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Stratofox Aerospace Tracking Team. Presented by Ian Kluft Space Access '09 Conference Phoenix, Arizona April 2-4, 2009. About Stratofox. About Stratofox. We're an amateur group which performs tracking services for high altitude rocket and balloon flights

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stratofox aerospace tracking team
StratofoxAerospace Tracking Team

Presented by Ian KluftSpace Access '09 ConferencePhoenix, ArizonaApril 2-4, 2009

about stratofox3
About Stratofox
  • We're an amateur group which performs tracking services for high altitude rocket and balloon flights
  • Our team has familiarity with the Black Rock Desert region, a rocket launch site in Northern Nevada
  • Members have experience in high-power rocketry, Ham Radio, 4x4, amateur astronomy, search & rescue, wilderness first responder, etc
  • Our goal is to get invitations to “all the cool launches” for our members and help the civilian entrepreneurial aerospace industry get off the ground
what does stratofox s name mean
What does Stratofox's name mean?
  • It stands for “Stratospheric foxhunt”.
  • The Stratosphere is the layer of the atmosphere from 40,000' to 120,000'.
  • Hams call a hidden transmitter search a “foxhunt”
  • The most challenging type of transmitter hunt is one where the transmitter fell from the sky.
  • So no one can tell you where they hid it.
  • That's what we do.
quick history
Quick History
  • Founded in late 2002
  • First high-altitude rocket recovery in June 2003 – Paragon Labs' Dragoon I (mid-altitude systems test)altitude 16 miles, found 6 miles away
  • Recovered first amateur rocket launched to space, CSXT Space Shot in May 2004altitude 72 miles, found 25 miles away
  • Recovered 8 high-altitude balloons in 2007-2008 for Stanford University and NASA Ames which flew to altitudes up to 100,000', found up to 80 miles away
which events has stratofox supported
Which events has Stratofox supported?
  • Paragon Dragoon I, II, IIB 2003-2005
  • CSXT Space Shot 2004
  • AeroPac To100K (3 launches) 2005-2006
  • Stanford BioLaunch B07A-F/B08A-B 2007-present
  • Soka University (Japan) CanSat recovery 2008
stratofox and paragon start together
Stratofox and Paragon start together
  • Paragon's test launch of Dragoon I in 2003 was Stratofox's first recovery
  • Continued to support Paragon space launch efforts in 2004 and 2005
  • Assistance planned as ground crew for Lunar Lander Challenge

Stratofox locates ParagonDragoon I in 15 minutes(June 2003)

csxt space shot 2004 stratofox recovers the spacecraft
CSXT Space Shot 2004Stratofox recovers the spacecraft
  • Used radio direction finding for secondary beacon attached to parachute
  • almost got there on first day – had to get everyone off mountain before dark
  • rescued two spectators who were also trying to look for it and broke down
  • found it at 6100' elevation after very strenuous hike around noon on May 18

Stratofox group picture: Will Galloway AE6EY, Ian Kluft KO6YQ, Jeremy Cooper KE6JJJ, Sean Lynch KG6CVV, Randy Palmer WA6LCD, Steve Palmer KA6DHU and Rob Palmer. Not shown: Diane Palmer KC6HVP, Christian Void KF6IHU, Colleen Brennan and Jay Lawson.

stratofox recovers csxt booster
Stratofox recovers CSXT booster

Booster lost radio transmitters on re-entry – recovered 6 months later

aeropac to100k launches
AeroPac To100K launches
  • 3 launches in 2005-2006
  • Attempts to reach 100,000' with commercial hobby motors
  • Stratofox supported with air and ground search, radio communications and safety coordination

AeroPac To100K launchesat Nevada's Black Rock Desert

stanford biolaunch balloons
Stanford BioLaunch balloons
  • NASA-funded balloon experiments
  • Stratofox supported balloon flights by Stanford University
  • Stratofox supported with air & ground search, communications and safety coordination
  • Stanford was so confident in Stratofox that B07E/F and B08A/B were flown in simultaneous pairs

B07A Jan 2007 near

Gilroy, California

stanford biolaunch balloons12
Stanford BioLaunch balloons

B08A Mar 2008 near

Merced, California

B07C May 2007 near

Tracy, California

B07F Dec 2007 near

Los Banos, California

soka university cansat search
Soka University CanSat Search
  • AeroPac & Stanford launched a CanSat on a rocket for Soka University (Japan) at Black Rock in Sept 2008
  • CanSat was not recovered
  • Stratofox was called for help
  • 3x3 mile search area
  • Outlook: very unlikely!

