September 10th, day Eight, AA6DY, Bosnia and Herzegovina 6:52 UTC

AA6DY woke at 6:52 UTC, 1:52 am CDT at Grid JN84rc near Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina at 13,850 meters just over 45,000 feet.

Yesterday we went to sleep off the coast of France, woke up today over Bosnia Herzegovina and are now over Romania at 12:42 UTC. With the Sun at 40 degrees, we still have some sunlight left.

Below is today’s Jestream over Romania

At 11:22 UTC we are near Targa Mures, Romania traveling at 90 mph.

Our Links to Locate and Track tab have been updated for tomorrow’s Jestream, to track aa6dy in flight click the AA6DY tab. The NOAA Hysplit model has been updated for September 11th and 12th with some wild swings in altitude on September 12th. We’ll update NOAA tomorrow.

W9BLN June 19th 2022 23:38 UTC

The sun will be setting soon and we are on a slow path going south. Have you ever been to Santa Claus Indiana? W9BLN is just north of Santa’s place, Gridsquare EM68MF

Just north of Santa Claus Indiana

We’ve been holding pretty steady at close to 9,000 meters right around 29,500 feet.

Looks like we’ll be touring the United States for a while, heading south towards the Gulf of Mexico. Will we move West towards Mexico? East towards Cuba? or back North for more of the United States? Go to the tab on our website, links to locate and track, find our current location and the Ventusky link to track W9BLN’s possible course.

I’ll check back with you in the morning.

June 11th 2022, AA6DY and KD9ITO

We launched 2 balloons this morning AA6DY using the U4B tracker from QRP Labs and KD9ITO using our tracker. For both trackers we used Polycrystalline solar panels on a styrofoam plate. We have yet to hear from these 2 balloons. We still need to document our launches and learn to overcome our shortcomings.

We gathered this morning at 8:30 a.m. at Willow Hill Golf Course in Northbrook, Illinois which sits on a former landfill. We chose this site because it sits high above the surrounding buildings. Joining us this morning is the Mulley Clan, Doug KD9TPM, his three children, Gordie KD9TVR, his two older sisters Kelsie KE9SLI and Kyli and their Grandfather Bob KD9TVS, Stewart Spies KB9LM and his Grandson Remy, Jim Janiak KD9UQB, Michael Seedman AA6DY and myself Cary Willis KD9ITO

While we’re still gathering information to see where we failed, what we do know is both trackers were working and getting a WSPR signal after they were programmed from Michael’s house. We’re all having difficulty working with these polycrystalline solar panels, breaking easily during the soldering process. We have our team working on a solution for securing the tracker to the solar panel package and using other solar panels.

While we were high on a hill for the launch, we were still dealing with some wind gusts and a slow lift of the balloon. The Styrofoam plate had some difficulty getting off the ground.

We were using the BalloonsOnline 32″ Silver Sphere which was prepared the day before to give time for the super glue to set. We’re flying using Hydrogen and 6 grams of free lift.

Balloons prepared the day before with weights over the valves securing the seal

14th launch test flight KD6ITO/6

Happy Ramadan, Good Friday and Happy Passover to all. After surviving a long stretch of heavy winds, we finally had a calm morning and an opportunity to launch. With not a lot of prep time, some quick programming of the tracker and missing my call sign by just a few numbers, we are calling this one a test flight of a new balloon. Launched at 7:30 this morning from Highland Park IL and reaching a high altitude of 9,000 feet before we lost contact near Ann Arbor Michigan.

We consider a successful flight anytime we go past the launch site. In December of 2021 and February of 2022 we were able to achieve long flights of 19 days and 10 days using a $2, 32″ pillow shaped Chinese made balloon.

Now that we’ve had the taste of a long flight, we want to go higher and farther.

We’ve been testing may different balloons since we started flying in September of 2021. From September through November, we were flying the $3.50, Qualatex balloon flying as far as near Baltimore Maryland. Where we believe the Secret Service may have taken us down flying close to the White House, or it could have been that we were losing altitude pretty steadily. I like the Secret Service story.

