[aprssig] Kp4rf-10 ballon flight recovery story

Hector Cintron mlist at hwic.net
Sun Dec 4 13:07:26 CST 2005

Hi Everyone

I just wanted to fill everyone in on a great APRS story, probably a
first for APRS.   A little background, My name is Hector - N1TKK and I'm
a member of the Puerto Rico Space Grant Consortium.  Our group consist
of teacher, students and Ham Radio Operators to launch and recover
balloons for 2 schools Marcelino Canino Canino Middle School in Dorado
and the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in Rio Piedras.  The hardest
part for us is recovery because we live in an island that is roughly
100x35 miles.  

  Yesterday the group had their 4th launch we were going to try to reach
burst (90k+ feet) altitude flight but winds predictions were starting to
shift the night before.  Our choices were to cut the payload at around
30k feet, this would land around Canovanas City, this was a great/easy
recovery area.  40k feet was going to land in "El Yunque".  El Yunque is
a Rain forest, lots of trees, some as 100' high, water fall, you get the
idea :).  The rest would land it in water between the east coast of
Puerto Rico and the island of Vieques.  We opted the safe altitude of

  At cut-off altitude unfortunately we encounter an interference (a link
that we didn't hear before) so we weren't able to cut it so we had to
let it fly.  As predictions said it landed on water between the islands.
The flight reached around 95,000 feet altitude.  Once we arrived at the
coast we spend the afternoon trying to get a fix on the location.  We
were able to hear a signal between S1-S3 but we weren't able to decode
any packets to get the GPS info.  Doing some DF we knew the direction
were the payload was. We stop hearing the beacon around 2pm.  We keep
going to different parts of the coast to see if we could hear it but no
luck.  At around 6pm a local vendor in one of the peer told us he saw 3
Police boats going to an area were he was something land with a
parachute.  He told us were their office was, so we started to head that
way hoping to hear a signal thinking they had it.

  When we arrived, we heard nothing and the confirmed it they didn't run
or received any reports of the payloads.  The officer on duty was
familiar with balloon payload because they have come across NWS and
Coastguard dropsone, they have either found or recovered.  The officer
on duty wanted to help but he was alone (It looked like he had a boring
day and he needed some action).  He called a fellow officer that had
just left to see if he could returned. He had every thing setup then
another higher officer came in and wasn't sure that we should go out.
After the officer convinced him that we had GPS position, had radios
that would give us locations once were close. He reluctantly agree.  

 Now the good part, it wasn't until around 6:30pm (night time) that 2
officer, Oscar Rest KP4RF, Omi WP4DM and myself.  We started to head to
the last GPS fix under one condition. Because the weather conditions
were still a little ruff  (we have been under surf advisories until 11am
that morning) they were going to try to get there but if conditions got
worse we would have to abort.  The ride was a bit choppy, 15 mins into
the ride I was beginning to get worry I wasn't hearing anything, not a
peep.  But then out of nowhere a packet burst, it's alive, It's alive.
We were screaming did you decode it to each other.  But again no packet
data  a couple of minutes later finally a decoded packet, but as Omi
started to read the coordinates off, wait that can't be right we are too
far off.  Then the next packet came in as he read the coordinates off,
yes that's much better.  But once we finally got there under the rain we


YES we finally found it around 7:15pm after 8hrs of search.   So as you
can see APRS did it's job a couple of miles out to sea (you can make out
some light from the coast in the picture), we impressed a couple of
Police Officers from the Marine Division, everyone was happy specially
the students, now we await to get the photos/telemetry from the


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