Hero Playmonaut lost at sea as SPEARS ditches in Channel

MYSTERY of balloon's unpredictable strato-lunge

In addition to the truss and the box containing SPEARS, we also had a separate enclosure for the Iridium satellite comms module, seen here at bottom right:

Neil and Anthony prepare the payload

The SPEARS board does have an interface for eventual hook-up to the Iridium, but that connection wasn't a priority for this mission. As previously noted, our sexy little black number was tasked with firing the igniter, via a rack of eight 1.5V batteries. The battery holder for these is next to the board, while the second, smaller battery holder on the top of the box is for SPEARS' own independent 6V supply:

The SPEARS board in the styrofoam box

After around 30 minutes of prep, and with the SPEARS safety switch system functioning correctly, we could wire up the igniter, suspended in a wire cradle under the payload box:

Neil connecting the igniter

This operation is perfectly safe, although for some reason Dave decided that it would be better to photograph the action while walking backwards from the potential blast zone:

Lester laughing at Dave backing away as he takes a snap of the igniter connection

With the igniter good to go, here's how SPEARS looked just prior to launch:

The SPEARS board with batteries in place and igniter connected

Cue Anthony Stirk to prepare for the balloon fill...

Anthony preps the balloon nozzle for filling

...and Dave to man the hydrogen valve:

Dave fills the balloon with hydrogen

The balloon almost at full launch size

Dave with the filled balloon

For your viewing pleasure, Dave's wife Julie grabbed this vid of the launch:

Sponsored: How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers

Next page: Bootnote