How do I choose a launch site?

Teams intending to launch their own balloon should determine a primary launch location as soon as possible to allot for event planning and assist in coordination events. We suggest that teams also determine a secondary launch location suited for last minute changes should their primary fail to serve as a suitable launch location on August 21, 2017.

The 2 main objectives that your launch site(s) will need to meet are:

  1. Launch location will result in your balloon being at an altitude above 65,000 feet for the duration of the eclipse.
  2. Flight results in your payload landing in a suitable recovery area.

*Requirement: A balloon and its payloads may not fly within restricted air space or land within any restricted areas. Restricted/Prohibited Air Space Overlay. (Note: This overlay does not include military operation areas (MOA) or other restricted areas possessing altitude restrictions.)

Additional criteria for your launch sites(s) include:

  1. Location – Open area free of overhead obstructions which meets objectives 1 and 2 (consider contacting small remote airports)
  2. Permission – Don’t assume that public parks or lands are free to use
  3. Cell Phone & Data Coverage – Wireless coverage maps provide some guidance, verification suggested
  4. Access to restrooms or portable toilets
  5. Avoid major airports
  6. Flight path avoids restricted airspace and densely populated areas
  7. Consideration of historic flight predictions in that location*
  8. Predicted recovery site should avoid:*
    1. National Forest Land
    2. National Park Service Land
    3. Difficult/rugged terrain

*If you are interested in historic flight predictions of chosen launch sites, please contact Shane.

Conducting your own flight prediction: Flight predictions should be used in determining suitable launch locations. Our recommended flight prediction software – courtesy of Allen Jordan at NOAA – is versatile and provides flight track forecasting for both burst and float balloons. It also allows one to run flight predictions using historical forecasts. Recommended flight prediction software. Instructions are below:

Basic Instructions for New users:

“It suffers a bit from “programmer GUI” (every option on the screen at once, making it confusing), but all you’ll need to do is enter your site lat/lon/alt, choose of the “bursting” rise rate defaults, choose a time and press “make prediction” button. I prefer the GFS Model predictions these days for accuracy and time coverage, and the ability to forecast up to a week ahead.”

Disclaimer: The availability of this tool to the general public does not condone attempts to recover balloon payloads that land on private property, government property, or hazardous locations. Predicted trajectories and landing zones are only approximate, therefore active tracking is required to accurately locate launched payloads.

Note: Allen’s program requires the user to input ascent and descent rates. Default values are only for small radiosondes. They are not valid for large balloons and heavy payloads that we employ.

For more information about the recommended flight prediction software, examples, and additional links to Google Earth resources, click here.

Lastly, if you compare the August cloud cover map with the currently planned flight locations you notice that 50% of our teams are in the most cloudy places in the US. This has a couple of consequences, including high probabilities of not being able to actually see the eclipse on the ground in person. Food for thought when choosing a suitable and desired launch location! Details

cloudmap2017eclipse

 

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