SPOT service outage


For those who use SPOT trackers to recover their balloon payload, you should be aware of the latest press release from the company. SPOT, in a press release issued late last week,  said that they are improving their ‘service connectivity and service quality’. This will lead to lost location reports from the trackers between January 29th through March 19th. SPOT were very ambiguous as to how the service would improve so we will try and get some figures on this.

Boscombe down Balloon Challenge winners announced

The Boscombe Down Balloon challenge competiti0n, sponsored by RAeS, Cameron Balloons, QinetiQ, and us has finished and the prizes have been announced. Rod, from RAeS issued the following statement:

You may be interested to know that we have a result from the Boscombe Down Balloon Challenge:  Epsom College win 3 x £1000 prizes for greatest altitude, greatest distance, and greatest endurance.  Ryde School with Upper Chine (Isle of Wight) win the Chris Hillcox HAB Supplies prize for a commendable flight achievement that did not qualify for any of the 3 main prizes.


I am very pleased to report that this result is not only the technically correct outcome, but also that it entirely reflects natural justice.  Epsom college put in a Herculean effort, launching 6 flights in all (with a seventh in reserve for the evening of 31 Dec).  The students who built the balloon payloads were genuinely inspired and proactively led by two very enthusiastic teachers who engaged with our competition in a most positive way.  From the outset, their appetite for the Balloon Challenge and their determination to win it, was palpable.  Yet, despite being fiercely competitive, this team was totally committed to playing strictly by the rules in everything they did.  More than this, they respected a UK HAS advisory launch embargo when weather conditions would have carried their balloons into airport traffic zones (so as not to bring the Balloon Challenge into disrepute); and have offered to help other schools with HAB-based STEM projects in the future.


Ryde School with Upper Chine was also an enthusiastic competitor, but here the team was very much student-led.  The Senior Science Technician was our staff point of contact.  The School was undoubtedly supportive of their Balloon Challenge entry, but did not provide the level of guidance and inspiration that we saw at Epsom.  The Ryde team did, however, plan their flights with full cognizance of NOTAM requirements; and with commendable attention to the engineering detail of optimal gassing – the trick being to put not too much gas into a balloon.  In the event, the Ryde balloon flew furthest and for the longest duration (by a large margin), but since the balloon itself was bigger than the maximum size permitted in the Challenge, this result did not count.  It was, nevertheless, a significant achievement in its own right.


These results will be fully recognised at Prize Day on 10 Feb.

HABHUB services down this weekend

The administrators for the HABHUB flight prediction and tracking service have issued a warning that the service will be offline this weekend. A message posted on the UKHAS message board read:
“As previously discussed we are moving the physical hosting of the Habhub servers this coming weekend.The existing data center is being decommissioned so we are moving to a shiny new one with better power.

All Habhub services will be affected (tracker, predictors and the Wiki)

Downtime is expected to start at 0900 GMT on Saturday the 7th of January 2017. Services should be back up by midday subject to any unexpected delays.

Please directly any queries to the #habhub IRC Channel on Freenode.



For those urgently needing flight forecast tools over the weekend then Southampton University Astra is still available.