soon came the time when EOSS 15 was proposed. Cherry Creek High School wanted to measure radiation at various altitudes. I realized that I was going to have to be at the ground station and have the computer up and running for the launch. For you computer whizzes out there that doesn't sound like much of a task, but for me it was quite a challenge.

Jack Crabtree's insurance company donated a 2 meter radio to EOSS which we used as a command radio for the ground station. Only one catch, the radio didn't work. So again I was plunged into a area that don't know much about, radio repair. Using some of the techniques that I had learned I felt fairly confident that I would be able to make the ground station run.

I spent time learning how the computer worked, and repairing the radio. I built a communication package that consisted of the radio, TNC, and the computer. Testing it many times to make sure that everything was going to work.

Sure enough launch day was finally here. Boy was I nervous. I knew that everything was working fine at home, but would it work at the launch site? I carefully loaded everything into the car the night before, I felt like Santa Claus, making a list and checking it twice. The day of the launch I was up bright and early, 2 a.m.!! I didn't want to be late for the launch. Since the launch wasn't until 9 a.m. I felt pretty sure that I would make it on time.

The drive out to the launch site was agonizing. Every little bump in the road made me twitch. I was a worried about the precious cargo that I had been charged with, but I made it!! Here I was at the launch site. Since I had gotten there a little early, I had some time to finally take a look at the weather. Wow what a beautiful morning. I knew that I was working with a pretty serious group of people, but if they could order a day like today they were really serious.

Slowly but surely people started to show up. I knew that the day was going to be just fine when Merle showed up with the gas and the balloon and asked me if the gates to the field were going to be unlocked. Just about the time that he said that, the gates sort of moved open by themselves. As soon as that happened I knew that everything was going to be okay.

The crew began to show up and the ground station started to take shape. Antennas started to go up and coax started to make its way into the ground station set-up. Everyone pitched in and helped where they could. As the computer was powered up I was relieved to see the Packet program come up on the screen, just where I had left it when I took everything down at home. The nice glow of the command radio and the TNC, when they were powered up, sure was a welcome sight. Nothing to do now but wait for the launch team to announce that the payload was away. As 9 o'clock approached everyone was turning their attention to the launch site but me. My eyes were glued to the computer monitor and to the television monitors looking for any thing strange. Everything was moving right along, packets were coming out every 30 seconds just like they were supposed to, ATV was showing a great picture of everyone hovering around the payload, the Cherry Creek experiment was working as it was supposed to.

Slowly I could see that the payload was gaining altitude, then ever so slightly I could see that we were picking up speed and starting the ascent. As I sit back and remember the pictures that I saw on the monitors, the more it seemed like I was on the payload. Sort of a strange feeling. The flight of EOSS 15 was off the ground and everything was functioning fine. What a relief for everyone. But on this particular flight there was a little more work to be done.

The Cherry Creek experiment was monitored closely for temperature, and the ATV audio had to be monitored for any strange sounds that would let us know that the experiment was in trouble and needed to be shut down. My eyes were still glued to the monitors and I didn't notice for quite sometime that a crowd had gathered around to view the flight from the ground station. Every once and a while an adjustment had to be made to the ATV servo or to the experiment, but mostly it was like we were all just along for a great Saturday morning ride. A lot of questions are asked at the ground station once the package is off the ground. I was glad that I had Rick by my side to answer some of the questions. I was also glad that I had Rick there to take over from time to time. It was like having a co-pilot that you could turn over the controls to when you needed to get up and stretch your legs, or if you just wanted to walk around and see what the students and the crowd thought of the flight so far.

Then, what I considered the moment of truth, the balloon popped. This time we weren't able to get it on ATV but by looking at the monitor you knew that the payload and the experiment was on its way down. As we were moving the camera servo up to look at the payload I think that we were all happy to see the parachute fully opened. Now it was time for the ground station to go into a more relaxed mode of operation. The tracking and recovery team were now in the spotlight.

As the balloon was descending I found my attention turned more to the chatter of our fine lost and found department. As usual our guys were right on top of where the payload was going to land. It sure is a relief to know that after all the hard work that so many people put into this payload that we were just about guaranteed that our precious cargo was going to be returned. There were a few anxious moments on the descent. Especially, when we turned the ATV servo down and we could see a large body of water below the package. But knowing our tracking and recovery team that wouldn't have been a problem.

The last packet came in from the payload as it went below the horizon was the signal to the ground station that it was time to tear down everything we had put together only a couple of hours earlier. For me this was a good feeling. All the equipment that I had spent many hours learning how to operate, fix and test, had worked great. But none of this did I do alone. I would like to thank Rick, Mike, Jack, and Merle just to name a few, for all the help and encouragement that they gave me while I went through this process. It gave me the confidence to jump into more projects that will be coming up.

