Last week was a very interesting week for me WSPR-wise. I've been tracking and monitoring the high altitude balloon BSS4. The BSS4 was launched by Mikael Dagman, SA6BSS from southern Sweden on March 26, 2017. It was transmitting WSPR beacons with callsign SA6BSS on 14 and 18 MHz, as well as JT9 telemetry on 14 MHz.
|The BSS4 payload on an electronic scale. Note the light weight! The payload is powered by solar panels, and therefore the 20mW transmitter is working only when the balloon is in daylight.|
I've only just recently (when I finished the U3S kit some time ago, see my earlier post) seriously got into WSPR, and for me this was the first reception of a WSPR high altitude balloon. The BSS4 WSPR transmitter was putting out only 20 mW, and I was wondering if my sloper end-fed half-wave wire antenna would be up to the job. It was; with the balloon floating above the far reaches of Europe, I managed to get plenty of decodes! On March 29th and 30th, during my monitoring sessions, the balloon respectively was in grid JN53 over Italy and grid JM38 over the Mediterranean Sea southwest of Sardinia, and again I was able to receive the WSPR beacons. On March 30th, I also monitored for the JT9 telemetry signals, and with succes (see below).
As soon as it had left Europe however, the next day, floating over North Africa, and on the remainder of its track over the Middle East and Central Asia, propagation and/or my end-fed wire were not up to the job anymore; no more spots were received here at my QTH. Interestingly though, PI4THT, the amateur radio club at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, was one of the stations that has been receiving the balloon all the way up to grid locator MN60 over Kyrgyzstan where the balloon's last signals were heard from. Not much later the balloon met its end, probably somewhere in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan where some of the mountain peaks are reaching over 7 km in height. I presume PI4THT have a beam antenna to their disposal, but still I find it quite amazing that it's possible to hear a 20 mW transmitter at over 5000 km distance!
|Screenshot of my WSPR program. My first spot of SA6BSS on March 28th.|
|Spots for the BSS4 on WSPRnet, including mine. Note that BSS4 has also been picked up at PI9ESA, the radio club of the European Space Research and Technology Center of the European Space Agency in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.|
|The BSS4 over the Mediterranean Sea being heard by PA7MDJ on March 30th as shown on the map of WSPRnet.|
|BSS4 trajectory prediction as regularly provided by Mikael Dagman on the QRP Labs e-mail group.|
|The last spots for BSS4 on April 2, 2017 done by PI4THT and a station in Kuwait. And it looks like Mikael Dagman has been testing another WSPR payload on April 5, hopefully for a planned BSS5 launch soon?|
|Satellite view of grid locator MN60|
Mikael Dagman informed me that the last reported telemetry of BSS4 was received from grid locator MN60mo. The balloon used was a silver 36 inch qualatex balloon filled with helium. The transmitter was a small version of the U3S kit running with the 3.09 firmware version, and with a TCXO added for stability. Below is another photo sent to me by Mikael showing the BSS4 payload.
Mikael also informs me that BSS5 will be launched in a couple of weeks.
BSS4 thread on the QRP Labs e-mail group: