Project High-Altitude Lift-Off (HALO): Sky Launch 1 (SL-1)

Third Time's the Charm. Making History off the Coast of North Carolina.

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After the success of GL-1, Project High-Altitude Lift-Off (HALO) kicked into high gear for our first launch attempt on March 22, 1997. Due to prelaunch malfunction, the first launch attempt was scrubbed. The second attempt, on May 3 was scrubbed due to weather. Finally...HAL5 made amateur rocketry history on Sunday, May 11, 1997 from from a grass strip airfield just north of Hampstead, North Carolina, about a mile west of Topsail Beach: [34.39639, -77.665]. This first HALO mission is dedicated to the memory of Edward F. Stluka.

At 8:25 AM EDT, HAL5's Project HALO team performed the first amateur rockoon mission when it successfully launched its Sky Launch 1 rocket from a high altitude balloon. SL-1 rocket ascended to approximately 36 nautical miles. HALO that day conducted the world's first high altitude ignition of a hybrid rocket. It is the highest flight of a hybrid rocket at that time. Based on an estimated rocket apogee between 30 abd 36 nautical miles, HAL5 also claimed the world record for highest altitude achieved (at that time) by an amateur rocket, and a hybrid rocket of any kind. That day, HAL5 proved to the world that small groups can accomplish great things and made space a little closer to all of us.

The record made into the 2000 Guinness Book of World Records under Amateur Rocketry. Due to avionics glitches, no precise final altitude was recorded. However, Greg Allison (Project HALO Manager at the time) indicated that the balloon's camera showed the curvature of the earth and "black sky." Based on the manufacture's estimated balloon burst altitude, and approximate burn time of the rocket, some belived we may have hit much higher than 36 nautical miles. HAL5's record stood until 2004 when Civilian Space eXploration Team (CSXT) achieved 72 miles.

When and Where

  • Site survey was held on Friday afternoon, May 9, 1997
  • Site setup was held all day Saturday, May 10, 1997
  • Rockoon mission was performed on Sunday, May 11, 1997
  • Site setup began on Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. EDT
  • Launch operations began early Sunday about 3:30 a.m. EDT
  • Balloon launch occurred after Sunrise at 6:59 a.m. EDT
  • Rocket launch occurred at 8:25 a.m. EDT

Purpose of Project HALO

The purpose of Project HALO is to make access to space more affordable for students, amateurs, experimenters, and researchers. It is combination technical and educational program. The program is divided into several phases. All phases have opportunities for student involvement at all grade levels.

  • Phase 0 was for developing rocket subsystems and testing them on the ground and at high altitude.
  • Phase 1 is to build the rocket and successfully launch it from a balloon.
  • Phase 2 will be to develop the operational capability for inexpensive and routine access to space using rockoons.

Goals of HALO Sky Launch 1

Project HALO Sky Launch 1 marks the completion milestone for Project HALO Phase 1, Proof of Concept. As such, this successful launch was the final test for Project HALO to proceed onto Phase 2, Operational Rockoons, when we can start to launch student payloads.

Primary Goals of HALO Sky Launch 1
Launch the balloon without damaging the balloon, gondola, or rocket ACHIEVED
Maintain the temperature inside the oxidizer tank to high altitude ACHIEVED
Successfully launch the rocket from the balloon ACHIEVED
Verify computer predictions using data transmitted from rocket FAILED
Benefits of Meeting Primary Goals
Gain confidence to proceed onto Project HALO Phase 2 ACHIEVED
Have one success from which to approach potential donors and clients ACHIEVED
Honors from Meeting Primary Goals
First amateur group to have a successful rockoon mission ACHIEVED
Important data point for future hybrid rockoons ACHIEVED
Important data point for hybrid upper stages ACHIEVED
World Records for HAL5 ACHIEVED
Highest altitude achieved by an amateur rocket (by any means) ACHIEVED
Highest altitude achieved by an amateur rockoon ACHIEVED
Highest altitude achieved by an hybrid-motor rocket (any organization) ACHIEVED
Highest altitude achieved by an amateur hybrid-motor rocket ACHIEVED
Secondary Goals of HALO Sky Launch 1
Have the rocket exceed an altitude of 50 nautical miles (nmi) FAILED
Have the rocket exceed an altitude of 100 kilometers (km) FAILED
Recover the rocket FAILED
Recover the balloon gondola FAILED
Benefits of Meeting Secondary Goals
Have one success from which to approach potential donors and clients? ACHIEVED
Can place the recovered rocket in a museum? FAILED
Can inspect recovered rocket and/or gondola for damage? FAILED
Can recover valuable electronics for future reuse FAILED
Honors from Meeting Secondary Goals
First amateur group to get their own rocket into space FAILED
First group (amateur or professional) to get a hybrid rocket into space FAILED
First amateur rocket recovered from space FAILED
Potential Records from Getting into Space SOME
Least expensive rocket-to-space program, start to first flight (less than $20,000 (1997 USD))
Least expensive rocket space mission, manufacturing and operations (less than $8,000 (1997 USD))

