December 23rd 2022, Northern Illinois Bottlecap Balloon Brigade Update

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.

October 3rd 2022, Day 32, 22:32 UTC, East of Yokohama, Japan, North Pacific Ocean

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.

QM14MJ, east of Yokohama Japan

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.

We will continue to update our Locate and Track page throughout our flights.

73, Cary KD9ITO

September 1st 2022, Artemis and NIBBB, what we have in common

As we reported in our last post, we were ready to launch two balloons last Saturday, August 27th. After completing the Board and getting ready for launch, Michael started testing the tracker and discovered it wasn’t working properly. The night before, we discovered our tracker was only transmitting one packet. We need both packets sent two minutes apart to receive the 6 Grid Maidenhead location, altitude and other data. Not having all the data we needed for a successful launch, we decided to scrub the launch until we could find the trouble.

On our last post we had shown our 3rd party manufactured tracker minus a few chips. Because of the chip shortage, it’s necessary for us to add some our own sourced chips. After spending time looking at the software as a possible issue, we suspected the problem to be a hardware issue. One of the substituted chips was the MS5351 Clock Generator. On our previous trackers, we were using the Skyworks Si5351, however, due to supply chain issues, we ordered the MS5351, thinking it was a plug-in replacement for the Skyworks chip. We found that the MS5351’s didn’t always work. After finding a board that failed consistently, we removed the MS5351 and replaced it with an original Skyworks chip, we retested, and we’re now back in business. We now have two working trackers for our next launch. We also ordered the Skyworks Si5351A-B-GT chips from Digikey to make sure our future trackers will work properly.

We also discovered during this down period, that the two Yokohama balloons that were prepared for last Saturday, were found to be leaking a small amount of gas – about 1g of lift per day. We were planning on using these pre-stretched and filled with the proper free lift gas for this Saturday’s launch. I suppose it was pure luck to discover the balloons had a small leak which would have lead to a failed launch, if we hadn’t scrubbed the launch.

After we discovered these failed balloons, Michael AA6DY and Stewart KB9LM of our Technical team had conference calls with Ken Daniel K9YO and with Tom Medlin W5KUB on our different balloons. Ken has been successful flying the SAG balloons and Tom, the Yokohama’s. While Stewart was able to get the process of pre-stretching and sealing from Ken, Tom shared that the failure rate of a Yokohama balloon was about 70%. While we’re not sure if that’s a failure from launch or cutting short the journey, Tom’s flight 112 has just circumnavigated the world and is currently flying on day 82 with a Yokohama balloon over Canada heading to the north pole.

We have several groups working together to prepare for a launch. After the Balloons, Tracker, Solar Panels and Antenna package are prepared, the last step before launch is to look at the weather and the Jetstream. It is now up to our Meteorological committee to determine whether we are good to go, which we now have.

Our Meteorological committee of Kelsi Mulley KE9LSI (our new General) and her Dad Doug Mulley KD9TPM are providing daily weather reports leading up to the launch. NOAA (National Oceanic and Athmospheric Administration) provides all our models from balloon location for all weather and trajectory. NOAA gives us updates on Hurricanes and Cyclones which may impact our launch as well as a Hysplit trajectory, which shows our projection of travel from a given altitude and location. We start with our launch location and projected altitude and create a model showing the projected path over a 48 or 84 hour period. The NOAA Hysplit Trajectory model takes into account the weather, pressure, and Jetstream, and adjusts the altitude and direction. During the flight this committee will update the Hysplit models.

We are now planning our next launch on Saturday September 3rd 2022 at Willow Hill Golf Course, 1350 Willow Rd. in Northbrook, IL. We will be launching two balloons, KD9UQB for Jim Janiak, and AA6DY for Michael Seedman, and now with the Go Ahead from our committee, we will be meeting at 8:30 am Saturday September 3rd.

So, what do we have in common with Artemis? We research, prepare and test, up to and throughout our launch.

August 14th, 2022, KD9TPM, MIA

KD9TPM was launched on July 30th from Willow Hill Golf Course in Northbrook, Illinois and came alive on July 31st over Canada. We last heard from our balloon on August 10th over the North Pacific Ocean. KD9TPM had flown 10 days and 16 hours and we now declare it Missing In Action.

KD9TPM travel map from July 30th 2022 to August 10th 2022 courtesy of WSPR.Rocks

We are in our planning stages for our next launch and will keep an eye out for KD9TPM

Our Technical Team is working on building our Solar Panel and Antenna packages and look forward to many future launches.

