Hamvention is the World’s largest Amateur Radio gathering, attracting hams from around the globe. Hamvention is taking place this weekend May 19th, 20th and 21st 2023 in Xenia, Ohio.
Congratulations to our team member, Ken Daniel, K9YO who has been chosen as one of the speakers. The Amateur Radio High Altitude Balloons Forum will take place on Friday May 19th 2023. at 11:45 am in Room 3. Hamvention Forums Schedule 2023
There will be four presentations for this session, “Introduction to long duration amateur radio balloon flights”, “Build your own Arduino – based WSPR Pico Balloon tracker”, “Launching Amateur Radio Pico Balloons from Antarctica” and “The QRP-Labs U4B Pico Balloon tracker”
The moderator of this Forum will be Bill Brown WB8ELK, and the speakers, Ken Daniel, K9YO; Todd McKinney, KN4TPG; Hans Summers, G0UPL; and Dave Beverstein, VE3KCL
We owe our long duration flight successes to the expertise of Ken Daniel. Ken has created a website Pico Balloons by K9YO, Everything about Flying a Pico Balloon. Ken has provided the information on how to build his three part Arduino based tracker, for the PDF instructions, please visit Pico Balloons by K9YO-Transmitter
Todd McKinney, KN4TPG is the research gradulate student that lauched our Pico Balloon KD9UQB for our team member, Jim Janiak. Jim designed the Low Sun Angle – High Power solar array for Pico Balloon KD9UQB launched from Neumayer Station III, Antarctica on November 24th 2021.
If you’re attending this year’s Hamvention, we hope you can drop by and see the Amateur Radio High Altitude Forum, and say Hi to Ken.
We have a few more followers to the NIBBB. We met this morning and decided it was time to bring back our site. We will be updating our website with posts from members of our group, so stay tuned.
We want everyone to know we discuss Pico Balloons here. We share what we know so others can do what we do. We’re licensed as Amateur Radio Operators by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and follow the FAA regulations relating to balloons.
We welcome your comments, however, we may choose not to accept your comments or delete them. We are taught as Amateur Radio Operators that a 5 year old could be listening, so please be civil.
We believe Pico Balloon K9YO is now lost, and we’re ok with that. Pico Balloon K9YO was launched on October 10th 2022, having flown 123 days and 7 circumnavigations around the world.
Pico Balloon KD9UQB reported March 4th, 2023, at Grid DH05ld, at 02:02 zulu, just after 8pm our local time on March 3rd 2023, at an altitude of 38,585 feet. Pico Balloon KD9UQB had been traveling in a circle over the South Pacific Ocean east of Peru, South America
While we were at our breakfast meeting on March 4th, Pico Balloon KD9UQB reported at Grid CG86tt, 14:52 zulu, just after 9am our time at an altitude of 6,431 feet. At 9:22 am our time, Pico Balloon KD9UQB was at an altitude of 2,822 feet. The WSPR Spot Database shows Pico Balloon KD9UQB losing altitude.
Pico Balloon KD9UQB was launched on November 24th 2022 from Neumayer Station III, Antarctica as part of a special project. Pico Balloon KD9UQB last reported on March 4th, 2023 at Grid CG86ts at 15:12 zulu having flown for 100 days, 9 hours and 12 minutes, and having completed 7 circumnavigations around the world.
We’d like to thank the new followers of NIBBB and those that have asked to financially support our group. We are a very small group of 18 members, our youngest is 11 years old. We rely on the expertise and team approach of our group, and all our members assist in making our launches a success. We thank you for your offer. For very little money, we get so much enjoyment, and are not accepting donations at this time.
For those that are interested in building and flying Pico Balloons, the 1st step is getting a license in Amateur Radio. I recommend this site which provides free learning (Study Mode) and practice tests. You can find an exam session remote by zoom or in person at “Find a Session” https://hamstudy.org/ It takes about 10 hours of study time to pass the Technician license, a little more to get a perfect score. The real learning takes place after you get a license, we call this a license to learn. There are 3 classes of licenses; Technician, General and Amateur Extra. Our youngest General is 12 years old.
Once licensed, we urge you to join a Ham Club in your area, volunteer and get involved.
We end our messages with “73” which means, Best Wishes.
Pico Balloon K9YO last reported on February 11th at 00:48 zulu near Hagemeister Island after 123 days and 18 hours of flight.
