Multi-Site Predictions

After the creation of the Alternate Site Prediction capability, someone thought it might be nice to see LOTS of predictions for many different locations. The idea is to assist in planning the pre-positioning of Tracking & Recovery team members. So, ...

Above is a screen shot of this capability. The flight is out of Pueblo CSU. In the example above, the output has been sorted to show the stations in increasing range from each station to the setting distance of the balloon. You can sort on the either distance from the rise to the station, the closest approach or the set to the station as well as by station name. All sorts are ascending only. I could make it toggle, but for this particular application, I'm not sure it's worth the time writing the code. Let me know if you need that. I'd be happy to add it if there was that need.

Menu Options


Using the File menu you can [File/Select] and choose an input file. This filename is "sticky". That is, it is saved to the wbaltrak.ini file and will be used each time the Multi-Predict screen is opened. Naturally, if you change it, the new filename will replace the old on in the INI file. (see notes below about file format)

There used to be a "Run" menu item. I dumped it. Now, whenever the program has a database file to work from, it automatically generates the prediction.

[File/Export/Prediction Spreadsheet]

Using the File menu you can [File/Export/Prediction Spreadsheet]. This selection will export the same data you see in the form above with no additional data. It will contain a header line indicating what each column contains. Most if not all spreadsheet programs should be able to read this file as it is a plain Ascii delimited file. The default file extension is CSV and that will alert Excel to simply load it as a spread sheet and not ask you  how you want the data interpreted.

    Here is an example file: multisite.csv

[File/Export/Prediction Text File]

Using the File menu you can [File/Export/Prediction Text File] to generate a plain text file with formatting. This file runs around 150 characters wide so you'll need to set your printers to landscape and reduce the font size if you actually want this on paper. But, at a font size of 8 using Courier New, it does fit.

Here is an example file: multisite.txt

[File/Export/Full Database Spreadsheet]

Using the File menu you can [File/Export/Full Database Spreadsheet] export the full database with all those fields shown below in the database editor and file format sections. This is similar to the Prediction Spreadsheet export above.

Here is an example file: multisite_full.csv

You'll note that even I don't have any data for these extra site description fields. I'm hoping the EOSS Tracking and Recovery team will be supplying me with that data over the coming years.

[File/Export/Street Atlas Map File]

Using the File menu you can [File/Export/Street Atlas Map File] export a file that will map out the current predicted track of the balloon, and all stations that will see the balloon rise above their locations' horizon. When you select this option this dialog box appears.

Any changes you make to this dialog will be saved in the wbaltrak.ini file and will become the defaults for future SA exports. These settings are independent of the SA Export routines available for the predictions only. So, you need not be concerned that you will generate confusing maps with these two Street Atlas settings dialogs.

Click the Export button and a map file is written out the the folder you specified on the setup screen for ASCII and Mapping Exports. Or, you can always change that location in the export file dialog box. Load that file into Street Atlas and here's what it looks like.


The above map was made with the database set to sort on the "Set" field. So, each bearing and range relates to that position. Since this map is so crowded, below is a close-up of the flight path with only a couple of stations included.

The Red Triangles are a few of the stations for which predictions were made. For each station the azimuth and range to the balloon is given after the station's name. The figures used depend on the way the prediction file was sorted. If you select to sort by the Rise, then that information will be given for each station. Select the closest approach sort option and that data will be placed on the map. Select the Set for the sort field as was the case above, and the map has notations for each station for the azimuth and range from that station to the location where the balloon disappeared below their local horizon.

Here is an example text export file for Street Atlas: multisiteSA.txt

Here is a Street Atlas 9 data file with the data used to make the above maps: multisite.sa9


Under preferences you can select to calculate for either the Closest Approach or Maximum Elevation for sites in the database. This preference setting works with both the Alternate Site Prediction and the Multi-Site prediction, so changing it on one, changes it for the other as well. You can also set whether or not to display the lat/long/altitude of the station. Foregoing this information makes the display a little more user friendly. Be aware, when you  export the data to a text file, the printout is identical to what you see on the screen. So, this compact form will not export the lat/long/alt of the stations to the report file.

No lat/long/alt for stations

You can still check the lat/long/altitude by hovering your mouse over one of the station names. My screen capture tool won't capture tooltips but, ... take my word for it.

