Spring 2009 Issue

Up in the Air

Kentucky Space Balloon-1

By Bill Brown,* WB8ELK

Photo 1. Student Jessamyn Delgado buttons up the Balloon-1 payload while Dr. James Lumpp observes on the right.

Last July 14th, Kentucky students from over six different colleges and universities launched a balloon payload dubbed Balloon-1 to the very edge of space from the Bowling Green, KY airport. The Kentucky Space program is a consortium of universities along with public and private organizations that collaborate to design and lead innovative space missions. The program allows a select group of students to design and build experiments that will end up on an orbiting spacecraft in the very near future (<www.kentuckyspace.com>).

Last Julyís Kentucky Space student payload carried APRS on 144.39 MHz; numerous still cameras for horizon, up, and down photos; and a low-power SAW transmitter circuit for CW telemetry on 434 MHz (see photo 1).

Since one of the primary goals of this first flight for the Kentucky Space program was to demonstrate the use of high-altitude balloons for emergency communications, I included a simplex repeater payload on 144.34 MHz using an Alinco DJ-S11T connected to a simplex repeater module along with a secondary APRS transmitter. Near the bottom of the flight train I also included a FindMeSpot GPS tracker that sends position data up to the orbiting GlobalStar network every 10 minutes. The FindMeSpot is a neat backup GPS unit that will actually transmit its position to the satellites (and from there to a website) even while upside down on the ground. Itís a handy device that can save the day if the APRS units are out of range of local digipeaters after the payload has landed following its flight into the stratosphere. Check out <http://www.findmespot.com> for more info on this 7-ounce wonder.

Thanks to Hank Cantrell, W4HTBís efforts we were able to inflate the balloon inside the Fruit of the Loom jet hangar at the Bowling Green airport. We had a large crowd of onlookers and even managed to have the kids in attendance build some ping-pong-ball experiments that are called PearlSats, a concept developed by Dr. Bob Twiggs, who came up with the idea as a neat way to send up very small student experiments on a balloon. Each kidís experiment is strung on the flight line like a string of pearls (see photo 2). In addition, Hank W4HTB, Shane Wilson, N4XWC, and I designed a 1255-MHz FM Amateur Television (ATV) transmitter to provide real-time, live camera video from the balloon during its flight.

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