Amateur Radio High Altitude Balloon launch from Carrollton, GA

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KK4DAN

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We are doing another high altitude balloon launch from Carrollton, GA tomorrow starting around 9am ET. We hope to have the balloon in the air by 10am, but it might take longer. If you want to come join us, we'll be meeting in the Hobby Lobby Parking lot in Carrollton.

I have a bunch of links if you just want to follow along from your home and tune in and follow the action.

If you are within range of the Carrollton repeater, you can listen to us on the Repeater 146.640- (131.8) until we get it in the air. Once the balloon launches, you can tune into the simplex repeater on the balloon at 146.550 and this should be able to be heard from just about anywhere here around ATL once it gets up in elevation maybe even further since the balloon will reach heights of 90k-100k ft. This is a simplex repeater, so there is going to be a delay between each transmission as the person has to talk into it have it record their message, and then it plays back after they finish. So each time someone is speaking, you won't hear anything until it plays back. However, we don't want to kill our battery by being on the simplex repeater too much because its powering everything including the APRS, and if we lose that, the balloon payload is probably gone too. So, with the projected path heading SE, its possible, we'll be jumping on the Madras, Newnan, Fayette, Griffin and other repeaters along the path or other ones depending on the path.


This is the projected balloon trajectory path. - SpaceQuest Balloon Trajectory Predictions - Google Maps

The balloon is going to be carrying an APRS tracker and you can track the balloon over the internet via Google Maps APRS. The balloon will be beaconing N4BWR-11. Here is a link for the past 12hrs - Location of N4BWR-11

You can track more then one call sign at a time by separating them with commas. I will be beaconing KK4DAN-5 from my phone and Blake might be Beaconing N4BWR-9. You might also be able to follow WX4BK & KE4YYQ, but not sure on numbers for them. Here's a link with the balloon, Blake, & Myself all included - Location of N4BWR-11,N4BWR-9,KK4DAN-5

Blake will also have the tracking going directly from his webpage - SpaceQuest Flight Tracker

Both Blake and I should be running uStream which allows us to give live updates with our phones and stream it directly to the net. Blake has done this before, but first time for me, so this could be interesting. You can subscribe so that you get an e-mail when we are on the air and you can chat directly to us and we can read the chats and answer you back.
Blake on uStream - N4BWR on USTREAM: .
Dan on uStream - KK4DAN - Ham Channel on USTREAM: Amateur Radio Channel - KK4DAN.

Just as a backup, I'll be running my SPOT tracker too - SPOT Shared Page

It should be a fun day.
 

KK4DAN

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This was from the last balloon launch earlier in the summer and it reached a height of 110k ft. We'll be running two HD Go Pro camera's again, but this time both will be video tapping. It should be interesting.

βlueLghtning;1112618 said:
So, N4BWR got the pics up from the balloon launch. All the pics can be found here - BTS-1X Test Flight - a set on Flickr

This pic from 60k feet just tells it all. I'm linking it as it is huge.
http://n4bwr.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/GOPR0397.jpg

Here's just a few. This is the first pic it took. I'm off to the right in the pic


It's amazing that a simple weather balloon can launch a GoPro camera this high to get these shots! They are still estimating it got over 88k feet :thumbup:







 

KK4DAN

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Well, this one turned out to be a bust or maybe lessons learned. The Balloon last beaconed at 63,498ft 18:12z and this was about an 1:20hrs into its trip. - http://aprs.fi/?call=N4BWR-11&mt=roadmap&z=11&timerange=21600&_s=ss_call After that we never heard it again and as of this evening, we never found it or the payload. :( The general consensus is we think we killed the battery due to the simplex repeater that was running. We honestly have no idea where it ended up other then maybe its projected path, but even that leaves a lot of variables.

Keep in mind, I was only assisting, and none of this was my equipment. Hind sight is 20/20 of course and I had a SPOT tracker with me at launch that I could have just thrown in there as a backup beaconing system, although it is a bit hefty and weight is a concern for payload.

Last time, we only ran an APRS beacon hooked up to an HT with some sort of APRS tracker & GPS. This time, we were running a different APRS tracker that had its own 5w radio built in so that left the HT to be used for something else, so we hooked it up to a simplex repeater. Well all of that was still running off 1 battery in the balloon. It was brought up that if we killed the battery, we would lose the APRS tracker too, but it was decided to still launch that way.

