Party Balloon Carrying Amateur Radio Payload Circles the Northern Hemisphere


A simple party-style balloon carrying a 434 MHz solar-powered Amateur Radio transmitter is nearing the end of its trip around the Northern Hemisphere. Launched on July 12 from the UK by Leo Bodnar, M0XER, the so-called B-64 balloon is expected to complete its final transatlantic crossing over Cornwall in the UK on July 31 or August 1. It then is expected to continue east into Europe. So far the balloon has traveled some 15,500 miles and traveled over 17 countries.

Radio amateurs and listeners within range may be able to copy B-64’s Contestia 64/1000 digital mode signal on 434.500 MHz USB. While over the UK, the balloon will alternate Contestia tranmissions with APRS, also on 434.500 MHz. The tiny transmitter runs just 10 mW output and weighs 11 grams.

The balloon has been tracked along the way using APRS and the UK High Altitude Society (UKHAS) network over Europe, Siberia, and even briefly over North Korea before heading over Japan. It briefly passed over the US before swinging north into Canada. UKHAS reports that OX3XR in Greenland copied the B-64 transmission on July 29. The “B-64” designation denotes the number of similar balloons Bodnar has launched. The transmitter stores positions during its flight and transmits a log file displaying 5 days of previous locations in the comments field of its APRS transmissions. Bodnar’s B-63 balloon is said to be about 12 hours behind B-64.