Technical Details


Reports and Press Releases


March 22, 1997. First Attempt --- scrubbed due to prelaunch malfunction

May 3, 1997. Second Attempt --- postponed due to weather May 10-11, 1997. Third Attempt --- successful launch!

Amateur Radio Frequencies and Telemetry Decoding

Transmissions from the Balloon Gondola
  • Live Color Video -- 434.00 MHz AM ATV -- (Cable Ready TV Channel 59)
Transmissions from the Rocket
  • Live Black & White Video -- 1280 MHz FM ATV
  • APRS GPS Packet Data -- 441.050 MHz FM
Chat Frequencies
  • Talk-in Frequency at launch site is on 144.34 MHz Simplex
  • Talk-in Frequency at launch site is also on 147.21 MHz Simplex repeater
  • Also listen to the 146.82 Wilmington repeater (88.5 PL)

See Bill Brown's WB8ELK Home Page for details.

SL-1 Major Donors and Contributors

Special Thanks to Mr. Cary Bruton of Hampstead, NC. Mr. Bruton has very graciously allowed HAL5 to launch its first Project HALO rockoon mission from his property. PDF version of this list.

Donors of Time and Effort to Project HALO

  • Alfred Wright
  • Amy Herring
  • Barry Lankford (N4MSJ)
  • Ben Frink (KD4BFG)
  • Bill Axenroth
  • Bill Brown (WB8ELK)
  • Brent Sandlin
  • Bryan Jones
  • Chris Pickens
  • Christie Harper
  • Clay Sawyer
  • David Dean
  • David Hewitt
  • Dennis LaMothe
  • Drew Prentice
  • Ed Myszka (KE4ROC)
  • Ethan Scarl
  • Gene Hornbuckle
  • Gene Marcus (W3PM)
  • Gene Young
  • Gregory Allison
  • Hank Cantrell (W4HTB)
  • Herman Pickens
  • James Hopkins
  • John Fox (WB2LLB)
  • Larry Larsen
  • Larry Scarborough
  • Mark Wells
  • Martha Feld
  • Mary Bare
  • Matt Beland
  • Melanie Pickens
  • Peder Kilness
  • Peter Ewing
  • Philomena Grodzka
  • Richard Goode (W8RVH)
  • Rick Kauffman
  • Ron Creel
  • Ronnie Lajoie
  • Steve Mustaikis
  • Timothy Pickens
  • and more!

This first HALO mission is dedicated to the memory of Edward F. Stluka

Donors of Cash and Equipment to Project HALO

  • Alfred Wright
  • Amy Houts
  • Clear Lake NSS
  • David Hirzel
  • Gene Young
  • Lyle Taylor
  • Matt Beland
  • Richard Braastad
  • Richard Richardson
  • Steve Arnold
  • Ethan Scarl
  • John Pavlick
  • Philomena Grodzka
  • Ray Moses
  • Anthony Murks
  • Bill Brown
  • Clay Sawyer
  • David Dean
  • Ed Myszka
  • Gregory Allison
  • James Hopkins
  • James Owens
  • Julian Campbell
  • Larry Scarborough
  • Melanie Hazelrig
  • Peter Ewing
  • Rick Kauffman
  • Ron Creel
  • Ronnie Lajoie
  • Timothy Pickens

Donors of Equipment to the HALO Motor Test Facility

  • Timothy Pickens
  • MHC&S Load Cell
  • Toroid Corporation
  • Wyle Laboratories (surplus)
  • Thiokol Corporation (surplus)

Various Pictures from SL-1 Mission

Transferring Soon.