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Atlantic Crossing By Amateur Radio High Altitude Balloon

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the ever-lengthening-journeys dept.

Communications 51

First time submitter StatureOfLiberty writes "The California Near Space Project launched a high altitude weather balloon from San Jose, California 4:00 PM local time Sunday afternoon (Dec 11). Over the past 3 days it managed to cross the United States and then the Atlantic Ocean. The balloon passed the coastline of Spain about 12:40 AM (US Eastern Standard Time) Wednesday morning (Dec 14). It has since popped and landed in the Mediterranean Sea. This is a huge accomplishment. The previous distance record was about 3,300 miles. This one traveled about 6,200 miles. Enthusiasts tracked the balloon via the web throughout most of the trip thanks to a ham radio technology called APRS which received data transmitted by the balloon and logged it to databases on the internet. Thanks to APRS stations around the world (some of whom changed their normal listening frequencies to help with the tracking process) data was available for most of the flight."

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Next stop, manned balloon flight! (2, Informative)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 2 years ago | (#38371906)

Oh, wait.

At least three days is a lot faster than eighty days.

This submission (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38372006)

This submission read like a telegram.

The balloon passed the coastline of Spain about 12:40 AM (US Eastern Standard Time) Wednesday morning (Dec 14) [stop]
It has since popped and landed in the Mediterranean Sea [stop]
This is a huge accomplishment [stop]
The previous distance record was about 3,300 miles. [stop]
This one traveled about 6,200 miles. [stop]

Re:This submission (1)

JeanInMontana (2020420) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372288)

This submission read like a telegram.

The balloon passed the coastline of Spain about 12:40 AM (US Eastern Standard Time) Wednesday morning (Dec 14) [stop] It has since popped and landed in the Mediterranean Sea [stop] This is a huge accomplishment [stop] The previous distance record was about 3,300 miles. [stop] This one traveled about 6,200 miles. [stop]

In your world.

Re:This submission (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38372472)

Way to contribute, newcomer. That was even better than a 'nu-uh.' Perhaps your own writing style is so staccatic that you did not recognize it, but yeah, read like a telegram.

Re:This submission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38373358)

Go look at Jean's posting history and you will see a similar writing style. It is quite similar to the submission and very similar to my style when I have to reply to twenty emails in my thrity minutes between meetings. The style is quite choppy, direct to the point (the positive) but leaves you with the feeling that you talked to a non-sentient person.

Re:This submission (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38373240)

Nah, THIS reads like a telegram:

BALLOON PASSED ES COAST 1240 EST DEC 14 STOP NOW POPPED LANDED IN MEDIT STOP SET RECORD 6200 MI VS 3300 MI PREV STOP :-D
-os

Battery life (2)

hachiman (68983) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372028)

I read another article on this (possible on The Register), and one of the shortfalls of the project as it turned out (i.e. going further than expected) seemed to be the lack of battery power for the transponder for attempts at a longer journey.

I wonder how much a nicely paired up solar panel would upset the lift/weight balance on a high altitude balloon, and whether it would be able to charge the batteries well enough to power a transponder over a longer trip.

Re:Battery life (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372308)

I wonder how much a nicely paired up solar panel would upset the lift/weight balance on a high altitude balloon, and whether it would be able to charge the batteries well enough to power a transponder over a longer trip.

Thermal problems. Primary batteries might not work as well below -40 as they do at room temp, but they can be made to work. Secondary batteries, however, definitely don't like to take a charge in the deep cold. If you can keep the battery warm enough overnight, then maybe...

Re:Battery life (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 2 years ago | (#38374494)

Also, solar panels have to have the right angle of reception to be at all useful. On a weather balloon with no directional control, you're going to have to seriously overload the envelope/payload with cells in order to get any useful current... and that will add a LOT of weight.

Re:Battery life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379326)

The batteries didn't give out. In fact, the battery voltage was climbing when the balloon broke. The transponder was powered by 4 AA cells.

Re:Battery life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379634)

the guys on the team have years of experience w/ batteries in the cold.For them, this is not a problem: they know which ones work. Li-Ion are amazingly good at that, according to them.
Solar panels: just a problem of weight, I think. The balloon transmitters are taking very little power (transmission in bursts only), the main consumption is the GPS and the sensors. Wouldn't take much of a panel ( a few cells) to compensate for that. On the other hand, having batteries w/ enough capacity to last, say, one week, is also doable. Even their "short-flights" ballon have capability to transmit for several days ( so the balloon can be retrieved, once down).

