MADHEN Eggsplorer-1 – We’ve got the data!

Following the euphoria of the Eggsplorer-1 payload being found six weeks after launch washed up and retrieved from the beach in Terschelling, Netherlands it has been an agonising wait to see what the Dutch police would send back. My impatience got the better of me last week and I contacted them directly to be told that unfortunately due to the awful smell and condition of the box they had simply removed the memory card and had posted that back as requested.

More days past and I was beginning to think irony was going to play a cruel trick and the card after its fantastical journey would end up lost in the post. I shouldn’t have been so pessimistic as it arrived today! Along with the card was a detailed map showing the final location and labels from the side of the box.

There was a nice note from the police.

The SD memory card seemed to have had survived more or less intact, though there was some corrosion on the contacts and crucially a small corner of the card was broken off.

The plan was to use the Win32 Disk Imager program to make a direct raw image of the card and work on that copy. I first used a small wad of wire wool to gently clean up the contacts

I was encouraged when I inserted the card into my Microsoft Windows laptop and it was detected, however my heart sank when any attempt to access it or use the imager program was met with an error. I gave it another gentle going over with the wire wool and thankfully was then able to make a image file, the next stage was to extract the precious data.

The card of course contained the Linux based Raspberry Pi file system and in order to access it on a Windows machine I used the freeware linux-reader from DiskInternals which allows access to Ext2/Ext3/Ext4, HFS and ReiserFS file systems within Windows.

It was a simple case of using the “mount image file” option and the partitions were then accessible and everything appeared intact, there were images on the card unfortunately not the “egg in space” image I wanted, just some nice “egg in the clouds” shots.

The telemetry log file confirmed the worst, the flight computer had indeed stopped/crashed at approx 2.5km up and no further images had been captured of the 31km accent into the stratosphere (confirmed by the backup tracker) I had hoped the transmission had stopped because of a fault in the antenna or the radio module board alas this wasn’t the case.

On the day of the launch I did have problems with the payload not booting up. It had worked flawlessly under test the previous weeks and I had secured everything in the box ready for the flight. The day before the launch I had spotted there was another balloon going up in the UK at the same time and we had both opted for the same frequency. So at the eleventh hour I was forced to take out the SD card to change the configuration to prevent the transmission clash.

The launch day start up problem was the SD card. I had removed and reinserted it to get it to start up and secured it down with plenty of gaffa tape. Looking at the card now and the fact the broken corner is old damage I am convinced this is the reason for the failure as the card may well have become dislodged due to turbulence.

While slightly disappointed it is still a miracle I have any images at all and can only thank Jan and the Dutch Police again.

I have certainly learned a lot and hope the National Hamfest HAB that I and South Kesteven ARS are flying is more successful

MADHEN Eggsplorer-1 FOUND!

The payload for the MADHEN Eggsplorer-1 High Altitude Balloon that I and the SKARS team launched in June has been located washed up on a beach in the Netherlands. Amazingly the egg was still intact inside the capsule.

On Friday evening I went to the Hucknall Rolls Royce ARC to give a presentation of HAB flights including details of the Eggsplorer-1 launch and its subsequent apparent loss at sea, then yesterday we had a trip to North Yorkshire and visited the Boon Hill Show and I admired the display of eggs within the produce tent.

It must have been synchronicity since a few hours later despite the poor mobile phone coverage I spotted a message on my mobile phone. It was from Jan Wouter Kramer from the Netherlands, whilst out on a remote beach in Terschelling he had found the Eggsplorer-1 washed up and taken some photographs!

Nearly six weeks to the day after launch she had been found with the egg apparently intact! I tried several times to ring back but the poor mobile coverage prevented it so sent a text message hoping it would reach him. I couldn’t wait to get home to and finally did just before midnight.

I frantically logged on to check emails

Hey Andrew

Found your email on the site.
These are the pics we made.

We found it today about 14:00 during a walk on the beach of Terschelling in an area were not many people are walking because it’s more than a two hours walk from the nearest houses.

As you can see the egg wasn’t damaged but had probably lost it’s strength. While trying to investigate what was inside the ‘bulb’ it broke open and the egg broke in two parts. It was nearly empty. Only a few cc of dark ‘water’ was left in it with a terrible smell …….

