After travelling for more than 110,800 km (68,696 mi) aloft, the record-setting pico balloon PS-46, carrying an Amateur Radio payload, completed its second circumnavigation of the Southern Hemisphere, before descending into the Indian Ocean on July 18 due to bad weather. The helium balloon and its solar-powered 25 mW payload were launched on May 23 by Andy Nguyen, VK3YT.
“It was an exciting but also an exhausting eight weeks for many hard-core trackers,” Nguyen said. “Their perseverance ensured the balloon was tracked almost around the clock. It was hard work, and the little party balloon was becoming part of the daily routine for many of us.”
More than 20 “regulars” were among those who tracked the high-altitude flight, monitoring the payload’s 20 meter signals in WSPR and JT9 modes. Stations in Virginia and Florida, as well as in Peru and Argentina were among those hearing the balloon’s beacon.
The last station to hear the balloon was Vince Harrison, ZS6BTY, in Pretoria, South Africa. The balloon had been at an altitude of about 9000 meters (29,530 feet), but quickly descended into the ocean.
PS-46 had circumnavigated the Southern Hemisphere the first time in 12 days, and it was starting its third trip around when it went down. The flight had twice flown over the Pacific Ocean to South America, then across the Atlantic Ocean to Africa, and across the Indian Ocean back to Australia. Its longevity was attributed to the more northerly route taken and the absence of storms at this time of year.
Nguyen’s earlier PS-41 balloon was the first such balloon to circle Earth. He is already planning his next balloon flight. – Thanks to Jim Linton, VK3PC