Stratofox planned a 3x3 mile visual

search area across the Quinn River

Sink at the Black Rock Desert

soka university cansat search14
Soka University CanSat search
  • Stratofox expedition to search for missing CanSat on Nov 23, 2008
  • With some planning and lots of luck... we found it!
  • A CanSat is the size of a soda can
  • Transmitter was dead
  • Found in visual search

Worse than a needle in a haystack:

a CanSat in the Black Rock Desert

(with dead transmitter!)

soka university cansat search17
Soka University CanSat search

CanSat handoff at AeroPac holiday party Dec 7, 2008 in Pacifica, CA

other potential upcoming launch support
Other potential upcoming launch support
  • UP Aerospacecommercial launch company formed by CSXT leaders
  • Lunar Lander Challengeground crew for Masten Space, Paragon and SpeedUp
  • Sugar Shot 2 Spaceseeking first amateur launch to space using amateur propellants
  • Various amateur and entrepreneurial projectsballoons and rockets as we're invited to help
mars society s tempo cubed project
Mars Society's“TEMPO Cubed” Project
  • Tethered Experiment for Mars interPlanetary Operations Cubed
  • CubeSats in centrifugal “artificial gravity”
  • Satellite launch funding delayed in 2008
  • Stratofox beginning to assist with building high-altitude balloon-drop platform so the research can continue
  • New Stratofox project as of March 2009

Image credit: CL Vancil/Mars Society

inviting stratofox to your launch
Inviting Stratofox to your launch

Stratofox was range safety and search crew for CSXT Space Shot 2004

inviting stratofox to your launch21
Inviting Stratofox to your launch
  • For high-altitude rocket or balloon flights
  • We've also made arrangements to assist as ground crew for some LLC contestants
  • Currently most of our members are in CA/NV, some also in NM, WA, CO, VA
  • It may be possible to recruit and/or train new Stratofox members near your site too
training and recreation
Training and Recreation

Sunset at Stratofox camp at Upper High Dry Lakebed, September 2008

camping and exploration
Camping and Exploration
  • Stratofox tries to schedule a recreational camping and exploration trip to the Black Rock Desert each year
  • It helps train new members about the area
  • It gives us a chance to explore areas related to upcoming events without pressure
  • We always maintain contact by Amateur Radio
  • Nearest cell coverage is 80 miles south
recreational trips to the black rock desert
Recreational trips to the Black Rock Desert
  • Stratofox 1 – Sept 2002founding event of Stratofox
  • Stratofox 2 – Aug 2003training for CSXT and Paragon space shots
  • Stratofox 3 – Sept 2006exploring after busy years w/ space launches
  • Stratofox 4 – Aug 2007exploration in the Black Rock Range
  • Stratofox 5 – Sept 2008exploration in the Black Rock Range
other research resulting from stratofox exploration
Other research resulting from Stratofox exploration

Stratofox member Bob Verish examines rocks in the Black Rock Range

suspected impact crater found
Suspected impact crater found
  • Clues in the rocks found all over the region during rocket and balloon hunting activities
  • If confirmed, 54 mile / 87 km diameter would be 2nd largest in US (after Chesapeake Bay)
  • Age unknown – many millions of years by amount of erosion
  • Discover Magazine mentioned the research in Dec 2008
volunteering for stratofox
Volunteering for Stratofox

Stratofox camp sites may include bicycles, 4x4s and airplanes

if you re interested in stratofox
If you're interested in Stratofox
  • Stratofox is admittedly picky about new membership
  • We have to keep the group trustworthy because some of our partner organizations have considered each other competitors before and others probably will again
  • We have to be trusted by all parties
  • There is no room for spectators in the deep desert –everyone has to “carry their own weight” out there
  • Potential new members need to have a useful skill
if you re interested in stratofox29
If you're interested in Stratofox
  • You may be referred as a potential new member by any team member who thinks you have what it takes
  • This puts you on “invitee” status
  • Invitees can earn full membership by participating in an event
  • After participating, you can be voted onto the team
    • How well did you do your part?
    • How well did you help the team achieve its goals?
    • How well did you get along with the team?
useful skills for membership
Electronics or Aerospace Engineering

Search & Rescue

Emergency medical training (WFR, EMT)

Logistical planning

Got something else you think is useful? Ask!

