U3SS18 flight highlights
Day 28 update: 02-Nov-2016
Day 27 update: 01-Nov-2016
Day 26 update: 31-Oct-2016
Day 24/25 update: 29/30-Oct-2016
Day 23 update: 28-Oct-2016
Day 22 update: 27-Oct-2016: CIRCUMNAVIGATION!
Day 21 update: 26-Oct-2016
Day 20 update: 25-Oct-2016
Day 19 update: 24-Oct-2016
Earlier daily updates
Photos of the launch
Transmitter details

Like the former flights, this one also used a special U3S firmware version on an Arduino Nano board. The primary tracking mechanism was WPSR with callsign VE3OCL. An ordinary WSPR transmission was sent every 12 minutes on 30m and 20m. It was followed by a special WSPR message that contained telemetry (altitude, more precise location, battery voltage, speed, temperature and GPS status). Please read the transmitter details section for more information.

S18 flight highlights

The map below was updated automatically with the latest received position during the balloon's flight. During the balloon's night time the battery was quickly depleted, so from just after sunset there were no more reports until daylight. The RED part of the path is the actual received position data during the daytime. The thin BLUE line parts of the path are the night-time path, interpolated using wind data from the NOAA projection.

Flight S18 is now over. The last reception report was at dusk on the evening of 02-Nov-2016, 16:02Z by SM4GRP at a distance of 6,347km. The balloon was known to be entering a region of high altitude clouds. It must have picked up enough ice during the night to weight it down and cause it to descend into the Atlantic ocean. This google map shows the entire flight path. You can zoom in etc. as normal.

Here are some highlights of the S18 flight!

Statistics of the flight and reception reports

32,477 Total number of WSPR reception reports
630 Unique WSPR receiving stations
1,108 The most WSPR reports from one station: K9AN
18,016 Number of 20m WSPR reception reports
14,461 Number of 30m WSPR reception reports
17,042km The best DX on 20m, ZL3DMH while S18 was in GN75 (North Atlantic ocean)
19,606km The best DX on 30m, VK3FBB while S18 was in HN21 (mid Atlantic ocean)
2,828km The average reception distance on 20m
2,367km The average reception distance on 30m
46,502km Total distance traveled by S18 in 28 balloon days
11,080m Highest altitude reported by S18
259km/h Fastest groundspeed reported (161mph), catching a jet-stream ride across the Pacific ocean
26d 05h 02m Recorded duration of the S18 flight 

 

Note that these distances are as computed by WSPRnet. In reality the actual best DX is more, because S18 was received by the long path route on several occasions, including the JT9 transmission received by Bob ZL1RS.

Spreadsheet download

Click here to download the entire data set of received reception reports, the decoded flight log, statistics, etc. (9 MBytes Excel file, no macros contained).

Flight highlights

The gallery below shows some favourite moments of the flight. From left to right, top to bottom:

1) Here's Dave VE3KCL launching his creation off into the unknown. Who would have guessed it would fly 28 balloon-days, and circle the world!

2) The two small party balloon that carried the S18 transmitter around the world 

3) Avoiding hurricane Matthew on 09-Oct-2016

4) Circumnavigation of the Planet Earth was confirmed on the 22nd day (27-Oct-2016)!

5) A near-death experience on 31-Oct-2016. That morning when S18 rebooted in the sunlight and started transmitting, it was at only 4,460m altitude. Was this the end? NO! S18 must have entered high altitude clouds, picked up ice, and started descending - but warmed up at lower altitudes enough to melt and dry off the ice, then started ascending again! It didn't get quite back up to its former altitude so probably some ice remained on the balloon. 

6) Here's the telemetry graphs for the whole flight, which you can also see in the spreadsheet download, above.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId968dde7729

Receiving stations

A total of 630 unique stations received the S18 balloon! Thank you to all participants! This is the list: 

