5 web sites you must see before launching your first weather balloon

When preparing for your first weather balloon launch, there are millions of questions you want to ask. Of these, there are 5 critical questions which you need to answer before you get going. Thankfully, there are also 5 web sites that can answer these questions:-

  1. Do I need permission to launch my balloon? The answer can be found at http://www.caa.co.uk/application.aspx?catid=33&pagetype=65&appid=11&mode=detail&id=4409


This web site takes you through the CAA application process and helps you submit the application online.  As well as an online for allowing you to apply for your permission to launch, there are links to the regulations laid down by the CAA. Applying to launch the balloon is free.

2. What size balloon do I need and how much gas do I need to give it?

The answer can be found at http://habhub.org/calc/

burst calc

Cambridge University Spaceflight Burst Calculator. This part of CUSF web site offers a wonderfully simple and informative way to model your balloon size, gas volume, target ascent rate, and all the other things you need to plan your flight. The calculator is based on a wealth of data from actual balloon launches and covers a range of balloon manufacturers. For more experienced HABists , it also covers a range of gas types and other constants so you can plan in detail your flight. For the beginner, it will help you pick a balloon and then work out your gas needs.

3. Where will my balloon payload fly to, burst, and land? The answer can be found at http://predict.habhub.org/


Cambridge University Spaceflight Landing Predictor. This is a tool to predict the flight path and landing location of latex sounding balloons and uses a version of the burst calculator previously mentioned. For the beginner, it will help you plan your launch site, launch day, and launch time; minimizing the scale of the hazard your balloon will make on take off and landing. For the more advanced user, it is the basis for hourly forecasts which can help you plan your launch time to greater effect.

4. What will the ground level weather be like while I fill my balloon? The answer can be found at

http://www.xcweather.co.uk/GB/forecast or one of the many weather forecast web sites out there.


No flight plan is complete without an accurate ground level weather forecast. Many web sites compete in this market but this is my personal favourite. It is visually clear, especially on wind data and is less cluttered by adverts.

5. Where exactly is my payload now it has landed? If you are using a SPOT tracker then the answer can be found at your shared web page. Here is one of mine:-


note : this will only show where the tracker is up to 1 week after you turn it on.

spot shared page

Radio tracker feeds are often displayed on www.spacenear.us , and the output from GSM trackers are often shown through google maps. The real question for you may be , “How am I going to get online while out chasing the balloon?”

The examples given relate to UK launches but there are equivalent civil aviation authority web sites in all countries – some easy to find and some less so. There is also an alternative to the CUSF predictor provided by Wyoming university.

I’ve tried to keep the list of must see web sites as short as possible but if there are others then please let me know and I will include them in the round up.














Weather balloon takes solar cell experiment toward sun

Source http://phys.org/news/2013-06-weather-balloon-solar-cell-sun.html#jCp

How do solar cells behave at high altitudes? Do they perform better the closer they get to the sun? Those simple questions propelled four undergraduate students from Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science into high gear.

A year later, the team, led by Mark Fischer, who will graduate in June with a B.S. in mechanical engineering, cheered as the payload that was sent 97,000 feet into the atmosphere on a  parachuted back to Earth intact.

Fischer and fellow McCormick seniors Julian Minuzzo, Jingwei Lou and Sail Wu, who sent the solar cell experiment—with a video camera—up from an Indiana field May 23, were surprised by the answers to their simple questions.

When they reviewed the data and crunched the numbers, they found that the solar cell—a device that converts the energy of sunlight directly into electricity—did not, as expected, perform best at the highest altitudes. They assumed that closer proximity to the sun would mean more intense rays and better performance.

It turns out, the sweet spot for a high-altitude solar cell is between 50,000 and 60,000 feet above Earth’s surface.

“Solar cells are more efficient as they get colder,” Minuzzo said. “As altitude increases, the  gets colder, but then you reach a point where it gets warmer again. The air is coldest between 50,000 and 60,000 feet.”

The findings could be important for future technologies like solar-powered aircraft and .


The project was a great learning experience for the students—not just about  or weather balloons, but the value of careful preparation.

“There’s this moment where you count down—3, 2, 1—and let the balloon go, and there’s nothing you can do. It’s out of your hands,” Fischer said. “You  it and cross your fingers and hope you did everything right.”

The experiment traveled 40 miles in one hour and 56 minutes before returning to Earth—31 miles from the launch site—recording data and images during the entire trip.












Weather Balloons Look for Lightning’s Signature

Source http://news.yahoo.com/thunderstruck-weather-balloons-look-lightnings-signature-134034593.html

Amid Florida’s steamy and stormy summer, a group of researchers conducted something of a modern-day version of Benjamin Franklin’s legendary lightning-kite experiment, only instead of tying a metal key to a kite, these scientists have weather balloons that they send into thunderclouds in order to learn more about how, when and where lightning forms.

And these scientists are perhaps a bit more averse to the potential for self-injury than Franklin, who succeeded in shocking himself once while experimenting with electricity in his home laboratory, according to The Franklin Institute. Today’s researchers know a bit more about the dangers of lightning, which is one of the reasons they want to know more about it.

“The dangers are real, and we have a healthy respect for them,” Don MacGorman, a physicist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) who participated in the balloon launches, told LiveScience. “But we also know quite a bit about how storms produce hazards and so minimize our exposure to the more hazardous situations and locations. As a result, we think our risk from storms we are studying is less than our risk from vehicle mishaps as we navigate around storms, particularly if there are many people watching a given storm.” [Electric Earth: Stunning Images of Lightning]


The aim of the ongoing experiment, run by the University of Florida and conducted in early August this year, was to better understand how lightning is formed, where and under what circumstances it occurs in storms, and how to use that information with the data on lightning occurrence available to forecasters to improve forecasts of severe weather.