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Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Or How to Make a Mountain Out of a Pico-Balloon.


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After the "Chinese spy balloon" was dropped in the Atlantic Ocean, I started hearing about more "mysterious" flying objects wandering around in the US airspace.   And I thought, "Surely, the powers-that-be can tell the difference between an amateur launched pico-balloon and a balloon which is a serious threat to the US of A because of its nefarious potential."

Apparently I'm not the only one who is wondering about such things.

https://aviationweek.com/defense-space/aircraft-propulsion/hobby-clubs-missing-balloon-feared-shot-down-usaf 

pico balloon launch.jpg

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Beware of runaway birthday helium balloons, you might see an F-22 locking target 🚀

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Yeah I'm not buying it.

"...with a payload the size of three schoolbusses..."  isnt't a pico balloon.

Somebody is lying.  Either the "paylod the size of three schoolbuses" is BS, or the "just a pico balloon" is BS.   I'm actually expected to believe we have pilots flying defending this nation in top secret aircraft armed with doomsday weapons and equipped with stae-of-the-art top secret electronics interogation systems, yet they can't tell a weather balloon from a "spy" balloon.  Nope.  I'll pass, thank you.  My IQ is higher than the group of people they're trying to convince.

We launch TWO of these each day from the NOAA office up the road.  We launch one at 6am and one at 6pm.   They go up several thousand feet and send back meteorological data to the NWS at our NOAA office. "Weather balloons" have a payload about the size of a pack of cigarettes (not three school buses) and they're disposable.  We hardly ever get them back and the one person per year that finds one and calls the 800 number are told they are safe to throw in the trash.

So far we've only lost two, one that got hung on the 105.9 FM 500-foot radio tower when it came back down, and one that came back down in the Craven County Electrical Coop substation and took out the local grid for half a day a few yeras back.  The locals were not amused with NWS operations that day.

Any pilot ho has amassed the credintials and training to fly a Raptor certainly has had training on what a weather balloon looks like.   If he doesn't, it's time to look at what we are hiring to defend our country.  Surely the ASVAB requirements are higher than that for our military professionals.


 

 

 

 
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  • 3 weeks later...


On 2/17/2023 at 5:16 PM, K3MRI said:

Beware of runaway birthday helium balloons, you might see an F-22 locking target 🚀

LOL Jim,

I was going to see my ham pal the other day and passed the NOAA site and the National Weather Service.  The guy was getting ready to launch the balloon for that evening so I turned around and pulled in and talked with him. 

The balloon was about 3 feet diameter but he said once it gets to altitude (it's made of a latex material that expands easily) it expands to several times it's size at sea level.  The one they use carries a tail on it about 8 feet long that has a parachute and the sensor gear tied to it.    Eventually the balloon bursts and the little parachute deplys and the computer falls back to earth.  The balloon is tracked by GPS and they map the wind currents and the temperatures, humidity, and some other data sent to the NWS.  The computers are disposable, they don't reuse them.   I asked the guy if they ever had any issues with aircraft and he said no.   He said they don't issue a NOTAM becuase all the pilots at MCAS Cherry Point and Camp LeJune and the pilots at Marine Corps ALF Bogue are all aware of their daily balloon activity.

Our club uses the center for our SkyWarn program.  We had a meeting the other week and that place is impressive.  They have a "safe room" and the floors and walls are made of 6 feet of reinforced concrete so they can stay there through hurricanes or tornadoes, etc.  They also put in showers and a kitchen last year so they would be able to remain on site during storms and not have to travel back and forth during storms.  Basically the NWS employees are present there through every storm.  Inside the "war room" they have a large room with about 100 TV's on the walls and they monitor weather from all over the U.S.  It's impressive to see all those screens on the wall with real-time radar on the screens.  I wanted to snap a few pics the other week when we had our meeting but I didn't know if they's appreciate me taking photos of what is actually a federal Gov't building.

What our club does at the NOAA center is, we have a station there with HF, 2 meter, 444, and Marine VHF radios.  During times of storms (usually hurricanes for our area), our volunteer mans those radios and he can communicate with a volunteer ham at the EOC, volunteer hams at the town halls & VFD's, to pass along weather information if the TV and cell towers are down.   We use HF and digital to communicate with other NWS centers, mainly the one in Miami.  For some reason the Miami NOAA center is important to the NOAA center here in my town.

That might be a good video presentation for HC?  Interview the guy who launches the balloons twice per day.  Here at the NWS in Newport they launch two per day, 0600 & 1800 hrs. 


73 de Anthony, KD3Y


 

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Hey Anthony. If you film the balloon launch and he shares a few thoughts with you, darn tootin' right we'll put it up!

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