Brian launched his Pico balloon flight, designated N6CVO-11 on Saturday 20-Jul-2019 at 06:02 PDT (local sunrise).

The transmitter is a LightAPRS tracker from QRP Labs. Details:

  • One 50ma solar panel
  • Pair of 3.3F Super Capacitors in series (1.65F @ 6v)
  • Single 19.25" 30awg wire for the 2m antenna
  • Software is Mustafa's first version as delivered
  • Two 36" Mylar party balloons
  • Total free lift 4gr
  • Gas is Hydrogen
  • Configured with the two balloons about 1m apart then the payload below.
  • Payload is a vertical stack with a horizontal solar panel and the tracker hanging below it.

APRS tracking map:!mt=roadmap&z=11&call=a%2FN6CVO-11&timerange=604800&tail=604800 

Payload photos

Launch photos & video

3-day snapshot from map

Commentary from Brian 

27-JUL-2019 00:30:00 UTC

Well it was a good flight but I'm going to declare this one over and recap the many milestones achieved. If it suddenly reappears (which one balloon did 7-days later) ill update everyone.


  • The payload  rigging, wiring, software, configuration, and pre-flight testing out in the sunlight went as planned.
  • No one was blown up during the stretching, final lift adjustments, and transporting of the hydrogen balloons.
  • Launch was a bit sketchy with the high winds but successful
  • Transmitter turned on as the sun rose and continued to do so for the following three days.
  • Balloon reached altitude (~10km or 32,000') within 2hrs and achieved neutral buoyancy.
  • The flight successfully entered the Jetstream on the fourth day and roared up the east coast of the US.
  • Telemetry data shows it crossed the continent traveling thru 15 US states and two Canadian providences.
  • Top speed achieved was 228km/h (138mph).
  • Numerous people across the country directly heard the packet data and two chased it with their cars for hours.
  • One person had it flight path near their house and was able to see flickering reflections off it for 5-minutes.
  • It generated way more interest than I imagined.
  • And lastly it made it somewhere out into the North Atlantic. That is an incredible feat on it's own.

Flight Day 6 (maybe) 25-JUL-2019 21:30:00 UTC

Contact with the balloon was expected today but nothing was received :-(

This is not looking good for the flight but don't loose hope yet. FL300 (30,000') winds off the European coast have not been friendly for our flight and there are three different things could have happened:

  1. The balloon went down due to wind sheer or just fatigue from its days in the air.
  2. It stayed in the Jetstream and swung north over Ireland where airborne Amateur Radio transmissions are forbidden and the GeoFencing software shut the transmitter down until it clears the area. From there it would head further North then either turn Northwest towards Iceland or it will turn East towards Norway where there are ground stations to pick up the transmissions.
  3. It dropped out of the Jetstream as it was approaching the European coast. This would trap it in a low pressure zone and send it west again for another lap around the Atlantic where there are no ground stations.

Looking at the wind charts I think it went over Ireland then north, but whether it turns West or East after that is anyone's guess. Lets just hope it's still floating around up there

We will keep looking for a few more days before declaring end of flight.

Flight Day 5 24-JUL-2019 23:00:00 UTC

No contact received today. This was as expected! Start checking early tomorrow morning to see if the Atlantic crossing was sucessful.!call=a%2FN6CVO-11&timerange=604800&tail=604800


  • The balloon should be nearing European ground stations about now (16:00PDT). The problem is it’s nearing midnight at the balloons projected location so there is no solar power to transmit.
  • We are hoping to start getting signals again around 08:00UTC (midnight PDT).
  • The last transmission we received had the balloons position right in the middle of the JetStream. That would give it a fast ride across the Atlantic.
  • Landfall estimates range from Spain to Ireland or England.

