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How to Launch and Track a High Altitude Weather Balloon

June 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Weather balloons have historically been used to judge weather patterns in order to make preparations. These balloons are larger than the average latex one, so they can typically carry more weight than the standard balloon. The longer distance also means that you must track the balloon’s payload for recovery purposes. Here are the things you need to know before you launch a weather balloon into the stratosphere.

Payload Outfit

If you intend on tracking your high altitude weather balloon, you’ll need to outfit your payload with the proper supplies to reach the stratosphere and record the results. A GPS tracking unit is a must, but it also picks up other data on the way. You can record data about wind speed, altitude and more if you have the proper equipment on your payload. You’ll also need a payload arm capable of supporting the added weight without breaking. Some individuals like to launch with a camera as well, so be sure that your payload can support the weight of the camera, the GPS unit and anything else you decide to send to space.

Balloon Prep

Your weather balloon kit includes almost everything you need to launch. You get the balloon, sized to your needs, along with the materials you need to put together the payload. You’ll need to secure a gas to fill your balloon with, so you can reach the desired altitude. You will also need to be conscious of the size of your balloon, which will affect the gas you can hold and therefore the height the payload can reach.

Launch Day

On launch day, assemble all of your components near a wide open space. It’s recommended to make an impromptu workbench for this, but you can use the bed of a truck or hood of a car if you need to. Fill the balloon and be sure that you’re clear of power lines and other potential snags. Switch the GPS unit on, and confirm that there is power to it by studying the lights on the board. If you see the light blinking, restart the device and you’re ready for launch.

Tracking and Final Thoughts

You can usually track your balloon on Google Earth, which will help you judge where the payload will eventually land. Depending on the condition of the winds in your local area, your balloon may be far off course. Be prepared for a drive to recover the equipment, or at least a long hike.
Sky Probe sells weather balloon kits for science and marketing projects. Find out how you can launch your brand in space with kits from