"There's a first time for everything", and I look forward to a lot more first times.

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Tracking & Recovery Report

It went up.
It came down.
We found it laying on the ground!

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EOSS Takes Air Force Academy Experiment to Record Altitude

Edge of Space Science's twentieth flight (EOSS-20) was launched from the United States Air Force Academy on Dec. 3rd 1994. This flight was in support of the Engineering Class 410 made up of 14 cadets from the senior class of 1995. One of the goals was to work together to accomplish a project that was assigned to them at the beginning of the semester. This class teaches the students about teamwork and the tasks that are incorporated in the life cycle of a project in the Air Force.

They named their project Hot Air Inc. The cadets did the acquisition and management functions for their experiment as well as building the hardware to interface and house the four mode altitude sensor which was government furnished. They operated the sensor in four different modes and this flight was to evaluate the best of these modes. The cadets helped in the launch and in the monitoring of the balloon flight at the ground station. The data from the sensor was down-linked on packet to be evaluated by the cadets at a later date.

The Nav SYS. Company of Monument, Co. was one of the sponsors for this flight and they also flew a GPS package on this flight. They reported good data reception from their package. Just when we began to think things were getting routine in flying balloons, we got a big surprise. This was an exciting flight from start to finish. It was the first flight for the new package we call Shuttle II. It had a lot of new hardware on board, a new controller board, first GPS, a new transceiver, a new ATV transmitter board, all this in a new package as well as a new wiring harness.

The day at the Academy started out great, a calm clear day. But the wind started to increase and it got very windy at balloon filling time. The parade field was the launch site and the Cadets had set up a large tent for the ground station. We moved the balloon filling location to the east of the bleachers which gave us some protection from the westerly winds. The wind gusts continued to increase and just as we were tying off the balloon for launch, a gust of wind caused the balloon to burst. A section about three feet in diameter was blown out of the top of the balloon.

We went to a back up plan having a spare balloon and two extra tanks of helium. We moved the filling operation to the west of the parade grounds which is bordered by a twenty foot wall. We also used a sheet over the balloon with string tied to each corner to help stabilize the balloon. This worked well in getting the balloon filled and ready to fly. The winds were still above 10 knots. When the balloon went above the wall the wind hit it and caused a hectic launch but it got off the ground with no damage at 10:30 AM, 30 minutes after the planned launch time.

This being the first flight for the Shuttle II there were problems that developed during the flight. One was with the commanding of the payload from the ground station. We were unable to rotate the mirror as we normally do. The GPS did not work above 60,000 feet, the reason being that the vendor did not supply the proper firmware with the GPS. The ATV camera was at a 45 degree angle down from the horizon.

Five to six minutes after burst we began to see a mass of string in the video picture and it took us a few minutes to determine what might have happened. We could not move the camera. It looked like the beacon was no longer attached to the main payload. The ground station team notified the tracking and recovery team that we suspected that we had two different packages coming back to earth. One of the trackers was using the ATV 426.25 MHz frequency to track the main package. It turned out that a nylon cable, part of the two meter beacon, fractured after many flights and the beacon did free fall. It was recovered and still worked. The flight ascended to 98,000 feet 112 miles from the launch site at a bearing of 84 degrees.

It was a wild flight from launch to recovery. The packages were several miles apart but thanks to the EOSS tracking and recovery team both were recovered. The main payload was recovered just before night fall and the hunters were in the dark when they returned from bringing back the beacon to the road.

The Cadets reported that the flight was a record breaker for the highest flight ever launched from the Air Force Academy Parade field.

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Trigonometric Altitude Check - EOSS-20

A simple aiming device and a little trigonometry was used at station Bravo to approximate altitude during Flight 20's ascent phase. A calculated altitude of 98095 feet was made just prior to burst.

Once the balloon was sighted, an "Inclinometer" was used to measure the balloon's angle above the horizon. The balloon's ground distance from station Bravo was map-plotted from the location which was calculated each 15 minute period and the Bravo's location. We had one angle and one side of a right triangle which was enough to calculate all the other parts of the triangle.

Just before burst, the "X" distance on the ground was measured to be 14 miles. The angle up to the balloon was measured to be 53 degrees. So, the calculated altitude was just before burst is approximated as:

(Tan 53 degrees) * (14 miles) * (5280 ft/mi) =
98,095 feet

The inclinometer was a one foot length of pipe for sighting, with a magnetic protractor affixed to it. Although the observations are not precise, the calculation of approximate altitude and comparing to GPS when available, added to the day's enjoyment.

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E0SS-21 A Test Flight for Shuttle II

Several problems were experienced on the first flight of the new Shuttle II during the flight of EOSS-20 from the Air Force Academy. These problems were tackled by the various people on the technical committee and solutions were implemented.

