by Robert Brand
Andy Nguyen’s Pico Balloon Update: It has now passed over the bottom of Fraser Island in SE Queensland late today and out to sea.
Pico simply means very small balloon and payload.
Andy is hoping that the next stop may be South America in a week’s time. We do not expect to hear from the balloon until then, but it may pass over New Zealand or Tonga.
At right is the altitude details from the spacenear.us website. The balloon took about 2 hours to get to just over 8km altitude and because it is a foil balloon and cannot expand, it then sits at that altitude day and night. You can see a small dip as the sun sets until it warms up again the next day. It then rises as the balloon skin expands in the heat. Air pressure will also cause the balloon to rise or fall as will vertical air currents.
The balloon will change APRS frequencies as it crosses different longitudes but the RTTY frequencies stay standard across the world.
Below is the last track of the balloon crossing the coast today.
Andy says that the payload weighs 13 grams or less than half an ounce and consists of:
- APRS and RTTY transmitters (10mW)
- A GPS receiver
- rechargeable batteries
- solar panel
The gas is helium and the metal foil balloon should not deteriorate much in a week. The gas also does not leak out very much from a foil balloon compared to a latex or other non-metal balloon.
Note that because the balloon is so light, it is classified as a small balloon and does not need to involve CASA to be able to fly such balloons.