Balloon Program

Beginning in January of 2007, the MIT Radio Society has been active in Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning. The idea is to fly transmitters and other electronics, such as GPS and cameras to miles above the earth using large helium-filled balloons.

So far, MIT has flown the following balloons:

  • MIT-1 flew from Sturbridge, MA to Scituate, MA on January 29, 2007. Took photographs and short videos of the earth from above. See here, here, and here. This flight used a traditional APRS transmitter on 144.39 MHz, and was tracked and recovered.
  • MIT-2 was released from Cambridge, MA and lost in the ocean. This flight was a test of a long-range HF beacon transmitter. It used a standard latex balloon, rose to 100,000 feet, and fell into the water over 150 miles offshore. See here for launch photos.
  • MIT-3 was released from Cambridge, MA and also lost in the ocean. This flight was a test of an experimental zero-pressure envelope, made from a large, commercially available polyethylene bag. The flight leveled off at around 10,000 feet for about an hour, before losing lift after sunset and landing in the ocean. See here for launch photos.

Current efforts are focussed primarily on the design of low-cost, throwaway payload equipment and techniques for maintaining long-duration flights over the Atlantic ocean. We have not yet developed our program to the point where we will attempt a crossing, but we hope to get there eventually. Further, the Atlantic challenge seems like a good fit for our group due to our location – the Atlantic is pretty unavoidable when flying from Boston.

A calendar of balloon flights worldwide is available here.