bringing missions to life
It's not easy to wrangle a delicate 3-meter weather balloon with 12 kilograms or more of lifting force while preparing to launch the HAPP. It takes significant teamwork and coordination to execute a mission safely, and to do it while satisfying all applicable requirements from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Given the size and weight of the HAPP and its intended mission profile, we are subject to FAA requirements as per Code of Regulations 14-1-F-101. The regulations specify requirements for design of the HAPP and its systems, such as ensuring redundancy in the ability to terminate a flight.
The regulations also contain requirements for providing notice of flights to local Air Traffic Control. Specifically, we have to file a flight plan before we fly, and we must provide position reports as the mission progresses. The flight plan is created from a simulation based on current weather data. Several excellent tools for flight prediction are available from various universities and hobby groups worldwide.
Additionally, and perhaps obviously, we must avoid flying near certain controlled airspace such as airports.
Final assembly of the HAPP core and aeroshell is performed at the launch site. Between assembly, onboard system checks, communication and telemetry checks, balloon inflation, and other tasks, it takes a team of people to complete the pre-flight checklist in a safe and efficient manner. The checklist was developed and refined through the first test flights, just as any other piece of technology inside the HAPP.
Once the HAPP is powered on, the onboard computers run through an automatic pre-flight sequence. Final release for flight is authorized by user input via mobile device. At that point the mission clock is running and the ground team releases the HAPP for ascent.
As the HAPP travels, the chase team heads for the landing zone predicted by simulations. The actual location of the craft is visible in real time via the Mission Control mobile app, as the HAPP provides telemetry updates every 30 seconds. With a little luck, the chase team will be there when the HAPP appears in the sky with its three beautiful red and white parachutes.