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10/11 meters / UNID Music 26685 FM 1756 UTC 17 FEB 2023
« on: February 17, 2023, 1759 UTC »
S9 with the K3FEF KiwiSDR. Good sound quality.

1756 UTC-The fist few seconds of lots of songs
1758 UTC-OFF
1758 UTC-Someone else speaking in an unknown language

Latin American Pirate / AD149 Radio 6934.9 AM 0109 UTC 17 FEB 2023
« on: February 17, 2023, 0111 UTC »
S9+20 with the LU1HCW KiwiSDR in Argentina.

0109 UTC-Dance Monkey by Tones and I
0110 UTC-Seńorita by Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello
0113 UTC-Dusk Till Dawn by ZAYN Feat. Sia
0117 UTC-Unstoppable by Sia
0120 UTC-Memories by Maroon 5

0201 UTC-Martin 1 SSTV
0203 UTC-Next Martin 1 SSTV
0205 UTC-Next Martin 1 SSTV
0207 UTC-Next Martin 1 SSTV
0209 UTC-Next Martin 1 SSTV


Since the famous takedown of a suspected Chinese spy balloon, US jets have shot down a total of three more unidentified balloon objects, now confirmed to have been 'commercial or benign'. There is speculation that at least one these three objects may have been an amateur radio 'pico' balloon.

One part of the amateur radio hobby is launching high altitude balloons with various radio and other payloads. Larger amateur radio balloons launched in the USA require FAA clearance, need a radar reflector attached, and usually continually transmit APRS telemetry before naturally popping and falling back to earth after a few hours, just like a weather balloon.

However there is also the simpler 'pico' ballooning hobby, which involves the use of mylar helium party balloons to launch small solar powered payloads that are only a few grams in weight. They typically transmit low power WSPR at HF frequencies and can only transmit whenever there is sufficient solar power available. Amateur radio or SDR hobbyist stations around the world can pick up these transmissions, and report them on amateur.sondehub.org and/or wsprnet.org. Well built balloons can totally circumnavigate the globe several times over several months before degrading.

While termed 'pico', the party balloons used can still be roughly a meter in diameter on the ground, with some latex balloons potentially expanding further at high altitudes due to the low atmospheric pressure. These balloons can be legally launched from almost anywhere in the world. In particular in the USA there is no FAA clearance required to launch them due to their payload being much less than the limit of 4 lbs (1.8kg).

32" Silver Orb Shaped Mylar Balloon used for Pico Ballooning
32" Silver Orb Shaped Mylar Balloon used for Pico Ballooning
There is speculation that at least one of the objects shot down over Canada, Yukon by a US Air Force jet may have been amateur radio pico balloon K9YO-15 which was launched from Illinois on October 10 2022. It was on it's seventh circumnavigation of the globe after being aloft for 123 days.

The launch blog post indicates that the K9YO-15 balloon was flying a silver mylar 32" sphere SAG balloon which appears to be this one from balloons.online. Unlike latex or rubber weather balloons which inflate and stretch as they rise into lower atmospheric pressures, these mylar balloons can't stretch, so their fully inflated ground size will be the same as their size at high altitudes, meaning the pico balloon won't get much bigger than 32". The payload was a GPS module, Arduino, SI5351 used as a WSPR and APRS transmitter and a solar panel, all together weighing 16.4 grams. A pentagon memo notes that the object shot down over Canada was a "small metallic balloon with a tethered payload" which fits the description of the pico balloon exactly.

The K9YO Pico Balloon Payload
The K9YO-15 Pico Balloon Payload
An (unrelated) Example Amateur Radio Pico Balloon Launched by a Naval Academy
An (unrelated to this story) example Amateur Radio Pico Balloon launched by a Naval Academy (Source: http://www.aprs.org/balloons.html)
The K9YO-15 balloon ceased all WSPR telemetry transmissions while flying just below Alaska since Feb 11 00:18 UTC (just before sunset in Alaska when the solar panels would stop working).

By using NOAA wind models and the last known location by Alaska, K9YO-15 was projected to have been over Yukon when the US Air Force shot down the unknown balloon object at Feb 11 20:41 UTC (3:41 PM EST / 1:41 PM Yukon time according to Canadian Defense Minister Anand). Reports put the altitude of the shot down object at approximately 40,000ft (~12000 meters), which matches the projected ~11500 meters of K9YO-15. Based on the previous days transmission times, it is suspected that if it were operational, the balloon would have begun transmitting again sometime later in the Yukon afternoon when the sun was stronger, but no transmissions have been seen.

