Last Sunday I took my Portable setup to the river, as I often do. Propagation was a bit short with Europe totally closed when suddenly – to my disbelief – JH4UYB popped up at S8. I had heard Japan twice before with the Loop, but never as strong as that.
After beaming about 330 degrees (the same direction I normally use to work W7) I immediately started calling. Incredibly, part of my callsign was picked up right away! The rest of the QSO, however, took more than 3 minutes to complete thanks to the perseverance and the professionalism of Masaki, the Japanese operator.
Once again in Italy, once again at the beach. The weather was a bit cold but propagation warmed me up good. Heard a lot of US stations but couldn’t make the pile-up. On the other hand, I had the pleasure of a QSO with OH73ELK.
During my 2019 xmas holiday I took the occasion to launch again in Italy. Unfortunately I made the mistake of loading too much gas and, as a result, one of the two lift balloons popped shortly after take off.
The silver lining of this short-lived launch is that I think I found my definitive construction style. The think food foam sheet I used is useful to provide some mechanical resistance to the solar cells and also to keep the transmitting electronics a bit warmer.
I have a feeling that next launch is going to be much, much longer!
After months of research and preparations, it finally happened: last Sunday September 22nd, together with my wife and with Joe N2DI we launched my first pico balloon.
The unit currently transmitting uses Joe’s callsign N2DI. We actually launched another one with mine own callsign but unfortunately its antenna got twisted and, because of that, it could only be heard at a very short distance. Here are some pictures, and here are all the position reports we received so far:
The balloon last flew over Miami where it sent a CW message that was recorded using a remote SDR receiver.
The Balloon payload is finally finished, and practically ready to fly (I need to solder a capacitor at the bottom, but that’s a one minute job).
For the software I ended up forking and modifying OrionWspr, which I renamed GeminiWspr. As it is now, the beacon will transmit on every available WSPR slot after doing GPS calibration on startup and recalibrating every 20 minutes. On minutes 00 and 30 the beacon will also transmit a CW telemetry message on 14.099 MHz.
Power is supplied by 7 solar cells, providing about 3.6 volt. A 1F supercapacitor, fed by a low voltage dropout diode, is applied to guarantee a minimum of power continuity. Current is plentiful, to the point I could have actually split those cells in half. That is somethings others have managed doing but when I tried I shattered the cells each time. I’ll need to ask around for next time.
Here is the finished payload:
I must admit that it seems a bit heavier than I have originally planned for, especially after considering that the actual board (after removing the disposable header) weights just 2.81 grams.
Finding lift gas has been a challenge. The logistics of gas procurement, storage and transportation to the launch site aren’t trivial when you live in a big city apartment and you do not have a car. Long story short: I had to forget about Hydrogen and reverted to Helium.