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Transportation Technology

Cornell Grad Students Go Ballooning (Again) 58

ballooner writes "A group of Cornell University graduate students are attempting to break the Amateur Radio Ballooning duration record this weekend. The project is a continuation from last year when some other Cornell grad students broke the altitude record. The progress of the team can be tracked via their Twitter feed or by monitoring their APRS beacons. For all the HAMs out there, downlinks are available on a 30m wavelength, too."
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Cornell Grad Students Go Ballooning (Again)

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  • We're not HAMs (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mr_Perl ( 142164 ) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @07:21PM (#27640695) Homepage

    It's not HAM, it's ham. It's not an acronym.


    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by QuantumG ( 50515 ) *

      "I have a ham radio."

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually it is an acronym HAm Radio is High Frequency Amateur Radio.

      We put the HF in VHF/UHF

      73 from the Morehead State Space Tracking Facility

      • No. See

    • [PDF]Easy Guidance to Become a HAM What is HAM Radio?
      File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat [] - View as HTML []
      HAM, though not an acronym, is used and written with capital letter to show the respect and in remembrance of the three scientists who have contributed in ...

      Full relevant quote:

      Its origin is attributed to the discovery of three scientists Hertz, Armstrong and Marconi.
      HAM,though not an acronym, is used and written with capital letter to show the respect and in remembrance of the three scientists who hav

      • by Alrescha ( 50745 )

        "HAM, though not an acronym, is used and written with capital letter to show the respect and in remembrance of the three scientists who have contributed in ..."

        Right. That's complete bull-puckey. Fiction. Made up.

        If you go back ten or twenty years ago, you'll find very few (if any) spellings of ham in capital letters. It's not an acronym, it's not meant to honor anyone, it's just a word. Specifically, if you go read some old QST magazines from the 40s, 50s, or 60s you'll see plenty of references to ham

    • []

      "Ham: a poor operator. A 'plug.'"

      That's the definition of the word given in G. M. Dodge's The Telegraph Instructor even before radio. The definition has never changed in wire telegraphy. The first wireless operators were landline telegraphers who left their offices to go to sea or to man the coastal stations. They brought with them their language and much of the tradition of their older profession.

      In those early days, spark was king and every station occupied the

  • Not just "because" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nathan.fulton ( 1160807 ) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @07:46PM (#27640843) Journal
    Apparently there's probably some real research going on. While breaking the record for the sake of breaking the record (and the beautiful pictures) is probably an OK reason, it looks like the grad students are making contributions to research regarding the optimal fuel and material composition for balloons (or, since it's /., "balloons")

    It's pretty cool of Lockheed Martin to sponsor the project -- being that high up in a balloon has to be the experience of a life time.
    • by EdZ ( 755139 )

      being that high up in a balloon has to be the experience of a life time.

      A pity the balloon is unmanned then.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        A pity the balloon is unmanned then.

        Unmanned, you say. Then it's only an oon.

  • Up, up and away (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SamMichaels ( 213605 ) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @07:53PM (#27640877)

    What would be really neat is an ATV [] downlink on UHF so we could watch it. I've always wanted to see the transition where the blue sky disappears.

    FYI, APRS [] is pretty much text messaging for amateur radio. The most popular use is reporting your position (which is what the balloon does), but it's an easy way to pass short digital messages....or even send an email if you're near one of the gateways.

    Off topic, but semi-related because of APRS: AT Golden Packet Event []. An APRS packet is relayed up the entire Appalachian Trail.

    Disclaimer: IAAH (I Am A Ham). dit-dit.

    • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) *

      I've always wanted to see the transition where the blue sky disappears.

      Maybe if enough people see it answers to the question "why can't you see stars during the day?" will finally get better.

    • by Xandu ( 99419 )

      What would be really neat is an ATV downlink on UHF so we could watch it. I've always wanted to see the transition where the blue sky disappears.