[Sort/Location Name]

The program sorts the results alphabetically by station name. A definite oversite in the previous version. I find myself looking for information about a particular station much more often than the data set as a whole. Sorting on the other keys is useful in certain applications but mostly, I find people are asking me for details about a particular station, not the closest, furthest, station with the highest maximum elevation. So ... better late than never.

[Sort/Rise Distance]

The program sorts the results by the distance from where the balloon rises over the horizon of the station being predicted for.

The next Item will either be sort for closest distance or maximum elevation. The selection is based on what settings are entered in the program preferences.

[Sort/Closest Distance]

The program sorts the results by the distance from where the balloon comes closest to the station being predicted for.

[Sort/Maximum Elevation]

The program sorts the results by the maximum elevation in relation to the station being predicted for.

[Sort/Set Distance]

The program sorts the results by the distance from where the balloon descends below the horizon of the station being predicted for.

A shortcut to sorting, just click on the title of the frames that contain each body of information (Rise, Closest Approach, Set) and the data will be sorted by range for that field.

The last sorting method used prior to closing this screen will be saved as the new default sort and used in subsequent multi site predictions.

[Edit Database]

Click [Edit Database] and the currently displayed database will be loaded into an editor. If the database is not a true multi-site database (20 fields) then the program will offer you two choices. Create a new file in true database format and you'll be prompted for a file name, or continue on and view the database with it temporarily corrected to a full 20 fields. However, if you try to save the changes you've made, assuming you make any, the program will insist you then enter a new file name for that database. This is probably the fastest way to convert any of your location INI files. Just load them into the editor, and when prompted, give that file a new name. I just stuck with the same original filename but let the program replace the file extension ".INI" with the default database extension ".OSD".

You can change any field on this screen, but for it to take effect you need to click the save button. Whatever changes you make on this screen are only made to the database in memory.

You can delete sites, add sites but all actions are in memory only.

When you exit this form by any method other than the Cancel Button you will be prompted to save the file. Cancel will let you abandon all changes an return to the Multi-Site Prediction form.

If you do make changes, additions or deletions, they will immediately be reflected in the Multi-Site Prediction form.

At the bottom of the Multi-Site Prediction screen is a status bar. The name of the current database file is in the lower left. To its right a "reminder" if you are using a file other than a true multi-site 20 field database. If you have a true database loaded, then it will tell you that ("Good DB File"). On the lower right, the sort method and the number of reporting stations is given.

The program is actually looking for a full database as described below, however, if the first four fields pass this check and there are no other fields, the program will create a temporary file adding commas to allow it to be properly imported.

This "calculator" will read in any Balloon Track Location file, with the exception of the VOR file. So, Launchsites.ini, landingsites.ini, Gridsites.ini will load and the station information in those files and can be used to generate this report. They are also excellent templates for creating a new file from scratch.

Database File Format

This file must be ASCII delimited by commas and strings should be surrounded by quotes (NO COMMAS in the quoted strings) and the file should have no header information and contain these fields:

The minimum acceptable input format is:

  • The name of the site as a string

  • The latitude of the as a decimal number (south is negative)

  • The Longitude of the site as a decimal number (west is negative)

  • The Altitude of the site as a decimal number. But you can enter a whole integer for the altitude without a decimal point. It just can't be a string value in the data base surrounded by quotation marks.

However the program will accept these fields in this order:

  • The name of the site as a string

  • The latitude of the as a decimal number (south is negative)

  • The Longitude of the site as a decimal number (west is negative)

  • The Altitude of the site as a decimal number. But you can enter a whole integer for the altitude without a decimal point. It just can't be a string value in the data base surrounded by quotation marks.

  • Street as a string

  • County as a string

  • State as a string

  • 8 horizon elevations (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW) as integers 0 thru 90 degrees

  • RDF Quality (Integer 1 to 5)

  • Road Quality (Integer 1 to 5)

  • Parking Quality (Integer 1 to 5)

  • One Sentence Note as a string

  • A credit to the individual who surveyed the site as a string

The full database of fields won't be used with the possible exception of the horizon picture within Balloon Track. They are there for use in generating reports with Excel about the general quality and location of each observing site. Since there aren't too many, I thought it would be simple enough to just carry them into the program so that the data associated with each station would be easier to link. Otherwise it would have been necessary to generate a relational database to restore the linked data and generate reports.

If you aren't interested in all this extra data, just stick with the 4 value database files shown as the minimum required.

This new capability may or may not be of interest to others. But, our tracking team is always looking for a better way to get ready before the flight and this was their request.