Hagemeister Island is an uninhabited island in the U.S. state of Alaska, located on the north shore of Bristol Bay at the entrance to Togiak Bay. The island is 16 miles long, has a land area of 115.9 square miles, and its highest point is 604 feet. It has no permanent population at the 2000 census. Wikipedia
The 84 hour NOAA Hysplit Trajectory showed Pico Balloon K9YO making the 7th circumnavigation on February 13th around 18:00 zulu, and then traveling north of the Day/Night Change Line.
Below is a screen shot from Ventusky from February 11th showing the possible wind speed and direction. The darker colors near Hagemeister are 63 mph, the green color further north is 24 mph.
Ventusky is interactive, you can change the date at the lower left hand corner and slide the time at the bottom. This is a nice site to play with, search a location, and change the parameters on the left. Clicking on any location on the map will open a screen with information for that location.
The links for Ventusky and NOAA are on our Locate and Track page for each balloon.
Two of the several programs we follow to track our balloons are NOAA and lu7aa.org NOAA showed us going in a general eastward direction, lu7aa showed us going northeast. Pico Balloon K9YO on lu7aa
lu7aa shows a projected location using Ventusky. Projection seen below for February 15th 2023, 03:58 zulu, Grid DQ14er, 4 days and 3 hours from our last official report.
For now we are calling Pico Balloon K9YO Missing in Action.
Pico Balloon KD9UQB was launched from Neumayer Station III in Antarctica on November 24th 2022, completing the 7th Circumnavigation, on February 14th 2023 at 18:12 zulu at Grid ID52vd.
Pico Balloon KD9UQB last reported flying at an altitude of 11,560 meters, 37,928 feet, completing the 7th time around the world in 82 days and 12 hours of flight.
The 84 hour NOAA Hysplit Model shows Pico Balloon KD9UQB heading north also by Ventusky for February 14th 18:00 zulu
We update the NOAA Hysplit Model and Ventusky every day our balloons report. The WSPR Spot Database is updated automatically everytime our balloons receive a report.
Though you may not be seeing regular posts here, we update our Locate and Track page daily when our balloons are reporting. The WSPR Spot Database is updated automatically everytime our balloons receive a report. Pico Balloon K9YO and Pico Balloon KD9UQB have their own WSPR Spot Database link on our site and the easiest way to see when our balloons report. The WSPR Spot Database shows the reporting station and the distance to our balloon in Km and miles.
Thank you for following the NIBBB. 73, Cary KD9ITO
Our Pico Balloons are 32 inch diameter with a 100 inch circumference, pre-stretched prior to launch and becomes full at highest cruising altitude (Between 32,000 feet and 50,000 feet depending on the package weight)
Our Trackers, solar panel, and antenna packages are lighter than a small bird. Our balloons are filled using a gram scale filled at less than a cubic foot of gas, enough to lift the package +- 8 grams of gas, and are exempt from 14 CFR 101
Below are excerpts from 14 CFR 101
This part prescribes rules governing the operation in the United States, of the following:
(1) Except as provided for in § 101.7, any balloon that is moored to the surface of the earth or an object thereon and that has a diameter of more than 6 feet or a gas capacity of more than 115 cubic feet.
(2) Except as provided for in § 101.7, any kite that weighs more than 5 pounds and is intended to be flown at the end of a rope or cable.
And Part 4
Except as provided for in § 101.7, any unmanned free balloon that –
(i) Carries a payload package that weighs more than four pounds and has a weight/size ratio of more than three ounces per square inch on any surface of the package, determined by dividing the total weight in ounces of the payload package by the area in square inches of its smallest surface;
(ii) Carries a payload package that weighs more than six pounds;
(iii) Carries a payload, of two or more packages, that weighs more than 12 pounds; or
(iv) Uses a rope or other device for suspension of the payload that requires an impact force of more than 50 pounds to separate the suspended payload from the balloon.
(a) No person may operate a moored balloon or kite, between sunset and sunrise unless the balloon or kite, and its mooring lines, are lighted so as to give a visual warning equal to that required for obstructions to air navigation in the FAA publication “Obstruction Marking and Lighting”.
(b) No person may operate a moored balloon or kite between sunrise and sunset unless its mooring lines have colored pennants or streamers attached at not more than 50 foot intervals beginning at 150 feet above the surface of the earth and visible for at least one mile.
