Near Space High Altitude Balloon has gone missing

 

The following article is relayed as a service to the Ham Radio Community:

A high altitude balloon mission title EarthBreeze, launched by the Near Space Sciences group on Saturday, September 8th has stopped reporting it’s beacon message. Ham operators are asked to listen for its signal in hopes that the balloon payload can eventually be recovered.

The EarthBreeze project is designed to test the theory that high altitude latex balloons die quickly at altitude because of UV radiation. Since the altitude this mission will be flying at for this balloon will be no where near it’s bursting diameter, this indeed will be a good test to see how long one of these balloons will last at between 70,000 and 80,000 feet.

Joe, WB9SBD recounts the Earthbreeze story here:

Earthbreeze high altitude balloon projectLast Sunday evening The High Altitude Balloon Group Near Space Sciences launched EarthBreeze II their 51st of these high altitude balloon experiments.  We have been doing these flights for almost 25 years now and are always trying something new.

All was going well for the first three hours of flight. Then as it was nearing the coldest altitude, It began to operate oddly. Maybe some background of the flight is in order here first. Please go to the following web page to learn all about this flight. It is a very unique flight.

http://www.qsl.net/nss/earthbreeze.html

Ok, symptoms of behaving oddly. As I said as the payload traveled into the colder parts of it’s journey, one of the last telemetries had it being -47 deg C!  The RTTY transmissions were designed to have a 200 Hz shift. controlled by a crystal. As the flight continued on, this shift was widening. towards the end it was almost double at about 400 Hz shift.  Also additional symptoms were the actual frequencies were rising higher and higher in the waterfall audio passband. Towards the end almost a full KC higher than intended. This of course was also controlled by a crystal. So being nearly -50 deg C it was expected.

But what started to happen next was not expected. The transmitter was set to transmit at 15 seconds after the minute. This was being controlled by the clock in the GPS system. It was slowly transmitting later and later and later, and nearly a full minute late towards the end.

Then the last transmissions heard were very strange. Longitude position of -184 degrees? It should have parked at this time at near 70 thousand feet. Then the last transmission came down, and it was a very wide shift RTTY signal probably close to 500 Hz and did not have enough time to adjust the software for a decode. in addition in the short transmission, what 10 seconds? it swept in frequency a good 400 Hz down in the waterfall.

That was the last anyone has heard from it.

Now we are asking for everyone to listen for it.  Unless the electronics were actually damaged by the cold, once they thaw out, this should start to transmit again. even if the on-board batteries die it should still transmit during the day because of the solar panels. If it’s still flying it may still be froze up since it’s in a location where last checked it is -55 deg C, but it has to come down eventually, and then it will warm up, if it hasn’t landed already. Even on the ground this can be heard, pre launch it was being heard by several stations via skip.

So we are looking for people to try to hear this run away payload. unless it was damaged, it should eventually come back to life.

Any info or questions feel free to ask.

If you have any information or questions, please contact Joe, WB9SBD directly at nss@mwt.net. Information on the project and frequencies to listen on for the balloon telemetry can be found on the EarthBreeze website.

high altitude balloon earthbreeze IIUpdate (09/12/12): No word on the balloon yet. Reports of faint, garbled FSK transmissions can be heard on the frequency the balloon is to transmit on. The balloon has an HF transmitter aboard transmitting RTTY at 10.145MHz. Applications like Ham Radio Deluxe can decode the transmissions without the need of an interface box. The balloon was launched in SW Wisconsin and last heard hovering over the Rockford, IL area. It could still be in the air, or have crashed to the ground. The balloon was designed to stay in the air for a long period of time.

TRANSMISSION DETAILS:
ANTENNA: Vertical Wire Dipole
TRANSMITTER: 500 milliwatt RTTY and CW Transmitter.
FREQUENCY: USB And a Dial Frequency of: 10.145
RTTY Tones will appear at approximately 1600 and 1800 in the waterfall. CW will appear at the 1800 point.
RTTY is 200hz shift, 110 Baud, 8 Bit, None Parity, 1 Stop.