We are planning the third launch of our High-Altitude Balloon (HAB-3) this Sunday, June 3rd between 10 am and 11 am ET. We will be launching locally from the Hollis-Brookline HS here in Hollis, NH. Checkout the link below to learn more about our HAB projects and how to track our HAB from anywhere in the world while it is in flight. You can also see live stream video froun our launch and recovery via the N1FD Facebook Page.
The HAB team members in NARS have created a five-session curriculum to teach physics, atmospheric science, and radio technology that we use as part of our HABlaunches. The last session is the most fun of all – analyzing the telemetry data from our HAB’s flight to see what the students can learn from it.
We got together with the students who did our HAB-2 launch this week to analyze the data from the flight and to preview some of the videos that HAB-2 captured during its flight. You can read more about what we learned from the flight data on the Nashua Area Radio Society website via the link above
We flew our High-Altitude Balloon for the second time this past weekend. Our second High-Altitude Balloon Flight (HAB-2) was part of a STEM learning project that we did with STEM club students at Bishop-Guertin High School in Nashua, NH. The students did all of the flight prep and launched HAB-2 at approximately 11 am ET from a school in Winchester, NH. Parents, teachers and local students joined us for the launch as did several members of our HAB team.
Our students prepared, launched, and tracked HAB-2 this past weekend. Their HAB made it to almost 118,000 ft! You can read more about the launch and the flight on the Nashua Area Radio Society’s website via the link above.
The Nashua Area Radio Society is planning to launch another High-Altitude Balloon (HAB) this coming Saturday, October 28th at 15:00z (11 am Eastern Time) from Winchester, NH USA. Our Balloon will carry a 2m APRS transmitter operating on 144.390 MHz and will be using the call sign N1FD-11. You can also track our HAB via the Internet using aprsi.fi. We expect our HAB’s flight to last about 2 1/2 hours and reach an altitude of over 105,000 ft. The balloon will also be carrying two video cameras to capture near-space video during the flight.
Our HAB launch is part of a STEM learning project with local High School students here in New Hampshire. You can read more about our project and see a video from our previous HAB launch and flight on our website here. We hope that you’ll track our HAB!
We made it to the edge of space! The image above was taken from our HAB at an altitude of over 90,000 ft!
After many months of work, raising funds to finance the project, teaching STEM sessions in local High Schools, and an open-house to test the Balloon Platform and to learn about Amateur Radio; our High-Altitude Balloon Project (HAB) Team finally got the chance to launch and track our Balloon. We launched our Balloon from the Elementary School in Winchester, NH.
Students, Teachers and Club Members came out to be part of the launch and to track our HAB. The first step was to move all of our gear to the center of the athletic fields at the school and organize all of our equipment.
Next, we attached the GoPro video cameras, satellite tracker and the battery pack for the Flight Computer and 2M APRS transmitter to the flight platform. We used an APRS capable HT to confirm that the flight computer and APRS transmitter were working.
We rigged the 40 ft. flight line which connected the HAB’s flight platform, recovery parachute and the balloon.
And then came the inflation of the balloon from the Helium tank. The winds were gusting to about 12 mph at this point which made inflating the balloon a little tricky. When filled, the balloon was about 6 ft. in diameter on the ground.
With both GoPro cameras running on the flight platform, we were ready to launch. A 10 second countdown and the balloon was up and away!
We watched the balloon from the ground as it soared off into the clouds. The 2M APRS tracking system worked perfectly and we spent the next several hours at the launch site, at lunch, and in our cars tracking the HAB on aprs.fi.
Our HAB’s flight path took it across Massachusetts where it reached a maximum altitude of 91,700 ft. above sea level (ASL).
The balloon reached a diameter of approximately 30 ft before it burst. After the balloon burst, the parachute deployed and the payload descended to a landing in the northeast corner of Rhode Island.
A combination of the APRS transmitter data and the on-board sounder allowed the landing location to be pinpointed and the flight platform recovered with help from a local resident.
The on-board GoPro video cameras captured some awesome video during our HAB’s ascent! All of the media captured by everyone who participated in the launch as well as the APRS data allowed us to produce the video above. Turn up your speakers and give it a play in full-screen mode to enjoy the experience what we shared!
By the time we had launched, school was at an end so we will have to wait until the fall to work with the students and teachers who were part of our STEM project to analyze the data from the flight. All in all, our HAB project has been an amazing experience for all involved. We are planning another HAB STEM experience and launch with additional schools in the fall.
