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Old 03-05-2017, 03:31 PM
megabyte (Michael)
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Location: Wollongong
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High Altitude Ballooning advice

Hi guys, I'm interested in launching a high altitude weather balloon in NSW.

I have come across some great threads here and I know some members here are very knowledgeable, but I was wondering if there's a more dedicated forum you HAB'ers can recommend where I post the 1000 questions I've got?
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Old 04-05-2017, 11:20 PM
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nebulosity. (Jo)
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Not sure about a forum, but I have done a HAB project and have two more in the pipeline so might be able to answer a few questions for you.

You can contact me via PM, might take a few days but should be able to give you plenty info if you want.


Last edited by nebulosity.; 09-05-2017 at 06:46 PM.
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Old 09-05-2017, 12:02 PM
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Please post here, I'm also looking into it and sure others would have the same questions to ask.
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Old 09-05-2017, 12:32 PM
OzEclipse (Joe Cali)
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We did one in 2012 into the path of totality of the total solar eclipse.
Due to the time sensitive nature of the launch, we had three teams operating.

1. Compliance and permission - negotiation and applications to CASA and Air Safety Australia. This was quite a lot of work. The CASA website has downloadable regulations with a whole section on balloons.

2. Launch team - configured the instruments and launched.

3. Tracking team - ham radio enthusiasts who used HF to track the radio beacon we had on board. .

Read the CaSA regs and then post your Q's here.

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Old 17-05-2017, 10:46 AM
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Joe, congrats on that team effort. I guess getting the instrument package up high is easy compared to finding/recoverying it (laws aside, just technically). I've been toying with some ideas for slow descent (waiting for 3d printer order to arrive to prototype). I'm playing with arduino gear these days and seeing what sensors can offer.

From what you learnt would you says its better to build an arduino instrument package? Or buy (if it exists) an off the shelf device instead? Any problems with device failure as it reached altitude? eg condensation/icy? etc or did everything work normally all the way?
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Old 17-05-2017, 09:38 PM
OzEclipse (Joe Cali)
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Hi Sil,

The design/launch team and tracking team included some very experienced people. We had someone from the Romanian Space Agency who had launched a HAB with a one ton laboratory payload with NASA. The launch and track teams conducted 2 test flights in Romania prior to the eclipse flight. I was running an eclipse tour for 110 people at the same time and so I limited my involvement to the legal compliance aspect. In order to do that, I had to be across the broad technical aspects but not in minor details.

All problems occurred pre-launch. Helium tank was not full leaving insufficient helium to fill the balloon for a 3kg lift. No problems with device failure or cold post launch because design had taken that into account. However, with 37km expected temperatures between -60C to -90C, the payload team used Li-Po batteries and a Byonics microbeacon with GPS module. These items were rated for those very low temperatures. It's essential, from air safety perspective, that you don't lose the package tracking.

Air Services Australia (ASA) and CASA are very risk averse. This seemed to be as a result of someone sending up a balloon early that year using 2 mobile phones, one on the ground tracking the one in the balloon. Tracking failed and they lost the balloon. ASA had to shut down an 800x500km window of airspace west of Brisbane for several weeks. Consider the consequences if your parcel brings down an aircraft. I had to sign a contract which stated that I was personally liable if anything went wrong.

Below are the details of our instrument packages. The weights had to be reduced when the helium deficiency was discovered.

Weight : is 1500 grams

Weight : is 1500 grams

The balloon will carry equipment to measure : -

Pressure sensor;
Pollution grade, UV / IR sensors;
External temperature
photos and the movie from the on-board cameras
GPS and APRS micro beacon transmitter

In the capsule we'll have a MicroTrack from Byonics, 144,850 Mhz
configurable (+/- 0,5 Mhz), we also have a GPS module also from
Byonics. We'll track the device with the APRS system with assistance from Cairns amateur radio operators in the 144,80 or 144,85 band with recording data (in APRS).

When you say Arduino, I think you mean the measurement devices? I would definitely recommend use of a purpose built micro-beacon and APRS tracking. Don't take chances with a home made device. You'll need collaborators who are licensed amateur radio operators. We found the local club were very keen to get involved and two members had their rigs in 4wd's

Condensation isn't a problem. Package is warm at launch. Most moisture is in the first 3000 m then it gets very dry up high. If cold instruments condense water on the way down, that usually isn't critical. Air pressure at 40km is around 1% of sea level so hermetically sealed instruments could crack open if the cases are not strong enough to hold one atmosphere of pressure pushing outwards.

The package had a pressure triggered parachute. It rose to 37km then burst, fell to 18km then the parachute deployed. It landed high up in a tree relative to launch, it did a big arc and was only 5-10km from the launch point. The APRS tracking path is no longer in the database. The team had no trouble finding it in the Cape York region but it was 20 metres up a gum tree. They had no alternative but to go 100km back to Laura, found someone with a chainsaw and paid him to go cut it down.

I see you are in Canberra. Happy to have a chat to you in person and can help you test your Arduino instruments at -80C to test power supplies and instruments in a vac chamber to pressure test instruments. Best not to seal instruments if possible so they can out-gas. Just needs a tiny breather hole. Also a good idea to have independent Li Po power supplies for instruments and tracking. Make sure you have enough juice for tracking.

If you subscribe to Sky and Telescope, we wrote a feature article about this that was first published in Oct 2013 in S&T and republished in Dec 2013 in Australian S&T.



Last edited by OzEclipse; 17-05-2017 at 09:52 PM.
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