On Saturday, February 5, 2011, a team students and their mentor gathered in the Cajun Advanced Picosatellite Experiment (CAPE) Lab in the William Hansen Hall Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in UL's Madison Hall to launch the CrawSat III High Altitude Weather Balloon Project. The mission was to launch a multi-payload flight with equipment from UL, NP Moss Middle and Northside High.

(For more information about CAPE and CrawSat III go to the CAPE website.)

After detailed coordination efforts and some delays, the CrawSat III team was able to successfully launch the experimental package via high altitude weather balloon with assistance from the staff of the National Weather Service Office in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

The balloon lifted off about 12:20 p.m., going aloft with multiple payloads. UL attached pressure, internal/external temperature and fuel gauge sensors; a GPS unit with radio; and 3 cameras. N.P. Moss Middle School in Lafayette provided a string of "PearlSats", ping pong balls carrying mini-experiments designed by students with guidance from their teachers. PearlSats were strung together like a 'string of pearls' and attached to the weather balloon to form a payload. Also included in the package was an Arduino Sensor Board made by Northside High students working with the team. The sensor board was connected to the main electronic board of the CrawSat III payload to take in information from its sensors.

The balloon launched quickly and moved rapidly; the package came to rest some 200 miles to the northeast of Lake Charles in the Homochitto National Forest in southwestern Mississippi about 3 hours after launch. The package attached to the balloon was equipped with devices which allowed it to be tracked by both ground and airborne chase teams. The ground recovery teams, one of which was accompanied by a Northside High senior who was one of the creators of the Northside Arguino Sensors Payload, searched the landing area for some time using tracking signals before locating the experimental package in a tree. Efforts to retrieve the package and the research data it contained were assisted by a passerby who was instrumental in helping the students get the package out of the tree with minimal damage.

The CAPE/CrawSat III team is currently studying and interpreting the data gained in the experiment. The PearlSats were returned to the N.P. Moss students on February 24, 2011 for them to examine and see if their results matched their predictions.

Another balloon launch is tentatively planned later this Spring.


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