Best Regards !

Jan Wouter Kramer

The pictures were amazing

I emailed Jan back as far too late in the night to telephone

Hi Jan, 
Sorry I was able to take your call this afternoon but was out of coverage for most of the day.

Thank you very much for the information and pictures of the Eggsplorer-1. It was our first ever balloon flight and after it landed in the sea I thought we would never see it again.

Amazingly it appears very much intact, shame about the egg being rancid, would really have liked to get it back and would have paid for shipping – but I can imagine the smell was awful.

The Raspberry PI circuit board inside the box had a SD memory card which was held down with gaffa tape, I am not sure if it is still attached and it may have contained some photos of the flight taken with the onboard camera. However given the remoteness of the payload I understand if it is too far to return for such a slim chance.

Regards

Andrew Garratt (M0NRD)

As I wrote given the remoteness and the rancid condition of the egg I couldn’t really expect Jan to go out again to collect it but had a fantastic text message this morning

Hi Andrew, thanks for your email. The good news is that I found the local police willing to pick up the remains of the eggsplorer. (They are allowed to drive on the beach by 4×4) I just got a phonecall that they found it and are willing to send it back to you.
So you have an address for me ??
Best regards
Jan Wouter

As you can imagine I am totally EGGSTATIC!!

I rang Jan this morning and had a great conversation, seems he visits here every year and goes beach-combing with his son, they have never found anything quite as exciting as this!

So MADHEN Eggsplorer-1 has traveled 31km into the stratosphere, landed in the sea and traveled approximately 370km from launch site to its final resting place on the beach. The World Egg Throwing Championship people are very eggcited.

Just hoping that there are some photos on the card if it has survived, cannot be sure from Jan’s photographs. Since the flight I have suspected two possible fault scenarios, bad connector on the SD card on the Raspberry Pi or the antenna was broken off due to the backup tracker suspended underneath. I am hoping it was the latter and the card is recoverable and readable since it would contain pictures.

The backup tracker is also there but has lost its polystyrene egg cover, gps-antenna and battery pack but can see it is still attached to the main payload. The question is how long it has been on the beach? Given the relatively good condition of the box and the labels are still attached it may have been quite soon after splash down.

I am indebted to Jan for taking the trouble of contacting me and the police, I can’t thank him enough! When I get the payload back I will post an update.

All the members of SKARS are eggcited and gives new impetus for the National Hamfest flight next month.

Sneeking off to track a HAB

Following our sojourn to Scotland we spent this weekend visiting and catching up with the relatives, as a result radio activity was a little limited.

Yesterday we were visiting my mother-in-law and I had seen that the University of Southampton Spaceflight Society were launching a High Altitude Balloon from the New Forest. I am never one to miss the chance to track them and decided at the last minute to throw the Alinco DJ-X10 receiver and an audio lead into the bag with the laptop which by happy coincidence we were taking since it contained the holiday photographs.

After an enjoyable Sunday lunch I dutifully did the washing up and then as the others succumbed to postprandial somnolence I sneaked off to see if I could receive anything as the flight was already well under way.

I put the Alinco on an upstairs windowsill with the W-881 Watson Super Gainer antenna fitted. The radio which has SSB capability was still tuned to 434.650MHz as this was the frequency I used on the EGG1 tracker and amazingly I heard clear RTTY telemetry of the CHRISHAB tracker and connecting it to the laptop with a simple earphone-to-microphone input lead was getting clear decodes.

Being a silver surfer my mother-in-law has a broadband connection so was able to upload the packets to the tracker system.

I left it running while I returned to be sociable. When I checked back later the flight had ended but I was more than happy with the number of decodes I had achieved with this modest set up and proves with all things radio it pays sometimes just to give it a try!

The previous day I visited my mother and got to try my brother’s very nice new Yaesu VX-8R hand held. I made a short QSO with MX0PPC the Central Amateur Radio Circle (CARC) who were running some intermediate classes that afternoon. My brother is getting to grips with it and its in built APRS and GPS and soon hopes to be spotted by the International Space Station digipeater.