On February 14th the balloon was declared as missing in action by the launch group.

K9YO projected location at the time the object was shot down.
K9YO projected location at the time the object was shot down.
The search area for the fallen balloon debris is reported to be in difficult to access terrain between Dawson City and Mayo. If we do a rough overlay of the predicted trajectory over a Google map, we can see that the predicted location of KY9O-15 at the reported time of the missile impact matches this description very well.

Rough trajectory overlay
Rough trajectory overlay
Over on Twitter @ikluft (KO6YQ) has been reporting on this speculation, and has been keeping an eye on K9YO-15, awaiting telemetry transmission. We recommend following his account for further updates.

Twitter user and ex project Google Loon engineer @BalloonSciDan has also speculated that the objects shot down may have been pico balloons.

Over on Reddit @ikluft (KO6YQ) has also written some insightful information:

I see you're all talking about my tweet. Yes, we are still watching to see if K9YO-15 transmits any telemetry today.

So far K9YO-15 has not sent any new telemetry since Friday before sunset over Alaska. Some have misread confusing data presentation on Sondehub which lists last known telemetry as covering a time range from then to now. Currently the last we've heard from K9YO-15 was Friday Feb 10 before sunset over Alaska (00:48 GMT Feb 11). But the map on Sondehub does show the last reported position.

These floater balloons often use only solar panels, no batteries. Batteries were dropped from the projects early on because they have limited charging cycles before they stop accepting a charge, especially in the harsh temps at altitude, -40F/-40C or worse. When the battery stops accepting a charge, it ends telemetry from the mission. So they only report telemetry during daylight, when the sun is at a high enough angle to illuminate the tiny solar panels. In the Arctic winter, the days are short and the sun might not get high enough to wake up the electronics. So it stays dormant for one or more days until it drifts back down to lower latitudes where there's more sunlight. So K9YO-15 was in a period where watchers didn't expect to hear from it for a few days. But we expected it today. So far nothing. As I write this, daylight is almost done way up there for Tuesday, Feb 14.

We (the Amateur Radio balloon community) only expect any telemetry from it today would be via WSPR, none via APRS. WSPR uses HF and can be received at long distances, where it's relayed to Internet map sites. APRS is (usually) on VHF and UHF, only received by line of sight. There are no relay stations in range of today's projected flight course in northern Ontario and James Bay, Canada. So APRS-fed sites wouldn't show updates today anyway.

The club in Illinois that built the balloon has tracking links at https://nibbb.org/links-to-locate-and-track/ - you'll have to scroll down to find K9YO-15.

For an introduction, I'm Ian KO6YQ. I was involved in the first Ham Radio balloons that circumnavigated the globe starting in 2016, launched from San Jose, California. I had roles on them including tracking analyst and social media spokesman. I also organized and led the Ham Radio tracking teams which recovered the Civilian Space eXploration Team (CSXT) first amateur rocket to (suborbital) space in 2004.

Explaining a discrepancy with time reporting on Sondehub, KO6YQ notes:

Time has run out for solar power to provide any telemetry on Wednesday, February 15. So far, no new data. For those who were confused by it, remember that Sondehub has problematic data presentation so don't use it for anything other than mapping the last known position. A reliable place to check for K9YO on WSPR is the WSPR Spots: https://www.wsprnet.org/olddb?mode=html&band=all&limit=200&findcall=k9yo&findreporter=&sort=date

S9+10 with the K3FEF KiwiSDR.

0225 UTC-Tone sweeps
0225 UTC-Robot YL “UNID Tones, code alpha 81 beta 43”
0226 UTC-Tone sweeps
0226 UTC-Robot YL “UNID Tones” and a new “code”
0226 UTC-Tone sweeps
0227 UTC-More tones, identifications, and “codes”
0240 UTC-OFF

Any idea what the codes are? They are all Alpha and Beta with a different number for each every time.

S5 with the KX4AZ KiwiSDR.

0148 UTC-Music

0156 UTC-Robot YL “Voice of Alice” ID
0156 UTC-I'm Eighteen by Alice Cooper
0159 UTC-OFF

North American Shortwave Pirate / UNID 6950 USB 0148 UTC 16 FEB 2023
« on: February 16, 2023, 0149 UTC »
S7 with the KX4AZ KiwiSDR. A slight hum in the signal.