No person may operate a moored balloon unless it has a device that will automatically and rapidly deflate the balloon if it escapes from its moorings. If the device does not function properly, the operator shall immediately notify the nearest ATC facility of the location and time of the escape and the estimated flight path of the balloon.
I’ve previously wrote about our Team Member, John Walsh, W9BLN who is a member of the Adler Planetarium Far Horizons Project. John volunteers with the GoNet Project that monitors Light Pollution in the Chicago area. They launch weather balloons that get as big as a house at maximum altitude. These balloons carry a 10 lb payload with cameras and other equipment costing thousands of dollars. These High Altitude Balloons with expensive payloads must be recovered. Far Horizons has a launch committee and a recovery committee. I’ve followed a past flight on APRS that usually lasts 5 hours. The Far Horizons group flys a flight plan with the FAA.
The Code of Federal Regulations is a good read, and I hope you follow our link above.
On our Locate and Track page we have several links to follow the worldwide Amateur Radio Pico Balloons in flight that are registered through APRS. One of the links is Amateur Sondehub
We are a small group of Pico Balloon enthusiasts.
Sondehub also tracks other balloons flying around the world at Sondehub.org
These are very crowded skies.
Clicking on the Sondehub links above and scrolling out will show all the registered balloons flying around the world.
New from the Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade
From the start of our program in June of 2021, besides having fun, our goal was to teach others how to build and launch Pico Balloons. This is a continued work in progress.
Our Team Member, Jim Janiak, KD9UQB has designed and started to teach our team members how to build our solar panel packages. Jim has updated our website on the solar panel builds.
When you visit our main page https://nibbb.org/ you’ll read about the introduction to our program and our members. The heading on each page show the links for more information.
Two recently added links are information on how to build our Low Sun Angle – High Power solar array with Bill of Materials and the Standard Array with Bill of Materials. The Low Sun Angle High Power array was designed and built by Jim for the Antarctica launch on November 24th 2022, now on the 71st day of flight and getting ready for the 6th circumnavigation.
Our Pico Balloon K9YO after missing in action for 30 days, made the 6th circumnaviation on January 31st 2023, and is expected over Finland around February 4th.
For updated information on our balloons in flight, please visit our Locate and Track page. For posts starting with the most recent please visit our Blog page.
Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. I can be reached through my QRZ page or the Contact Us link on our website.
Pico Balloon K9YO was missing in action after last reporting December 26th, 2023 after the 5th Circumnavigation and 76 days and 23 hours of flight. We were hoping for the best for a safe return.
On January 26th 2023 K9YO came back and reported at Grid ON25LL over Mongolia at 03:08 zulu.
It was Ken Daniel, K9YO that alerted our team that Pico Balloon K9YO reported just passing Japan on January 27th 2023 and asleep at Grid QN74LL at 04:08 zulu.
We did an 84 hour NOAA Hysplit Trajectory seeing a move over the North Pacific Ocean towards Alaska, but waiting for today’s report to confirm.
After 109 days and 5 hours Pico Balloon K9YO has reported on January 27th at Grid AO01LL at 22:38 Zulu flying at an altitude of 12,000 meters
The 84 hours NOAA Hysplit Trajectory is showing Pico Balloon K9YO heading north into darkness and over Canada preparing for another circumnavigation around January 31st, 2023
Our Locate and Track page has been updated for Pico Balloon K9YO and Pico Balloon KD9UQB with the 84 hour NOAA Hysplit as seen above, Ventusky for windspeed and direction, and APRS for the world view for both our balloons. We’ll continue to follow these balloons and will update the Locate and Track page.
Happy New Year to all and congratulations to the NIBBB Team for another feat, our 3rd Pico Balloon to Cirumnavigate the world at least three times.
Pico Balloon KD9UQB was launched on November 24th 2022, from Neumayer Station III, Antarctica as part of a larger group effort. For this launch we were testing a new tracker that would provide consistent reporting and a new solar panel package that would power up near sunsrise and stay awake at the lower sun’s elevation.
Pico Balloon KD9UQB has made it around the world three times in 39 days on January 2nd 2023.
Using the 84 hour NOAA Hysplit Trajectory model, we are predicting that Pico Balloon KD9UQB will be near Grid MC50AA around January 6th 2023 at 06:00 UTC
Our two solar panel systems we have been using are a mulitple polycrystilline package which is horizontal, fragile, thin and light and the film solar panel which is a vertical cylinder, sturdy and heavier.
We are also testing a pyramid shaped polycystalline solar panel package for a future launch.
