April 19 I was able to attend my second high altitude balloon chase event. As part of a nationwide competition the Purdue AMET club launched two balloons. The Purdue Physics Society also launched a balloon. This required a concerted effort to chase three balloons launched at different times from two different locations. I was able to get in on the balloon projects since I’m a member of the Purdue Amateur Radio Club. We’ve partnered with the other clubs to assist in tracking and comms support. In the process, we’ve been able to encourage many of the club member to get licensed. We even started our own PARC VE team.
In addition to the various club members out tracking I also had my son, Jared, riding shotgun; and friends Nick N9SJA and Tabb W9TTW in their mobiles. We were able to track and recover two of three balloons. AMET balloon #2 is MIA and hopefully will be recovered by someone and returned to the club. AMET balloon #1 was a special zero pressure balloon that was actually totally constructed by the club members. It’s designed for an experimental payload. What it lacked in speed and altitude it made up for in endurance. We followed it all the way to the end of a dirt road outside a small town in rural southern Ohio. We were actually able to see the balloon and follow it as it floated along at 40,000 feet altitude. I wouldn’t have believed that possible. The Physics balloon ended up in a tree in a golf course community in Fishers, Indiana.
It was nice to really make use of the APRS features of the Kenwood TM-D710 in my mobile. We were able to copy the balloon’s beacons direct from our mobiles. It was also helpful to be able to tether my tablet to my cell phone and view the balloon in real time on maps. This also helped us plot our route as we followed along. At one point the balloon went right over my house and used my digipeater. That was really neat for me. It definitely took us into some unfamiliar territory. We knew it was a good sign as it went past Dayton, OH. Being that near to Hamvention land was some good mojo. Can’t wait to get back there in a few weeks.
I’ve included a pic that shows the flight path of AMET #1. You can see the red line is the path it traveled. The blue line is from the pickup point back home to West Lafayette. They must have turned off the beacon and then turned it back on again later. It was neat to follow it along and see it hanging in the sky, especially after it got below 10,000 feet. As it got cool in the evening the altitude really started to drop. I wish I could’ve gotten a picture of it lit up by the sun and floating along about 5000 feet thorugh some rolling fields out in the country.
We’re looking forward to some more balloon projects this summer as many of the members will be sticking around campus. We also have plans for using the kite antenna again. Maybe this time we can send up a small, low power repeater.