Flight Day 4 22-JUL-2019 12:13:57 UTC!call=a%2FN6CVO-11&timerange=604800&tail=604800

First contact was received at 23-JUL-2019 12:13:57 (UTC)
Location 37.017 -83.12183 (Near Hazard Kentucky, USA)
Altitude 8818 meters (28,918 feet)
Voltage 4.55v (Sunrise on the solar panel)

Last contact of the day 23-JUL-2019 22:01:42 (UTC)
Location 47.489 -66.38583 (New Brunswick, Canada)
Altitude 9,704m (31,836 feet)
Voltage 4.60v (Sunset on the solar panel)


  • Overnight the balloon crossed out of Arkansas, through Tennessee, and into Kentucky
  • The tracker woke up at it's usual 7:15 local time near Hazard Kentucky
  • Initial altitude was a bit lower than expected.
  • The first transmission showed the balloon was entering the Jet Stream.
  • Speeds continued to climb throughout the morning reaching over 217kph (135mph). This generated lots of excitement from those tracking it.
  • During the day it left Kentucky, crossed Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, in and out of Quebec Canada, into Maine, and finally New Brunswick Canada.
    In the previous 24hrs it covered 1,100miles
  • It is now headed out into the North Atlantic with predicted landfall over Spain early on Flight Day #6 (Thursday).
  • I received emails from people who have heard the balloon directly on 2meters and decoded the packets. One guy even chased it all day in his car.
  • Successfully received transmissions average every 104 seconds
  • It is highly unlikely we will hear from the balloon on Flight Day #5 (Wednesday) so don't panic!!! If we do get data it will be quite exceptional as it will be relayed from the ISS or a passing ship.

Flight Day 3 22-JUL-2019 13:15:40 UTC

First contact was received at 22-JUL-2019 13:15:40 (UTC)
Location 39.92983 -99.72617 (Near Alamena Kansas, USA)
Altitude 9,887 meters (32,438 feet)
Voltage 4.59v (Sun was just starting to hit the solar panel)

Last contact of the day 22-JUL-2019 23:54:16 (UTC)
Location 36.46183 -92.46117 (Near Mountain Home Arkansas, USA)
Altitude 9,772m (32,063 feet)
Voltage 4.49v (Sunset on the solar panel)


  • Overnight it crossed the corner of Colorado, Nebraska, and woke up in Kansas.
  • During the day it flew through Kansas, part of Missouri, and went to sleep in Arkansas
  • In the afternoon the wind forked, one path would have taken it around Oklahoma and into bad weather. Luckily it took the other path east where it looks like it will finally join the Jet Stream.
  • Successfully received transmissions averaged 80 seconds apart.
  • Expecting payload to wake up for Day-4 around 14:30 (UTC) near Lexington Kentucky, USA.

Flight Day 2 21-JUL-2019 14:17 UTC

First contact was received at 21-JUL-2019 14:17:42 (UTC)
Location 39.46567 -112.9455 (Near Delta Utah, USA)
Altitude 9,798 meters (32,147 feet)
Voltage 4.55v (Sun was just starting to hit the solar panel)

Last contact of the day 22-JUL-2019 01:11:59 (UTC)
Location 41.63667 -108.96267 (Near Rock Springs Wyoming, USA)
Altitude 9,939m (32,606 feet)
Voltage 4.60v (Sunset on the solar panel)


  • Traversed Utah and into Wyomong
  • Tracker woke up at the time it was projected to get sun on the solar panel.
  • Balloon altitude climbed a bit. Probably due to stretching of the envelope.
  • Successfully received transmissions averaged 120 seconds apart.
  • Expecting payload to wake up for Day-3 around 14:30 (UTC) near Wyoming/South Dakota/Nebraska boarder.

Flight Day 1 20-JUL-2019 13:02 UTC

Launched at 06:02 PDT (local time)
Location 34.8 -118.1 (Rosamond, CA USA)
Altitude 727m 2,385’
Voltage 0.0v (Sun was just rising)

First contact was received at 07:30 PDT (14:30 UTC)
Location 34.9458 -117.8176 ( Directly over Edwards Dry Lake)
Altitude 6,866meter or 22,527’
Voltage 4.55v (Sun was just starting to hot the solar panel) 

Last contact of the day at 18:18 PDT (21-JUL-2019 01:18 UTC)
Location 37.10983 -116.11933 (Middle of Nevada)
Altitude 9757m or 32,012’
Voltage 4.60v (Sunset on the solar panel)


  • Launch was sketchy due to the high ground winds and balloon was almost immediatly lost in a downdraft.
  • Tracker came to life very close to the time it was projected to get sun on the solar panel.
  • Balloon reached cruising altitude and leveled off in an hour and fourtyfive minutes.
  • Sucessfully received transmissions averaged 108seconds apart.
  • Expecting payload to wake up around 08:00 PDT over Salt Lake City.
  • Future times will all be reported using UTC