Re:Battery life (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38379694)

The limiting factor in these flights, especially this one, is the life of the balloon. The latex is attacked by UV light, and eventually shatters after becoming brittle. The flights are above about 90 percent of the atmosphere, and there is a lot of UV there. They hedged their bets by having an evening launch, and got the balloon as far east as they could before the first UV exposure.

Most Amateur balloon flights don't want to go as far as this one. They want to be able to chase and retrieve the balloon, and especially the payload. In the tradeoffs, you inflate the balloon more, which gives a faster rise time, and/or larger payload. The more inflation there is, the more stress on the latex, so the lower the burst altitude. Lower inflation's the opposite - lower payload or slower rise.

But for the most part, we want the balloons to go up quickly, and burst at an altitude that will give a reasonable fall and retrieval time frame.

wikipedia's got the wrong name (3, Informative)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372044)

APRS is "Automatic Position Reporting System" per the creator. Wikipedia has the name wrong.

Why yes, I am a HAM. I hold a General ticket.

Re:wikipedia's got the wrong name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38372140)

They renamed it years ago.

Re:wikipedia's got the wrong name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38372236)

Why no, you're not. :) A real ham knows that "ham" is not an acronym.

Re:wikipedia's got the wrong name (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38372394)

That's weird. When I was studying for my general class, I was told that the P did stand for packet, and the claimed source was also the creator. That makes more sense if you think about it. While APRS is used for position data by most people, it's designed to handle allot more.

From Wikipedia: APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) is a digital communications protocol for exchanging information between a large number of stations covering a large (local) area.

While the article acknowledges the use of the system for location sharing, it makes it clear that isn't the sole propose of the system.

Re:wikipedia's got the wrong name (5, Informative)

jdagius (589920) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372686)

> Wikipedia has the name wrong.

No, you are wrong. Bob Bruinga, WB4APR, the inventor of APRS has reverted in the naming convention, and now supports the "_packet_ reporting" moniker because he wants to emphasize that APRS is not just for position reporting. For example, it's extensively used for weather reporting from mostly non-mobile CWOP (Citizen Weather Observers Program) volunteers, who include a lot of non-amateur radio enthusiasts who augment NWS mesolevel forecasts with thousands of home-made stations reporting every ten minutes or so over the Internet. (The ham-radio CWOP volunteers can also report weather via amateur RF frequencies).

Also APRS has been used ("firenet") for reporting brush and forest fires.
http://wa8lmf.net/aprs/get_nws_shapefiles.htm [wa8lmf.net]

Re:wikipedia's got the wrong name (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372808)

... I love it when people rename things.

My mistake.

Re:wikipedia's got the wrong name (2)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 2 years ago | (#38374822)

If you've met Bob, or worked with APRS for any length of time, you'll know that APRS is a bit of a moving target. (Props to Cmdr. Bruninga for making it a reality, but he does have a bit of a "shoot from the hip" reputation.)

Re:wikipedia's got the wrong name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38373284)

APRS is "Automatic Position Reporting System" per the creator. Wikipedia has the name wrong.

Go to www.aprs.org. You're wrong.

Why yes, I am a HAM. I hold a General ticket.

So am I (Extra). But that doesn't make either of us right or wrong.

Re:wikipedia's got the wrong name (2)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#38374200)

APRS is "Automatic Position Reporting System" per the creator. Wikipedia has the name wrong.

Sorry but the correct name is "Automatic Packet Reporting System". Position information is available in the protocol but not its purpose. In fact, when APRS was young and GPS was still expensive the position information was only a rough estimate of the origination station's location.

Anyway APRS was designed to send short messages efficiently and is used for tactical information (eg. weather stations, shelter populations, balloon tracking, you name it). What made it special was that when a packet terminal (a smart radio modem) received this short packet it would simply decrement the time to live field and blindly retransmit that packet if the terminal wasn't its destination. This allowed the information to be broadcasted throughout the area without usual overhead associated with AX.25. Since an area with a lot of APRS stations would be repeating this packet, delivery of the message was pretty much guaranteed. This is why it's called "Automatic Packet Reporting System".