73, Cary KD9ITO

August 10th 2022, 06:36 UTC Grid RN36bb North Pacific Ocean

KD9TPM went to sleep at Grid RN36bb heading south over the North Pacific Ocean. We have flown 10 days, 16 hours and 32 minutes while awake. Sometimes we get our reports quickly and are able to determine locations and altitude, and sometimes it’s well, really spotty. When it’s spotty like this it takes some patience and some quick math to add the two timeslots, we’re around 9900 meters, 32,400 feet.

Where we go from here? We can wind up towards many different locations, Northeast, Southwest, We can loop around and head towards Canada head back to China or take a more southerly route. I’ve updated our links to Locate and track here is our current Jetstream to see where we may be headed Ventusky North Pacific Ocean

In case you happen to find out where we wake up before I report, please send me an email.

73, Cary

August 7th 2022 2:54 UTC, 8th day, 7 days 22 hours Uzbekistan towards Kazakhstan

Good morning, When KD9TPM first reported it was on August 7th 2:54 UTC at 9:54 pm August 6th. I say first reporting but it wasn’t a complete report. For us to see all the data, we must receive informtion on 2 sets of packets, on the 2’s and on the 4’s in a 10 minute time slot. For the first hour or so, we were only receiving the second packet on the 4’s which gave an a Grid but not an altitude. It wasn’t until 4:12 UTC that we recieved our first packet, which gave us an altitutde. We were getting such few spots on this leg of our trip, it was difficut to verify where we were.

With that information, I was able to generate a map but decided to wait till morning to see what else we could get. The next two images are from Gridmapper. The location of our balloon after reporting 2 packets was a 4:14 UTC MN31bi, just north of Aydar Lake, Uzbekistan, at 9,960 meters or 32,600 feet. The 2nd image is for one of our contenstants on Guessing the Gid Square

Below is the Guess from Wendy Berg, KD9RDV Grid MN31e over Aydar Lake, Wendy is our winner for Guessing the Grid Square on awakening

Our first images of our location and complete data came a few hours later.

Though our spots are very few, what we do know is we’re now heading Northeast from Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan and in a much faster Jetstream Uzbekistan towards Kazkhstan and still around 33,000 feet

With the Jetstream picking up, we can travel a great distance from here. The active link above Uzbekistan towards Kazkhstan is a link to Ventusky for our current altitude and Jetstream. Which is also updated on our Links to Locate and Track tab, just click Ventusky.

We’re still making great progress with this little balloon package, below is our last 5 days

It’s easy to play, Guess the Grid Square, either send me an email and I’ll help you sort it out, or for those seasoned players, please go to our links to Loacate and Track tab at the top of our website.

Till this evening, 73, Cary

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, Habhub for other balloons around the world and Ventusky to see wind speed and direction from our altitude.

Till this evening, 73, Cary

August 6th 2022, 03:54 UTC, Grid KN74uh, South of Feodosia Crimea, Black Sea

KD9TPM woke at Grid KN74uh just south of Feodosia, Crimea over the Black Sea. We’ve picked up a faster Jetstream heading East. Our altitude is close to 33,000 feet

at KN84ad 4:14 UTC moving East

The winner for tonight’s Guess the Grid Square is Jim Janiak, KD9UQB for his guess Grid KN64ob, 146 Km from KN74uh. Jim is a new first time winner. Another close group, the others were less than 300 Km from KN74uh.

I’ll give an update in the morning, off to bed. 73, Cary

August 5th 2022 16:24 UTC Grid KN47si, Moldova, 7th Day

KD9TPM is now asleep at Grid KN47si near the city of Carmonova, Moldolva sharing the border with Ukraine. Our current altitude is 10,180 meters around 33,400 feet. We are now 6 days, 2 hours and 22 minutes of flight. Below is the image of where we went to sleep.

The Jetstream is starting to move Southeast. I’ve updated our Links to Locate and Track to show the Ventusky Jestream at our current location and altitude. Using the WSPR.Rocks site, last 24 hours and clicking on map is a great tool for finding our next location. Please read the bottom of the page on our Links to Locate and Track.

Our balloon should be waking up in about 10 hours, so if you’re competing in Guess the Grid Square, please get them in no later than 9pm this evening.

73, Cary KD9ITO