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APRS and a Helium Balloon

What’s that got to do with ham radio you ask? Well, two hams got their ticket just to be able to track a helium balloon destine for space, using APRS. The Automatic Packet Reporting System made it possible for Justin, VE3LVN, Jason, VA3PSN and their team to track weather patterns in the launch area, in order to choose the best day for launch. APRS was also used to track the balloon on 144.39 MHz as it travelled ~32kms up into near-space. Running models of the trajectory made it possible for the team to estimate the correct position to retrieve it. The balloon carried a camera. When the photos were down-loaded they showed the earth below in all its glory.

Justin spoke to Chapter73 of QCWA at their spring lunch. He took us through every step of the way: from designing the high altitude balloon project; building the equipment; as well as launching and retrieving it. His talk included PowerPoint screens that were simple and easy to follow and a video of the launch, including some of the photos taken in near-space.

He got the idea for this project called Haven-1, by reading an article written by a team from MIT, (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) who completed a similar project spending just about $100 US. Justin thought his team could do it too.

The first photo with this article shows members listening to Justin. The second is Justin, with Mary VE3FEB, Chapter 73 President. Mary is holding the deflated helium, multicoloured balloon in her left hand and the light yellow parachute in her right hand. The camera was in an attached Styrofoam box with the electronics, and a hand-warmer to keep the camera batteries working. Justin attached a sign stating what it was and his cell phone number. Haven-1 landed in the middle of a country road, close to the predicted landing spot. A person who found it in the middle of a country road before the team arrived did phone, giving the team an opportunity to retrieve it easily from the side of the road, where the finder had placed it to keep it safe from traffic.

When Haven-2 is on the drawing board, Justin has agreed to let us know, so that both QCWA Chapter 73 and CLARA can consider contributing to it. Information about every step of this project is available on the web at http://haven-1.elven.ca/. Please check it out. I know that you will find it fascinating.

CLARA members who attended the talk were: Mary VE3FEB, Jean VE3CBQ, Anne VE3KWI, Roberta VA3RMW and Ann VE3HAI.