Monday, January 28, 2013

Hot Air Balloon Launch

Massive when inflated, the hot air balloon is launched!

Pipe mounted folded balloon lantern ready for prepping
This is our four sided colored hot air balloon about 4-feet high with a skin made of thin plastic. It has a thin rigid circular wire frame at the bottom with criss-cross members that support a wad of cardboard soaked in low grade diesel fuel.

This eventful night launch was joined by film TV crews and Chinese models to pre-launch the special festival which was attended by thousands of participants and spectators. Many small stores dotted the long winding line of commercialism, selling food, lanterns, toys and souvenirs as walkways were packed with people.

Postcard artwork matched actual scene
The sides are painted, by Chinese tradition, with good luck inscriptions. The balloon is held upright as the fuel source is lit. The balloon is allowed to heat up as the fuel fire grows in intensity. Watch out if the wind comes up and the balloon tips - it happened once and can be very dangerous! Humanoido had to jump across the railroad tracks and large rocks to avoid catching on fire!

Credits & special commemorative stamps
Each "lantern" is prepared by placing it on its own pipe mount. The heavy mount has a base mount and 3 sides with clips - as it holds the lantern with plastic clothes pins, two sides at a time can be scribed with a message. When the two sides are complete, the balloon is unclipped, refolded, and the remaining two sides are painted with more inscriptions.

It generally takes 2 people or more to hold the balloon. Then, let go, and the balloon rises to reach a maximum altitude. At fuel extinction, it continues to rise and gain altitude as long as the air remains hot. These hot air balloons rise so high they become a fire-lit point like a star floating across the sky.

The balloon has lofting power and one could attach a camera as a payload or other scientific instruments, though retrieval could be complicated if the balloon lands over the lake or at night.

Postcard art showing simultaneous launches
This is actually a giant Chinese Lantern at the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival on Sunday January 27th, 2013. Cost of these large lanterns vary, depending on color, - this one launched was red and cost NT$100 or about US$3.00. Included are paintbrushes and ink to make your own good luck inscriptions and the lanterns are already built with wire frame bottoms and attached fuel. They set flat and are unfolded. Lanterns rise very fast when the temperature is about 59 deg. F, and take only 15 seconds to diminish to a tiny dot in the sky.

80 page book featuring Lantern Festival
Another unusual feature of the launch was it took place directly on the railroad tracks. During launch preparation, everything had to quickly be moved out the way as a large passenger train came roaring through! It was a bit dangerous but it was all part of the night fun! (See the beautiful postcard renditions and one showing the railway tracks!)

All hot air balloon photos shown are hand held captured with iPhone 5's camera in HD. Project cost was around $11.00. ($3 hot air balloon, $2 artwork, $6 Railway & MRT transportation to Pingxi)