2E0DSS, 2E0MGG, 2E0PPO, 4X1DA, 4Z5ML, 5P1B, 5P1KZX, 9A2WB, 9K2/VO1DZA, AA3GZ, AB3VE, AB4QS, AB8AJ, AC0G, AC7IJ, AD5MT, AD9P, AE2EA, AE4JY, AE7YQ, AF5GM, AF5WV, AG6NS, AI4RY, AI6KG, AJ8S, AL7BX, AL7Q, CT7/M0HGU, DB7EN, DC4DO, DC5AL-R, DD2EE, DD3JW, DD9FY, DE1MGS, DF1AJ, DF1RN, DF2JP, DF2NU, DF4UE, DF5FF, DF5FH, DF6MK, DF7DQ, DF8FH, DF8OE, DF9DU, DG0OPK, DG2HSI, DG4YBE, DG5VO, DG8RW, DH6NAN, DJ5JD, DJ5KM, DJ6OL, DJ7KA, DJ9RR, DK3RU, DK3SML, DK3SML/RX2, DK4BM, DK5ES-1, DK5ES-2, DK5SDJ, DK6UG, DK7FD, DK8FT, DK8FT/3, DK8FTA, DK8FTB, DK8FTC, DK8JP, DK8JP/1, DK8KQ, DK8XU, DL0HT, DL0HT/2, DL0LU, DL1AS, DL1DWM, DL1GCD, DL1KAI, DL1KCQ, DL1PT, DL2AL, DL2DU, DL2FBI, DL2JA, DL2NEP, DL2NQ, DL2RUM, DL3GAK, DL3HBT, DL3NBY, DL3NCS, DL4DE, DL4MFC, DL4RU, DL4VM, DL4YCC, DL5HCK, DL5RBD, DL6OW-R, DL6TY, DL6YCU, DL7VOE, DL8FCL, DL8HCO, DL8KCW, DL8MFH, DL8XA, DM3FML, DM4RW, E51WL, EA1FAQ, EA2BCJ, EA4AS, EA4TA, EA5IHM, EA6ZS, EA7IHT, EA7JKC, EA8/LA3JJ, EA8BVP, EB5DQ, EI4DQ, F/PE3ES, F1EYG, F1IYH, F1LFT, F1TZG, F2WA, F4GMT, F4GVO, F4HPS, F59706, F5LHF, F5OIH, F5OWL, F5SRP, F6AIU, F6AJK, F6FUZ, F6HCO, G0AMO, G0BLB, G0IMX, G0JSP, G0LRD, G0LUJ, G0PJU, G0VKT, G1FXM, G3JKF, G3MZV, G3TKF, G3WUN, G3ZIL, G4BDQ, G4CPD, G4CUI, G4DJB, G4DND, G4EKJ, G4FKK, G4MSN, G4NTN, G4PCI, G4SFS, G4SYI, G4VVP, G4ZFQ, G4ZXE, G6KBC, G7CBR, G7EVW, G7EWY, G7MRV, G7NKS, G7UVW, G8AXA, G8DYK, G8INV, G8LCO, G8LDJ, G8NXD, G8UDI, G8ZSG, GI7UGV, GK8NXD, GM4SFW, GW0JTU, GW0NDZ, HA7LC, HB9CCQ, HB9CQK, HB9DQP, HB9ENC, HB9FX, HB9LFT, HB9US, HS0ZKM/P, I112387, I3WXX, I4ZTO, IK/DL8DBU, IK1NAF, IK1NET, IK6CRE, IQ5LU, IT9VPC, IU1DZZ, IU5HKU, IV3HLS, IV3KAS, IW2OHP, IW6ATQ, IZ2WMD, IZ7VHF, JA1PKG, JA1PKG/5, JA5NVN, JE1JDL, JG1EIQ, JG1TWP, JH3APN, JH7PFD, JQ2WDO, JS6TRQ, K0PER, K0VM, K0WFS, K1JT, K1OF, K2AAM, K2AHC, K2BAG, K2RH, K3EA, K3FEF, K3FHP, K3GEN, K3LT, K3SC, K3SZ, K3XR, K3ZV, K4BYN, K4COD, K4EH, K4IZN, K4JGR, K4PRA, K4RCG, K4RJD, K4VZZ, K5ACL, K5LLR, K5OK, K5SWA, K5VJZ, K5XL, K6JQ, K6PZB, K6RRR, K6TE, K7GXB, K7LOL, K7NUI, K7POF, K8DE, K8HSQ, K8JGG, K8NDS, K9AN, K9ANF, K9DZT, K9RJO, KA5U, KA8BRK, KA9LHE, KB2NCY, KB3VR, KB5FIO, KB8UVN, KB9AMG, KC0CD, KC0WCM, KC1CIG, KC2QII, KC3KDK, KC3TOM, KC4GO, KC4RSN, KC4SIT, KC4ZGQ, KC5CQW, KC5WX, KC7IYU, KC9NBV, KC9UR, KD0HFC, KD0OI, KD4HSO, KD4YDD, KD6EKQ, KD6QM, KD6RF, KE3LB, KE7BJB, KE8DAF, KF2DA, KF5PZW, KF9