The horizontal polycrystilline panel weighs around 4.2 grams, the film cylinder panel weighs about 18 grams.
The Polycrystilline package similar to the one shown by Gordie, KD9TVR was used for Pico Balloon AA6DY reaching an altitude of over 47,000 feet, and circumnavigating three times around the world in 82 days.
The Film Solar Panel was made for the Antarctica flight and testing winter launches for the lower sun’s elevation reaching an altitude of around 34,000 feet.
Our Locate and Track page has been updated for Pico Balloon KD9UQB with the 84 hour NOAA Hysplit model. Ventusky for wind speed and direction, APRS tracking and Sondehub for tracking all Pico Balloons in flight around the world.
Our next test for KD9UQB is how long the Film solar panels last with the UV coating. While this is an ongoing test, we are working on our next launches for January 2023 from Northern Illinois, stay tuned.
Pico Balloon K9YO last reported on December 26th for the 5th cirumnavigation after 77days and 23 hours of flight. We believe that K9YO has traveled north of the Day/Night Change Line and not able to report.
Pico Balloon KD9UQB went to sleep on December 31st at 22:34 UTC at Grid GD98WC, northwest of the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands over the Southern Atlantic Ocean. KD9UQB reported at an altitude of 10,600 meters, 34,768 feet.
We are now predicting that Pico Balloon KD9UQB will make the 3rd circumnavigation around the world on January 2nd 2023. Pico Balloon KD9UQB has been flying for 37 days and 16 hours as of December 31st 2022.
Using the 84 hour NOAA Hysplit Trajectory model, below is our best guess location for Pico Balloon KD9UQB on January 4th 2023 at 06:00 UTC
Our Locate and Track page has been updated for Pico Balloon KD9UQB with the 84 hour NOAA Hysplit model and Ventusky for wind speed and direction.
The Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year, and look forward to our new and exciting projects for 2023.
Pico Balloon KD9UQB was first to report on December 26th at 12:42 UTC after last reporting on December 19th. Pictured below at 13:22 UTC Grid CD10BC at 10,480 meters 34,374 feet, and nearing a 3rd circumnavigation around the world on January 1st 2023.
We are predicting Pico Balloon KD9UQB will be near the Falkland Islands around December 30th 2022
Pico Balloon K9YO was last heard on December 20th over Russia and believed to be heading towards the North Pole. Pico Balloon K9YO was launched on October 10th 2022 from Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Libertyville, Illinois. Now after 76 days and 23 hours of flight, Pico Balloon K9YO has made the Fifth Cicumnavigation around the world.
Our first report of Pico Balloon K9YO came from our WSPR Spot Database on December 26th at 15:48 UTC at Grid EN78 near Dubreuilville, Ontario Canada. Pico Balloon K9YO is flying at an altitude of 12,180 meters, 39,950 feet.
Best Guess for Pico Balloon K9YO on December 30th 2022, Grid KQ51DH
Our Locate and Track page is now updated for Pico Balloons KD9UQB and K9YO for APRS, Sondehub, 84 hour NOAA Hysplit Model, WSPR Spot Database and Ventusky for tracking wind speed and direction. The WSPR Spot Database provides realtime tracking of all our balloons.
We are waiting to hear from our Pico Balloons K9YO and KD9UQB. K9YO was last heard on December 20th over Russia after missing for 5 days. We believe K9YO had traveled north away from sunlight. We’re looking forward to K9YO coming back into the sun and around for the 5th Circumnavigation.
Pico Balloon KD9UQB which was launched on November 24th from Antarctica has circumnavigated twice and is now believed to be circling the South Pole at 5 miles per hour. It may be another week before KD9UQB finds a faster moving wind and direction east.
The NIBBB met last Saturday for our occassional breakfast meeting. Jim, KD9UQB shared the two solar panel packages he built based on the design for the Antarctica launch. During this show and tell, Jim also shared another solar panel design that looks like a 6 panel pyramid or spaceship that would catch more sunlight for the winter months. Jim KD9UQB and John W9BLN will be testing these panels.
We also discussed whether we needed to seal the balloon valve with glue. All the balloons we use have an internal valve that closes once the balloon is at full volume. Full volume occurs when we pre-stretch the balloon or when it reaches its steady high altitude. We have also experienced a loss of Hydrogen from the time the balloon is filled and sealed till it’s launched, usually the next morning. The delay in launching was needed to allow for the glue to dry.
