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.
Pico Balloon KD9UQB was launched from Neumayer Station III, Grid IB59UI, Antarctica, on November 24th 2022. After 53 days and 1 hour of flight, Pico Balloon KD9UQB made its 4th Circumnavigation around the world.
Pico Balloon KD9UQB had reached Grid ID65LE at 07:32 UTC flying at an altitude of 10,840 meters, 35,566 feet, completing the 4th Circumnavigation around the world.
With several more hours of sunlight and flying north over warmer temperatures. Pico Balloon KD9UQB has been reaching altitudes of 11,100 meters.
The 84 hour NOAA Hysplit Trajectory model and Ventusky shows Pico Balloon KD9UQB traveling in a faster Jetstream arriving south of New Zealand around January 20th 2023.
Our Locate and Track page has been updated for Pico Balloon KD9UQB showing the 84 hour NOAA Trajectory, Ventusky for windspeed and direction, and APRS for current location on the world map. The WSPR Spot Database updates automatically. We are seeing Radio Station KFS reporting at 09:22 UTC from Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco California, 15,137 Km or 9,406 miles from our balloon.
Also on our Locate and Track page is the Sondehub link showing all Pico Balloons in flight around the world. Below is from Sondehub showing the past 3 day path and forward projected path based on different altitudes.
Congratulations to the NIBBB Team, and many thanks to our followers.
How time flies when you’re having fun. Pico Balloon KD9UQB has moved a little north enjoying more scenery. Pico Balloon KD9UQB reported on January 14th, 20:04 UTC at Grid GD08EN, Falkland Islands, South Atlantic archipelago. KD9UQB is now enjoying an altitude of 10,900 meters, 35,752 feet and flight time of 51 days and 13 hours.
We’re expecting Pico Balloon KD9UQB to circumnavigate the world a 4th time around January 16th 2023, at 15:00 UTC.
The 84 hour NOAA Hysplit model shows Pico Balloon KD9UQB continuing around Antarctica passing Heard Island and McDonald Islands around January 18th 2023 at 06:00 UTC near Grid ND38tt
Our Locate and Track page is updated at least once a day for the 84 hour NOAA Hysplit model showing the projected path at altitude. The Ventusky link shows the wind speed and direction, and APRS for current location on the world map. The Sondehub link shows all Pico Balloons in flight around the world. The WSPR Spot Database updates automatically with every 1st packet received, showing among other data, the reporting station and their distance to our balloon.
The WSPR Spot Database is showing that on January 14th 2023 at 11:52 UTC, Seto, JA5NVN received our signal at a distance of 17,201 Km or 10,688 miles. Thank you Seto for finding our balloon.
Pico Balloon KD9UQB is flying with a low sun-high power solar panel package operating on 20mW, or .02 watts. The actual solar panel and tracker used for this flight is shown on our Locate and Track page in the Pico Balloon KD9UQB section.
It’s been a while since I posted. Pico Balloon KD9UQB is flying south of Australia, altitude 10,360 meters, 33,981 feet, flight time, 45 days and 19 hours. Spending time south of the Day/Night Change Line will allow for more reporting time.
The 84 hour NOAA Hysplit model shows Pico Balloon KD9UQB spending another day south over Antarctica then heading back over the Southern Ocean preparing for the 4th Circumnavigation.
We use the Northern Tip of Antarctica as a landmark for circumnavigation. Neumayer Station III is located between South America and Africa at Grid IB59ui.
Just north of the tip are a set of Islands, and Fun Facts
The Machu Picchu Scientific Base is a Peruvian polar scientific research facility in Antarctica, established to conduct Antarctic research on geology, climatology and biology. Wikipedia
King George Island is the largest of the South Shetland Islands, lying 120 km off the coast of Antarctica in the Southern Ocean. The island was named after King George III. Wikipedia
Elephant Island is an ice-covered, mountainous island off the coast of Antarctica in the outer reaches of the South Shetland Islands, in the Southern Ocean. Wikipedia
Elephant Island, Antarctica, is named after the elephant seals that make their home there (as well as for its elephant-like shape). The island is located 150 miles off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, in the outer reaches of the South Shetland Islands. Covered in ice and towering above the surrounding Southern Ocean, it’s truly a sight to behold. https://www.hurtigruten.com/en-us/expeditions/stories/elephant-island-facts/
The Flight of Pico Balloon KD9UQB is updated at least daily on our Locate and Track page. Clicking on APRS will show the current location along with the last known locations of Pico Balloons K9YO and AA6DY. Ventusky will show the wind speed and direction, by hovering your computer mouse over the map. The NOAA link shows the projected 84 hour balloon travel in 6 hour increments of time. The WSPR Spot Database updates with every 1st packet report received showing the 4 Grid Maidenhead, location of reporter, distance from the reporter to our Balloon and altitude in dBm and Watts.
Our Technical Page provides additional information on Tracking our Balloons, Calculating Altitude, Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR part 101), Finding the Right Balloons and Gas, pictures of our two Solar Panel packages (Horizontal Polyscrystilline on Styrofoam and Low-Sun High Power Cylinder) and our Tracker and Antenna package for Pico Balloon AA6DY getting ready to launch.
We’re still preparing for our next launches of Pico Balloons KD9TVR and KE9LSI our youngest Generals, so stay tuned.
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.