High altitude balloon Christmas wishlist 2015

This year we have 2 items to add onto your Christmas gift wish list but, given the price tag, direct these too your wife/husband/partner and not your children.


By far the best bang for your buck this year is the 4GEE camera by EE. The Go Pro style action camera has two key features that HAB enthusiasts will like. The first is the ability to easily stream launches online; which  is quite unique amongst action cameras. You can also interchange your phone and camera sim card to share the data allowance and avoid having to have two separate mobile phone accounts.


Second is the camera performance. The camera battery performs well beyond the 3 hours specified by the manufacturer and will often exceed most simple ‘up and down’ high altitude balloons flights. While the camera is limited to producing video at 1080p, the storage demands for 2K and 4k images currently preclude their use for HAB many flights.

The camera is a little heavier than equivalent Go Pro cameras but we still recommend you ask Santa Claus for one of these.

The 4GEE camera is £299.99 to buy outright or £17 per month with data.

Flight computers

If you would like to move your tracking to the next level complexity then we suggest a ‘Pi in the Sky’ board or PITS for short. The PITS is a radio tracker and SSDV imager based on the successful Raspberry Pi computer. The PITS offers you the ability to radio track (or have others track) your flight from launch, to balloon burst, and landing (or close to it).  A step by step guide offers a relatively easy scheme to set up the board, listen to it using a radio and computer, and to put the trackers location on an online map. The only difficulty we found with using the PITS is decoding the radio signals using a programme called DlFl digi. But with some practise and, for us, 5 days of our time, most groups should be able to get it up and running.

pits logo

The PITS board itself costs about £130 but this is just the start. You also need to budget for a Raspberry Pi, a suitable real radio or computer based radio, antenna, desktop or laptop (which you obviously have), and a Raspberry Pi camera. You also need to be able to make your own antenna for the PITS board…. but what are boxing days for!




Eclipse Ballooning project

 North American Eclipse Radiosonde Project 2017

What is the Radiosonde Project?

Why use Radiosondes?

Who can participate?

When and where is this project?

What are the project milestones?

Fun Challenges of Radiosondes

What is the cost of using a Radiosonde?

Who can I contact for more information?

WHAT:radiosonde Conduct scientific ballooning campaign using radiosondes from multiple locations across the 8/21/2017 total eclipse path, from Oregon to South Carolina. These balloon-borne devices provide basic atmospheric measurements including temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, and pressure. The eclipse gives us the opportunity to conduct the largest geographic campaign of balloon flights ever undertaken. The focus on increased spatial and temporal resolution of data for scientific and forecasting purposes is extraordinary. With cross agency collaborations we have the potential for this to be the largest geographic radiosonde campaign ever undertaken.


  • Public engagement. Total eclipses are rare and very impactful events. For those who have witnessed them, it is a memory they keep forever. The continental US hasn’t had a total eclipse since 1979 (northwest only). The NASA Space Grant network is in a unique position to engage the public in an awe-inspiring and educational way at a surprisingly small cost.
  • STEM pipeline development. Conducting radiosonde flights presents an amazing hands-on learning opportunity for students. Participation in these launches encourages students to follow STEM paths through college. The engaging STEM content resulting from this project is not limited to the timeframe immediately following the launch, but introduces a permanent dataset that can be analyzed by students, extending the impact of the flights to future classrooms as well.
  • Partnerships. We will develop several potentially long lasting partnerships with other federal agencies and with industry; an effort we hope will include a broad range of leveraged assets.

WHO: 150 teams consisting of partnerships between university and pre-college programs is the goal with a dozen teams already lined up to participate should support be available.

WHEN: Eclipse totality starts on the Oregon coast at about 1:20 PM Eastern on August 21, 2017 and ends about 2:50 PM Eastern on the South Carolina coast.

WHERE: Teams will be coordinated with both the large balloon launch sites and surface mesonets (mesoscale network environmental monitoring stations).

Project milestones:

– 2015: Fundraise, organize, and select participants

– December 2015: Distribute radiosonde systems

– July 2016: Hold workshop on best practices of data collection

– June 2017: Hold dry run with at least one flight per location

Jump to the Top

FUN CHALLENGES: While radiosonde launches are done twice daily by the National Weather Service, carrying out a coordinated network of such flights among academic institutions from across the country presents a few challenges. These challenges are broad – technical, political, administrative – but provide interesting training opportunities for the student participants and make the project exciting and very worthwhile for the participating teams. Challenges include: precise timing of the launches for temporal resolution targets, collaborating with groups of mentors and students at locations spread across the country, making the necessary arrangements with NASA so that the data can be linked to the NASA eclipse (or main) web page, developing the infrastructure for data analysis by the undergraduate students, and developing the curriculum for the 7-12th grade students to be utilized after the event.radiosonde2

USE OF THE DATA: Possible interesting total eclipse experiments include but are not limited to: measuring temperature fluctuations, ozone fluctuations, and gravity wave development. Links to information and pictures about each team’s launch will be included online.

COSTS PER TEAM (for 20 flights): Due to the early phase of the project and the diverse situations for each team, the following numbers are very rough estimates.

  • Radiosonde ground station: $6,000 – $8,000
  • Radiosondes, balloons, helium/hydrogen, basic flight supplies: $5000
  • Travel to launch sites: $2,000

Total: $13,000 – $15,000/team. This estimate is based on eight radiosondes to be used during the eclipse at fifteen minute intervals. Two radiosondes will be extras during the eclipse in case of any technology errors and ten radiosondes will be used to prepare for the eclipse event. This total does not include faculty, staff, or student support, which is highly desirable.

CONTACT: If you’re interested in participating, partnering, or sponsoring, please contact one of the following:

  • Overall project concept, partnership, or national sponsorship: Angela Des Jardins, Desjardins@physics.montana.edu
  • Coordination Team: Caitlin Nolby, cnolby@aero.und.edu
  • Atmospheric Science Team: Jennifer Fowler, jennifer.fowler@umontana.edu

More information can be found at http://eclipse.montana.edu/radiosonde-project/#unique-identifier

GSBC High Altitude Balloon kit



This year, Balloon News HAB supplies is offering GSBC participants a discount on balloons, parachutes, and kit hire through our all in one GSBC HAB kits. The kits come in 3 types, based on balloon sizes and include SPOT tracker hire, GSM locator hire, parachute hire, and budget flight computer hire. This is all you need to get to near space and recover your payload with easy to use equipment.

GSBC HABSUPPLIES kit 600gm  £54 plus post and paypal fee

GSBC HABSUPPLIES kit 800gm £70 plus postage and paypal fee

GSBC HABSUPPLIES kit 1200gm £82 plus postage and paypal fee

All kits include

SPOT hire

GSM locator hire

3/4ft parachute hire

I GOT U GPS data logger

Kit Refundable Deposit £210


Kits are ready for shipping world wide.

NEED A GO PRO CAMERA? Camera hire @ £20 plus £300 deposit, depending on model. Ask for details.

NEED HELIUM? 20l balloon grade helium for £90.


*all kit prices are based on 1 week hire. Additional weeks hire incur additional hire charge.