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  1. Kushiro, Japan, Radiosonde Autolauncher

    A recent work trip brought me to Hokkaido, Japan. Taking a look at Sondehub beforehand, I noticed a few radiosonde launch sites on the island. My work would bring me closest to the Kushiro radiosonde launch site, so maybe if I had some free time I could go watch a launch.

    Research

    Before leaving for the trip, I contacted Shaun JH1HNB/KJ6VGQ, who was uploading radiosonde data to Sondehub. Shaun lives in Tokyo, and has written some blog posts about his experiences.

    Shaun gave a presentation (pdf) in February 2022 to the Tokyo International Amateur Radio Association. The presentation was about using radiosonde_auto_rx or a rdzTTGOsonde to receive radiosondes.

    Presentation by Shaun JH1HNB

    I also did some research on the Japan Meteorological ...

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  2. Fairbanks Radiosonde Autolauncher

    On the last day of my recent trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, I finished up work a bit early and headed to the airport to see a radiosonde launch. Looking at satellite imagery before my trip, the launch location has a few buildings so I thought it might be a manually-launched site like Inuvik or Newfoundland.

    However, when I arrived, through the fence I saw a Vaisala AS41 autolauncher, just like my local radiosonde launch site across the bay in Oakland, California. No one to talk with this trip.

    Fairbanks Vaisala autolauncher

    I arrived just before 3pm local time (2300 UTC), and the autolauncher was beeping away, indicating that the balloon was filling with hydrogen. I set up my mobile radiosonde_auto_rx station ...

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  3. Houston TRACER Radiosondes

    Back in October 2021, the excellent team behind Sondehub added several features to the map. They added launch site locations, grabbed from the official NOAA database. Clicking on a particular launch site allowed a user to generate a weeks worth of flight predictions based on the most recent GFS run. Cool!

    Oakland airport launch predictions

    The red lines on this prediction map of Oakland show the next 14 launches (7 days). As with any prediction of the future, the further out you go the worse the prediction.

    Reverse predictions (pdf) were also added, for predicting where a radiosonde was launched from. This feature would have been very helpful when I was trying to find the Monterey Bay launch location.

    Scrolling around the new map ...

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  4. Inuvik Radiosonde Launch

    Now that the pandemic has tapered off a bit, I took another short trip up to Inuvik, NWT. While I was up there, I visited the Environment Canada Weather Station, and participated in a radiosonde launch.

    Dempster Highway sign

    The big news out of Inuvik during this trip was that the road from the airport to the town has been paved! The road is much smoother, and I don't need to worry about windshield cracks every time a big truck passes.

    Since my 2016 visit, the site has been upgraded with modern equipment. The old Electrolyser Corporation hydrogen generator was replaced with a Proton Hogen unit, all housed in a modern building with explosion-proof light switches, electrical outlets, etc.

    Hogen Hydrogen Generator

    I arrived just before ...

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  5. Vandenberg Radiosonde Launches

    Just after setting up a remote receiving station in the hills above Santa Cruz for tracking radiosondes launched from Monterey Bay, I started noticing some weird stuff with the station. The station would detect a LMS6-403 radiosonde, but was unable to actually decode anything. The "jamming" signal was always on the same frequency of 400.259 MHz, and occurred daily around noon and midnight UTC.

    I speculated that it might be radiosondes from Vandenberg Space Force Base, approximately 300 km (~180 miles) south of the receiver along the coast of California. Although it would be cool to receive those radiosondes, the purpose of this station was to track the Monterey Bay radiosondes, so I put that frequency on the blacklist ...

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  6. Picoballoon Launch 19: Midway Islands

    The SF-HAB group launched another picoballoon on December 11th, 2021, from the Berkeley Marina. The launch party was Martin W6MRR, Robert K6RGG, and Kazu AG6NS. This picoballoon used two clear Chinese party balloons with hydrogen gas for lift. Martin's custom electronics was used, with a WSPR transmitter that alternated 14 MHz (20 meters) and 10 MHz (30 meters).

    The aprs.fi callsign was W6MRR-22 using the WSPR to APRS bridge, and the WSPR callsign was W6MRR.

    W6MRR-22 picoballoon trajectory

    This picoballoon floated between 9,900 and 11,100 meters (32.5k to 36.5k feet) for the duration of the flight, which is the perfect altitude for picoballoons. This is above most bad weather (rain and thunderstorms), but still low enough to be ...

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  7. Picoballoon Launch 18: Almost around the World!

    While the previous Lodi picoballoon was floating over Mexico City, we launched another picoballoon from the southeast corner of the Berkeley Marina on November 13th, 2021. The launch party was Martin W6MRR, Robert K6RGG, Kazu AG6NS, and myself KF6ZEO.

    W6MRR-21 picoballoon launch

    The forecast for the morning was no wind, and when we arrived at 10am the winds felt pretty calm. But after assembling the picoballoon train, it was apparent that even the very light breeze was too strong. The two clear Chinese party balloons were bent over, threatening to scrape against the ground.

    We waited almost 30 minutes for the winds to die down enough to release the picoballoon. During a bit of a lull in the wind, we walked across the ...

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  8. Picoballoon Launch 17: Lodi to Florida

    SF-HAB's Central Valley Division launched a picoballoon from Lodi, California, on Thursday November 11th, 2021. The launch party was David WB6TOU and Skip N6NFB. The tracker electronics used this time was a ZachTek WSPR Pico transmitter. Two Chinese party balloons were used for lift.

    ZachTek WSPR Pico transmitter front

    ZachTek WSPR Pico transmitter back

    The WSPR callsign for the balloon was N6NFB, and the APRS callsign was N6NFB-1.

    Launch party

    N6NFB-1 Flight Results

    Unfortunately, the tracker electronics did not power up on launch day, November 11th. We thought all was lost, but it awoke the next day in Maidenhead grid square DL58, which is ~1640 km (~885 mi) southeast of the launch location. The balloon was at an altitude between 9,900 and 11,100 meters (~32.4k to ~36.4k feet ...

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  9. Newfoundland Radiosonde Launches

    I recently went on a work trip to Newfoundland, Canada. Checking Sondehub before I left, I saw that there were two radiosonde launching stations on the Island of Newfoundland, one on the west side in Stephenville, and the other on the far east end in St. John's. And as luck would have it, I was traveling to Lewisporte, which is on the Trans-Canada highway almost halfway between the two launching sites. I might be able to receive both sondes at the same time!

    As far as I could tell, the radiosondes launched at both of these sites were Graw DFM-09P (pdf), which transmit around 403 MHz. One interesting thing about these radiosondes is that they don't transmit a serial number ...

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