Oct. 27th Coordination Event

October 27th, 2015 Coordination Event Overview:

The objective of this coordination event is to expand upon the last event and to begin solidifying launch sites. It is also a good time to start building relationships (if you haven’t already) with the launch site leader and other launch teams at the site you are interested in.

An important determination on launch day is whether or not you can fly based upon weather conditions. Should the weather at your launch site on the day of the eclipse not cooperate, you will have to abort your launch. We are in the process of drafting the “weather rules” with the FAA and are considering the possibility of flying transponders with the common payload to lighten flight restrictions due to clouds. A restriction that may be implemented regardless of flying a transponder or not is visibility; visibility less than 5 miles may require a scrubbed launch. Familiarity with making a weather related decision for launch (and having the resources to do so) should be understood by all launch teams, so part of this coordination event is to stockpile useful weather tools. It is also worth considering acquisition of an on-site meteorologist (contact local news meteorologists) at every launch site to help with these decisions as well as expand our public outreach.

Below are the goals and a summary of the information we want to record in an expanded Excel spreadsheet. Please click here to download the Oct. 27th Coordination Event spreadsheet and fill it out accordingly. On 10/27/2015 please “Launch” an email with the completed spreadsheet attached to Shane Mayer-Gawlik at smayergawlik@physics.montana.edu at the time (UTC) you would be launching your balloon during the eclipse.


Goals of the 10/27/2017 Practice Event:

  • Solidify Launch Site Information (see below)
    • Familiarity with launch guidelines including recovery considerations
    • Send Lat/Lon coordinates and elevation of launch site
    • Become familiar with flight prediction software
    • Who is your launch site “Team Lead?”
    • Travel Plans (popular eclipse locations may be difficult/expensive to get hotels etc. if needed)
    • Contact launch site (if applicable)
    • Launch backup location (should the weather outlook or other factors limit your primary launch site, where else could you realistically launch from with short notice?)
  • Launch Readiness Time (Continue to become familiar using UTC)
    • Eclipse Time for site
    • Balloon fill time
    • Payload power up
    • Balloon Launch Time
  • Weather considerations and resources
    • Acquire the weather conditions at your launch site on October 27th, 2015
    • To the best of your knowledge would you have been able to launch on October 27th, 2015?
    • What resource did you use to determine go/no go for launch?
  • Acquire website(s) affiliated with your team
  • Global Space Balloon Challenge (See below)
    • Participating in the the Global Space Balloon Challenge
    • NEW TO HIGH ALTITUDE BALLOONING TEAMS: Begin learning the basics of high altitude ballooning

Solidifying a Launch Site:

If your team already has a solidified launch site, please verify lat/lon coordinates are as precise as possible (if you are launching from a school, make sure the coordinates correctly reflect that site and not somewhere “random” around the site) and that your site meets the conditions described below. If you are looking for a launch site, please use the conditions below to find a suitable site and if you need help determining a suitable site, please contact a launch site leads in the state of your preference. The Participation Resources page has a wealth of tools at your disposal. Here you will  find flight prediction software and various overlays for Google Earth to help determine if you launch site meets the criteria below for both launch and recovery.

Objective 1: Find a launch location that will result in your balloon being at an altitude above 65,000ft for the duration of the eclipse (about 1 hr after launch of balloon you should be at about 65,000ft). Objective 2: The flight results in your payload landing in a suitable recovery area (Avoiding National Forest land, National Park Service land and recoveries in difficult/rugged terrain). Requirement – may not fly within restricted airspace (must avoid Class B airspace) or land within any restricted areas.

Launch Site Conditions:

  1. HAB Safety: Consider the safety of yourself and all those around you.
  2. Location: Open area free of overhead obstructions which meet above objectives (consider small remote airports).
  3. Permission: Don’t assume that public parks or lands are free to use. Permits or permission may be necessary beforehand.
  4. Access to restrooms or portable toilets.
  5. Cell phone/internet access (for real time tracking.
  6. Avoid major airports (Anywhere near Atlanta is a no go).
  7. Avoid flight paths over densely populated areas.
  8. Hotel/overnight stay accommodations (hotels in popular eclipse viewing locations may already be booked or very expensive).

Class B Airspace: For those of you unfamiliar with Class B airspace, the FAA pilots handbook states, “Class B airspace is generally airspace from the surface to 10,000 feet MSL surrounding the nation’s busiest airports in terms of airport operations or passenger enplanements. The configuration of each Class B airspace area is individually tailored, consists of a surface area and two or more layers (some Class B airspace areas resemble upside-down wedding cakes), and is designed to contain all published instrument procedures once an aircraft enters the airspace. An ATC clearance is required for all aircraft to operate in the area, and all aircraft that are so cleared receive separation services within the airspace.” Along with Google Earth overlays, this interactive aeronautical chart may be useful.

Cell Phone Coverage Maps (*NOTE* These wireless coverage maps provide some guidance, verification is suggested):

*It should also be noted that if too many cell users in an area my bog-down connection.*

Verizon Coverage Map

AT&T Coverage Map

Sprint Coverage Map – Very limited coverage

Launch Site Recommendation:

Consider using small “remote” airports for launch sites, as most are public facilities and the airport manager or flight service contact information is readily available on the internet at http://www.airnav.com.

Recovery Site Projections:

You can run your own recovery site projections with downloadable software or websites found on the Participant Resources page.

Once you have your launch site determined, please fill out the Oct. 27th Eclipse Coordination Spreadsheet.


Global Space Balloon Challenge:

We highly encourage all teams to participate in the Global Space Balloon Challenge (GSBC) which takes place in April, 2016. Please take a moment to check out the page and consider signing up for this event. Having as many teams as possible complete a launch in April would be a great thing for us to get centered around.

Teams new to high altitude ballooning, the GSBC website is a great resource to begin learning about the basics of launching a high altitude balloon. Here you will find tutorials and other information that will help you prepare for your 2017 eclipse balloon launch.


Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions that arise.


Quick reference to relevant links:

Participant Resources

Oct. 27th Eclipse Coordination Spreadsheet

Launch Site Team Leads

Global Space Balloon Challenge Website

Tutorials for teams new to high altitude ballooning