April 1, 2015

Manifesto. We believe strongly in making the most of this rare astronomical event, in the realms of the general public, education, and creating meaningful long-lasting partnerships. We also believe strongly in giving the student participants career-making opportunities. This means there will be no black boxes and we will endeavor to use the most cutting edge tools, resources, and communication.

  • I’ve been spending a good portion of my time over the last few weeks working on funding options. At this time, it looks like we will NOT have to put in a huge SMD Education proposal, but rather be funded via another opportunity. There will likely be opportunities for individual states/teams to propose for the effort that best fits them. As soon as this is solidified, I will let everyone know. It’s looking promising!
  • Action item: Sign up. Even though we will likely not have to put together a huge SMD proposal, we still very much want interested teams to fill out the participation form so we can build up good contact lists as well as get a feel for the experience level and location of the teams. This is not final and is not a promise of funding. Please have interested parties in your state fill out the form *BY APRIL 30th* on this page: http://eclipse.montana.edu/?page_id=14
  • It’s official! Our project is part of the official NASA 2017 total solar eclipse public event. Our coverage from the edge of space will be on NASA TV, the NASA website, etc.
  • Your eclipse ballooning team is working hard on several levels, very importantly right now on a few key teams: the ‘common camera/tracking payload’ team, the launch sites team, and the coordination team. You will periodically see updates from them as well as myself. To stay up-to-date on all that is going on, please interact on the webpage: http://eclipse.montana.edu . Links to the social media pages are on the website (great for the teams to trade ideas!). We’ll keep the most updated ‘white paper’ on the website if you want to use it to drum up local support or share what you’re working toward.
  • Common camera/tracking payload update. The camera/tracking payload team is very pleased with test flights in November with ATA Aerospace and in February with World View. On the World View flight, we succeeded in transmitting high definition live video from the balloon to the ground using supplies that total under $2,500. This was a huge deal and we’re so proud of the team! The next major test flight will be in late summer on HASP. Final development will conclude by the end of 2015.
  • While this is somewhat still in flux, it looks like we will be able to preserve the opportunity to give each ballooning team a lot of flexibility in what they want to fly on what kind of balloon. The main categories are: a) Complete Launch Team – Balloon Launch with Common/Primary Payload and a Secondary Payload; b) Primary Payload with the ability to host a Secondary Payload; c) Launch Provider/Host – Balloon launch with open payload slots, d) Payload Provider – Have payload that needs a launch host; e) Radiosonde – Smaller balloon with NOAA science payload (temperature, pressure, wind, ozone sensors). We will require that any (non-radiosonde) balloon funded under this project carry the small communication payload to fulfill our FAA requirements.
  • Low pressure plastic balloons. We will most likely highly recommend the use of low pressure (can ‘float’) plastic balloons made by Raven Aerostar, purchased in bulk by the project. These balloons will allow teams to have more time and flexibility for observing the eclipse. Raven will soon provide height/weight curves for the balloons so folks can think about how much payload they want to fly and how high. Generally, the balloons are 10,000 cubic feet, capable of lifting 12 pounds to 80,000 feet. In addition, the represent a great opportunity for our ballooning teams to ‘up their game.’ Raven has built two envelope destruct mechanisms into the balloons. A part of the deal to be able to purchase these balloons is that we will train the teams on how to use them. This training will occur during the summer 2016 workshop (see Schedule).There will be about 150 balloons – 75 for practice and 75 for the big day. Of course if teams want to use a latex balloon, they can.
  • a) Remainder of 2015 – funding opportunities will be released, proposals due. b) Early 2016 – common video/tracking payload kit will be available. c) Summer 2016 – training workshop for all eclipse ballooning teams. d) Fall 2016 – spring 2017: regional/virtual help sessions/practice flights. e) June 2017 – dry run flights. f) August 21st, 2017 – the big day. g) Fall 2017 – present results.
  • Last but not least! Science. We are iterating a few interesting group science ideas and will share those as they are solidified. Teams should start thinking about what kinds of science would be exciting for these special flights. There will be an opportunity at the workshop for training teams and exchanging ideas. All of the funding entities are keenly interested in the science that can be done and shared.

Thanks to everyone for your interest, enthusiasm, and patience as we work out all the details for this exciting mega-event!

— Angela