When Flying Pigs n Balloons Collide


Breaking them in young


Doc is it hot


I feel lighter that air.


Let it go


What was that grid again


Is it over the water


Are you sure it is over here


It is in the woods


Our backup support


Greetings from the Flying Pigs of Clarksville TN. This outing was a combined effort with the Shoestring Ballooners group also located here in Clarksville, TN. Our goal was to launch a weather balloon with a radio transmitter attached to it and track it by using our radio receivers and software called fldigi HAB. This program tracks the balloon signals and then via the internet it uploads the information to a web site in Europe who then retransmit it over the internet to a web site called spacenear.us  This web site makes the information more human friendly and displays it on a world map with icons that represent the balloon and any vehicles that are tracking it. You can view this without having a radio or the program on you computer by just going to the web site spacenear.us and clicking on TRACKER. Information on balloon launches can be obtained at http://arhab.org/  Both of these pages  will show and tell you all kinds of information on ballooning associated with ham radio. It is amazing that so many balloons are being launched all over the world. There are groups on google that are specifically related to ballooning. All kinds of different modes of communication are used in the payloads attached to the balloons.

Our outing started early to beat the heat. Greg showed up at my home QTH about 0700 hours and we started breaking out the equipment. This was not our first rodeo so we knew what had to go where. The hams involved on this flight were Greg KZ4ZTI, Doc  NV4T, Terry N5HOT, Bob his call I can't recall..... and myself John KM6NN. Also along for the experience was my Grand daughter Alessia Foster.  The launch was at my residence on Keesee road in Clarksville Tennessee. Terry was listening from his home QTH on the other side of town and Doc was sitting in the heat with us trying to get the hang of fldigi HAB. This was his first experience with the program so he wanted to be close by to get our expertize on how to coordinate the program with the radio. With the table and radios set up we started unloading the balloon and other equipment. We put down a large tarp to work off of so that the balloon does not get any pin holes in it before we fill it. Next we get out the radio and filling equipment and start attaching it to the balloon. All of these things have to be set because when we get the balloon filled we need to move fast to make the attachment of the radio. Oh yea you always want to turn on the radio before you wrap it with bubble wrap. Greg knows all about that. THE RADIO MUST BE IN THE ON POSITION BEFORE YOU WRAP IT UP AND TIE IT TO THE BALLOON. With that done we let Alessia release the balloon and now the real fun begins. We started tracking the balloon with three radios from my home QTH Doc, Greg and I were using different antennas to see how each responded. Greg was using an Arrow antenna on a camera tripod. Doc was using a 70 cm J-Pole on the top of a 15 foot pole. I was using a vertical dual band antenna on top of my 45 foot tower. Terry was using a 70 cm vertical about 30 feet off the side of his house. The signals were coming in great and with a little tweaking we had Doc working like an old timer. Then it started getting HOT. We tracked the balloon, first south east over Clarksville then it cut back north west toward the Army base at Ft. Campbell. That was not so good for us because of the hassle of retrieving it from the military. In a short flight but a long time in the sun we lost the signal on the balloon as it started coming down. Terry reported to the internet the last reading of 1000 feet and the landing location of just off Hwy 79 near Indian Mound. With that information Greg and Bob set off in a chase vehicle to get a better location and to recover the package. To make a long story short, let me say that Greg got to within 30 yards of the package before he had to give up due to underbrush and heat. Later the next day Terry and I went back to the last known location and tried to locate the package (ie; radio) without any success. You have to be on the ground under the package when it comes down or finding it is just a crap shoot. With that in mind I am sure the next outing will be with several rovers either near or under the balloon when it comes down. The good news is that the balloon was tracked by several other hams around the country and we made another successful launce from the Shoestring Ballooners group.
Thanks for reading our story and come on down to our local club CATS and get to know the gang. Also we hope to see you on the radio on CW every day except Sunday on HF band 40 meters, 7125 at 12:55 GMT for a slow speed CW net.

Look for us on the air and 72 for now.
DE KM6NN 72 Oink Oink dit dit