We know you are all wondering what is going on so we wanted to update you as much as possible on where we are currently at.
We are still awaiting the solicitation from NASA. They are currently working on it and we anticipate a future notice and draft within the next week with the full solicitation following in early December. Just a quick note on the proposals: they will be short (limited to 5 pages) and we expect the review to go quickly.
The “May workshop” is still planned to be in May (the 16th-20th) and we will confirm the dates by the end of November. The May workshop will no longer focus on zero pressure ballooning; instead we have decided to distribute and begin building parts of the common payload together. This has a number of benefits: First, you will learn the fundamentals of what makes up the common payload so you are more knowledgeable should something go awry and second, the members of the team that helped develop the common payload will be there to answer any questions that arise during the construction of your common payload. We will also do a practice flight of the common payload to familiarize teams with the common payload and ground station. This workshop is also another opportunity for cross team collaborations and better yet, to collaborate in person. It would be useful to have at least two members from each team participate in the workshop (a mentor and student). We understand there are concerns about funding flow for travel to this workshop, although we anticipate money to be in hand in time for travel plans to be made.
We had 23 teams participate in the practice event on October 27th (Team South Carolina, Owl Techies, Nevada Space Grant, LBCC Space Grant, Oregon Tornados, MSU-BOREALIS, St. Kates, LaACES, Arkansas Balloon SAT, North Dakota Ballooning, Gannon University, USI HAB, Pittsburgh, BCTC Balloon Sat Team, U of MN ‘Plus,’ UMaine HAB, University of Kentucky, Mississippi State University, NASA Nebraska, Washington NASA Space Grant). Using these updated launch sites we now have a remarkable spread of teams across the path of totality (which can be seen here: http://eclipse.montana.edu/participants-2/). The team/program websites have also been added to the icons on the Google Map. We would like to implement something similar for the “live view” website of the eclipse which would allow people to see which team has a balloon in the air and be able click to see the flight feed and learn about that program/payload etc. A few noteworthy sources for weather (outside of the “norm”) were the US Coast Guard, http://astra-planner.soton.ac.uk/, http://www.aviationweather.gov/, http://www.cleardarksky.com/csk/ and a few teams used meteorologists. It looks like just under half the teams would have faced weather related issues if Oct. 27th was the day of the eclipse. Just a reminder, if there are any questions about your Launch Site Lead Team, please check out http://eclipse.montana.edu/launch-site-leads-contact-information/. There was also much less confusion over the use of UTC this go around. As other teams select launch sites, if you update your launch site or would like to add a website to the Google Map, feel free to email Shane (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As a heads up, the next practice/coordination event is slated for February 23rd. We are currently working out the details of this event and we will send them your way sometime in January. If possible, we encourage all teams (especially teams new to HAB) to participate in the Global Balloon Challenge in April. The website can be found at https://www.balloonchallenge.org/ and to remind teams new to ballooning, there is a ton of information here that is quite helpful.
We would like to close with this: Hang in there… things are a bit more nebulous than we would like but we are doing everything we can on the NASA side to get the ball rolling. As questions creep up, don’t hesitate to contact us. To steal and adjust a hot air ballooning ‘saying’ that was found on the intertubes:
KEEP CALM AND HAB ON!