I gotta say the simplex repeater was pretty cool and opened up a whole new world. With in the first few minutes after launch, we had 2 guys coming in over the repeater over in AL and they were wondering who was using their frequency that is normally quiet. Then, a bit later, we had more people coming in over the repeater from even further distances like Savannah and S, GA. At about 30k-40k ft, we were picking up 2 guys from KY! . But as cool as this was, it also presented a huge issue. The repeater was in constant use for the first 30-45 mins. Finally the owner of the balloon came on and asked people to restrict their transmissions, but with in the next 30 mins we would lose contact.

I believe both the APRS Tracker and the HT repeater were running at 5w too, so that certainly didn't help battery life, especially the repeater as much use as it was getting. After hearing how far it was reaching on 5w, my buddy and I discussed that it probably could have been set to about 1w, maybe even .5w and we still would have heard it fine since it was so high. That's a heck of an antenna at 30-40k ft. Heck TYT is making a chinese knock off of the tiny VX3 that pushes out like 2w max. Its a tiny small and light radio and would be perfect for something like this and its only about $50-$60 brand new.

Benny and I were the first group to head straight for I-20 and towards Atl which was the direction the balloon was headed. We decided to go hang out at the projected landing area near Conyers to see if maybe we would catch a glimpse of it landing, but no such luck. A few of the others headed to the last beaconing spot thinking maybe the balloon busted there and the parachute failed and it went in free fall, but they didn't have any luck either.

At this point, our only hope is that someone that finds the box will call the name/numbers written all over it and return the equipment. I feel bad because the owner of this equipment has a lot of money tied up in all this and its always a risk you could lose it, but hopefully its returned to him once found. These really are a lot of fun and I'd hate to see him be out all of that.

So just my observations, but if there is another launch this would be my suggestions.

What worked.
-We did much better on the helium this time and only stopped once to check and see if we had enough lift.
- Once we launched, the balloon climbed nice and steady and made good progress.
- The simplex repeater was very cool and reached out way better then I think anyone expected.

What needs work

- The repeater can't be sucking all the juice out of our main battery unit.
- Two different batteries with APRS running its own. The simplex repeater was definitely very cool, but it needs to run less power and be on its own battery.
- Backup SPOT tracker or some other device. I know it takes some of the fun out of APRS tracking, but it would at least be there for a fail safe if the APRS dies for any reason and leaves you a much better chance to get your expensive equipment back.
 
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OCO

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Bummer - this is a really interesting project. With the projected path, you don't suppose it's on the tail of a 767 that was headed into ATL do ya?? (Geez, RC guys think they have it bad on a flyaway....)
Thanks for posting the info - hope you guys can do it again!
 

Squad10

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Great pics. Here is the distance/Ambient temperature report for a 0.05W transmitter used for a balloon RF beacon that achieved 110K feet.

"In November 2003, Bill Brown ( WB8ELK ) installed a MicroHunt transmitter on an amateur balloon that was launched from the University of Alabama, at Huntsville. It landed some hours later on a mountaintop in North Georgia. The MicroHunt transmitter served as a "beacon" transmitter, and as a "backup" homing transmitter, in case the primary ( telemetry ) transmitter failed.


The MicroHunt transmitter performed well throughout the flight, to a maximum altitude of 110,000 feet, and through all temperatures, which reached as low as -70 Centigrade. ( -95 Farenheit ) The transmitter was furthermore recieved by ground stations ( while in flight ) as far away as Bucyrus, Ohio ( by KA8LWR ) while floating over Dalton, Georgia... a range of some 425 miles.


It continued to operate properly when the primary transmitter failed on landing, ( a rough landing, I assume ) and was detectable at a range of 5 miles, after the landing. The ultimate battery lifespan proved to be 36 hours, using a single 9V Lithium battery, and transmitting 60 percent of the time. ( 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off )


My thanks to Bill Brown WB8ELK for his kind permission to publish the MicroHunt performance details of that flight... since this report was recieved, several more flights have been made, with similar results. The maximum theoretical range of a 50 mW signal is actually 700 statute miles, assuming omni-directional antennas at the receiver and the transmitter, a reciever with sensitivity of 0.2 uV, and a clear signal path. At an altitude of 100K feet, the distance to the horizon is about 400 miles, so these ( reported ) ranges are not unreasonable."