I'm sure Bob Bruninga would agree with me (he created it).

Why yes, I am a HAM. I hold a General ticket.

Congratulations and thanks for being part of the amateur radio service. BTW, I am also an extra class ham radio operator and been one for a couple of decades. I remember when we started using APRS in ARES operations (a very long time ago) at Bob's suggestion during a regional hamfest and the rest is history...

73

Re:wikipedia's got the wrong name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379346)

Of course if you want to get your technician class ticket, you may need a different answer.

Second Release - January 29,2010
Element 2 Technician Class Question Pool

T8D02 (A)
What does the term APRS mean?
A. Automatic Position Reporting System
B. Associated Public Radio Station
C. Auto Planning Radio Set-up
D. Advanced Polar Radio System

I don't see PACKET here anywhere. Just sayin'

Brad (KF7FER)

Re:wikipedia's got the wrong name (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#38389336)

Hmm. Typical. I'll see who I need to contact to have this corrected.

Re:wikipedia's got the wrong name (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#38389864)

I passed the information on to the current VEC. Maybe it will be corrected in the next question pool.

Re:wikipedia's got the wrong name (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 2 years ago | (#38433770)

Following up: After talking to the VEC of one of the top two testing organizations, he explained that the choice is between having a slightly incorrect APRS related question and having no questions relating to APRS on the exam. Since the study materials explain the correct answer as "Automatic Position Reporting System", they don't really think using "Position" instead of "Packet" is that big a deal.

He did point out the origin of this mistake. They used aprs.net as a reference that defines APRS as "Automatic Position Reporting System" instead of the official web page of APRS which is aprs.org that defines it as "Automatic Packet Reporting System". This is one of those cases where a simple mistake and bad fact checking may redefine an acronym.

Re:wikipedia's got the wrong name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379186)

> Why yes, I am a HAM. I hold a General ticket.

But somehow you still treat ham as an acronym.

Re:wikipedia's got the wrong name (1)

wv5k (771543) | more than 2 years ago | (#38380446)

Amazing they haven't fixed this yet...

garbage in the sea? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38372084)

popping a piece of garbage in the Mediterranean - how is that any success? would you please go out and fetch your items back from the sea

What is wrong with people, no risk assessment? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38372382)

Absolutely! What plans to they have to recover this thing? What if it landed somewhere remote or inaccessible?
What's the environmental impact if they all want to do this? What about the toxic contents of the electronics and batteries?
What if it had come down in a populated area and harmed someone? What if an airplane collided with it?
It's insane to think about. This this has endangered countless animals and across two continents!
Why is this being celebrated? This is a disgrace and the people responsible should be fined and jailed!

Re:What is wrong with people, no risk assessment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38373402)

You must work for my ISO compliance group.

Ripping on ISO is so 1980s. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38373724)

Vendor lock-in is so much better, right? Go troll somewhere else.

The fact of the matter is that this is nothing but a dangerous publicity stunt for a dying hobby, carefully planned and perpetrated on the public to ensure that expensive radio equipment continues to change hands. Ham radio has no relevance in the modern era, and the recent increases in licensed hams are due only to extensive (and expensive!) marketing on the part of the equipment manufacturers. Countless lives were endangered by this reckless stunt, and the arrogant disregard for safety and environmental concerns makes it all the more apparent that the only goal here was publicity and nothing more. They should be ashamed.

Re:Ripping on ISO is so 1980s. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38373980)

I find your your views fascinating. Do you have a newsletter?

Re:What is wrong with people, no risk assessment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38377100)

...can't tell if serious or trolling...

Upcoming launches (5, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372146)

Upcoming launches at

http://www.arhab.org/ARHABlaunchannouncements.html [arhab.org]

Also note that solely transmitting APRS is not the only thing ever done by balloons. Voice repeaters are very popular. TV transmissions both NTSC and slowscan are popular. Simple beacons in multiple frequency bands are popular. Digital telemetry, such as temp / pressure / humidity is sometimes done.

"Landed" in the Mediterranean (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372270)

Where it was eaten by a whale or dolphin, which subsequently died.

