Away 25 was a ‘High Rack’ Mission. A ‘High Rack’ is a stack of foam shelves held together with a carbon fiber frame. The entire package was carried aloft by a three weather balloon.
This flight tested several new features. Instead of a single balloon we used three. We have flown multiple balloons before however they have always been groups of latex balloons. This flight used three zero pressure polyethylene balloons. These large plastic balloons will be used in groups on future Dark Sky Station missions. The High Rack itself was completely reconfigured. The new rack is lighter, shorter with wider shelves. The parachute was not held up in line with the balloons as in earlier flights. The parachute was stowed on one of the stabilizer fins and deployed when the balloons were released. Also new was a central power system. The central power system cuts down on the need for individual batteries on each device. This was the first flight that we used lithium polymer rechargeable batteries. The main goal for the flight was to test electronics for the Ascender high altitude airship.
Away 25 lifted off Saturday, April 3rd, 2004. The launch was conducted from a flat out crop that over looks the lake bed 300 feet above the desert floor in Black Rock, Nevada.
On launch the vehicle climbed up at 600 feet per minute. Near peak altitude it climbed a little faster at 800 feet per minute. During the flight a helium pump designed for the Ascender airship was tested. This mission tested systems designed for the Ascender airship and Dark Sky Station platform. Away 25 was heavier then most High Racks and climbed slower. The flight time was nearly two hours longer then most High Rack missions. The 343 PongSat experiments on board got the best exposure to the edge of space then any other mission so far.
At 96,050 feet one of the balloons burst. Away 25 began to slowly descend. At 20,000 feet the vehicle was over a valley between two mountain ranges. The command was sent to release the balloons and deploy the parachute.
The Flight Team.
New High Rack Configuration
Away 25 used three zero pressure balloons. View from Away 25 after a one of the balloon popped.
The View from the top.
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