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[aprssig] APRS for a near-Arctic hot-air balloon flight

Mark Conner n9xtn at cox.net
Tue Dec 6 00:30:23 UTC 2005


Yesterday I received call from a non-ham hot-air balloon pilot who is
somewhat familiar with APRS (he had seen my presentation about amateur radio
high-altitude ballooning and participated in a couple of chases).  He is
planning a flight duration record attempt from either Fairbanks Alaska or
northern Alberta/Saskatchewan in January.  The flight duration would be
around 30-36 hours.

 

To augment his satellite phone comm, he would like some sort of automatic
APRS or APRS-like device to transmit his position at regular intervals.  I
believe that the track will be too far north for any of the active 1200-baud
AFSK digipeaters (PCSAT-2, etc).  Also, he will be flying at 500-1000 ft AGL
and much of the flight would be beyond the terrestrial APRS infrastructure.

 

It would seem that an automatic xPSK beacon on HF (20 meters or lower,
probably) would be ideal - he could hang a wire below the balloon for an
antenna.  Without a receiver and a TX interval of 5 or 10 minutes at ~ 1W, I
think a battery-operated system would be reasonable.  The question is
whether there is a device more or less equivalent to the TinyTrak that could
be connected to a lightweight fixed-frequency transmitter.  The entire
tracker (transmitter, GPS, batteries, antenna) should be less than 10 lbs.

 

Or, perhaps there is a polar-orbiting AFSK digipeater roughly equivalent to
PCSAT-2's capabilities that I'm not aware of.  Fairbanks is at about 65 deg
N, which I think is too far north for the ISS.  I haven't been keeping up
with the latest on the available satellites.  If PCSAT-1 were expected to
live into January that would have been OK.  While using satellites would
give less-frequent updates, the advantage of using VHF or UHF instead of HF
might be worth it.

 

So....any ideas on how this might be done?  I'm looking for technical
assistance as the regulatory issues are being worked separately.  

 

73 de Mark N9XTN

 

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