The objective of the HURRB Project is to send a payload, via a large helium-filled weather balloon, up in to the eye of a landfalling hurricane. When the balloon reaches its burst altitude, hopefully 100,000 feet or more, it will simply disintegrate in the thin air near the edge of space. The payload will then fall back to earth with a small parachute slowing the descent rate. The onboard GoPro cameras will record the entire event from start to finish.
Also included in the payload is a specially designed weather computer that will sample the atmosphere every 6 seconds, providing us with temperature, air pressure and humidty readings from the surface to 100,000 feet or more.
We will be able to track HURRB using APRS and SPOT location devices that will send a signal as often as every 60 seconds - showing us where HURRB is and what the current conditions are at its present altitude.
HURRB has been test-launched four times since its inception in 2012. All four of those tests have produced useful data and other information that will ultimately help us to have a successful launch inside the eye of a hurricane. We do all of our testing in the Midwest. The reason for this is to keep the recovery aspect fairly easy - fewer trees or other issues such as swamps or rivers to worry about. We know the launch and recovery during a hurricane will prove to be difficult, we figure the testing shouldn't be. Our next test launch is scheduled for mid-June 2016 in Pratt, Kansas.
The entire launch process must be completed in less than 15 minutes in the middle of the eye of the landfalling hurricane. We will house the equipment needed to launch inside of our SUV and pick-up truck and await the passage of the hurricane's eye. This means we will have to be exposed to the hurricane's eye wall as we await the relative calm of the eye. At that moment, we will set up the tarp, fill the balloon, attach everything and let it go...all within 15 minutes! The clock will be ticking as the other side of the eye will approach and winds will increase again very quickly and from the opposite direction. This makes our job very difficult and potentially dangerous. We will have to pick as open an area as possible to minimize the amount of airborne debris that may come our way during the eyewall (both passings). This will also help us to successfully launch HURRB as we would have a nice large clearing, such as a major interstate interchange. If it all goes right, the chances we will succeed are high.
Once the balloon is launched, an APRS device will beacon out a signal once per minute (KM4SES-11). We will put this info on our Twitter page which you can follow here. This will allow anyone with Internet access to track HURRB as it rises in to the eye and beyond.
The recovery will be challenging since the payload will likely come down inside the hurricane. The payload, a Pelican StormCase is very strong and can withstand being tossed about in violent winds and even a 60 mph impact on the ground if the parachute fails or malfunctions. We will use a SPOT GPS locator, in conjunction with our APRS beacon, to tell us where HURRB landed and recover the payload as soon as we can do so safely.
It's an exciting and unique project and something that could yield stunning video of the inside of a hurricane and then as much as 60,000 feet above it! The GPS and weather data will also be valuable in helping to map the air flow of the hurricane using post-launch analytics and modeling. Anyone interested in getting their hands on the GPS or weather data should contact us. We'll gladly donate the data at no cost.
Any questions? Shoot us an email. Always glad to respond to questions about this project.
Mark Sudduth, July 1, 2013 email:
Initial funding provided by:
The Freeman Family
The Jones Family
John and Cindy Ward
Gus Gordon III