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AirSlicer 1

We came up with the name AirSlicer before our first launch. As we were researching and building it, Vanessa came up with the name AirSlicer and we've used it ever since.


Our first flight was a styrofoam box that we launched from the Marriott Ranch in Virginia.  We launched August 10,  2014 at 11:20 A.M. It landed at 2:29 P.M. in a cornfield just outside Culpeper Virginia. We had a number of problems with the first flight. The prediction we ran was about 40 minutes. The prediction we ran was for an hour before we actually launched, which made us question the predicted Landing point. Our APRS radio worked fine during checkout but failed in launch. The timestamp on the Contour camera we were using was off by about 40 minutes. This made it confusing when trying to reconstruct what happened.

The GoPro was turned off when I pushed it into place in the styrofoam gondola. Amazingly the violence of the balloon bursting turned the GoPro back on and took the first picture at the maximum altitude with shreds of the balloon flying about the field of view.

The antenna in the shroud lines cut slices into the styrofoam. While it didn't affect results it could have. I left the battery case covers at home and had to use electrical tape to hold batteries in the cases. Unfortunately, the did not the tape did not hold well enough and allowed the batteries to separate from the contacts. This was the apparent cause of losing the APRS radio.

There was confusion as to what each of us would be doing at the launch site. It took almost 2 hours to launch because we had not done a dress rehearsal.

Parachute shroud lines were in the way of the camera field of view. We were not certain how much helium we put in the bloom. We were using a string with the appropriate circumference marked on it, but that assumed a perfect sphere. We weren't sure if problems we saw were caused by thermal issues or other.

While searching for a way to get to the balloon we went to the winery next door. The people at Old House Vineyards we're very helpful and suggested we go knock on the door of the people that owned the cornfield. We did so and the owners were wonderful. They looked out the upstairs window and got up on the roof to look to see if the balloon was visible amidst the full-sized corn that had not yet been harvested. We ended up walking through the eight-foot-tall corn stalks which were very close together. 

We ended up getting small cuts on arms and faces as we were searching. Vanessa was able to run underneath the leafy parts of the stocks. We were very dehydrated because it took so long to do the search. We also found out that GPS signals are attenuated by corn leaves and we walked right past where the balloon was a couple times before we realized GPS was not keeping up with us.