Pico Space Balloon Circumnavigates the Globe, Twice

We’ve reported on “space” balloons before. Heck, some of us have even launched a few. Usually they go way up in the air, take some cool pictures, and land within driving (and retrieving) distance the same afternoon. You get often amazing photos and bragging rights that you took them for the low, low price of a really big helium balloon and a fill.

But what if you shrunk everything down? Over the last few years, [Andy, VK3YT] has been launching ever smaller and lighter balloons with very low power ham radio payloads. So no camera and no photos, but the payback is that he’s launching payloads that weigh around thirteen grams complete with GPS, radio, solar cell, and batteries. They can stay up for weeks and go really far. We’d love to see some construction details beyond the minimalistic “Solar powered party balloon, 25mW TX”. But that about sums it up.

Continue reading “Pico Space Balloon Circumnavigates the Globe, Twice”

WSPRing across the Atlantic


Host of the Soldersmoke podcast, [Bill Meara], contributed this guest post.

WSPR is a new communications protocol written by radio amateur and Nobel Prize winner [Joe Taylor]. Like the very slow QRSS system described in a previous post, WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporter) trades speed for bandwidth and allows for the reception of signals that are far below the level of radio noise. WSPR takes “low and slow” communications several important steps ahead, featuring strong error correction, high reliability, and (and this is really fun part) the automatic uploading (via the net) of reception reports — [Taylor]’s WSPR web page constantly gathers reports and produces near real-time Google maps of showing who is hearing who. The WSPR mode is very hack-able: [Bill Meara] is running a 20 milliwatt homebrew transmitter from Rome, Italy that features an audio amplifier from a defunct computer speaker pictured below. This contraption recently crossed the Atlantic and was picked up by the Princeton, New Jersey receiving station of WSPR’s esteemed creator, [Joe Taylor]. Continue reading “WSPRing across the Atlantic”

QRSS: Radio amateurs’ slow-speed narrowband


Host of the Soldersmoke podcast, [Bill Meara], contributed this guest post.

While the rest of the world is moving toward high speed broadband, some hams—including one Nobel Prize winner—are going in exactly the opposite direction. Our ‘QRSS’ mode makes use of an unusual mixture of modern digital signal processing (DSP), ancient Morse code, and simple homebrewed transmitters. Very narrow bandwidth is desirable because this reduces the noise in the radio communication channel, greatly improving the S/N ratio.  But Shannon’s communication theory tells us that narrow bandwidth comes with a cost: slow data rates. In QRSS, beacon transmitters using only milliwatts churn out slow speed Morse ID signals on 10.140 MHz that are routinely picked up by DSP-based receivers on the other side of the globe. Many of the receivers, ‘grabbers’, have visual outputs that are available online in real time. QRSS has been getting a lot of attention on the Soldersmoke podcast and on the Soldersmoke Blog. For more information check out this overview and the hardware involved. Here’s a gallery of received signals.