In Pico Ballooning, we have this sweet spot that we’re trying to achieve. Flying above 40,000 feet, above the clouds and the weather. The available volume of the balloon plays an important part of achieving the sweet spot. Taking into consideration the weight of the package, tracker, solar panels, antenna and other components, adding enough free lift clear obstacles and reach maximum available altitude. While we’re still working on a smaller and lighter package, we have ordered the larger volume sphere balloons which we are now testing.

All of our balloons were never intended for the purpose of long flight at high altitudes. They’re advertised for re-use for weddings and parties. These new balloons we’ve been testing have shorter valves not easily heat sealed, so we need to find other ways to seal after filling and with the short valve, a way to connect a fishing line to hold the package. We ordered two sets of balloons of similar properties, 4 panel 32″ sphere balloons, from Yokohama in Japan and from Balloons Online in the U.S. manufactured by SAG.

Our first purchase was the Crystal Clear Yokohama 32″ Sphere priced at $22 each with shipping which was $100 for 10 balloons. We still have about 18 of these balloons in stock.

I next ordered 2 – Silver 32″ Sphere Orbs balloons from balloons online manufactured by SAG. The first one is still sitting in a tree in Highland Park which we still hope to recover the tracker. These are similarly priced to Yokohama but saving on shipping which can be free on a quantity of 10.

The SAG balloon had a similar fill valve located center right and a separate taped plastic tab for holding the package seen center left

The SAG balloon was launched today and lost after 90 minutes of flight.

I also ordered and received another Chinese made balloon labeled 32″ Sphere which is only 2 panels with a longer neck for heat sealing. We’ll have to run some tests for durability and volume. This balloon is 16″ wide, 30″ long and a long fill valve pictured below. The price was about $26 for 10 balloons.

Travelling around the globe maybe calls for a little bit of luck, being in the right place at the right time and following the successes of others.

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73, Cary KD9ITO

Watching and Waiting and Watching Some More

It’s been a while since I’ve written about our project. While we’re waiting for the winds to subside. We’ve been busy ordering balloons, Michael has been busy building trackers and we’ve been watching one of our hero’s in the Pico Balloon community.

I’d like to introduce you to Tom Medlin, W5KUB, who is currently flying his 110th Pico Balloon. I understand Tom is famous for his Helmet Cam at Hamvention, and has been very successful at flying Pico Balloons.

One of the biggest obstacles we have found in our launches is the balloon. We were able to purchase what is known as a 36″ Chinese made balloon for around $2 each. Starting with our flight on December 22nd 2021, KD9ORR flew for 19 days on one Chinese balloon.

Though we conquered flight time, we were still hampered by altitude. KD9ORR with one balloon averaged around 24,000 feet. We next flew KR9T with 2 Chinese balloons and averaged 28,000 feet.

Now back to W5KUB. Tom Medlin acquired what he referred to as an experimental Yokohama 32″ Sphere balloon which flew for 22 days for twice around the globe. Tom is currently flying #110 with the Yokohama reaching an altitude of 41,000 feet. Though the 32″ balloon in smaller, it’s completely round holding more volume of gas compared to our 36″ round pillow shaped balloon.

Did I mention we we’re flush with balloons. We now have in stock around 70 Chinese made balloons and 9 Yokohama’s (we experimented on one of them to figure out how to seal it, we’ll talk about Kapton tape in another post). We’ll be looking to our next launch with a Yokohama balloon, hopefully soon, weather permitting.

