Operating Manual

The items below have been gleaned from meeting notes and video obtained during the Far Horizons design meetings and launch.

TODO: These need to be put in the correct order and formed into a proper set of procedures. A format for the procedures needs to be decided on for this page.

Equipment Checklist

ODT (Open Document Text) and PDF versions of this checklist are available.

  • Equipment duffle bag
  • Crescent wrench(es) >= 1-1/8" opening
  • Kitchen scale
  • Hanging scale
  • Regulator and custom fill connector
  • Cotton (jersey/gardening) gloves
  • Leather gloves
  • Zip tie cutter
  • Binoculars
  • Helium tanks
  • Ground tarp
  • Duct tape
  • Parachute
  • Balloons (two for redundancy)
  • Extendable painters pole (30’) with roller mount for hook if desired
  • A copy of the Far Horizons Flight Log Sheet (ODS or PDF ) Instructions for the use of the log sheet can be found here.
  • Flight path prediction printout

There are additional screen captures of the setup and launch process here. The screen captures below show the name of the video they came from, and the time to seek to within the video. This will allow you to see more detail of how a step in the process is done. Refer to the Launch Videos page for a full list of the launch day videos.

Keep in mind that you may want to do some sections of the procedures in parallel. For instance, you may want to assemble the tubular payload platform and attach the payloads while other members of your team prepare the balloon itself.

1.0 Pre-Departure Operations

These are operations that are completed before the launch and chase teams leave for the launch site.

  • FHPOM 1.1 Break personnel up into teams based on experience and interests, but make sure to have a minimum amount of people on each setup task.
  • FHPOM 1.2 Make sure that your balloons are not up against anything that might damage them in your equipment transport bag.
  • FHPOM 1.3 Once you have ensured that all of the equipment is in the transport bag, secure it with zip ties or some other method to keep someone from removing items.

2.0 Setup Operations

These operations cover assembling the flight vehicle and attaching the payload(s).

  • FHPOM 2.1 Weigh each component of the flight vehicle to ensure that it’s not over 12 lbs total, and that no single component weighs more than 6 lbs. Enter this information in the "PAYLOAD WEIGHTS" section of the Flight Log Sheet.
  • FHPOM 2.2 Calculate the amount of lift needed based on payload weight(s) and ascent rate.
  • FHPOM 2.3 Set up a workspace by laying out the ground tarp and ensuring that it is clean and free of debris, oils, etc. “Clean is key”.
  • FHPOM 2.4 Lay the helium tanks on one side of the tarp to help keep it from blowing away.
  • FHPOM 2.5 Remove the safety cover from the helium tank(s).
  • FHPOM 2.6 Attach the custom built fill connector’s regulator to the first helium tank.

  • FHPOM 2.7 Use a crescent wrench to tighten (snug) the regulator’s connector to the tank’s valve.
  • FHPOM 2.8 All personnel who help steady the balloon should wear cotton gloves to help protect the balloon.
  • FHPOM 2.9 Keep the balloon from coming in contact with anything except cotton gloves during fill and launch.
  • FHPOM 2.10 Open up the balloon bag and unroll the balloon away from you with the open neck closest to the helium tanks.
  • FHPOM 2.11 Slip the 2” steel attachment ring onto the neck of the balloon.
  • FHPOM 2.12 Slide the neck of the balloon over the 1” outlet throat of the fill connector.
  • FHPOM 2.13 Wrap the neck of the balloon and tape it securely to the fill connector, making sure to leave a folded tab at the end so that you can remove the tape later. You’re securing it against about 20 lbs of pull. Use one continuous wrap that goes down the neck, overlaps the fill connector body, and then goes back up the neck of the balloon.

  • FHPOM 2.14 Open the main valve directly attached to the helium tank, and then open the secondary regulator.
    • FHPOM 2.14.1 For a 1200 gram balloon and a K size tank, you’ll add approximately 1-1/2 tanks of helium to the balloon.
  • FHPOM 2.15 When switching helium tanks, make sure to close the main valve on the tank first before closing the secondary regulator. Otherwise pressure could get trapped in the secondary regulator’s body that is then released forcefully when the connector is loosened with the crescent wrench.
  • FHPOM 2.16 As the balloon inflates the fill connector’s paracord loop can be attached to a helium tank’s valve to hold it down.
  • FHPOM 2.17 The paracord loop on the fill connector can be attached to the empty helium tank when switching to the second tank.

  • FHPOM 2.18 When filling the balloon in an outdoor location, use a clean tulle “tarp” to cover the balloon and keep it stationary.
  • FHPOM 2.19 During filling one person with leather gloves can hold the fill connector, wrapping the para cord around the wrist of their leather glove, and two people with cotton gloves should be on either side of the balloon to keep it from blowing around.
  • FHPOM 2.20 Use a luggage scale to measure the lift of the balloon. Make sure to take the weight of the fill connector into account when doing this. Adler puts a line on the hose leading up to the fill connector’s PVC main body, and they have measured the weight of that part of the connector. When measuring the lift, they pull the balloon down to where the line on the hose touches the ground as they’re measuring the lift.
  • FHPOM 2.21 Once the balloon is filled to the proper generate the proper amount of lift, double the neck over and duct tape it securely before removing the fill nozzle.
    • FHPOM 2.21.1 Make sure that the steel ring is at the bottom of the neck's loop so that the rest of the launch vehicle can be attached.
  • FHPOM 2.22 Make sure to use 50 lb rate zip ties to secure the payload(s) to the train line or frame.
  • FHPOM 2.23 Ensure that all your equipment with a contact number, what it is, etc.
  • FHPOM 2.24 Attach the parachute to the tubular payload platform.
  • FHPOM 2.24 Attach the tubular payload platform to the steel ring on the looped neck of the balloon via the parachute using a 50 pound zip tie.

3.0 Launch Operations

  • FHPOM 3.1 When launching the balloon in an outdoor location, use a clean tulle “tarp” to cover the balloon and keep it stationary.
  • FHPOM 3.2 After filling, and during transfer to the launch location, make sure that the balloon does not touch the ground due to wind or mishandling or it may burst.
  • FHPOM 3.3 Ensure that the parachute and payload line(s) are not tangled or twisted prior to release.
  • FHPOM 3.4 Move the flight vehicle to an open area, ensure that nobody is caught on the FV in any way or going to be injured by the release of the FV, and then release the balloon and the payload platform.

4.0 Chase and Recovery Operations

  • FHPOM 4.1 The chase vehicles will be decided by what’s available and how many people are participating in the chase and recovery operations.
  • FHPOM 4.2 In certain rugged or isolated areas, 4 wheel drive chase vehicles may be required.
  • FHPOM 4.3 At least one chase vehicle needs to have an APRS capable receiver setup suitable to track the balloon platform’s real-time location.

  • FHPOM 4.4 Use the flight path from the predictive software to get a general idea of where to track/search.

Also available in: HTML TXT