Latest post from http://www.whitestarballoon.com:
Change of plans everyone! SpeedBall-1 is going to be launched *very* soon. By soon, I mean that we’re planning to launch within the next week or two. Why? There are several reasons:
One, we’re basically done with SpeedBall-1 and are just working on finishing the last of cryo tests to fix any remaining bugs related to operating in such cold temperatures.
Two, we don’t have much time left to catch the jet stream this season. The jet stream changes according to the seasons, and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data models we’ve calculated, we’re running out of time to catch the particular stream we need to hopefully hitch a ride to Europe, but possibly North Africa instead, since it’s impossible to predict the actual path the balloon will take in the jet stream. Also because of the limited time and amazing progress we’re made in putting everything together, SpeedBall-1 will be a full, trans-Atlantic flight, and not just a test of systems like previously planned.
Third, and something we realized after deciding to make the full, trans-Atlantic flight, we found out we have some tough competition! Cornell University has had a multi-year project to do basically what we’re doing — set the record for having the first amateur trans-Atlantic balloon crossing, and possibly farther. The difference? They started back in 2008, and have a huge, multi-disciplinary team of graduate students working on this full-time with full financial backing (from Lockheed-Martin, no less). Given that we’re a small hackerspace with limited time and resources, and started from scratch August 2010, what we’ve accomplished so far is nothing short of astounding. They’re planning to launch on Feb. 21st, so we don’t have much time left!