"The Spirit of Columbia"
NTBP #11

The North Texas Balloon Project (NTBP) Flight 11.3 is planned for launch about 8:45 am CDT (between 8:30 and 9:00 am) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 from the Hillsboro Municipal Airport, in Hillsboro, Texas, just south of Fort Worth and Dallas. This mission is dedicated to the memory of the astronauts lost February 01, 2003 in the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy. Backup dates are yet to be determined. Flight status will be available each day until launch on the 147.280 repeater in Fort Worth and the HF launch net frequency.

The weather balloon carrying amateur radio experiments is expected to reach nearly 100,000 feet in about 90 minutes and return via parachute in about 30 minutes. Mobile recovery teams will use position reports from the onboard APRS on 144.390 MHz and RDF (fox hunting) to recover the payloads.

Set up will begin at 7:00 am with the HF Launch Net on 7260 +/- 10 kHz LSB starting at 8:00 am. The cross band repeater uses an uplink at 445.800 MHz and downlink at 147.560 MHz. Video from onboard cameras is transmitted at 1255.000 MHz for reception by anyone with FM ATV capability.

The public is invited to come out to the Hillsboro Municipal Airport, located at Exit 3 on Interstate Highway 35W, to watch the launch, flight status, and downlink video. In the event of unfavorable weather or jet stream conditions, the launch will occur at a later date. For the latest information check their web page.

Handheld VHF radios and scanners can receive the downlink easily. At the peak altitude ham radio operators from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Kansas can contact each other using the cross band repeater.

The radios used normally have a range of about 25 miles, but that range will be extended to about 500 miles at the peak altitude. Two video cameras are used to alternately show the balloon and the horizon. At the peak altitude, the curvature of the earth is visible.

NTBP's Doug Howard said, "This is being done mostly for fun. It involves many different facets of amateur radio and thus a project that many types of amateur radio operators can enjoy together. There is also an educational component utilized by scouting groups, because it involves orienteering and can be counted toward several different merit badges, as well as by teachers for science experiments." According to Howard, Boy Scout troops from Fort Worth and Benbrook will participate.

NTBP is a group of amateur (HAM) radio operators from Fort Worth and Dallas and has launched balloons from Cleburn, Clifton, and Hillsboro Airports since 1991. This is the second launch during the last year and is funded by the amateur radio operators associated with the NTBP.

Please send an email to Wayne Dossey - K5GD for further information.


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