KV, KG5DQP, KG5LBS, KI6JL, KI7CUF, KI7DPE, KJ6FO, KK1D, KK4GBI, KK4MBI, KK4OSG, KK6NON, KL7L, KM4CQG, KM4MLG, KM5GT, KN8DMK, KP4MD, KR6ZY, KU4PY, KU4QI, KV0S, KV1D, KV4TE, KZ3X, LA1ZM, LA3FY, LA3JJ, LA9JO, LZ1UBO, LZ1UBO/P, M0BNZ, M0BOB, M0BOL, M0GBZ, M0HZE, M0NNB, M0WQR, M0XDK, M3MSM, M6VPW, MI6JVC, MM0HVU, MM0ZFG, MW1CFN, N0AN, N0CXX, N0UE, N0UR, N0XC, N1SER, N1VC, N2BJW, N2NOM, N2NRV, N2NXZ, N2YQT, N3DGE, N3EDS, N3EMA, N3YHW, N3ZP, N4AAA, N4DB, N4HY, N4SRN, N4TVC, N4XWC, N5CEY, N5OFQ, N6KOG, N6RY, N7AIG, N7UTE, N7WSQ, N8CGY, N8GBU, N9CIF, N9JO, N9PBD, N9SEO, N9YNG, NG3X, NG7W, NH7L, NL9222, NN6RF, NO1D, NO2CW, NO2CW/P, OE1MWW, OE1RMS, OE1SJS, OE1XHQ, OE3BUB, OE3JBS, OE3MSU, OE5FGL, OE6PWD, OH3LMN/RX, OH7GWM, OK1GSB, OK1RXX, OK3COM, OM2WX, ON3JT, ON4CDJ, ON4LUC, ON4SAR, ON5KQ, ON6KZ, ON7AN, ON7DY, ON7KB, ON7KO, ON8DC, OY3SR, OZ1BV, OZ1BXM, OZ1G, OZ1IDG, OZ1KVB, OZ1PIF, OZ3GD, OZ5ACI, OZ6LI, OZ7IT, OZ7NV, PA0ALW, PA0JHM, PA0KNW, PA1FJ, PA1RAB, PA2W, PA3AGN, PA3BGQ, PA3FYM2, PA3GPS, PA3GTL, PA3JT, PA4MSA, PA7T, PB0AHX, PC1PM, PD0ME, PD2RPS, PD3ATM, PD3HIM, PD5JVD, PD5MVH, PD8W, PE1FYH, PE1IWT, PE4BAS, PE7ER, PI4THT, PY2GN, R0AU, R0JF, RA0CCK, RK6AJE/1, S53MB, SA0CAM, SA6BSS/RX, SC0TID, SM/DC4LC, SM0EPX/RX2, SM4GRP, SM4OJ, SM67464, SM6EAT, SM6WZI, SM6XVI, SM7BKZ, SM7RGA, SP6RYD, SP9LJE, SQ8IFG, SV1DAR, SV8RV, SWL/JMS, SWLEM64, SWLK0, SWLKCL, SWLNXZ, SWLVDM, SWUKSDR, TA4/SWL, TI7/W5EXJ, UA1ASB, UB3AIH, UB6LMH, UNLIS, VA2KT, VA3EEP, VA3KV, VA3ROM, VA7QI, VE1VDM, VE1YY, VE2DPF, VE2MLS, VE3CMM, VE3GEN, VE3GTC, VE3LTI, VE3PLE, VE3RIA, VE3RPH, VE3RQX, VE3TKB, VE3UJK, VE5CAF, VE6XMB, VE7EHP, VE9CD, VK3FFB, VK3GHZ, VK3WE, VK3WHO, VK5EI, VK5KJP, VK5MR, VK6XT, VK7BO, VK7DIK, VK7WLH, VO1LQ, VR2UIF, W0AEW, W0AY, W0EJO/4, W0OGH, W0PC, W0TBR, W0ZQ, W1CK, W1GJM, W1QA, W1VR/4, W2CXM, W2GRK, W2JTM, W2VID, W3BCW, W3CDW, W3CSW, W3GXT, W3HH, W3PM, W3SMK, W3SN, W3WTE, W4ABQ, W4BCX, W4DJW, W4ENN, W4HBK, W4HOD, W4JON, W4MO, W4TME, W5JVS, W6LVP, W6PD, W6WGF, W6YQ, W7CSD, W7QO/01, W7REK, W7WKR, W7XZ, W8AC, W8LMG, W8MQW, W8OQ, W8QYT, W9HLY, W9MDO, W9WSW, WA2TQI, WA3DNM, WA4RG, WA4WW, WA6M, WA6OUR, WA7KQS, WA7PZJ, WA8KNE, WA8Y, WA9EIC, WB0GKM, WB2TQE, WB3ANQ, WB5ZON, WB6NGC, WB8ELK/01, WB8VGE, WB9GHD, WB9SBD, WD4AHB, WD4ELG, WE4X, WR3T, WS4S, WU9Q, WW6D, WY1R, YO8003SWL, YU1UN, YV4GJN, ZF1EJ, ZL1RS, ZL3DMH, ZS6KN

Day 28 update: 02-Nov-2016

S18 managed another day's flying, very slow, not making any particular distance out there in the mid-Atlantic. High altitude clouds are ahead (see below).

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId89602c505d

Day 27 update: 01-Nov-2016

S18 managed to escape being taken down by high altitude clouds overnight, somewhat surprisingly. A slow day flying Southwards, very slowly. No dramas, and no clouds on the forecast path ahead.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId2bd2ef2f22

Day 26 update: 31-Oct-2016

S18 woke up this morning at an altitude of only 4,460m. We don't know how much lower than that it went. It must have entered high altitude cloud shown in Dave VE3KCL's image below, and picked up ice, causing it to become too heavy to fly and start descending. But it recovered! At low enough altitude for the ice to melt and the sun to burn off some moisture, it started ascending again! It recovered to over 10,000m but still not as high as it had been flying (around 10,800m). So it still must be carrying some extra ice. There are still clouds ahead so who knows, what will happen.

Note, the altitude loss drama is now shown in the telemetry graphs below. This is because the tracking process crashed right at the most interesting moment (when the balloon was avoiding a crash). So we missed some data. I am downloading the whole October month's data from the WSPRnet database so I will be able to reconstruct this missing data. 

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeIda9458cd3e0

Day 24/25 update: 29/30-Oct-2016

A slow weekend flying mid Atlantic with no drama. But there are high altitude storm clouds straight ahead!

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeIdcd532a78e6

Day 23 update: 28-Oct-2016

Just flying quietly high above the Atlantic ocean... apparently no trouble from high up clouds.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId626587e2c7

Day 22 update: 27-Oct-2016: CIRCUMNAVIGATION!

Today S18 woke up having crossed the longitude line where it was launched back on 07-Oct-2016, meaning it has completed the round-the-world trip! A huge congratulations to Dave VE3KCL on this magnificent achievement! It's also one more for the circumnavigators page. The balloon has now started its second world lap but the weather forecast shows some high altitude clouds ahead on the projected path.

The first report of the day was on JT9 from Vernon VE1VDM and confirmed the circumnavigation:

1212 -11 -1.5 1764 @ 10826. 41.645
1213  -8 -1.5 1762 @ VE3OCL FM31NS

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId19417f6b41

Day 21 update: 26-Oct-2016

Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Georgia today! The NOAA projection below is for only 12 hours. If all goes well, S18 should cross the starting longitude at around 0400Z, completing the circumnavigation. When S18 wakes up tomorrow morning it will have started its 2nd lap! The HabHub HySplit image below shows the longer term projection for S18 and also Jim N2NXZ's U3S-4 balloon flight, which has been flying for 7 days now and also has an Ultimate3S transmitter for tracking.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId79d99a7d39

Day 20 update: 25-Oct-2016

Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi today! The NOAA projection below shows a green line added to the projected path by Dave VE3KCL which is the starting longitude. When S18 crosses this point, it will have completed a complete circumnavigation of planet Earth! It should happen tomorrow night, with luck...

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeIdf9762b1617

Day 19 update: 24-Oct-2016

The S18 balloon crossed the US West coast at Los Angeles and flew past Las Vegas also. The balloon crossed states: California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. In today's gallery I have added an image of the complete flight path to date. 

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId1d5a9a3afb

Day 18 update: 23-Oct-2016

S18 has turned East and is heading towards the US now.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId89200ffe38

Day 17 update: 22-Oct-2016 (again)

S18 didn't follow the path NOAA predicted today! It headed further south than expected. This is the 22nd October again because S18 crossed the international date line mid-Pacific. Remember "Around the World in 80 days"?

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeIdb681de4fbc

Day 16 update: 22-Oct-2016

S18 hurtled across the North Pacific reaching speeds of 140 knots (252kph, 161mph).The NOAA projection is similar to yesterday. Still a way to go to reach home!

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId8bfb10232f

Day 15 update: 21-Oct-2016

S18 is alive and well! S18 crossed North Korea and Japan at very high speed, peaking at 132 knots (244kph, 152mph). S18 is now heading out across the pacific ocean. A nice NOAA projection...

Is it too early to start to dream of home?

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeIddea02d4843

Day 14 update: 20-Oct-2016

No reports from S14 at all today. Hopefully this is just because there are not very many WSPR receiving stations in the area (China).

Day 13 update: 19-Oct-2016

Very fast progress today but now deep into central Asia, and here there are not many WSPR reporting stations. There were only three reports from S18 today: one on 30m from F5OIH and two on 20m from R0AU. The telemetry message was not copied. So only the 4-character locator gives an idea of the position and the path. The locators copied were MM85, MM94 and NM03 which puts the balloon in Tibet by the last report. It isn't very clear to me which flags I should use today so I decided not to use any! The forecast indicates good quick progress towards Japan and without bad weather in the way.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId501b73d88d

Day 12 update: 18-Oct-2016

After 3 days in Libya, crossed the Med and passed through 5 countries, all in one day! Good speeds today!

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId8923873853

Day 11 update: 17-Oct-2016

STILL in Libya, for the third day. But the NOAA projection says S18 should pick up good speed tomorrow and head East quickly. The weather map below shows no cloud in the path.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeIde46e3412bb

Day 10 update: 16-Oct-2016

Still slowly travelling in Libya. The weather map below shows no cloud in the path for the next few days, very nice!

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId0e20189695

Day 9 update: 15-Oct-2016

Crossed into Libya today. The NOAA projection now says S18 will go East and take another 2 days to leave Africa, then head to Asia at faster speed!

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId950f45ee58

Day 8 update: 14-Oct-2016

The Sahara desert. Now heading for the Southern Hemisphere!

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId051cedb22b

Day 7 update: 13-Oct-2016

Good speed. S18 completed the Atlantic crossing! The last report of the day right before sunset, was just over the Morrocan coast! NOAA predicts a slow journey across Africa..

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeIdc766f8d21b

Day 6 update: 12-Oct-2016

Very slow progress today! But S18 is still at the same good altitude around 10,600m and still heading to Africa.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId3e7471fb56

Day 5 update: 11-Oct-2016

A good day's flying, S18 avoided hurricans and has turned towards Africa. The NOAA projection says Africa in 2 days...

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId862a371afe

Day 4 update: 10-Oct-2016

S18 made a slow hairpin turn away from the US, it is now heading back East. The NOAA projectioin (see below) says it will continue East now across the Northern Atlantic.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeId5412ef5965

Day 3 update: 09-Oct-2016

Still moving a bit slowly, S18 turned South then back South West, heading towards Haiti and the hurricane zone. The cloud map below at the start of Day 3 is shows S18 further west than had been anticipated yesterday. But the NOAA forecast shows S18 heading over Haiti in 48 hours. Meanwhile the BBC weather forecast map shows the possible path of hurricane Matthew.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeIdbff5faa1ce

Day 2 update: 08-Oct-2016

S18 has not been travelling particularly fast. Dave VE3KCL says S18 should have headed rapidly towards Ireland in a nice quick jet stream but seems to have taken a wrong turn along the way. So S18 travelled in a kind of south east direction for a while. Look at the forecast maps... S18 is predicted to head for the HURRICANE zone...

View the embedded image gallery online at:
http://qrp-labs.com/flights/s18.html#sigFreeIddf01c5c291

Day 1 update: 07-Oct-2016

Dave VE3KCL had a successful launch of S18 (see photos below) at dawn local time on 07-Oct-2016. S18 climbed to a little over 10,000m. S18 headed North East, not particularly quickly, covering 612km by sunset.

View the embedded image gallery online at:
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Photos of the launch

Dave VE3KCL says: "The popularity of Cricket put an Astro-turf pitch in the sports field which is much more desirable for balloon launching than the wet grass.. (and it's additional water weight). U3 in shoe box and laying out tripole antenna. Note mist at sunrise this time of year"

View the embedded image gallery online at:
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Transmitter details

The S18 transmitter is a U3S, with special firmware installed on a miniature Arduino board for low weight. The firmware is v3.08 plus enhancements for sending additional balloon telemetry over WSPR. The flight uses 2 party balloons and is transmitting on JT9 and WSPR 20m and 30 meters with normal and telemetry WSPR, using a two band antenna. The transmissions use a 12 minute frame and callsign is VE3OCL. The WSPR frequencies are 14.097165 and 10.140265, and telemetry is channel 3. The GPS is uBlox. See S4 flight page for details of the special WSPR telemetry.