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ARRL Satellite Bulletin ARLS003 (2011)

ARLS003 Middle School Students to Launch Near-Space Balloon

QST de W1AW  
Space Bulletin 003  ARLS003
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington, CT  March 9, 2011
To all radio amateurs

ARLS003 Middle School Students to Launch Near-Space Balloon

A group of students from Olde Towne Middle School (OTMS) in
Ridgeland, Mississippi is preparing for a trip to space -- or as
close as they can get. The OTMS Radio and Technology Club, along
with the school's Science Team, are planning a near-space balloon
launch at 9 AM (CDT) on March 26 (the date and time are subject to
change depending on weather). The balloon -- nicknamed Titans in
Space -- will use the call sign KC5NXD and is expected to reach an
altitude of 94,825 feet.

The project is led by Bill Richardson, N5VEI, a past participant in
the ARRL Teachers Institute on Wireless Technology, a professional
development program that is part of ARRL's donor-funded Education &
Technology Program. The school has also received several grants of
Amateur Radio station equipment from this program. Richardson is the
sponsor of the school's Radio and Technology Club.

The balloon will be equipped with instruments to track its exact
location and a camera that will take snapshots every 15 seconds. The
students will stay on the ground and analyze the data as it is
transmitted back to them from the balloon. "As far as I can
research, we are the first elementary, middle or high school to
launch a near-space balloon in our state," Richardson told the ARRL.
The balloon will launch from the Madison County Career and
Technology Center in Gluckstadt. Preflight will begin at 90 minutes
before the scheduled launch. The preflight and launch will be
stream-cast live on the Internet at,  You can also follow along on

"Our students are busy with assembly and payload testing right now,
preparing for launch day," said OTMS Principal Allen Lawrence. "This
is really a great science experiment and they are all excited."

Richardson is encouraging radio amateurs to follow the balloon via
APRS on 144.39 MHz, on with the call sign kc5nxd-11
and via a 2 meter voice beacon on 146.565 MHz. A 20 meter beacon at
14.079-14.080.5 MHz will offer telemetry in four modes: Domino-ex16,
CW, RTTY and Hellschreiber.

According to Richardson, the group will be using a special
balloon-modified version of FLdigi, called dl-FLdigi. Ground
stations receive the balloon's telemetry via the program's soundcard
decoding software (available as a free download from "In essence, you are creating your own HF or
VHF APRS-style network on the fly," he explained. "When a valid
frame is received by a ground station, it is then sent via dl-FLdigi
to a server that then plots the position onto a website dedicated to
high altitude ballooning."  The website can be found at,

Richardson said that the students need help to grab data packets or
use the FLdigi to relay to packets to the network: "With the new
telemetry system, we will have a better data set for a final landing
spot, as well as research data."

The launch is in partnership with the Mississippi State University's
Bagley College of Engineering's aeronautical engineering program,
which has provided support and supplies to the students' efforts.
The project has already received national attention from The Sally
Ride Foundation, named after the first American woman to fly in
space. The foundation -- dedicated to supporting girls' and boys'
interests in science, math and technology -- sent the students a
letter of support and congratulations in advance of the launch. All
funding for the project has come from donations and fundraisers. The
project has received support from the local community, including the
Jackson (Mississippi) Amateur Radio Club.


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