Re: Recommended Tracking Equipment for a HAB

Bill Brown

Hi Jason,

  I always recommend the Trace unit from FindMeSpot. It is well worth the price and works from ground level directly to orbiting satellites. It won't give you a good track during flight since it is limited to about 40,000 feet or so and does not report altitude but I always fly one as a backup locator. Also once on the ground it will report a few times and then it will report its position every 24 hours in case someone picks up your payloads, you will be able to find where it went. I have been testing one for over a year now inside my house and it reports every day and after one year it has finally been sending out a low battery message but still is working.

 I have been flying my Skytracker pico balloon APRS tracker without the solar panels and instead using a 3-cell AAA lithium pack with great results for regular latex balloon flights. It weighs a couple of ounces when packaged up with styrofoam or bubble wrap. Although it is low power (25 milliwatts) the nature of short packet bursts via the APRS mode allows it to compete with much stronger transmitters. I've compared it against a 1-watt APRS transmitter and it never missed a report during several test flights. I've been offering them for $149 for those who would like to try one with the battery pack (no batteries inside since I can't ship lithium batteries) if you are interested. It transmits once every minute. It is a ready to fly unit complete with built-in GPS receiver and guitar string antenna wires. It also transmits on 144.340 MHz as well as the national frequency of 144.390 so it is easy to DF the 144.340 MHz frequency if not quite strong enough to decode the packets.

However, I would recommend flying two separate APRS trackers and one FindMeSpot Trace unit for best reliability.

- Bill WB8ELK

-----Original Message-----
From: Jason Unwin via Groups.Io <generalripper_1999@...>
To: GPSL <>
Sent: Tue, Jun 19, 2018 11:31 am
Subject: [GPSL] Recommended Tracking Equipment for a HAB

Our Civil Air Patrol unit in Oklahoma is trying to organize a high altitude balloon launch for its cadets. We are trying to accomplish the following goals for the equipment:
1. APRS position reporting with a back up.
2. Radio beacon with back up if the APRS fails.
3. Simple to operate and turn on so that there is not a lot of training involved to operate it.
4. Ideally, as low cost as possible so we can afford the helium. Hydrogen is out of the question.
Here are some possible equipment options we were thinking of using:
Sansonic APRS Tracker
MicroTrak 1000
Micro Fox 15
Tracksoar Ready To Fly
We also have access to a Raspberry PI kit with the following:
Raspberry Pi is a tiny computer that helps teach programming through a variety of practical projects. Included in the Civil Air Patrol STEM Kit:
    Raspberry Pi Core Kit
    Real Time clock breakout board kit
    Blue & White 16x2 LCD + Keypad kit
    GPS Breakout
    Sensor Pack
    Camera Board
Are there any other things we could use? I realize this is a little subjective but we are looking for simple, reliable, and ideally moderately priced equipment.
Major Jason B. Unwin, CAP
Muskogee Composite Squadron,Professional Development Officer
Aerospace Education Officer
U.S. Air Force Auxiliary

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