High Altitude Ballooning
Calgary and Area
"Poor Mans Space program"
Before you can launch a balloon, you will need the following:
Here are some videos showing setup, chase and landing of a balloon project:
I have a great launch location which is only 1.5 hour drive from Calgary, This location is well away from airports and Class C airspace. If you are looking for another launch location, look through the Canadian regulations section for information on how to notify Nav Canada about your launch.
For the large style launches with camera/etc you will need a large weather balloon, I have used the following balloons with lots of success:
600 gram altitude around 85,000ft 800 gram altitude around 95,000ft 1200 gram altitude around 108,000ft 1600 gram altitude around 120,000ft 2000 gram altitude around 125,000ftPlease visit our Balloon section for more information
I've had alot of questions specifically about the tracking systems, so I will cover this for people just starting out in the hobby. For the large style launches we currently use 3 different trackers. Most of the good tracking options use amateur radio which requires a radio licence. The good news is not everyone involved needs one, just at least 1 person who is managing the radio transmitter. Everyone can recieve the signal and track the balloon.
You can recieve this signal with one of the following options(macro launches): - our micro launches require a all-mode reciever and software like mixw or fdigi to receive.
Rtrack The rtrack is an all in 1 ham radio tracker, (requires radio licence). This tracks great at high altitudes and is simple to setup and get going. cost is around $250
TinyTracker with handheld radio This worked out great, even more reliable then the rtrack (in my opionion) with only 2 downsides. 1) Does not report altitudes above 107,000ft due to computation error and 2) is much heavier then the rtrack. The Additional feature that this option gives you is the ability for two way communications, I use this feature for cut down system. This is documented a bit more under the payload and old blog pages. This system comes in around the same cost $200-300.
Spot Tracker This is a GPS tracker that does not require a licence, it uses the globalstar network to upload your position on the internet. This does not work reliably during the tracking, and most flights it had started working again after landing. It has saved us a few times due to problems with our primary tracker(s). It is very light and easy to use. Only transmits once every 15 minutes and no altitude reporting.
We have used a few different camera's, ensure that your camera is well away from the GPS in the payload, otherwise it might interfere with your tracking. Using a waterproof enclosure for the camera doesn't work well unless it has holes drilled in it, as the lens will fog up as the temperature goes down.
GoPro Cameras have worked well using the battery backpack, (we have had issues powering off the usb port causing interference with the GPS)
Cannon camera hacked with chdk to take interval stills. This has yeided great results with still shots, we have also linked two cameras together for a panoramic shot.