for something completely different

This morning had an interesting email that led to a pretty interesting day!

The email was from VK3YT saying that a pico balloon he had launced earlier in the week was coming down near our remote digi (vk5thb-1)

We had a few things that we should have been doing, thought about it for about 30 seconds and loaded up all sorts of gear into the car – we were going balloon chasing!


Andy sent the above image taken from the spacenear website  showing the track of the balloon and the predicted landing site along with the frequencies that the telemetry and timings etc were being sent by the payload.

We headed out and made our way to the predicted landing site as per the above image and waited around for 3 expected telemetry transmissions but heard nothing.

So, made our way back to the highway, closer to the last transmission point, again we heard nothing, so finally moved again.





We moved just north of the highway – and drove along a non-existent track, to near the “Red Dot” and finally managed to hear some telemetry on UHF.  We only partially decoded it and only got the Long – and not the Lat – so we were 1/2 way there.  But we  were also able to DF the signal and get a direction! Using a YNG sniffer and a 5 ele Yagi, not strong -but with the signal only being 10mw it was hopeful.


So we waited again and did not get a signal – the batteries were getting weak and the time between signals was increasing!


We moved, based on the direction of the DF’d signal and heard it at an S5 near the Red Mark, but didn’t decode the signal at all.

Given we had a strong signal at this point, we stopped the car, and just waited, and waited and waited.  Finally 30 minutes later, we got a signal, decoded the telemetry with the GPS co-ords in it.


We took a screen shot of the decoded Oliva 8-250 Telemetry we received on UHF – The IC-7100 in the car meant simply plugging the laptop into the radio and have the appropriate software loaded.

We punched the details into the GPS in the car, and drove to within 400M – the closest point we could get to.

We could see a silver thing on a fence and thought that it must be the balloon. So, grabbed a handheld with a GPS/APRS in in and started walking.  Sure enough, it WAS the balloon!

And I had actually spotted this on our first pass up the road on the way to the original predicted landing site and commented that maybe that was the balloon (approx 2 hours earlier).


Above photo was of the balloon on the fence, you can just see the string heading down to the payload.  The treeline in the background is the approx 500M  back to the road where we could drive to.


The balloon, looking along the string to the payload – which is there in the wet grass!


A zoom of the above photo – follow the string, you can just see the final resting place – You can just make out the yellow covering of the payload  and 1 of the Solar cells.


The actual payload, once I had moved it so I could see it!

The reality is, given that the final resting place was in wet grass, yes it was raining! and given that the antenna was entirely at ground level -we were pretty lucky to hear anything at all!

The first signals we got from it were around 3km away and very weak.  The final signals were from about 2km directly across an open paddock!

Well, Andy, this is one that got away and is going to come home!

Look at the details of the flight of PS-16.

It was a fun afternoon to assist another Amateur with the recovery of their experiment and will follow further launches.


4 thoughts on “for something completely different”

  1. Good read guy’s, followed you on and though you were a little to far north, but you fooled me and won the prize …. 🙂


    1. Well Pete, the last location you saw was just before we un-plugged the antenna from the tracker to put it into another radio so we could hopefully hear the Balloon – but no luck on 2M APRS.

  2. Great work guys!

    Just add to the story, when the balloon landed I looked around on the map and saw Bob’s digipeater about 50km away, with an email address on! I immediately assumed that Bob was just around the corner drinking his coffee, and most likely would be driving around during the day, so I sent Bob an email with the details. Shortly after that I got an email from Bob saying his team was heading out, with the APRS callsign of the car.
    I looked it up on, and saw Ray’s car moving north, just passing Elizabeth! Oops, sorry I didn’t realise you were that far away!

    Thanks agains guys, I did feel guilty for dragging you out on a Saturday, but it ended very well, considering that the balloon was doing loops around VK5 for 3 days, being tracked by VK5 hams, then got recovered by VK5 hams 🙂

    1. No problems Andy, It was a fun Radio day and also pretty challenging as well to finally decode the telemetry and pick it all up.

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