Balloon News Awards for 2014


It has been another busy year for HAB enthusiasts around the world. Here are three projects that I think really pushed things on in the High Altitude Balloon world but there is still time to recommend a project.  The winner will be named on 31st December 2014

Entry 1 Rockzip High Balloons

High balloon


It isn’t often that projects try to redesign the balloon but this year Rockzip got kickstarter funding to develop super pressure balloons. If successful, this could really add a new dimension to long duration flights and ‘floating’ balloons. For more information read more…

Entry 2 Boomerang altitude control system.

Smith & Williamson, LLC, a small US tech company, is developing a complete gas venting altitude control system for latex weather balloons. The Boomerang Flight, Altitude Control, and Termination System aims to provide balloon operators altitude control, longer duration flights, and controlled recovery options. In addition to altitude control, the system includes two independent means of flight termination, a suite of atmospheric and balloon sensors, on-board data recording, ports for GPS and radios, and supporting mission control software. As with the Rock Zip high balloons, this will hopefully lead to technology that will allow longer flights for amateurs who cannot afford expensive super pressure balloons, or whose kit isn’t suitable for small foil balloons.

3rd generation valve

Entry 3 Pi in the Sky

Dave Akerman and Anthony Stirk have been pushing the boundaries of radio tracking for years. This year they came up with an off the shelf SSDV module based on the Raspberry Pi computer. Here is Dave’s description of it:-

The board and software are based on what I’ve been flying since my first “Pi In The Sky “flight over 2 years ago, so the technology has been very well proven (approximately 18 flights and no losses other than deliberate ones!).  So far the board itself has clocked up 5 successful flights, with the released open-source software on 3 of those.  Here’s the board mounted to a model B (though we very strongly recommend use of a model A):

pits (1)It comes in a kit complete with a GPS antenna, SMA pigtail (from which you can easily make your own radio aerial), stand-offs for a rigid mounting to the Pi board, and battery connectors.  Software is on, with installation instructions at, or there is a pre-built SD card image for the tragically lazy.  We do recommend manual installation as you’ll learn a lot.

Entry 4

Amateur balloon operator Leo Bodnar successfully flew an ultralight radio payload round the world in 12 July. Here is the track made by balloon ‘B64’.


The journey of over 25,000km saw B-64 hit a maximum altitude of just over 13,000m as it passed over 16 countries (by our reckoning) during the circumnavigation.


Leo explained that the payload comprises a radio transmitter using both the 434.500MHz band and 2m amateur band, a couple of solar panels and a LiPo battery for nigh time  operation. The whole thing weighs in at just 11g:


The balloon was a roughly 90x150cm transparent film envelope, seen here during pressure testing:


For more information read more…

HAVE YOUR SAY! Let us know the project you think improved high altitude ballooning the most this year. Email or leave a comment.

3D Printed HAB capsule – a white elephant or recipe for disaster

3D Print has recently published this article on a HAB enthusiast who has designed a 3d printed HAB capsule or payload box.

Life3D has released a design for a 3D printed capsule capable of carrying a camera as a payload attached to a weather balloon. All of this, of course, assumes that you have access to a weather balloon — which, until I read this article, I had always sort of assumed were the property of governments and evil geniuses, but apparently are quite readily available. The capsule is designed to hold what is known as an ‘action sized’ camera (such as the GoPro) and a GPS device (important if you ever want it back) and still has enough room to be insulated. Once assembled, the capsule is watertight and buoyant so it won’t simply disappear to a muddy depth if it lands on the water.

web1Life3D is a business dedicated to the application of scanning technology to anything that will sit still long enough to be scanned from sculpture to movie stars. Their work is based in Elstree Studios, near London, in the UK and they are the sister company to Lifecast.

The designer of the capsule is Life3D’s Director, Tristan Schoonraad, who is based on London and lists his profession as ‘work in the movie industry.’ Schoonraad brings two decades of experience in the film industry in the area of special effects, make-up, and props in a number of high profile films. He has cast and molded everything from humans to monsters and is an acclaimed artist who goes by the name ‘Schoony’ in that persona.


The idea of a capsule that you can buy instead of building looks appealing to some. You can download the plans or but it pre made from shapeways for an eye watering 1022$. But the price  is not my worry about this capsule. The biggest risk that flying this module poses is safety and the damage that it could do if it becomes detached from the parachute. You do not need high winds ripping it off for this accident to happen. Payloads can become detached simply by human error in attaching it to the main balloon tether. For many enthusiasts, Polystyrene or foam payload boxes offer cheap cost, low weight, insulation and, most importantly, safety if accidents happen and the payload does become detached. So my challenge to Tristan is to produce a capsule in polystyrene of foam.

New look and improvements to the popular flight computer


Hexpert are currently producing a revised model of their popular flight computer, the Zlog 7.  Matt from Hexpert told us, “  We have a new revision of the ZLog-7 board in progress.
I was having some trouble with the bare board manufacturer giving me bad boards.  Since I needed to go with another manufacturer, I’ve taken the opportunity to make some minor changes to the board.  It has the following changes (see photo below):

– Cleaned up and improved the silkscreen labeling.
– Put the GPS receiver on board.
– Adjusted the board size and parts layout.
– Created a simple acrylic “enclosure” with the option for a 9v battery on board.
– Keyed the external temperature sensor.
– Added a crystal for better timing precision.

Function is the same and the same code will run on Rev1 or Rev2.

These changes make for a more self-contained drop-in unit which makes it easier for you to use.
This way there aren’t wires hanging all over.

I’m testing the prototypes right now and hopefully will be ready to order production quantity of boards in the next week or two.  From then it takes about 6 weeks, maybe less if I can get a faster turn on the PCBs..”

The new board design will also take the cut down board designed for the former model.


Trans Atlantic crossing attempt does not take off

The trans Atlantic balloon crossing by Balloon News and Near Space Ballooning ended in disappointment early this morning. The helium cylinder provided for the flight was not fully pressurized with helium and there was not enough gas to lift the ballast weight. Though disappointed, John came away with some experience of filling the balloon and the team will have several more attempts this winter. We will be back!

Trans Atlantic balloon crossing this weekend

The teams from Balloon News and Near Space Ballooning are launching an attempt to float a 1600gm Hwoyee weather balloon across the Atlantic on Sunday morning.

the flight can be followed here

and there is more information about the attempt at

Wish us luck!