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Aussie balloon record flight ends

Date : 21 / 07 / 2015
Author : Jim Linton - VK3PC

After more than 110,800km in the air, starting from Australia the pico balloon PS-46 completed two circumnavigations of the Southern Hemisphere, before descending into the Indian Ocean (July 18), brought down by bad weather. The solar powered balloon carrying an Amateur Radio payload was launched on May 23 by Andy VK3YT, who said: "It was an exciting but also an exhausting eight weeks for many hard-core trackers. "Their perseverance ensured the balloon was tracked almost around the clock. It was hard work, and the little party balloon was becoming part of the daily routine for many of us.

"Big thank-you to all the new trackers that have come to help, and the veteran trackers that have been hanging around. The trip would not have been possible without you." There were more than 20 regulars, and many others, who tracked the high altitude flight, of using data on HF in WSPR and JT9, via a 25mW transmitter.

After leaving Queensland in north-east Australia tracked by VK 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7, it began a third trip around the hemisphere. Throughout the trip the balloon was often heard by Bob ZL2RS of Kerikeri, who is an elevated rural area in New Zealand’s north. It drifted along the jetstream on a more northerly path over the Pacific Ocean to South America entering Peru, Bolivia, then out via Brazil. Reports along the way were from John AK4AT, Virginia, Bill W4HBK, Florida, Pablo OA4AI in Lima, and Jorge LU5VV, Bariloche Argentina.

The balloon then moved across the Atlantic Ocean to South Africa, first crossing Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, with tracking from John ZS5J, Pravin ZS5LT, Vince ZS6BTY, Jan ZS6VOL, Ken ZS6KN and Jan ZS6BMN.

Then leaving South Africa near Durban, it headed southeast, and some 7956km from its starting longitude in Australia, where it hit bad weather and was lost. Last to hear the balloon was Vince ZS6BTY from Pretoria. The balloon had been at an altitude of about 9,000 metres, but quickly descended to end in the ocean. The record flight achievement is not the end of it. Andy VK3YT is already planning his next balloon, and the trackers just can’t wait. In a message to all trackers he said: "See you at the next launch."


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