And while we’re waiting, please visit Tom W5KUB and his current launch at

73, Cary KD9ITO

March 7th 2022 Whether to launch is all about the weather

We can’t seem to get a break. Since February 8th we’ve been looking for a good day to launch. On February 8th we launched KC9RP/3 which flew for 27 hours. On February 28th we launched KC9RP/4 which went about 200 yards and transmitted for two days from a tree. We were hoping to get a balloon up tomorrow but the weather just isn’t cooperating. We only have a few sunny days in the next couple of weeks and with these sunny days we have wind gust up to 55 miles per hour. What we do have is a great Technical team with John KD9THB who is able to give us our launch window up to 3 days in advance. John told us our best opportunity for launch was between 7am and 8am tomorrow March 8th. We have a saying here in Chicago, if you don’t like the weather wait 15 minutes. Although that works well if you’re planning a walk but with the hour or so it takes to get a balloon or two ready before a launch makes it really difficult to plan. In like a lion and out like a lamb, March 20th is the first day of Spring, looking for better days.

You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em know when to walk away and know when to run

It’s February 23rd and it’s been a while since I’ve written here. A lot has happened since our last launch. We continue to look for that perfect day, nice, sunny and mild winds. We are still having regular meetings as a small technical group, and thinking about where we want to go with our project. After reading the weekly email from the ARRL which introduced the upcoming Youth on the Air (YOTA) camp at the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting in West Chester Ohio. I suggested to Michael that we send a balloon kit for them to launch at camp this June. That led to an email to the camp director and a follow up phone conversation with the team that leads the Pico Balloon project at YOTA camp.

While we’re still new and learning about Pico Balloons I had a nice conversation last night with Tom McElroy W4SDR and his son Jack McElroy KM4ZIA. Tom and his family have been launching Pico Balloons for over 10 years, one of which had flown for 81 days circumventing the globe 4 1/2 times. Tom, who had visited our website before our talk and shared his difficulty in finding the right weather for a successful launch. After we spoke I went to their QRZ pages which I hope you will as well to see how this family has gotten together to share our Pico Balloon Hobby with our youth. We will be sending our Pico Balloon package to Tom for them to launch at YOTA camp in June. After we spoke I went back to QRZ to look up his daughter Audrey KM4BUN. Audrey at a very young age produced a YouTube sharing how to make a Pico Balloon. I realized that we had viewed her video when we were first researching Pico Balloons last June. You can follow Audrey, Jack and Tom on QRZ the Team Leads of the YOTA Pico Balloon project.

Tom had shared about being ready to launch on a moments notice. When they were ready to give up because of the wind and night had fallen. Audrey came running into the house saying the winds had died down, they need to launch now. Well now meant preparing the balloon and launching at night, then 81 days and 4 1/2 times around the globe, that was last March.

I shared this conversation in an email with Michael and John for things that we can look forward to. I received a call from Michael this morning that it was a nice sunny day with no wind. After checking we agreed to meet after he prepared the transmitter package and balloons. While on the road heading north from Chicago I received 2 calls from Michael suggesting we change the launch site to the Northbrook Court parking lot, that was in the general direction where I was going. Then the 2nd call, the Northbrook Court parking lot was under construction which would send us to our last launch site in Highland Park, IL. When I arrived Michael and Roberta Seedman were waiting for me. Michael and I to launch and Roberta to take pictures. He got out of his car and into mine and said what do you think.

Our Sunny day became a partly cloudy day. If we launch into the clouds, the moisture will bring our balloon down. Should we risk it or should we wait. We decided to fold ’em and walk away. We still have our package ready to launch and the $3.00 in balloons is what it cost us to wait for better days.

We have our team working on new launch sites and weather conditions, and who knows, on a moments notice we have the ability to act.

Thanks to the McElroy family for sharing their project with us.

73, Cary KD9ITO

6th Launch November 23rd 2021

First time launching at a new venue, Duke Childs’ Field in Winnetka, Illinois, Launching Doug KD9TPM trying something a little different from the last launch. We at NIBBB follow the larger Pico Balloon Worldwide community and have seen a lot of success launching a double balloon. This is our second try at a double balloon this time, attached to the top in series.

The track of KD9TPM from Winnetka, Illinois to near Fort Wayne, Indiana. This one started it’s decent shortly after flying over Lake Michigan. Second flight with 2 balloons, Hmmm