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  1. Building a Quarter-Wave Ground Plane Antenna

    After my talk at Pacificon a few months ago, several people reached out to me about setting up a radiosonde receiving station at their house. They specifically had questions about the antenna and LNA, and after answering the same question a few times I decided to do a post about this topic.

    Building a 1/4 wave ground plane antenna is very easy to do. The overall design is simple, with a vertical element surrounded by a ground plane consisting of two or four wires bent down. Here are the dimensions for the VHF/UHF amateur radio bands (from the ARRL Handbook), but these dimensions can be scaled to any frequency.

    Quarter wave vertical antenna construction diagram

    There are many online calculators that will give you ...

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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. Pacificon 2021 Picoballoon and Radiosonde Presentation

    David WB6TOU, Martin W6MRR, and myself gave a presentation at the Pacificon, which is the annual ARRL Pacific Division ham radio conference held in San Ramon in the fall. Our presentation was titled "Picoballooning in the Bay Area: High Altitude Balloons, Picoballoons, and Radiosondes." Download the slides here.

    We also used this opportunity to launch the new SF-HAB website, which is a collection of how-tos, resources, and blog posts about our ballooning activities.

    The first third of the presentation was David talking about balloon mechanics, including how to prestrech, fill, measure, and release SBS-13 and cheap Aliexpress picoballoons. David launched two SBS-13 picoballoons from the Central Valley in winter 2021, one of which went 2.5 times around the world ...

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  5. Receiving Monterey Bay Radiosondes

    Taking a look at SondeHub one evening in early July 2021, I noticed some radiosondes down in the Monterey Bay, about 75 miles south of San Francisco. There seemed to be one per day in the afternoon on most days. The Naval Postgraduate School launches radiosondes very infrequently for their meteorology program, but these seemed to be launched from Watsonville or Salinas, not the main NPS campus in downtown Monterey.

    Early July 2021 Monterey radiosondes

    Then, on Monday July 12th, there was a flurry of radiosondes launched. I received a total of 5 of them from my station in Los Gatos. This station does not have good coverage in the direction of Monterey, and only starts receiving radiosondes when they rise up to 5,000 ...

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  6. Two Radiosonde Recoveries in San Francisco

    The prevailing winds here in California blow from west to east, from the Pacific Ocean towards the Sierra Nevada mountains. Radiosondes launched from Oakland International Airport float in these winds, landing east of Oakland in the Central Valley, or south in the hills east of San Jose. I never recover the ones that land in the Central Valley, as driving 2 hours each direction during rush hour to recover a balloon is a bit too far for me. Only rarely do they land in populated areas in the Bay Area, and almost never on the Peninsula or in the city of San Francisco.

    This map (code below) shows the landing locations of all the radiosondes launched from Oakland since November ...

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  7. Telemetry from an Oakland Radiosonde Floater

    In the beginning of March, something happened to the regular cadence of radiosonde launches from Oakland Airport. No balloon was launched on March 11th 2300 UTC, nor the next standard launch window on March 12th 1100 UTC (5am Pacific time). The SDM Ops Status Messages had a 10142 error for Oakland, which is ground equipment failure. I'm guessing that something broke or got jammed on their autolauncher, or maybe they ran out of hydrogen gas.

    By the afternoon of March 12th, the issue appeared to be resolved, and there was three launches in quick succession. The first and third balloons, S3231708 and S2321334, were normal, but the middle balloon slowly rose and leveled out around 35,000 meters (~115,000 ...

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  8. An Atmospheric River of Radiosondes

    I recently installed a new antenna (see below), and checking SondeHub a few hours later I noticed a bunch of balloons west of Sacramento. Well, that's pretty interesting. There aren't any regular launches near Sacramento, so this must be something special. They seemed to be launched frequently, because when I stopped receiving one balloon I immediately start receiving the next.

    Radiosondes near Beale AFB

    These balloons were far away! I guess this new antenna works a lot better than the old one. Trying to back out the launch location, it seemed like they were being launched from Beale AFB, which is directly east of Yuba City. Maybe a military project? The military does launch a lot of radiosondes, but those are usually in Arizona ...

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  9. Two Months of Radiosonde Balloon Reception

    It's been two months since my first radiosonde recovery. In this post, I perform some analysis of the receiving stations at my apartment in San Francisco and my vacation home/parents place in Los Gatos. I also include the python code needed to generate your own plots.

    San Francisco Station

    Immediately after I got home from my first recovery, I converted my regular amateur radio station at my apartment to receive radiosondes. The external antenna is a Diamond X-50NA, which is a great amateur radio 5/8 wave 2m/70cm dual-band antenna. Coax up to the roof is about 80 ft of LMR-400, which is calculated at around 1.5 dB loss at 145 MHz and 2.5 dB at ...

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