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Premature balloon burst thwarts US paper spaceplane attempt

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The University of Southern Indiana has failed to wrest the highest launch of a paper plane crown from our Vulture 1 spaceplane, after suffering premature balloon burst.

The Geronimo aircraft (pictured below) was carried aloft under a mighty meteorological globe from Marion High School in Marion, Illinois, on Saturday morning, en route to a planned drop altitude of 100,000ft (30,480m).

The Geronimo paper plane

However, as the uni's professor Glen Kissel explained: "For some reason, the balloon burst at about 88,000ft (26,820m), far below the expected 110,000ft (33,530m), which is where burst happened on two previous flights with this type of balloon. As a result, the plane was never released, but the stack of pods parachuted down in Indiana as intended."

The team recovered the command tracking pod, camera pod, and the release pod/plane, thanks to a Tiny-Trak TU-401 APRS unit. Here's the flight track (click on the pic for a bigger version).

The track of the Geronimo balloon as seen on aprs.fi

Geronimo itself was packing a Garmin GTU-10 tracker and a Tiny-Trak TU-601 APRS. The latter "initially gave a correct reading prior to launch and then gave anomalous readings throughout the flight", Professor Kissel noted.

That wasn't the only malfunction the plane suffered. Kissel said: "Somewhere before or after burst, we're not sure, the nose cone of the plane fell off (it had been cemented on shortly prior to launch), and our two tracking devices fell out.

"The Garmin GTU-10 landed unscathed, gave off its signals at low altitude as intended, and was picked up north of Carmi, Illinois shortly after the other pods had been recovered in Indiana."

Splendidly, the cantankerous TU-601 was also recovered, having belatedly decided to play ball. Kissel told us: "Surprisingly, it suddenly began giving valid lat/long and altitude at 2:20 am earlier today, Sunday. It was located just east of Carmi, Illinois, and was recovered this Sunday morning."

Well, it sounds like the the Geronimo team had an entertaining weekend. Our commiserations on not topping Vulture 1's 89,591ft (27,310m), and we look forward to future assaults on our Guinness World Record. ®


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