For the first team of the week in 2015, we are ecstatic to feature RandomRace of St. Petersburg Russia. All about education and inspiration, RandomRace had hands down had the most people at their launch from Palace Square (see image below) and we recognized them as one of the Best Stories of GSBC 2014, which you can find on our gallery page (http://balloonchallenge.org/gallery). Please enjoy this interview with team lead, Dmitry Bulavinov:
Image from the balloon over Palace Square for GSBC 2014
Q: Please Introduce yourself.
I am Dmitry Bulavinov, the RandomRace Team leader and creator. I am 44 years old and live in Russia in the city of Saint-Peterburg.
Q: How and why did you get involved with high altitude balloons?
In 2011 I had the idea of running the RandomRace competition – a number of balloons with trackers would land in random places as checkpoints, teams with trackers would set out looking for these checkpoints and all this could be followed online. For two years the idea was successfully put off but I started to realize the idea with my friends in 2013. We studied the experiences of other people, noticed their mistakes and made our first balloon launch on 31st August 2013. In fact, that day we launched four different balloons types (ranging from a small balloon bought in a shop to a real weather balloon) with different equipment kits. All landed containers were successully recovered. One balloon reached 30 km altitude and recorded a nice video.
Within 2 months we launched some more balloons for testing various equipment and on 26th October 2013 ran our first RandomRace competition. 10 balloons were launched and 13 teams took part in the competition.
Since then we have run the competition twice. The number of balloons and teams was steadily rising and in fall 2014 there were already 54 teams.
Q: What are the goals of your high altitude balloon group?
First of all, we are interested in running our competitions. Though we use medium size balloons hardly reaching 10 km altidude there is much room for improvement. To start with, these are purely technical difficulties to overcome. Our city is placed between vast water areas and harsh swamplands with no GSM coverage. Additionally, dry lands are mostly covered by high boreal forests and the descent chutes we used to use almost always hang on trees. To prevent this, we performed numerous tests of various non-chute deceleration devices, such as streamers (fabric bands swinging in air) and maple seed-shaped polyethylene foam wings that utilize a windmill effect for a smooth descent. Test results have provided the least 'sticking' solution. To avoid Water landings, we thoroughly adjust balloon buoyancy based on high-altitude winds forecast and
design balloon explosion (detachment) devices as necessary under certain conditions. This detachment may occur due to a violation of certain coordinates, ascent above a certain altitude, etc.
We also support promotion of hot-air ballooning. Last week we visited Smart Holidays school campus and arranged a balloon launch together with schoolchildren. They were very interested in this event.
Q: What is your favorite part of the Global Space Balloon Challenge?
Most of all I like the chance to share experience with participants from other countries and to see how their country looks like from the space.
The challenge itself (not just a festival) is exciting as well.
Q: What do you think is the future of HABing?
It is hard to say at the moment. I think what happens during the 2nd GSBC will make it easier to tell. In the meantime I see a huge potential in HABing as a design and test field for various equipment (meteorogical, navigational, telecommunications etc.). It is also a perfect scientific launching ground for space exploration (and exploring Earth from space) with quite low-budget means - that is, without launching costly satellites and so on.