It POPPED? (1)

Cragen (697038) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372280)

It "POPPED"? (*cancels reservations*)

big achievement for a latex balloon (5, Informative)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372464)

UV is the showstopper as it is very intense above 100K, it was not expected to last more than a few hours in sunlight. They launched it (along with three others) late Sunday afternoon so most of eastward travel is done at night and figured the sun UV will deteriorate the latex following morning causing balloon to pop and land. Objective of two balloons (K6RPT-11 and -12) is distance. These were planned to be floaters (buoyant at 120K or so) but expect to only make it partway across the US, K6RPT-12 popped and landed in Indiana (some hams have tracked it down and will recover). But....... K6RPT-11 kept going throughout the day then crossed the coastline the next night and contact was lost over Atlantic. Then it was picked up the next morning from Azores, now hams on other side of pond got active on tracking this thing. It kept going, survived two days of UV but looks like it didn't survive the UV the third day.

There's ongoing discussion on QRZ (one claimed all kinds of laws were broken), http://forums.qrz.com/showthread.php?324759-Amateur-Radio-Balloon-crosses-the-Atlantic [qrz.com]

You all has gots to admit this is one for the books!!!!!!!!!

Other two balloons K6RPT-12 and -13 were going for altitude record (CNSP achieved a record of 136,545 ft in Oct). These came down in west Nevada close to that shaded area of restricted airspace that has Tonopah Test Range and Groom Lake. Payload of K6RPT-13 is same as the record altitude setter from October and has signatures of CNSP members, I think they should have kept it and enshrined in a plexiglass pyramid. But I guess if it gets lost then may as well lose it in Area 51.

Why latex? (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 2 years ago | (#38373846)

I thought most larger balloons were neoprene, which is more resistant to ozone and UV. Metalized Mylar holds gas even better, but they cost more, and might anger various governments agencies.

Re:big achievement for a latex balloon (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38379770)

There's ongoing discussion on QRZ (one claimed all kinds of laws were broken), http://forums.qrz.com/showthread.php?324759-Amateur-Radio-Balloon-crosses-the-Atlantic [qrz.com]

When I tried to get a balloon launch group started in my local area, there were many Hams who denied in extremely strong terms the legality of launching these things.

I explained that it was perfectly legal, and outlined the process, Didn't matter one bit they still "knew" it wasn't legal.

My iPhone! (1)

AngryNick (891056) | more than 2 years ago | (#38372588)

&$)(! No one ever said i'd need to book a plane ticket to retrive my phone. It seemed easier in the commercial.

Iran? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38373124)

Hopefully, the balloon will not violate Iranian airspace; they will shoot it down, refuse to give it back, and clone it, and before you know it there will be 100s of "weather balloons [v-j-enterprises.com] "!

That's amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38373674)

Soon, we'll have colonized near-space too!

Heard it, relayed (2)

leighklotz (192300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38374378)

I operate a low-level iGate in Palo Alto, CA. It's built out of a WRT54G running aprs4r (Ruby) and using an Argent Data modem, based on an integrated design by Chris K6DBG.
I didn't hear the balloon directly, but I did hear it repeated from three mountain-top digipeaters (i.e., one radio hop away) and gatewayed the packet to the internet.

Here's the first packets I heard; the very first had a bad decode for most of it.

2011-12-09T17:13:02: K6RPT-13>APBL10,WR6ABD*,WIDE2:!????????/o?O???/???/A=109373
2011-12-09T17:15:06: K6RPT-13>APBL10,WR6ABD*,WIDE2,QAR,KG6HWF:!3715.25N/12153.29WO140/000/A=000193CNSP-13
2011-12-09T17:15:06: K6RPT-13>APBL10,WR6ABD*,WIDE2:!3715.25N/12153.29WO140/000/A=000193CNSP-13

APRS is based on AX.25 unproto, which is kind of the IP equivalent of UDP (as AX.25 is derived from X.25). It uses source routing, so you can see K6RPT-13 directed its packet at the "destination" APBL10, and the destination in APRS is usually a unique software identifier. That got picked up directly by WR6ABD on Loma Prieta mountain near Santa Cruz, CA. WR6ABD retransmitted it ("WIDE2" is a hope count for how to route over RF), and then gatewayed to the Internet ("QAR") by KG6HWF, and my WRT54G picked that up off the internet feed. The third line logs a packet I received directly and correcly from WR6ABD My WA5ZNU-10 iGate would have also done the same after the 3rd packet there.