Michael Seedman, AA6DY and Stewart Spies, KB9LM, earlier tested the effectiveness of all glues, and different tapes at -67 degrees Fahrenheit using a Laboratory Oven at MHub in Chicago.
At our meeting, we went on to discuss if a condiment such as mayonnaise or mustard would be as effective as glue.
Listening intently on the science of sealing and the discussion were the Mulley Family, Doug, KD9TPM, Kelsi, KE9LSI, Gordie, KD9TVR, and Kyli. John Walsh, W9BLN, Jim Janiak, KD9UQB, Michael Seedman, AA6DY, Stewart Spies KB9LM, and Cary Willis, KD9ITO.
A future experiment we may be testing through actual flights, and answering the question, Which is better? glue, no glue, mustard/mayonnainse with and without Kapton tape and/or heat sealed.
As we work through these various questions, and test our new trackers we are getting ready to launch our next Pico Balloons early in the new year.
Below are pictured with their Dad Doug Mulley KD9TPM, two of our younger members, Gordie KD9TVR and Kelsi KE9LSI, brother and sister who received their General license together last summer in preparation for this upcoming launch.
We mentioned that one of our followers, Hisami 7L4IOU had wrote an article for CQ Magazine Japan that was published in the November 2022 issue. I asked some friends of mine, Mina and Kyogi Nakano to translate this article.
Below, from Hisami, 7L4IOU
On 9/3, high altitude balloon AA6DY was released in Illinois. By 9/14, it reached Japan and by 10/4 it has circled around Japan for the second time. This Balloon is managed by the group called “Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade” and this was their 24th launch to date.
The balloon is powered by a tiny and ultra light solar panels, GPS, One Chip Microcomputer Si5351A Clock Oscillation IC.
14.0956 MHz WSPR transmitter is attached to a party balloon and it continues to fly while the transmitter is exposed to the sunlight.
Since it is a good “On The Job” skill training for electronic circuit, programming, gas and pressure management, radiowave propagation and upper air charts
the group has gained wide popularity especially among young people.
By the way, the group blog and email conversations often mention the phrase “Yokohama Balloon.”
We were curious so when we asked, the group replied by saying the balloons manufactured by Yokohama Balloon Co. are highly regarded by the balloon enthusiasts.
We are very honored to learn about the Japanese toy makers’ meticulous effort being recognized. At the same time, we are also frustrated and very envious of the American balloon enthusiasts because in order for Japanese people to launch such a project, we must acquire licensing and legal system clearance! Sigh!
We wish to thank Hisami and all our followers of the NIBBB.
We have since lost Pico Balloon AA6DY, last heard on November 24th 2022, after circling the world three times. Pico Balloon AA6DY had traveled for 82 days, spending most of the flight time around the Pacific Ocean. Reminiscing back in time, below is from our Blog dated October 3rd 2022.
It’s Deja Vu all over again. AA6DY woke at 22:32 UTC, 5:32 pm CDT at Grid QM14MJ just east of Yokohama, Japan over the North Pacific Ocean. Our altitude is 14,420 meters, 47,298 feet.
The Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made all this possible. Wishing you and your families, Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year.
After a few days of silence, K9YO reported on December 19th at 01:30 UTC at Grid PN64HA near Vladivostok, Russia, at an altitude of 11,900 meters, 39,032 feet. K9YO is now at 69 days and 11 hours of flight time. The NOAA Hysplit model shows K9YO heading east then northwest over 84 hours. The Sondehub Float shows K9YO heading east. We should see another reading tomorrow and will update our Locate and Track page
Pico Balloon KD9UQB has been close to the Day/Night Change Line with longer wake times. Reporting below at Grid NC21LV at 14:14 UTC December 19th 2022. Pico Balloon KD9UQB is flying at an altitude of 10,600 meters, 34,768 feet, for 25 days and 8 hours of total flight time.
Pico Balloon KD9UQB Best Guess location on December 23rd, 00:00 UTC Grid OC88aa
Tracking our balloons on one page using APRS for December 19th
Our Locate and Track page has been updated for Pico Balloons K9YO and KD9UQB for APRS, Ventusky for wind speed and direction, 84 hour NOAA Hysplit model, Sondehub for tracking Float direction and other Pico Balloons around the world.
It may be a few days between posts, the Locate and Track page will be updated as new information is received. We encourage you to check this page and the links available for tracking all our balloons.