4 March 2017 Schönfelde Launch: 51 Pegasi b, Schellin, and an Explorer Trio



On Saturday, 4th March, 2017 members of the Aerocene team from Studio Tomás Saraceno, alongside members of Radioamateur and other enthusiasts, travelled to Steinhofel in Brandenburg, Germany – just outside of Berlin - to launch a series of Aerocene sculptures. The launch was planned in tangent to the exhibition Aerosolar Journeys (http://www.wilhelmhack.museum/index.php?id=692) – now showing at Wilhelm Hack Museum in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Germany.

Despite starting the day off rather early (at five o’clock in the morning!) upon arrival to Schönefeld – a field specifically for launching balloons and aeroplanes – our spirits were high. We brought five Aerocene sculptures to the site, hopeful that the weather conditions would allow for successful launches. As the Aerocene sculptures float without burning fossil fuel, without batteries or helium, the best time to launch is in the morning – when the wind is calm and outside temperatures are low, both important factors in achieving a powerful uplift.

As clouds covering the sun started to clear around nine o’clock, we launched a trio of Aerocene Explorers. To fill the sculptures we ran with them to collect air and then sealed them. Filled with air and resting on the ground, the Explorers gradually lifted, heated by the rays of the sun. Quite quickly all three sculptures were in the air, connected to each other and tethered to the ground. Staying afloat for the whole time we were there, the Aerocene Explorers buoyed by the sun, were reactive to the changing weather conditions - creating an awe inspiring experience as they danced across the sky.

Shortly after this we prepared to launch the first of two sculptures intended for a free flight - 51 Pegasi b, a new highly transparent sculpture. The sculpture carried devices in its payload – sensing devices to measure the temperature of the air, a Pican Pica camera to shoot aerial photos, and a SPOT GPS Tracker. Before the launch we had speculated how far it would float with a challenge to forecast the landing point  and the bets were on! The clouds had cleared from the sky and the sun was out; the Pegasi, filled with air, quickly began to float. Members of the team prevented the balloon from lifting up while the last of the devices were attached, then with a rapid ascent Pegasi went up into the air soon disappearing from sight. The sculpture started to transmit data from the devices attached and we followed its trajectory on the APRS website and through the onboard Pican Pica camera which transmitted some fascinating aerial photos.

Back on earth, the weather was still favorable so we prepared our final launch of the day. This sculpture, the Schellin, carried a mechanism which would bring the sculpture down when it reached certain coordinates – a cut-down mechanism. We also experimented with geo-fencing – a way to stop the sculpture from floating on an undesired path like over the ocean. Launching the sculptures is not without trial and error. On the second attempt, the sculpture was launched up into the air, carrying its load successfully.

We launched five sculptures in one day without using any fossil fuel! While members of the team packed down the tethered Aerocene Explorers, two member jumped in the car to follow the Pegasi, using the devices it carried to track it. The sculpture transmitted its landing position at 12:52 p.m. that night and the next day our wonderful tracking team found it with the help of some local residents! Launched at 10:02 a. m., the Pegasi reached an altitude of 9391 meters before landing.

Many thanks to all that came and helped out on the day and followed the launch online! Also for the invaluable support of Radioamateur, Wilhelm Hack Museum. Stay tuned for more updates on Aerocene journeys!