BACK FROM SPACE -- Eldorado Space Cowboys posed with the payload section of EAGLE 10 after its trip to space and recovery about 17 miles east of Eldorado. Team members include (L-R) Tanner Caps, Braedon McCants, Jack Griffin, Christine Lindsey, Jadyn Martinez, Benjamin McGee and the chase crew captain, EHS Principal Perry Graves.
 | COURTESY PHOTO
BACK FROM SPACE -- Eldorado Space Cowboys posed with the payload section of EAGLE 10 after its trip to space and recovery about 17 miles east of Eldorado. Team members include (L-R) Tanner Caps, Braedon McCants, Jack Griffin, Christine Lindsey, Jadyn Martinez, Benjamin McGee and the chase crew captain, EHS Principal Perry Graves. | COURTESY PHOTO

Eldorado High School’s Space Cowboys successfully launched, chased and recovered EAGLE 10, their latest mission to the edge of space, on Thursday, May 16th. The mission, launched from Christoval, carried an instrument package to an altitude of 110,000 feet where an onboard camera captured the moment the balloon burst. The payload section returned safely to earth and was recovered about two miles from the intersection of U.S. Highway 190 and FM 1084 (Toenail Trail).

The 2018-19 version of the Eldorado Space Cowboys included EHS students Jack Griffin, Christine Lindsey, Benjamin McGee, Tanner Caps, Jadyn Martinez, and Braedon McCants.
EHS Principal Perry Graves was the chase crew captain while Christine Lindsey and Jadyn Martinez manned mission control, and guided the chase efforts from the classroom at EHS.
Jack Griffin, Benjamin McGee, Tanner Caps, and Braedon McCants were responsible for launch, chase and recovery.

The launch was aided by Christoval High School’s Mark Scott and Principal Choate, and their fine STEM students who provided incredible help and support in the launch, chase and recovery.

EAGLE 10 was launched at 8 a.m. on May 16th from the baseball field at Christoval High School because flight predictions the day before launch indicated that launching from Eldorado would take the probe toward Junction, and the projected landing zone had unacceptable terrain. The problem could have scrubbed the mission but some of the students suggesting launching from a remote location, thereby allowing for more suitable landing zone.

The students flight calculations showed that a launch from Christoval would result in a landing in a clear spot very close to the Menard Highway, near Toe Nail Trail. Arrangements were made with Christoval High School to launch from their practice baseball field.

Students from the Christoval STEM program agreed to help with the launch, chase and recovery. Christoval students brought their aerial drone team to the launch site, and provided aerial video coverage of the launch.

The day started at 6:00 AM for the Eldorado students as they loaded up the Hambulance, a repurposed ambulance laden with communications equipment, including a HAM radio. They students brought with them the necessary launch equipment and headed to Christoval, arriving at 6:30 a.m. When they arrived, the Christoval students were already there, ready to help with the launch.

At 6:30 a.m. the team began the inflation sequence, and had everything in place for the FAA approved 8:00 a.m. launch. EAGLE 10 was successfully launched at 8:00 AM, under ideal weather condition. All electronic and communication systems worked flawlessly and the electronics equipment package designed and built by the students ascended to space at better than six meters per second.

It took approximately 90 minutes for the probe to reach its maximum altitude of 110,000 feet. As the flight reached its apex, a camera on board the probe captured the rupturing of the balloon.

When the balloon was launched, it was about six feet in diameter. However, as the balloon continues to ascend toward space, it gets larger and larger. By the time the system reaches the maximum altitude, the balloon is about 40 feet in diameter.

The students designed the flight to capture images of the balloon as it burst. The first picture showed the balloon seconds before it burst at maximum altitude. The the second picture (at right) shows the balloon in the midst of the burst process. The next frame came about a hundredth of a second later and showed the remnants of the balloon – just small shredded pieces. The third picture shows the pieces of the shattered balloon as they begin to fall away. The next picture in the sequence, taken about a second later, shows the earth in the background, the blackness of space, and the thin blue line below of the earth’s atmosphere. The picture also shows the parachute as it is being deployed to bring the instrument package safely and gently back to earth.

It took the system approximately 90 minutes to re-enter the atmosphere, and return to earth. The package landed about two miles from the Menard Highway, at the intersection with Toe Nail Trail.

The Hambulance chase vehicle was made available by Sheriff David Doran, and the Schleicher County Sheriff’s department. This re-provisioned emergency vehicle has allowed the Space Cowboys to achieve even more incredible missions, as illustrated by this remote-location launch of Eagle 10.

The students recovered the package, with the help of the Christoval STEM students, The Eldorado students were back at school by lunch after the successful mission.

The Eldorado Space Cowboys and their incredible program are taught and sponsored by Mr. Paul McWhorter.