US students put SPOT Trace to the test on weather balloon flight


In May 2014 students from the Midland Technical College in Columbia, South Carolina launched the first HAB flight with the new SPOT Trace tracker. The flight was part of their college project. Here is the flight story from one of the team members.


10:20am – I arrived at campus (our launch site) to begin setting up. WLTX news was already there! One of my students was already there and he helped me bring all the equipment to the launch site.



11:15am – All equipment and materials are laid out and we begin filling the balloon. Other students simultaneously are working on getting GPS gyro-bowl installed in payload and initializing GoPro camera. We were extremely fortunate our 125 cu ft helium tank ran out of helium exactly when we hit our required lifting force of 7.5 lbs.


11:39am – Liftoff. Everything went perfectly without a hitch.


11:50am – We pack up launch site and head towards predicted landing site outside of Sumter, SC. The balloon tracks very well, and heads north for a bit before turning sharply east.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 1.07.55 PM

12:19pm – We lose contact (as expected) with the payload as the balloon surpasses 20,000 feet (max operating altitude for SPOT GPS).

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 1.05.46 PM

1:42pm – We get our first GPS hit from Sumter a few miles away. We get three in succession right around each other as the balloon descends.


Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 1.21.31 PM

1:54pm – Touchdown. The payload comes to rest in a storage facility. Fortunately, the gates were open for customers and we were able to drive in and retrieve our payload.


We immediately get the footage out and view it on our laptop. Success!!

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