Launching Balloons at Total Solar Eclipse

Launching Balloons at Total Solar Eclipse

This August 21st, SSI had the wonderful opportunity to view and launch some balloons from Central Oregon during the Great American Eclipse.
Photo Credits to Anjali Roychowdhury
In order to launch in the band of full totality, we endured a 12-hour drive up to Oregon, braving traffic, supply shortages, and the hoards of people also vying to catch a glimpse of this incredible sight.
The SSI Family
Once we arrived, we prepared to launch two payloads; a live ATV video stream and sun tracking photography payload, and ValBal Mk VIII-A.
The ATV and photography payload included a DSLR, a drone camera attached to the ATV live stream video transmission system, and three Go-Pro cameras, one of which was modified with a motor system and magnetometer to track the sun during flight.
This ValBal flight was a test of a brand new mechanical system made of three 3D printed modules: a ballast module which controlled the release of the biodegradable BB pellets we use as ballast, a payload support, and a valve module which opened or closed to control the release of helium from the balloon during flight control. This new design is a monumental step forward in our technology, not only making ValBal much easier to assemble, but also reducing weight by over 40%, giving us longer flight times and a greater capacity for cool scientific experiments.
About to launch ValBal Mk VIII-A
We launched our photography payload from Ochoco state park just in time to catch the eclipse, and our photography payload captured some amazing images of the total eclipse from thousands of feet in the atmosphere! We launched ValBal right after the eclipse.
The total eclipse from thousands of feet in elevation
We watched our balloon disappear into the sky as darkness set down upon us. From our launch location, high on a cliff, we could see all around us for miles. The shadow of the moon rushed towards us and then everything went dark. The horizon glowed all around, like a 360-degree sunset. The sun itself was replaced by a black circle surrounded by a bright ring, the suns corona. We stared up at it for a minute in awe, and then the moon moved on and the sun came back into view. The light flooded back over the landscape and it looked like a time lapse of a sunrise.
A full minute of darkness
It was a breath taking experience, and wouldn't have been possible without everyone who helped contribute.
SSI-58 mission patchFinally, we would like to thank the Platt family for generously hosting us at their home.