Volans 4 was our fourth attempt at sending up a high altitude helium balloon and retreiving it. And for once were were successful. It was launched from Ithaca, NY on June 15, 2010 at aproximately 6:22pm on a party cloudy day, surface winds below 3 mph. Perfect! This was our first launch with a large payload. We had no problems until the power supply to the tranceiver in the chase vehicle failed about 45 minutes into the flight. By the time we found a replacement unit, we received a signal from the backup transmitter (a Motorola i570 using some custom software and Boost Mobile service) that the balloon had landed, prematurely I might add. At the time of the power failure, the payload had reached 31,575 feet above sea level. It came to rest at the Ford Hill Country Club (-75.980075, 42.315376) and was picked up by some golfers.


Our payload weight came to 2 pounds, 2.7 ounces.
  • Styrofoam enclosure
  • 4dB gain antenna
  • TS4000 tranceiver
  • 8 AA Energizer Lithium Ultimate batteries
  • Coridium Armite board
  • Sparkfun GPS Mini Mod
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • 160x120 JPEG serial camera
  • Thermresistor
  • Canon Powershot camera
  • Motorola i570 cell phone (backup comm)


Here is the tracked path of this particular balloon up until the point we lost it.


Programming the microcontroller.
The construction of the foam fuselage begins.

Intial test of the enclosed box. Looks like everything fits together.

The camera from the outside

The camera is nicely tucked and held in place using a few more pieces of foam.

Time for the initial weigh in. Looks good! Just a few more pieces of foam and some tape to add. We plan to launch in the morning as the weather is supposed to be perfect. It's about 11pm at this point.

On site, ready for final assembly.

Looks like John is ready to launch!

Checking the parachute lines.

Let the balloon filling begin. 80 cubic feet of helium should be enough. Note the two lines running to the balloon... just in case.

That's a big balloon!

We are ready to go! One last photo op before letting go of many hours of labor.

And away we go!

To the chase car!

A view from the balloon.

Facing south-west (I think) from Ithaca, NY About 1km up.

Cayuga lake in Ithaca, NY.

Look at that nice sky! Smooth sailing!

You can see four lakes in this picture. From left to right it is Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco and Skaneateles.

I think this is about the highest we got before pop. I'd guess this is about 35,000 feet. The sky is starting to get dark. The balloon was supposed to hit over 100,000 feet, but it was old and out of date.

Coming down!! And just so you know, the parachute is all tangled and probably doing very little to slow things down.

This picture is either just before impact or after a bounce. FOUR!

This is the next picture after landing. It was picked up by some golfers!

Here the box is being inspected by one of the guys who found it.

Retrieved. Mostly intact.