This weekend I had the chance to checkout a high altitude balloon launch after noticing the following post over on the Reddit Amateur Radio Group:
“The Baylor Amateur Radio club has been working with Josh Ward, a Baylor Staff member and balloon enthusiast, to develop a payload for a balloon launch. The payload includes 4 go pro cameras, a cross band repeater, APRS tracking and a plethora of environmental sensors. It is our goal to reach 90,000 feet which would provide great coverage for the repeater. The launch is tentatively scheduled for tomorrow (November 26) at around 10am central from Comanche Texas. The exact time of the launch will depend on the local conditions and cloud cover and could be anywhere between 10am and 12n . The predicted track of the balloon has it going over the south side of with a predicted burst near Hwy 6 east of the loop. Those interested in live updates can subscribe to the remind.com system by going to
Balloon – WA5BU-11
Chase: (simplex 147.555)
KK5KN-9 – Pat
N5WON-9 – Jacob
If you have a moment and are so inclined we would encourage you to listen in or follow us using APRS.
73’s de WA5BU”
I jumped on this opportunity because this is a project I’d like to complete one day! I hopped on my Kenwood TM-V71A and fired up my i-Gate using AGW Packet Engine & APRSIS32, but was unable to hear any packets coming from the balloon :(. I was able to track the balloons progress & the chasers throughout the event. The user interface on APRSIS32 is just so easy to use & very interactive, definitely my fav APRS software!
I tried reaching the input on the repeater, but was unable, heard they were using Baofengs on the input? Hey… I understand, gotta keep the cost down on these I’m sure. Imagine a dmr radio up there! Ha! I was able to pickup the output frequency throughout almost the whole event, albeit when it started to spin, issues popped up.
Josh Ward sent out the following images:
Apparently the balloon reached over 99,000 feet! Thats nuts! There were GoPro’s on board, APRS capability, Repeater coverage, environmental sensors, all packaged in this unit. I was able to spot one of Josh’ previous launches through the Waco Tribune: “Waco ‘geek’ gets rare view of Earth with near space balloon launch“. His first project was funded through Kickstarter – how cool is that!?
I was able to make simplex contact with AK4CM in San Antonio. When I first fired up the rig, I forgot to enter the PL tone for the repeater input & Cameron who was a bit north of San Antonio on a hill attempting to make contact with the balloon, heard me call out on 146.540. So thanks Cameron! All in all it was fun to track & listen to the qso’s going on through the repeater output, hopefully one day I can attend the launch of one of these things, better yet, track one! Hey, if this is as close as I can get to being a storm tracker, i’ll take it! 😛
Big thanks to Josh Ward & the Baylor Amateur Radio Club, for including the amateur radio community in such an event! Hopefully there are more cool pics & video coming! Here is his balloon launch in 2014: