November 26th 2022, AA6DY, K9YO, & KD9UQB

Pico Balloon AA6DY still hasn’t reported yet, we’re expecting that it will report around Novmber 27th 2022 near Somalia, East Africa around Novmber 27th. Until then we’re calling Pico Balloon AA6DY Missing in Action. Pico Balloon AA6DY was flying close to the Equator at an altitude of around 47,000 feet.

We are still showing our 3 balloons on one page using APRS, though two have changed locations, it’s still nice to see them together.

KD9UQB is flying under the W5KUB-115 Balloon designation and KD9UQB under the APRS callsign and has been traveling mostly east, south of India towards south of Australia. KD9UQB which was lauched from Neumayer Station III in Antarctica is expected to travel the world staying near Antarctica.

Pico Balloon K9YO which is following the northern worldly travels, is reporting on November 26th at 07:50 UTC at Grid KN35HK near Bucharest, Romania at an altitude of 12,540 meters, 41,131 feet.

K9YO at Grid KN35HK at an altitude of 41,131 feet

Our “Best Guess” for K9YO around November 30th 2022, southeast of Moscow, Russia

K9YO Best Guess for Novmber 30th 2022

While we’re waiting for Pico Balloon AA6DY to come back from the missing. Our Locate and Track page has been updated for our other balloons for APRS, 84 NOAA Hysplit model, Ventusky for wind speed and direction and Sondehub for tracking other Pico Balloons around the world.

November 24th 2022, AA6DY, K9YO and KD9UQB

What a wondeful day to be thankful for, we have 3 balloons that are all reporting.

All three of our balloons are flying 32″ Sphere balloons. KD9UQB and AA6DY are flying the 32″ Yokohama Balloon and K9YO is flying the 32″ SAG Balloon. The different altutudes are due to the slight variations of the weight of the tracker and solar panel package. The other difference in the two balloons is the Yokohama is a transparent (clear) balloon and the SAG is silver, though both are available in multiple colors, we tend to go for the lighter ones for each manufacturer.

KD9UQB, also flying as W5KUB-115 is over the Southern Ocean, north of Antarctica, last reporting at Grid JD82KJ at 11:18 Central Standard time, at an altitude of 34,186 feet.

This is a little lower than our other balloons. KD9UQB is using the larger cylinder solar panel package that was weighing close to 18 grams, bringing the total package to over 20 grams compared to 9 grams for AA6DY.

What we’re really testing besides the solar panel is how well KD9UQB will report with the new tracker. You can track KD9UQB on this WSPR Spot Database or with all our balloons showing on one page on APRS AA6DY, K9YO, KD9UQB on APRS

After a little delay, Pico Balloon AA6DY reported at 06:52 UTC at Grid JI39RP near Sao Tome and Principe an African Island Nation close to the Equator. AA6DY is flying at an altitude of 14,540 meters, 47,691 feet.

AA6DY at Grid JI39RP, altitude 47,692 feet

Our “Best Guess” for AA6DY around November 27th 2022 East of Somalia over the Arabian Sea

AA6DY Best Guess for November 27th 2022

Pico Balloon K9YO reported at 10:50 UTC at Grid IN04GI northwest of Portugal. K9YO is flying at an altitude of 12,600 meters, 41,328 feet.

K9YO at Grid IN04GI, altitude 41,328 feet

Our “Best Guess” for K9YO around November 28th 2022, Russia/Ukraine border

K9YO Best Guess for around November 28th 2022

Our Locate and Track page has been updated for all three of our balloons with the 84 hour NOAA Hysplit Trajectory, Ventusky for wind speed and direction, APRS and Sondehub for tracking all Amatuer Radio Pico Balloons around the world.

The Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade family would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped us to acheive what we are today. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy Thankgiving Holiday.

73, Cary KD9ITO

November 23rd 2022, AA6DY, K9YO and KD9UQB

We have a new balloon we’re tracking, KD9UQB for our team member Jim Janiak. Jim designed this solar panel made with plastic film, shaped as a vertical cylinder to catch the sun’s lower elevation for the launch in Antarctica.

Jim Janiak KD9UQB solar panel design for Pico Balloon W5KUB-115

Pico Balloon KD9UQB was launched on November 23rd at 08:22 UTC from Neumayer Station III, Ekstroem Ice Shelf, Atka Bay, Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica

Neumayer Station III, Antarctica

To make it easier to track Jim’s Pico Balloon, we’re tracking our 3 balloons on one page of the world using APRS.

AA6DY, K9YO and KD9UQB on the combined APRS link Tracking AA6DY, K9YO and KD9UQB (W5KUB-115) on APRS this link is on our Locate and Track page with our other tracking links.

Below is a slideshow with Jim Janiak, KD9UQB teaching our group how to make our solar panel packages. Jim is working on our winter solar panel design using the polycrystalline solar panels. We’re looking forward to our upcoming Pico Balloon launch for Gordie KD9TVR and Kelsi KE9LSI, our youngest Generals.

Pico Balloon AA6DY hasn’t reported today. We’re expecting AA6DY to travel towards Central Africa over the next several days with data from our last NOAA Hysplit model.

Pico Balloon K9YO which was having some difficulty tracking, woke yesterday over Minnesota making the 3rd circumnavigation around the world. K9YO reported today at 13:00 UTC at Grid GN15MW just south of the St. Pierre and Miquelon Territory of France, which is south of Newfoundland. Pico Balloon K9YO reported at an altitude of 12,480 meters, 40,934 feet.

K9YO at Grid GN15MW, altitude 40,934 feet

Our “Best Guess” For Pico Balloon K9YO around November 27th 2022, is Ukraine

Best Guess for K9YO around November 27th 2022

Our Locate and Track page has been updated with our tracking links for NOAA, Ventusky, APRS and images. Added to our Technical Page is how to Calculate the Altitude of our balloons.

November 17th, 2022, AA6DY and K9YO

Pico Balloon K9YO woke at 03:30 UTC at Grid ON23SC, Mongolia, flying at an altitude of 12,780 meters, 41,918 feet. Well, I’m hoping that’s K9YO. The skies have been pretty busy lately with Pico Balloons.

K9YO reported yesterday on November 16th at Grid MM58WP, Tajikistan. So, it’s logical to think that today’s report at Grid ON23SC over Mongolia would be ours. This is where it get’s a little confusing.

  • We’re in an area with few reporting stations
  • K9YO is sending the 1st packet on the 8’s which we know is ours with callsign K9YO
  • K9YO is sending the 2nd packet on the 0’s on Channel “O7” which can be any other balloon on the 0’s on the same channel.
  • I’m tracking two other balloons on the 0’s in different parts of the world
  • We only received one 2nd packet today on the 0’s and now K9YO is asleep

The other Grid Squares on the packets received on the 0’s were FF12SR just west of Argentina and LR21CJ over the Arctic Ocean, east of Greenland.

The other reasons to believe that this is our Grid Square, is that it was received 30 minutes earlier than yesterdays report and, the 84 hour NOAA Hysplit Model also showed us traveling in this direction.

K9YO at Grid ON23SC, Mongolia, 41,918 feet

Our “Best Guess” for Pico Balloon K9YO on November 20th 2022

“Best Guess” K9YO on November 20th 2022

Pico Balloon AA6DY woke up a little south of the report yesterday, at 11:42 UTC at Grid FH42LL southern Peru, South America. Our NOAA Hysplit Model from yesterday showed that we would move south before heading northeast. AA6DY is flying at an altitude of 14,420 meters, 47,298 feet.

AA6DY receives the 2nd packet on channel Q7 on the 4’s. Today we have only been receiving 1st packets on the 2’s which show our callsign in the packet received. For more information on how our trackers receive our packets please visit our Technical Page

It’s a little easier to track AA6DY, with most of the 2nd packets received today on Channel Q7 have been on the 2’s, clearly not ours. The other tracker we were receiving on the 4’s was a test tracker preparing for a launch from Mt. Carmel High School in San Diego California. We’d like to welcome Randy KQ6RS from San Diego as a new follower of the NIBBB and wish Mt. Carmel H.S. the best of luck with their balloon launch.

Pico Balloon AA6DY has been receiving spots over the last two days from one Amateur Radio station CE3QC in Chile, we’d like to thank Oscar for finding our balloon.

AA6DY at Grid FH42LL, Southern Peru, South America, 47,298 feet

Our “Best Guess” for Pico Balloon AA6DY on November 21st 2022

“Best Guess” AA6DY on November 21st 2022

Our Locate and Track page has been updated for Ventusky for wind speed and direction, 84 hour NOAA Hysplit Model. Sondehub and APRS will be updated when new data is received. To track our balloons on APRS add -15 after the callsign for APRS to recognize us as a balloon, AA6DY-15 and K9YO-15 or use use the link on our locate and track page for each balloon which will take you directly to that balloons last map location.

The NIBBB Design Team headed by Jim Janiak, KD9UQB is working on a prototype of a new solar panel package with an angular design for our winter launches.

Till tomorrow, 73, Cary KD9ITO

September 19th, day 17, Northeast of Midway Atoll

AA6DY woke at 19:12 UTC, 2:12 pm CDT at Grid AL49GA, our altitude is 14,240 meters or 46,700 feet. Our general heading is northeast, though we may be traveling around Hawaii over the next 84 hours.

AA6DY Northeast of Midway Atoll at Grid AL49GA 19:12 UTC
Ventusky Jetstream, Left side is Midway Atoll Jetstream 16 mph, Hawaii is south east of our current location.

We’ll be watching our balloon as we travel near Hawaii. Will AA6DY be heading to Los Angeles or another trip around Hawaii? Our Links to Locate and Track have been updated. Find our location on APRS.fi, other Pico Balloon locations on Sondehub, the 84 hour NOAA Hysplit model and the Jetstream on Ventusky. On the lower left hand corner of the Ventusky link, you can change the calendar date and scroll the time to look at what lies ahead.

August 6th, 2022 14:32 UTC, Asleep Grid LN52HF

We woke up over the Black Sea and now asleep over the Caspian Sea. We are now in our 8th day of flight having flown 7 days, 1 hour and 2 minutes. We’re showing an altitude 32,500 feet with passing storms. We’d like to congratulate Jim Janiak KD9UQB for getting closest to Guessing the Grid Square just 146Km from the target.

Over the Caspian Sea, asleep 9:52am CDT

As we’re moving East, wake-up is coming earlier. Those participating in Guess the Grid Square, please get those in by 6pm. For information on our contest and how to track, please go to Links to Locate and Track

Even if you’re not participating in our contest, please visit our tracking link above to view APRS.fi, Habhub for other balloons around the world and Ventusky to see wind speed and direction from our altitude.

Till this evening, 73, Cary

June 21st 2022, 3rd Day and miles apart

We launched two balloons, W9BLN and KB9LM on June 19th, different trackers, same balloons and solar panel arrays and just around 30 minutes apart from Willow Hill Golf Course in Northbrook, IL. We initially had some issues finding KB9LM but that tracker came alive the morning of June 20th.

For those that have been following, this has been a slow travel. Starting in Northbrook, IL a northern suburb of Chicago. Both balloons took a southerly track, and then diverged.

We track our balloons using a receive and send signal with a GPS chip and signal packets sent on two timeslots within a 10 minute slot. From these two packets we are able to receive a Maidenhead gridsquare. The two time slots 2 minutes apart gets us a 6 point gridsquare of 2 letters, 2 numbers and 2 letters which will show the balloon in a 3 mile by 5 mile rectangle on a map. If we only receive one packet we will only receive a 4 point gridsquare of 2 letters and 2 numbers which show the balloon in a 70 mile by 100 mile rectangle on a map. So we can be as accurate as 15 square miles or 7,000 square miles.

We’ve been tracking these balloons using different programs, WSPR.Rocks, QRP-Labs/U4B, and Ventusky for wind speed and wind direction. These programs together gives us different pieces of the puzzle. These links are available on our website under “Links to Track and Locate”.

W9BLN is flying the QRP-Labs U4B tracker. From that program we see the last information received was at 23:38 UTC which is 6:38pm CDT at gridsquare EM55rb. This is just north of the Mississippi border into Tennessee near where Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee come together. W9BLN is just east of Collierville, TN the home of W5KUB, Tom Medlin who is currently flying W5KUB-112, Hey Tom.

For the KB9LM tracker we are currently receiving one packet in a 10 minute timeslot for a 4 point Maidenhead. So we’re giving a general area of the KB9LM balloon. The last received signal was at 22:02 UTC or 5:02 p.m. in the general area of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The map below is from wspr.rocks That specific point just east of Baton Rouge is in the middle of gridsquare EM40

So, we have 2 balloons, launched at close to the same time, one hovering over southern Tennessee and the other in the general area of Baton Rouge, Louisisana.

As far as we can tell, W9BLN is flying at an altitude of 9,000 meters, pretty steady from the beginning of the launch. KB9LM is somewhere close to 8400 meters, best guess.

You can follow both these balloons at wspr.rocks. Under TX call put in the callsign, list 500 spots and the last 24 hours, click on table to see the Amateur Radio operators that have heard the balloon and the distance their station is to the balloon. If you click on map, you’ll get the location or general location of our balloons. I’ve added another link from habhub which shows all the balloons flying from around the world registed on APRS. Click there and track, W5KUB-112, us and all the others, please enjoy.

Until tomorrow, 73, Cary KD9ITO