Monday, August 20, 2007

High-altitude balloons

There are groups of hams flying weather balloons stuffed with APRS trackers, digital cameras, repeaters and linear transponders, and other cool stuff. These things are cheaper to build and fly than self-built satellites, but offer a lot of the same features and thrill. I'm aware of two projects which flew during the past couple weeks.

Ilmari-2007 (OH2SIX-12) flew in Finland on 11th of August 2007 and is planned to fly again on 2nd of September. It's equipped with a linear transponder (70cm to 2M, just like amateur satellites - actually the device was designed for a future satellite), a couple of beacons, an APRS tracker transmitting on 437 MHz, a couple of temperature sensors, and an 1.2 GHz Amateur Television (ATV) transmitter sending live video from the heights! The first flight went up to about 30 km (100 000 feet). Here are the links (sorry for the login requirement):

- The track of the first Ilmari-2007 flight
- Current location of Ilmari-2007 - use this link on 2nd of September to follow the flight in real time. The flight is scheduled at 06:00 UTC (but they usually fly late).

SABLE-3 (VA6TNY-11) also flew on 11th of August, in South Alberta, Canada. It was equipped with a 8-megapixel digital still camera taking crisp pictures once every minute, and an APRS tracker. It flew up to 117,597 feet (over 35 km), and took some really nice photos!

- The track of the SABLE-3 flight on 11th of August, 2007

These balloon flights took usage to an all-time high - there were over 100 simultaenous users tracking the balloons alone.

If you are planning to launch a balloon, please share the fun and drop me an email, or post a comment on this blog. Thanks!


Unknown said...

Thanks for the link to the SABLE-III webpage Hessu! We pointed everyone interested in watching the balloon flight to There's no website better suited to this task than yours. It does a better job showing the APRS traffic than UI-View or Xastir.

One of our chase teams had no APRS equipment on board, solely relying on to track the balloon telemetry on their laptop using a cellphone data connection to the internet.

We put a little spike into the usage graphs on August 11 between the two balloon projects!


Anonymous said...

North Texas Amateurs Prepare for High Altitude Balloon Flight

Members of the North Texas Balloon Project are making final preparations for the launch of NTBP-15. NTBP-15 is scheduled to launch Saturday September 1st, 2007 at approximately 8:30 AM CDT from the Hillsboro, Texas Airport (32.0835 N 97.0971W). NTBP-15 will carry a number of payloads to an expected altitude of 96,000 feet. The payloads include:

APRS: Operating with the call sign W5SJZ-11 on 144.39 MHz.

Homing and Data Beacon: The homing beacon will operate on 145.560 MHz.
In addition to aiding search teams during the recovery phase of the mission, the beacon with transmit plain language navigation and environmental data to the ground during the entire duration of the flight.

Crossband FM Repeater: The crossband FM repeater is open for all to use. During the final minutes of the balloon's ascent, it is possible that as many as parts of seven states will be able to communicate via the crossband repeater. The crossband FM repeater will operate on the frequencies of 445.800 MHz UP – 147.560 MHz Down. The repeater does not employ any tones for access.

Amateurs across the southwest will be able to follow flight preparations and receive status reports on the balloon's progress via a special NTBP-15 operations net that will be held on 7.260 MHz +/- QRM commencing at 7:45 AM CDT. The Net Control Station will be W5SJZ.

Updated information can be found of flight preparations can be found at