We want to especially thank all of our donors whose generous contributions made this project possible.
- 2m and 70cm operation with FM simplex and repeaters
- APRS capability and tactical display for portable coordination
- Digital messaging capability
- Weather band monitoring capability
- AC Power with flexible battery backup options
A plan to build our GoKit came together during our trip to the Dayton Hamvention this year.
The heart of any GoKit is the Transceiver. We’ve been using Kenwood equipment for our APRS iGate for some time now and we have had good results with it. Kenwood’s latest 50W transceiver with APRS is the TM-D710GA. This unit provides full support for APRS tactical applications and now includes a built-in GPS receiver making it ideal for our GoKit application.
We have been using the Kenwood TM-D710 along with an AvMap GeoSat APRS display in our APRS iGate setup and the combination works very well. The AvMap display lets one see the location of portable and mobile APRS stations on a map display. This arrangement is perfect for coordinating activities in an EMCOMM situation. The AvMap GeoSat 6 APRS display is no longer in production but I was able to locate a nearly new unit on eBay.
We had a chance to look at the iPortable enclosure at Dayton and decided that their Pro 2 4U deep unit would be a good choice for our GoKit application. The iPortable enclosures are based on a portable rack mount case and include a DC power system, speaker and headphone hookups, a light, and provisions for a cooling fan.
With all the components in hand, we began the construction of our GoKit. Reliability is important in any portable system like this so we put some time into securely mounting all of the equipment and neatly arranging the cabling. First came the shelf which holds the Kenwood transceiver and a SignaLink USB sound card. A combination of drilling the shelf to secure gear with large cable ties and #8 stainless hardware was used here.
Our iPortable case was equipped with both SO-239 and N-connectors on the front panel to allow for antennas and feed lines equipped for either connector type. To make the change over between the connector types easy, we installed separate PL-259 jumper cables for each connector. One simply connects the appropriate jumper to the radio.
The power and AvMap display shelf was next. The AvMap display mount was dissembled and modified to accept a custom mounting bracket.
The iPortable enclosure was drilled to mount a West Mountain Radio PWRgate to handle backup battery charing and management. The PWRgate supports instantaneous switching between an AC power supply and a backup battery and can accommodate a wide range of battery types and sizes.
The PWRgate was configured to properly charge our 18AH AGM backup battery. Note the use of a fuse in series with the battery for safety reasons. We used a Powerwerx SPS-30DM adjustable power supply set to 14.5Vdc to operate our GoKit and to provide proper charging voltage for our AGM battery.
The last piece of the setup was the antenna. We wanted something that was portable, easy to set up and would provide good performance. We choose a Diamond X-30A 2m/70cm ground plane antenna and mounted it on an 12′ fiberglass push up mast. The feed line is made from 25′ of LMR-400UF coax. Several bungee cords are used to attach the mast to a fence post or other vertical structure.
The picture above shows the completed GoKit in operation. We typically set one side of the Kenwood TM-D710GA to operate as an APRS transceiver and Digipeater and the other side to operate on a local repeater or simplex FM. The SignaLink sound card is used with a laptop computer running Fldigi and NBEMS for messaging applications. The iPortable case has a 13.8V lighter socket which connects to a power brick to power our laptop PC.
The GoKit is quite portable when closed. All of the equipment and cable connections are enclosed and protected by the case’s removable end caps. We’ve tested our GoKit during our club’s weekly repeater net and it worked great. The first real use of our new GoKit will be at Field Day this year. It will be located in our public information tent and will be used as a “talk-in” system.
Members of the Nashua Area Radio Club launched a High-Altitude Balloon (HAB) to the edge of space and back this past weekend. Our HAB carried a 2m APRS Transmitter and sent position and atmospheric telemetry to the ground during its flight. Our HAB was tracked by many folks using aprsi.fi during its flight via the N1FD-11 call sign.
You can see an amazing video of the flight include footage taken during our launch and from the balloon while in flight above.
Our HAB launch was part of a STEM learning project that our club did in partnership with several High Schools here in New Hampshire. You can read more about the project and our STEM work on our club’s Blog here.
