Fall 2007 Issue

Up in the Air

ARHAB 20th Anniversary Celebration

By Bill Brown,  WB8ELK




Photo A. Four balloons launch at once at the 20th Amateur Radio High Altitude Balloon (ARHAB) celebration.

Amateur radio balloon groups converged on Findlay, Ohio this past August 11th to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Amateur Radio High Altitude Balloon (ARHAB) flight in the U.S. Five balloons were launched in the morning from the same location as my first flight at the farm of George Flinchbaugh, WA8HDX.

Ham radio payloads were flown by Nick Stich, KØNMS, Robert Rochte, KC8UCH, Taylor University (KB9ZNZ), and me (WB8ELK). In addition, the University of Akron and Taylor U flew experiments using a 900-MHz spread-spectrum downlink, and members of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville ARC balloon group (AA4UT) were in attendance for the launch and chase, but didn’t fly their experiment. (See Photo A.)

Some very unique payloads were flown during the event. Nick, KØNMS, flew his license-free Garmin Rino unit, which performed extremely well (Photo B). These are handheld units with embedded GPS that transmit position on an FRS/GMRS channel to other handheld units. Even from 30 miles away, we had great reception using just an identical handheld Rino on the ground. Taylor U and University of Akron flew a 900-MHz SS (spread spectrum) system that provided high-speed data links that worked well. I flew one of my first ATV payloads (live TV camera with GPS overlay). After 20 flights up to the edge of space and back, the package consists mostly of duct tape . . . after all, real science is not possible without duct tape!

I also flew a simplex repeater on 2 meters using an Alinco DJ-S11T and a RadioShack simplex repeater module. Quite a few folks from several states were able to work through it. Taylor U flew a crossband FM repeater (2 meters and 70 cm). The Ft. Wayne ARC operated net control for the repeater, and it was in constant use from launch to landing with excellent signals across a large portion of the Midwest.

Four of the balloons were launched at the same time, and some of them made it to almost 100,000 feet. They all landed about 30 miles south of the launch site and were recovered a few miles apart from one another. Quite a few balloon trackers were on the chase, and after tromping through acres of soybeans and trying to pry payloads from balloon-eating trees, all of the payloads were recovered in good shape (Photo C).

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