Useful skills for membership
  • Any of these, the more the better
  • Amateur Radio license
  • Navigation, GPS & maps
  • 4x4/off-roading
  • High-power rocketry cert
  • Private Pilot or better
  • Own an airplane
  • Astronomy
out of pocket expenses
Out of pocket expenses
  • Historically, all Stratofox volunteers have handled their expenses out of pocket
  • Stratofox's parent/umbrella corporation was granted 501(c)3 status in 2007
  • Volunteer expenses are now tax-deductible
    • Record your mileage and keep your receipts
  • Donations are now tax-deductible
  • Some situations may arise where we can reimburse volunteers for expenses – but don't count on that
for more information
For more information...
  • Web site:
  • Talk mail list – public aerospace discussion
  • Announce-only mail list – if you only want announcements
the end
The end

Stratofox ground crew gives search plane pilot the shutdown signal

search for missing csxt booster
Search for missing CSXT booster
  • No signals heard from the booster after descent and was presumed lost
  • In July 2004, CSXT analysis of Stratofox audio recording of the sonic boom indicated that booster's parachute was deployed on re-entry.
  • Ground searches were done in August.
missing csxt booster recovered november 2004
Missing CSXT booster recoveredNovember 2004
  • Nov 10 - BLM chartered helicopter doing survey of wild horses finds the booster near where we had searched
  • Nov 15 - BLM notifies CSXT and Stratofox
  • Nov 26 – Stratofox 4x4 expedition in mud/snow recovers the booster hours before a snowstorm
2004 2005 paragon space launch attempts
2004-2005 Paragon space launch attempts
  • Dragoon IIJune 7, 2004 launch in 1st day's windownozzle failure at liftoff, rocket impacted 3 miles away
  • Dragoon IIBSept 27, 2005 launch in 2nd day's windowpayload separation in flight, booster impacted ¾ mile away
2005 2006 aeropac to100k
2005-2006 AeroPac “To100K”
  • Rocket club effort to build a rocket to exceed 100,000' with commercially-available solid motors
  • 3 attempts spanning 2005 and 2006
  • First stage (booster) always worked
  • Different failure every time for the 2nd stage
  • Currently in redesign
stanford biolaunch balloons41
Stanford BioLaunch balloons

visual acquisition from the Tracy Airport of B07C climbing through 30,000'

stanford biolaunch balloons42
Stanford BioLaunch balloons
  • “BioLaunch” name comes from primary research, exposing DNA samples to solar radiation at altitude
  • Stanford Aerospace Engineering students also fly satellite electronics to test in near vacuum
  • K12 student experiments on some flights
biolaunch b07a march 2007
BioLaunch B07A – March 2007
  • BioLaunch B07A – March 10, 2007launched from Mt Hamiltonlanded in Henry Coe State Park
  • Landed on top of a tree
  • Successful same-day recovery enabled Stanford to present results to NASA promptly, which enabled further research funding
biolaunch b07a march 200744
BioLaunch B07A – March 2007
  • Sometimes when you find it, you aren't done yet
biolaunch b07b may 2007
BioLaunch B07B – May 2007
  • BioLaunch B07B – May 11, 2007launched from Mt Hamiltonlanded NE of Lodi next to Mokelumne River
  • Landed on top of a tree again(Stanford's mascot is a tree)
  • Stratofox chase plane crew found payloads within 10 minutes of payload touchdown
biolaunch b07c june 2007
BioLaunch B07C – June 2007
  • BioLaunch B07C – June 9, 2007launched from Galt (south of Sacramento)landed north of Tracy in San Joaquin Delta
  • Landed in corn field right down the furrow
  • Stratofox chase plane crew found it within 15 minutes of payload touchdown
biolaunch b07c june 200748
BioLaunch B07C – June 2007
  • Again, the plane found it in minutes where ground search might have taken hours
  • Ham Radio APRS telemetry received by air and ground crews
  • Plane crew “talked in” the ground crews to the site
biolaunch b07d aug 2007
BioLaunch B07D – Aug 2007
  • BioLaunch B07D – Aug 4, 2007launched from Casa de Fruta (E of Gilroy)
  • Part of payload separated and landed in mountains
  • Remainder landed in San Joaquin Valley orchard
  • All day+evening search, both parts recovered
biolaunch b07e f dec 2007
BioLaunch B07E/F – Dec 2007
  • BioLaunch B07E & B07F – Dec 15, 2007launched from Casa de Fruta (E of Gilroy)
  • B07E flew to 95,000', landed SW of Los Banos
  • B07F aborted at 30,000' by Stanfordlanded near junction of I-5 and SR 165
  • Both recovered in time for lunch
  • Plane grounded in San Jose due to fogarrived 3 minutes after B07E recovery
biolaunch b08a b mar 2008
BioLaunch B08A/B – Mar 2008
  • BioLaunch B08A & B08B – Mar 8, 2008launched from Galt (south of Sacramento)
  • 3 Stratofox teams started at the launch site
  • 3 started at the Madera Airport (north of Fresno)
  • Both balloons landed near Merced
  • Both recovered in time for lunch (again!)
  • B08A flew to 107,000'
  • B08B flew to 68,000' (as high as planned)