President, Nashua Area Radio Club
As some of you may already know, Anita and I have been working with our local Radio Club on a project to promote STEM learning and interest in Amateur Radio among young people in our area. The idea is to work with kids grades 7-12 to plan, build, launch and recover a High-Altitude Balloon carrying Amateur Radio. Our balloon should be able to reach an altitude of about 100,000 ft before it bursts and the payload returns to earth via a parachute system. The payload will include a computer, GPS and a 2 meter APRS transmitter to record the balloon’s flight track, atmospheric data and altitude throughout the flight. The balloon will also carry a video camera and will capture a video record of the entire flight. You can learn more about our project here.
We are working with local schools to put together a team of young people to plan and execute our project. This will include designing the on-board science experiments, analyzing the data collected and providing a presentation about what was learned to fellow students and others who are interested.
You can learn more about our project and view a video that shows what our balloon flight will be like on our Club website. This project is part of our Club’s on-going program to promote interest in Amateur Radio among young people. The folks at HAMNation recently featured a video which included some information about our club’s activities for young people as well.
We are working to raise the necessary funds to enable the project to be completed during the current school year. We have setup a GoFundMe page to facilitate the fund raising aspect of our project. We know that we have many readers around the world who follow our blog and it would be wonderful if some of our readers could help us by contributing to funding our project.
Anita and I will continue to post information about our project here.
Best and 73,
Anita (AB1QB) and I have been having a lot of fun with our Mobile HF station since we completed it several months back. We’ve been working quite a bit of DX and we make some contacts whenever we are out doing errands or taking other trips. We are planning to attend the Hamvention in Dayton, OH again this year and Anita suggested that we use the trip to activate some most wanted United States Counties along the way.
U.S. County Hunters are Amateur Radio operators seeking to work and confirm all 3,077 U.S. Counties. CQ Magazine has an awards program for U.S. County Hunters. Quite a few Amateur Radio operators work all U.S. Counties – some do this using multiple modes and several have done it multiple times. To find out more about the US-CA Award, see the excellent County Hunter Dot Com site.
The Mobile Amateur Radio Awards Club (MARAC) is a support group for county hunting and mobile activities with members all over the world. This is a great organization to join if you are interested in County Hunting. MARAC provides additional awards center around County Hunting and mobile operating.
Anita did the planning for our County Tour to Dayton, OH and back. She began by looking at looking at the County Hunter’s Web most wanted page to determine which counties lie along potential routes between are home and Dayton, OH were most needed by County Hunters. Based upon this information, she created the route shown at the beginning of this post. As you can see, we are taking different routes going to Dayton, OH and back to allow us to activate as many U.S. Counties as we can. We are also taking a few side trips off our route to activate a few of the most needed Counties near our route.
|SundayMay 10||MA||Middlesex, Worcester|
|CT||Windham, Tolland, Hardford, Litchfield, New Haven, Fairfield|
|NJ||Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Somerset, Hunterdon, Warren|
|PA||Northampton, Lehigh, Berks, Lebanon, Dauphin|
|MondayMay 11||PA||Northumberland, Montour, Union, Snyder|
|TuesdayMay 12||PA||Cumberland, Fulton, Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Indiana, Westmoreland, Fayette, Greene|
|WV||Marshall, Wetzel, Tyler|
|WednesdayMay 13||OH||Athens, Meiga, Gallia, Lawrence, Scioto, Pike, Ross, Greene, Montgomery|
|SundayMay 17||OH||Clark, Madison, Union, Delaware, Morrow, Richland, Ashland, Wayne, Medina, Summit, Cuyahoga, Lake, Ashtabula|
|NY||Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Livingston, Ontario, Wayne, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaiga|
|MondayMay 18||NY||Oswego, Madison, Oneida, Herkimer, Montgomery, Fulton, Schenectady, Albany, Columbia|
|MA||Berkshire, Springfield, Hampshire, Worcester, Middlesex|
Planned U.S. County Activation Schedule
The table above shows the 86 U.S. Counties that we plan to activate on our trip along with a rough idea of our schedule.
We found a useful iPhone App (County Finder) that will tell us what County we are in at a given time. The County Finder App uses the GPS in our iPhones to provide our current location in real-time.
We will also be tracking and logging the current grid square that we are operating from. We will be using the HamClock App on our iPhones to determine our grid square of operation in real-time.
Anita and I will be taking turns operating and logging. We are planning to use a laptop computer running the DXLab Suite and we will connect it directly to the IC-7000 Radio in our truck. This combination plus the County Finder and HamClock Apps above should allow us to accurately log all of our contacts. We will also be uploading contracts that we make to eQSL, LoTW and ClubLog in real-time as we operate.