The GPS had new vendor supplied firmware installed, the transceiver had been rechecked and some software changes made in the controller board. A decision was made to fly a test flight with Shuttle II with no experiments, just the basic system, prior to a flight scheduled in a few weeks with (UCCS) University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (now scheduled April 8th).

One of our members, Jim White, WDOE, who is a long time Ham and AMSAT enthusiast, moved from the south west Denver suburbs to a five acre site 11 miles east of Parker Colorado in the last few months. Jim offered to let us launch from his new home and use his garage area for a ground station. This flight was on February 4th, 1995. The launch site worked out great!!! Many thanks go to Jim and Diane (his wife) for their hospitality during this flight.

The launch time was set at 8:30 AM which was earlier than the last few flights to try to launch in lower wind conditions and also to meet a FAA requirement to fly at a low air traffic time between 8:30 and 9:00. We did get a fairly smooth launch at 8:45 AM before the winds became to strong.

The ATV video was good during the first few thousand feet of the flight, but as we got higher in altitude the problem of frost in the video picture returned and the quality of the video became poorer at higher altitudes. It was a clear day and we had a visual on the balloon at about 90,000 feet from the launch site.

The GPS worked up to burst altitude which was 98,676 feet but we did lose GPS on the descent and had command problems trying to reset the package.

We also flew a cut down system on this flight but we were not able to execute this command. The flight covered a distance of 66 miles traveling a course southeast from the launch site. Once more the recovery team found the package on a large ranch. I understand they had a long ride into the ranch to recover the prize.

Some of the problems from the previous flight were fixed, but we still have some to correct. The one major item Jack AAOP, Mike W5VSI and Bob W6ORE are working on is the command problem and I'm sure they will get it resolved.

Over all it was a good launch, flight and recovery with a few items to work on. What more could you ask for?

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Presidents Corner

Once again we have had two flights since the last newsletter, EOSS-20 on Dec 3rd, 1994 and EOSS-21 on Feb 4th, 1995. Both flights utilized the new Shuttle II with some interesting items on both flights. (see related articles).

Our next launch is scheduled for April 8th, 1995 with students from University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. They are flying an ozone and an air sampling experiment. Due to the weight of the package we plan to fly a 19,000 cubic ft. balloon made by Raven.

Jack AAOP and I went to Laramie Wyoming on Dec 27th to witness a flight from the University of Wyoming conducted by Norm Kjome. It was a 54,000 cubic ft. balloon made by Raven and was very interesting. Norm has been doing balloon launches for some 27 years and told us the other day he has done one thousand balloon flights.

Many of you know that Dr. Gil Moore has moved from Utah St. University to the USAF Academy and is getting some more balloon activity going at the academy. Last Saturday he invited Norm Kjome down from Laramie to conduct a class for some cadets. Jack AAOP, Mike W5VSI and I attended the class and it was very interesting. Norm gave instruction on ballooning and did three sample launches without releasing the balloon. He demonstrated several pieces of the equipment he has invented for ballooning. He has a wealth of knowledge on this subject. Gil Moore has a cadet class that is planning a flight with a large balloon the end of April. He is asking EOSS for support on recovery of the payload and said he is looking forward to working with EOSS in the future.

The EOSS election schedule for last month was postponed due to a low turn out because of a storm right at meeting time. Be sure and attend the March 14th meeting, you can still get on the ballot.

Following is a letter sent to the Invesco Employee Council for their donation to EOSS. I would like to thank Marty Griffin for coordinating this donation. EOSS is evaluating the best use of this money. Thanks again to all concerned.

February 12, 1995

Colleen Nesslar
Invesco Employee Council
Invesco Funds Group
7800 East Union Avenue
Denver, Colorado 80237

Re: Donation for Edge of Space Sciences

Dear Colleen,

On behalf of the members, students and board of directors of Edge of Space Sciences, I would like to thank the Invesco Employee Council for your generous donation. Your donation will help assure that our flight operations will continue and front range students continue to be thrilled with conducting their experiments in space.

In particular, we would like to express our appreciation to Mr. Dave Barrett for representing our group in a most effective manner. Mr. Barrett has actively participated in several of our successful tracking and recovery efforts. I am sure his insight into our flight operations, and our education outreach program helped him present E.O.S.S. from an experienced perspective. We will present your donation at our club meeting, Tuesday, February 14. You or your representatives are welcome to attend to make the presentation. The meeting is at Hewlett Packard, 16 Inverness Drive at 7:30 P.M. If you are unable to attend, then I will be happy to present the donation on behalf of the Invesco Employee Council. Our next flight (EOSS-22) will fly experiments for students at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. It is scheduled for March 11 and will launch from Colorado Springs. If you or your group wish to attend, please contact me and I will provide the final details.

Again, thank you for your help and for what you do for our community.


Merle McCaslin President
Edge of Space Sciences Inc.

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