From: Doppler DF Instruments : More MicroHunt Info

From my tests, no circuit modification is needed to the MicroHunt to inject 1200 baud FSK APRS data. The module draws so little battery power it can be in continuous TX.
 

mancow

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Maybe one of the TYT portables stripped down without the housing and display board would work for this. They can be set to .1 watt on their lowest setting if I recall correctly.
 

KK4DAN

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Bummer - this is a really interesting project. With the projected path, you don't suppose it's on the tail of a 767 that was headed into ATL do ya?? (Geez, RC guys think they have it bad on a flyaway....)
Thanks for posting the info - hope you guys can do it again!
Hehe, hopefully not. Although this flight path did take us pretty close to Hartsfield, but we should have been well over 70-90k ft while passing over that area.

The guys that own the equipment are looking over the data and trying to get some ideas and stuff from the data we do have.
 

KK4DAN

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Maybe one of the TYT portables stripped down without the housing and display board would work for this. They can be set to .1 watt on their lowest setting if I recall correctly.
Yeah, it looks like they make the TYT - TH-2R, Ronson RT-88, or the Baofeng UV3R. All appear to be clones of the yaesu VX-3 mirco radio, push out about 2w max and are very small and light and can be found from about $40-$60.
 

KJ4ODU

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Carrollton GA
There was talk on the repeater of a SR71 and maybe a rocket missile to take out the little falling UFO.

Just saying, if your at that height, and US Gov ask "WHO ARE YOU" and you don't Answer, that rocket missile might see you.


J/K
 

WK4U

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These projects are always exciting fun. Thanks for sharing it with us.

In the future, give more advance notice, and you'll have extra help - whether technical, launch or recovery teams. Atlanta has plenty of folks that can offer good help. At a minimum we can listen to the fun on a radio!

Tim, WK4U
 

KK4DAN

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These projects are always exciting fun. Thanks for sharing it with us.

In the future, give more advance notice, and you'll have extra help - whether technical, launch or recovery teams. Atlanta has plenty of folks that can offer good help. At a minimum we can listen to the fun on a radio!

Tim, WK4U
Yeah, It was just a last minute thought of mine to post it up. Next time, I'll try to get it posted up earlier. These are interesting projects and peeks lot's of people's interest.
 

k4sgt

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Hmm...I was wondering what that was on 146.55 the other day. I figured that it might be a balloon. It was coming into Columbus, GA loud and clear.

Barry
K4SGT
 

KK4DAN

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Hmm...I was wondering what that was on 146.55 the other day. I figured that it might be a balloon. It was coming into Columbus, GA loud and clear.

Barry
K4SGT
Yeah, it was amazing how far the simplex repeater was reaching. The two guys from Kentucky were coming in loud and clear along with the guys in Savannah and South, GA.
 

KK4DAN

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So this is a pretty cool map that shows all the different APRS paths all overlayed on the same map.

This is an APRS-powered Google Map for BTS-1Y search that Blake put together. Purple line is a predicted flight path. Light blue is what we have of the actual path. Green is myself (KK4DAN) and Benny driving around looking for it, and dark blue is a short bit of Brian (WX4BK) and Blake (N4BWR) when he was still beaconing. The various pins are different predicted landing sites. The two red are from the same source, but one assumes an 800 foot per minute ascent rate and the other is 500 FPM

- BTS-1Y Search - Google Maps

 

CalebATC

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Well, did you guys ever find it?

I wish I would have seen this! Those are some AWESOME pictures, and maps!

Is there any new plans for another one? I'd love to go see one of these, or just listen to them!
 

KK4DAN

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Well, did you guys ever find it?

I wish I would have seen this! Those are some AWESOME pictures, and maps!

Is there any new plans for another one? I'd love to go see one of these, or just listen to them!
As of yet, nothing has shown up and no calls or anything on the payload. We put the word out to many news organizations that picked up the story and posted about a reward if found. Here is his site that he posts from - Reward Increased for Missing Weather Balloon Payload | SpaceQuest

11 Alive here in Atl picked up the story and did a video story on it too. - 11Alive Video Interview | SpaceQuest

But no luck.

I'm sure they'll be more, but at this point, Blake needs to replace all his equipment.
 
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