We will also be running an APRS station so that folks can see where we are located in real-time and follow our progress. We are using the OpenAPRS iPhone App for this purpose. Our APRS callsign with be AB1QB-15 and you can see our position and progress on aprs.fi at any time by clicking here.
Anita and I are members of the Nashua Area Radio Club and we will be operating using the Club’s call sign, N1FD/M, during the trip. In addition to the electronic QSL’ing methods mentioned above, we will also be able to provide paper QSL’s using the Club’s QSL card shown above. All paper QSLs that we send will note the correct County and Grid Square from which the QSL’ed contact was made. See N1FD on QRZ.com for QSL information.
|Band||County Hunters Net Frequency (SSB)|
|20m||14.336 & 14.271 MHz|
County Hunters Net Frequencies
We plan to operate on or near the County Hunters Net Frequencies listed above. We will be QRV SSB on all of these bands and we may also do a limited amount of operating on 160m SSB as well.
We hope that you will take some time to work us during our trip. If you do and you read our Blog, please let us know. If we do not have other stations calling, we’d like to take a little time to say “hello” and get to know some of our readers better. We will also be attending the County Hunter’s Forum on Friday, May 15th at this year’s Dayton Hamvention. If you are there, please introduce yourself and we’ll have an “eyeball QSO”.
– Fred (AB1OC)
A little ways back, John (W1MBG) discovered our Blog and approached us about doing a presentation for the Nashua Area Radio Club (NARC) on the design, construction and operation of our recently completed station. The NARC group invited us to their March meeting where we shared our presentation with the nice group of folks in the Club. I wanted to post an overview of what we shared as well as a link to the full presentation so that our readers can have a look at the material and hopefully benefit from the information that we have assembled. I have also used this post as an opportunity to create an index to all of the articles on this Blog related to the design, construction and performance of our station.
Our new station project involved both the construction of a dedicated room for a new shack and a tower based antenna system. It took us about 1 1/2 years to build our station including the associated antenna system and we covered quite a number of areas during the project. Our presentation focused on some things that we did to plan and build our station that should be useful to many Hams building or upgrading anything from a simple station to an all out effort to create a state of the art multi-op station.
I think that its important to begin a new or upgrade station project by thinking through and writing down the goals that you have for your new station prior to purchasing equipment or beginning construction. This step is important because it helps you to think through what you want to accomplish and serves as a high-level blueprint for making design, equipment selection and construction decisions as you build your station.
We put considerable time and thought into the design of the room and operating area for our new shack including many rounds of drawings and some “human engineering” to arrive at the final room layout. While not every Ham will build a dedicated room for their shack, some careful thought put into the layout of the operating and storage areas for your shack and the associated support systems is an important design step.
The other major element in the design of our station was a new tower-based antenna system. We had some pretty expansive goals for the band capabilities and associated performance of our new antenna system and the presentation explains how we went about developing and executing a plan to meet our goals.
Since the initial installation of our tower antenna system, we added an 8-Circle Vertical Receive Array for the Low Bands and we’ve reinstalled our SteppIR BigIR Vertical Antenna. These new antenna system provide important additional performance on the low bands and during contests. We’ve also added an Antenna System and Electronics for LEO Satellites.
We’ve also installed an SO2R and Station Automation System from microHAM. The microHAM system enables much smooth and less error-prone operation of our station and enable SO2R and Multi-two operation during contests.
Our presentation includes several slides which cover the construction of our new shack and tower as well as the feedline, antenna, power and other supporting systems. The end result of all of this work is shown via a few slides which provide a “Virtual Tour” of our station.
The “Virtual Station Tour” slides contain several videos which can be played by clicking on the following links:
- Lower SteppIR DB36 Yagi Turning On Rotating Ring
- Both Yagis Rotating On The Tower During Multi-Op Session
- QSO with 5H3CMG in Tanzania (Point and Shoot Rotator Operation)
- Software Defined Radio QSO With WA0DQR On 20m
- 2m SSB QSO
- APRS iGate Operation
- QSOs Around The World From Our New Station
Other posts in this Blog contain more detailed information and many additional pictures and videos about our station. See the index of links at the end of this post to view more detail about the areas that interest you.
Our new station has been complete for several months now and we wanted to take some time to look at how it is performing against our original design goals. As you can see from the above slide, we are on a good track to meet or exceed all of the original goals that we set during the planning stage of our project.