Re:Heard it, relayed (1)

leighklotz (192300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38374512)

OOPS, that was K6RPT-13, a different balloon . Here's the balloon, K6RPT-11:

2011-12-11T16:18:25: K6RPT-11>APBL10,WR6ABD*,WIDE2:!????????/?????????O???/??/A=189423V288 CNSP-11
2011-12-11T16:18:37: K6RPT-11>APBL10,WR6ABD*,WIDE2:!????????/?????????O???/???/A=109373V266 CNSP-11
2011-12-11T16:20:31: K6RPT-11>APBL10,WR6ABD*,WIDE2:!?????????/????????O???/??/A=109373V255 CNSP-11
2011-12-11T16:24:31: K6RPT-11>APBL10,WR6ABD*,WIDE2:!3715.57N/12152.44WO328/000/A=000082V255 CNSP-11

Here's both: http://aprs.fi/?call=K6RPT-13,K6RPT-11&mt=roadmap&z=9&timerange=259200&_s=ss_call [aprs.fi]

Re:Heard it, relayed (1)

NoseyNick (19946) | more than 2 years ago | (#38416184)

Can't help wondering if the "?????" is NOT a bad decode, but a bad GPS fix. The rest of the frame is quite well-formatted including the / and O. It looks like it still has Altitude (the A=) but the value looks dodgy compared with when it DOES have a fix.

Nick VA3NNW ... recently been studying APRS101.pdf and oh, my, what a mess, not so much a standard, looks more like a dumping ground of every new format anyone felt like inventing :-(

APRS Track of K6RPT-11 (1)

dubner (48575) | more than 2 years ago | (#38375280)

At the risk of slashdotting this limited-resource site, I'll submit this aircraft APRS tracking site [mail2600.com] for a view of the entire track. Scroll down for tabular data showing groundspeed, altitude, etc. The Google map is zoomable and panable in the usual method as well as with a "Zoom" control in the lower left.

Four balloons were actually launched and an additional one crossed the Rockies but only one crossed the Atlantic. APRS tracks for the three other balloons are left as an exercise for the reader. Hint: they're K6RPT-12, -13, and -14.

--
Joe

What is more fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38378318)

I participated via a 2 meter repeater in a balloon launched in the Texas panhandle about three years ago. The launch mentioned here was quite a feat, but I believe the real fun to a launch is for hams to race around trying to retrieve the equipment once the balloon pops. The equipment is then parachuted back to earth. Hams then usually listen through a 2 meter and 70 centimeter repeaters systems in the area as to announcements from control operators as to where the parachute tracking radio is telling its whereabouts. There is usually a 10 meter (or other type) beacon aboard the launch pad whereby direction finding equipment can be used to pinpoint the exact ground location of the parachute's bundle of radios. On the launch i helped with, we were able to get hams very close to the equipment that lander in hilly ranch country. Just after they arrived, the 10 meter beacon batteries pooped and the equipment was never found. A pilot flew a grid of the area a few days later to no avail.

See the path it took (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38379448)

To see the entire trip go here, then zoom in and out to see various parts of the journey. The long blank section over the Atlantic is because there were no Amateur stations within the approx 400-450 mile line-of-sight radio range.
  http://aprs.fi/?call=k6rpt-11%2C&date_start=2011-12-12%2000%3A00%3A00&date_end=2011-12-14%2009%3A56%3A33&mt=roadmap&z=3&timerange=604800&_s=sdr

This link will be good as long as the site retains the data - between 1 and 3 years.

Big Red Bee (1)

602 (652745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38379934)

The APRS tracker used was one from Big Red Bee [bigredbee.com] .

buying balloons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38401294)

Looks like you can buy your own balloons here:
http://www.amazon.com/30ft-Professional-Weather-Balloon-1200g/dp/B00513FWQI/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1324061812&sr=8-5

full DIY kits here:
http://www.projectaether.org/products.html

Re:buying balloons (1)

NoseyNick (19946) | more than 2 years ago | (#38416242)

Check your local air regs, you may not be allowed to launch a 30-footer without special permission. You probably CAN launch below some specified weight-limit though, which is usually enough for a GPS, APRS board, small 2m transmitter, camera, and batteries.

Nick VA3NNW, part of the http://haven-1.elven.ca/ [elven.ca] team
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