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  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. October 2021 Picoballoon Activities: Launches 12 thru 16

    In the beginning of October 2021, we had a flurry of launches from the Berkeley Marina. In the span of two weeks, we launched five balloons. All of the picoballoons woke up after launch, which means that we are getting better at building, testing, and launching picoballoons. But unfortunately, only one of them survived the first night and woke up the next day. We can't achieve our goal of going around the world if the picoballoons only last for one day!

    All of these picoballoons used the same custom electronics designed and built by Martin W6MRR. Two cheap Aliexpress 36-inch clear plastic balloons were used, with around 6 grams of free lift.

    Picoballoon Launch 12: K6RGG-11

    On Thursday, Sept 30th ...

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  9. Picoballoon Launch 11: The Intermittent Picoballoon

    We launched again on Monday, September 20th, 2021, from our usual spot in the Berkeley Marina. The launch party was Martin W6MRR and Robert K6RGG, and the launch time was a bit later than usual at 11:30am Pacific time (1830 UTC). The picoballoon did not wake up on launch day. After our previous halfway around the world picoballoon, we were a bit dismayed to have another failed launch.

    WSPR.rocks map overview

    But the following day it woke up! The picoballoon was meandering out in the Pacific Ocean in gridsquare CL79, somewhere between 9,900 and 11,100 meters (32.5k to 36.5k feet). While this is higher than most of our previous picoballoons, our ideal altitude is above 11,100 meters ...

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