Last year I announced that we were working on a project to launch a weather balloon and accompanying payload in to the eye of a hurricane when it makes landfall along the U.S. coast. The goal was to capture never-before-seen video as well as log GPS data to learn what the air flow is like inside, and above, the center of a hurricane after it makes landfall. We call it the HURRB Project.
We had a successful test in May of 2012 in Texas and were ready for a potential launch during last year’s hurricane season but the opportunity was never there.
The idea is to have the balloon lift a payload consisting of four GoPro cameras, a GPS data logger, a satellite tracking beacon and an APRS transmitter in to the eye of a hurricane. The payload was ascend up through the eye and if it clears without any mishaps, it would rise to 100,000 feet or more before the balloon burst due to the extreme low pressure. Then, the payload would fall back to the ground via parachute and we would retrieve it by locating it via the satellite tracker or the APRS unit. People do this all the time as a hobby all around the world. We want to do it in one of the most unique environments on the planet. If it works, we could have some of the most incredible video of the inside of a hurricane ever taken. As the payload rises above the eye, assuming we can get it to clear the swirling, turbulent tempest, we should be able to see the hurricane come in to view as the balloon goes on up to the edge of space. The view from 100,000 feet is incredible. We’ve seen it with our test launch. Looking down on the hurricane with our HD GoPro cams should be absolutely stunning. The only way we’ll know is if we try.
In addition to potentially once-in-a-lifetime video, we hope to gather valuable GPS data every 5 seconds that the payload is aloft. This will tell us a lot about the air flow in the eye and above the hurricane. We have no idea where the balloon will go once launched. We’ve asked scientists from NOAA and at various universities what their thoughts are and no one has a clear cut answer. That is what makes this so exciting: discovery. We will know once we try and that is an incredible motivator to get this done.
Obviously we have to have a hurricane to launch in. It would be best if it were in the middle of the day but even a night landfall will afford us the opportunity to gather the GPS data at the expense of getting any decent video. Who knows? We may get lucky and launch just as the sun is rising in the east. Can you imagine how that would look? Believe me, I have many times.
The project has been funded through private contributions from the general public and a few businesses who follow our work. We still have a need for about $1200 in order to purchase a balloon or two for this season and add the very latest GoPro cameras to the payload (ours are second generation HERO2 cams).
To help facilitate the fund raising process, we offered a unique opportunity for the public to get involved. We created a special light-weight plastic “tile” that can accomodate a signature or a message. We sell the tiles for $100 each and will include them with the payload to be sent in to the eye. We still have 18 tiles left over from last year’s efforts. We hope to raise the funds we need by selling these last 18 tiles. I’ll send it to you, you sign it, put a message, what ever you like (one person actually painted theirs – a true work of art!) and then send it back to us. We’ll then put it in a container to be sent up with the payload. When it’s all said and done, we’ll send the tile, a piece of the payload, back to you on a specially made frame to hang in your home or office. Talk about a truly rewarding experience in exchange for your support of this project. You may give it as a gift to someone or have the whole family sign it, what ever works for you. As you can see in the photo, people are creative with their tiles.
If you’re interested in helping out with funding, please visit the HURRB page for information on how to purchase a tile. I have 18 left and once they are gone, that’s it, there are no more. We will have them on hand until we finally launch HURRB – whether it be this year or in five years, those tiles go with HURRB on an incredible journey.
HURRB has its own Twitter account too: follow @HURRB and when we wake him up later this month, you’ll see that he has some interesting things to say.
I will have more about this project later in the season once we get closer to the more active portion in August.