Beating the wrong amateur balloon record

Friday, we covered a little project that attempted to beat the UK altitude record for an amateur balloon launch. Things don’t always go as planned, but the APEX team did manage to beat the several other UK records, including ones for the longest distance and flight duration for a latex balloon.

The APEX team was originally trying to beat the altitude record set by [Darkside] and his Horus 15.5 payload that made it to 40,575 meters. The APEX balloon was launched and slowly climbed over the North Sea to the expected burst point. Unfortunately for the trackers, the balloon leveled off at about 36km and just kept going.

The total Great Circle distance of the APEX Alpha flight was 1347km, with a total flight time of 12 hours, 20 minutes. The balloon eventually drifted out the radio range of anyone aware of the project. Despite the valiant efforts of HAMs across Europe, APEX Alpha was lost in the “HAM wastelands of Eastern Europe,” somewhere over Poland.

Even though the APEX team lost contact with their balloon, Alpha was still transmitting at the time. The balloon surely burst at this point, so it could have landed anywhere from Poland to Ukraine to Russia. The APEX team is offering a reward for finding Alpha, so if you see a small styrofoam box in Eastern Europe, drop the APEX boys a line.

Of course this flight couldn’t have taken place without the efforts of HAMs across Europe. [Darkside], [2E0UPU], and so many others helped out with the tracking as Alpha passed over the Netherlands and continued towards Berlin. The last contact was made by the awesome [OZ1SKY], who was very gracious to stay up until the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Not a bad flight for something that was supposed to take a swim in the North Sea. If you’d like to see the raw data from the flight, the APEX team posted everything they pulled down.

17 thoughts on “Beating the wrong amateur balloon record

  1. After reading the first article days ago, I got to admit I chuckled when I read this one.
    Nice try to the apex team, unfortunately they got unlucky

    1. I mean no disrespect to any HAM, but the ‘wasteland’ comment did come up in the IRC last night.

      I’m pretty sure the issue was how late it was – contact was lost at around 2:00 am local time.

      1. Understanding there are payload limitations, a simple CW backup beacon, to aid in recovery can’t be a bad idea. Hopefully they can recover the payload. In that regard the payload isn’t exactly visibility is it?

  2. was last heard on 434.641Mhz USB 360 Hz shift RTTY alterating between 50 and 300 baud. It could be anywhere to be honest, if it didn’t burst until the morning it could have gone way past Ukraine.

  3. Poland is in CENTRAL EUROPE! Europe begins from Portugal and ends on the mount of Kaukaz. We are NOT Northern Country as well.

  4. Four UK phone numbers, and not a single email address. Not likely anyone is going to call abroad to say “hey, I found your box.”

  5. Floater! This is so cool, maybe they didn’t get amateur balloon altitude record (Calif Near Space Project got it the next day at 136,545 ft) but still impressive and congrats to their team! They should replicate it and carry a 2-meter ham radio repeater so hams can work it like a satellite. OK, so them govmint people may complain about sovereign airspace, arrg they just never want to have any fun.

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