Sunday, August 12, 2007

A very strange flight, this is! About 45 minutes ago, I came down to the computer to see the most recent data from Soli Deo Gloria 6. I was fully expecting that it would be on the ground and, indeed, the last APRS packet received was at about 1100 feet somewhere in Kentucky - and about eight hours old.

It's worth adding at this point that the HYSPLIT model - when set to include vertical winds into the calculation - showed a slow descent to around 1000 feet throughout the night. This contrasts with the isobaric model and, frankly, what I expected. Yet it seems to mirror reality.

Okay, back to the situation... A few minutes later, I click on "Raw APRS data" in Findu to see what happened after I went to bed around midnight. As I scroll down, the last received packet jumps off the screen at me - the balloon is again at altitude!

As of right now, it is flying - either "again" (reascent, which is extremely unlikely) or "still" (I think that it was probably floating very close to the ground, perhaps in a small valley which kept it contained all night).

Anyone who has seen the very fragile payload providing the tracking (Microtrak 300 and Digitraveler GPS - out of the case - just stuck inside of a Tyvek mailing envelope!) knows that there is no way the payload could have been stuck in a tree or anything else and somehow come free this morning (that is, and still work!).

So it's in the air, over 24 hours after launch. Where will it go? I don't know. How long will it fly? Anyone's guess - the answer to this partially depends on WHY it came down last night (was it simply the vertical wind profile, as the HYSPLIT model suggests, or did it lose enough gas to come down yet, somehow, magically keep just enough to reascend upon solar heating?).

I'll be away for most of the day, so it might be a while before there are any more updates - if you have more information about the flight, feel free to post it as a comment!

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