Finally, we shared some additional information about what we learned during the project and a set of links to various sources of equipment and information that we used to complete our new station (see the full presentation). This Blog contains many more details (and pictures) about the design and construction of our station for those who are interested. Some good places to begin are categorized in the index of links below:
Shack Design and Construction:
- Shack Construction – Part 1/4 (Planning And Framing)
- Shack Construction – Part 2/4 (Electrical, HVAC, And Grounding)
- Shack Construction – Part 3/4 (Insulation, Drywall And Finish Construction)
- Shack Construction – Part 4/4 (Final Setup Of Equipment)
Antenna and Tower Design:
- Tower/Antenna System Analysis And Design – Part 1 (Planning And EZNEC)
- Tower/Antenna System Analysis And Design – Part 2 (HFTA Analysis)
- Tower Wind Loading Analysis
- Tower Layout And Mechanical Analysis
- VHF/UHF Antenna System Design
- Tower/Antenna System Design Details And Equipment Ordering
- 8-Circle Receive Array For The Low Bands Part 1 – Element Layout And Installation
- 8-Circle Receive Array For The Low Bands Part 2 – Second Shack Entry And Ground Point
- 8-Circle Receive Array For The Low Bands Part 3 – Connections To Shack And Final Integration
- SteppIR BigIR Vertical Antenna Part 1 – Assembly And Installation
- LEO Satellite System Part 1 – System Design And Electronics
- LEO Satellite System Part 2 – Antenna Assembly And Ground Test
- LEO Satellite System Part 3 – Final Installation And First Contacts
- Ground Broken For New Tower!
- More Excavation For Feedline Conduits
- We Have A Tower!
- 100 ft Tower Completed!
- Feedline Conduits And Electrical Power Complete
- Tower Climbing (Weather Station Installation)
- Building Yagis – Part 1 (70 cm)
- Building Yagis – Part 2 (2M)
- Building Yagis – Part 3 (SteppIR DB36)
- Building Yagis – Part 4 (SteppIR DB36 Continued)
- Building Yagis – Part 5 (SteppIR DB36 Continued)
- Building Yagis – Part 6 (SteppIR DB36 Completed)
- Building Yagis – Part 7 (Second SteppIR DB36 Completed)
- Feedline Breakout System
- Antennas On The Tower – Part 1 (Preparation And Upper Yagis)
- Antennas On The Tower – Part 2 (System Integration)
- Antennas On The Tower – Part 3 (System Complete)
- Antennas On The Tower – Part 4 (Odds And Ends)
- Station Automation Part 1 – microHAM SO2R And System Design
- Station Automation Part 2 – Second Operating Position And Antenna Switching
- Station Automation Part 3 – Antenna Cutover And Final Integration
- Weather Station On The Tower
- Tower CAM
- APRS Station Part 1 – Station Radio and Software
- APRS Station Part 2 – Dedicated Antenna and Always-On PC
- Setting Up A Digital HF Station
- Reverse Beacon Networks – PSK Reporter And WSPR
- Setting Up And Using A Software Defined Radio
Station Operation and Performance:
- QRP Operation With New Antennas
- 2013 Amateur Radio Highlights
- Digital Contesting – AB1QB Enters The ARRL RTTY Roundup
- More Digital Contesting – The CQ WPX RTTY Contest
- ARRL DX Phone Contest – Occasionally, Everything New Works Out
- BARTG RTTY Contest – AB1QB Gets Serious
- AB1OC Enters Yet Another Contest – 2013 CQ WPX SSB
- AB1QB Enters The 2013 ARRL Rookie Roundup SSB
- AB1OC Enteres The 2013 CQ WPX CW Contest
- AB1OC’s First VHF Contest – 203 ARRL June VHF
- AB1OC Results For 2013 CW Worldwide WPX SSB Contest
- AB1QB/AB1OC Enter The 2013 CQ WW RTTY Contest
- AB1QB Contest Results
- 2014 ARRL DX Phone Contest
- 2014 CQ WPX SSB Contest Experience
- Contest Results For Anita (AB1QB) And Fred (AB1OC)
- 2014 Es Season On The Magic Band – A Journey Towards A 6m VUCC
I hope that you can apply some of the ideas and information shared here to building or improving your station. We’d also like to extend a special thanks to John, W1MBG and the NARC Group for encouraging us to create and share this presentation. We are available to provide this presentation to other clubs or Ham gatherings. If your club or event is interested, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.