Monday, June 27, 2011

Ham Radio Rides West Point Balloon to Edge of Space

Cadets from the U.S. Military Academy's
Amateur Radio and Astronomy Clubs
Launch a Balloon Satellite in May.
(Photo by Mike Strasser, West Point
Public Affairs)

Cadets from the U.S. Military Academy's astronomy and amateur radio clubs used the last day of this year's spring semester to launch a "balloon satellite" to the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere. Still and video cameras aboard the craft shot photos as it rose to an altitude of more than 85,000 feet and then descended. An Automatic Packet Radio System (APRS) transmitter allowed students to track the payload throughout the flight and to later recover it, the instruments "still cold from their journey to space," according to a West Point news release. The release also described the APRS system as "an ad hoc network of ham radio operators that run a nationwide communications utility as a public service." The launch also highlighted inter-service cooperation in the military, as the West Point group has been collaborating with the aeronautics department at the U.S. Air Force Academy and APRS was developed by Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, who teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy.