Amazing story about a student ballooning program in Idaho…in Tim’s own words and photos:

This is pretty exciting. I’m in a student in the Idaho RISE (Research Involving Students & Educators) program with VAST (Vandal Atmospheric Science Team) and we just got the go-ahead with our launch tomorrow morning. (Balloon is in the air around 7-8am)

You can follow our balloon in real-time online. This is because we are using the APRS network, and many websites collect and display this information on the internet. Note that we post position updates on average every 2 minutes. Or if you are in the pacific northwest and have a ham radio / scanner, tune into 441.050Mhz for our secondary APRS stream that updates every 20 seconds for precision tracking (this one will not reach the Internet automatically).

Follow it at:

If the link asks for a callsign or nickname, just put in something 2 letters long such as “AA”.

The weather was looking bad (lots of wind), so we’ve made some changes to our plans. Instead of trying to get 90,000ft we’ll keep our balloon to 40,000ft so it doesn’t go too far from the launch site. And due to that change we can’t run certain experiments (also some weren’t ready, but we can collect basic atmosphere variables). But it should still be fun, and let us test a couple of things such as a revamped power system that consolidates our batteries.

We’ll be working with the W7UQ Ham Radio Club (that I’m also a part of) to provide communications between the convoy and ground station. Hopefully we’ll get all of the radio packets, more pictures, get a new sensor communications protocol tested, etc.


Our control & data handling team wants to test their new microprocessor and sensor interface since the old one has become too much trouble to maintain and reprogram.

So this launch will let us know how the new toys work. They haven’t finished the code to get many sensors working, so it will only be recording air pressure and air temperature. In future missions we want to fly an altitude leveler and magnetometer to measure the magnetic fields in the basalt flats somewhere in this area.

The communications team built a 70cm-band power amplifier to boost a 50mW signal up to 1W so that we can use a device that we bought some time ago called a Big Red Bee. It basically is a GPS and amateur radio transmitter that transmits position data. So we want to see how that works and collect position data in 20 second intervals so we don’t have to wait 2 minutes for our main radios to transmit their position to the APRS network. It will also provide a backup in case the main radios have problems (we’ve had this issue once before – lost lots of equipment).

We also have some custom flight prediction software…we want to see how the actual flight compares to the actual flight.

Finally we’re flying a digital camera that will take a picture every 10 seconds. We’re hoping for more cool pictures, since we weren’t able to fly a camera in our previous flight.


follow the thread here:

TAZ Forum :: A Computer, Gaming, and Social Network Community of Friends :: TAZForum :: View topic – Our Launch is a Go!

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Former Freehand Freelance Graphic Illustrator... been online since 2004 ( late starter ), blogging since 2005, presently writing a suspense-thriller e-book that began as a screenplay.