      Check out Cosmocam's [] YouTube feed []. It's a project of the CSBF [] to allow people (mostly students) to interact with a camera aboard a high altitude balloon. In their case, the balloons can go much higher and longer than Cornell's. CSBF's balloons can reach 120,000 feet (37 km) and have flown for >50 days.

  • by NS3 ( 1536321 ) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @08:42PM (#27641095)
    Calling all amateur radio users with 30 meter recieving capability to listen on 10.1465 MHz. Downlink arrives every 10 minutes on the ten minute mark (UTC). Format of message is N2XE Alt NLat WLong Battery Ballast Please send reports to
    • maybe... should have sold some radio ads?

    • by Strider- ( 39683 )
      Which mode? I'm guessing CW, but that information would help. :P
      • 30 meters is cw only...

        • Ummmm. No.

          30m (as defined for the US and Canada) allows pretty much any narrow-band mode; not just CW. No voice or SSTV, but you'll find plenty of RTTY and other digital modes on 30, especially towards the higher part of the band.

          • meh.

            just capture the signal to a uncompressed file and do signal analysis on it. We hams have enough computer filters to run it through... and dont forget about gnuradio.

            If anything, its probably psk31, rtty, or cw. And there's only a handful of decent digital modes. You could do the processing in 1 minute, tops for every mode.

  • This is a good story []. Poe was a smart guy. Verne ripped this one off of him a few years later, though.

  • amateur students? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Monday April 20, 2009 @12:17AM (#27642047)

    It's really cool and all, but these guys are being paid to do this by an aerospace company (Lockheed) and are graduate researchers. Calling them amateurs and students is slightly insulting (I realize the amateur part is just the way these ballooning things are described, to separate them from NASA, but it's still an unfortunate word in this case).

    These guys need to present themselves as professionals for their own sake. Part of the reason school administrators do stupid things like raise grad student tuition and cut grad student benefits is because they do not realize how much on-campus research is done by graduate students. I spent several years when I was in grad school trying to explain to deans, chancellors, and regents that graduate "students" were not just older undergraduates (some of these people were shocked to find out I only took classes for 2 out of 6 years of grad school... they had no idea what science and engineering graduate students do all day).

    This kind of stuff drives me crazy. These guys did a great thing, and to play it off as "look what this group of students did" implies this was a small side project done in their spare time, or something a more senior person taught them to do, when this was well funded research which will likely go toward their degrees (and obviously has not been done before). Incidentally, Lockheed Martin's press release [] uses the phrases: young engineers, early career engineers, and employees. The word "student" is not present, only referenced by "employees' graduate studies." They get it.

    • You hit the nail right on the head. Incidentally, I work at the Lockheed site that's funding this research, and I also went to Cornell. Let me shed some light on this. These "students" are not really students per se, and are employees of Lockheed Martin who are undergoing their ELDP (Engineering Leadership Development Program). It is a three year program in which you work full time for Lockheed while earning your MEng at Cornell (not a bad deal unless you consider the fact that it only takes 1 year to e
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's amusing when people who aren't a part of something and really don't know what they're talking about make statements on the internet presenting their opinions as fact. Firstly, we are in fact students. While yes, we are professionals at the same time, we are still students. The project is also worked during our off work hours. We do not get paid to take days off from our real engineering job to work this project. Secondly, we are young engineers and early career engineers. There are limits to those who

        • There is research being done. To claim that there is not during a discussion of how your work was record breaking is a flat out stupid statement. The knowledge transfer process you describe is research. Whatever the official purpose of the project is, academia (which is who I am talking about, and of which I am part) sees this as just another research project.

          For the purposes of this activity, you are not students. What you are doing is bringing prestige (and money, either from Lockheed or someone else)

  • I actually make my living designing and launching weather balloon instruments at NOAA. We use 1500 gram latex balloons, filled with helium. Each one rises until the pressure reaches 12mb (about 100,000 feet), at which time a microcontroller pressure sensor circuit cuts off the valve lid to allow a nice smooth descent. Here are some pictures from a camera launched on one: [] []

The trouble with a lot of self-made men is that they worship their creator.