0148 UTC-Unknown Music
0153 UTC-OFF

S9+10 with the Masset, British Columbia KiwiSDR. Good signal direct.

0240 UTC-Music

0258 UTC-B Side Radio ID, Bud Bigly talking about the music, hello to people on the HFU (thanks!)

S9 with the AB1KW KiwiSDR. Okay signal direct. 9 kHz wide audio.

0238 UTC-Moonlight by Catie Waters
0242 UTC-You Just Can't Stop by Blue Six

0318 UTC-YL ID and waterfall image
0319 UTC-British OM ID
0320 UTC-YL “The best smooth jazz is on Mix Radio International”

0409 UTC-Sign off message
0413 UTC-OFF

Latin American Pirate / AD149 Radio 6934.9 AM 0015 UTC 15 FEB 2023
« on: February 15, 2023, 0016 UTC »
Exact frequency is 6934.89 kHz. S9+20 with the Apla Corral, Argentina KiwiSDR.

0015 UTC-Relay a professional station

S9+10 with the Masset, BC KiwiSDR.

0350 UTC-Music
0409 UTC-Eronel by Thelonious Monk
0412 UTC-Misterioso by Thelonious Monk
0414 UTC-Evidence by Thelonious Monk
0417 UTC-Lillie (Alternate Take) by Milt Jackson
0420 UTC-Four In One by Thelonious Monk
0424 UTC-OFF

S9+10 with the K3FEF KiwiSDR. Strong S7 with the G4SZM KiwiSDR in the UK. S7 with the Masset, British Columbia KiwiSDR. Much stronger than the station on USB. QRM from the Peskies on 6922 USB.

0410 UTC-Music
0412 UTC-Unknown Music, old music with the lyric “The Nickel Song” appearing frequently
0416 UTC-Unknown Music, rock now
0420 UTC-Brand New Key by Melanie
0423 UTC-Pig Knuckles op talking, says he is in LSB and doesn’t know what he is doing
0430 UTC-ON
0430 UTC-(Ghost) Riders In the Sky by Johnny Cash
0434 UTC-Amie by Pure Prairie League
0438 UTC-Op talking, good night
0438 UTC-OFF
0444 UTC-Started commenting on the P P Radio broadcast on 6925 USB, several other short transmissions after this
0500 UTC-“Quiet numbskulls I’m broadcasting” played twice
0500 UTC-OFF
0503 UTC-“Quiet numbskulls I’m broadcasting” and other recordings
0503 UTC-OFF
0508 UTC-Recorded OM “be on the lookout for three photographers” over the music from P P Radio
0510 UTC-OFF
0515 UTC-Recording from the muppets
0516 UTC-OFF

Thanks for the broadcast! I was sorry I missed your broadcast earlier, now I still got to hear you!

For Sale / Wanted / Barter / Where to buy used ham transceivers?
« on: February 13, 2023, 0246 UTC »
I am currently studying for my amateur radio exam (going for basic with honours) and I may want to purchase an HF transceiver some time. Used equipment because new stuff is a bit more than I want to spend. Where are some good places to look? It seems like nearly everything on eBay is untested which sucks.

S9+30 with the K3FEF KiwiSDR.

2235 UTC-Carrier
2236 UTC-Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones, having some audio issues.
2238 UTC-DJ talking


Exact frequency is 6944.89 kHz. S5 with the G4SZM KiwiSDR in the UK.

1915 UTC-Weak music

S5 with the W3HFU KiwiSDR with the 900 ft sky loop antenna. S9 with the W3PIE KiwiSDR.

0159 UTC-Lead a Normal Life by Peter Gabriel
0202 UTC-What’s the Frequency, Kenneth? by R.E.M.
0209 UTC-Switched to USB, still playing What’s the Frequency, Kenneth? by R.E.M.
0213 UTC-(I've Been) Searchin' So Long by Chicago
0215 UTC-Make Me Smile by Chicago
0225 UTC-Johnny B. Goode (Live at the BBC for "Saturday Club" / 15th February, 1964) by The Beatles
0228 UTC-WTF Radio Worldwide ID
0228 UTC-Lucille by The Beatles
0230 UTC-Sweet Little Sixteen (Live at the BBC for "Pop Go The Beatles" / 23rd July, 1963) by The Beatles
0233 UTC-My Own Space by Steve Miller Band
0236 UTC-Fly Like An Eagle (Live) by Steve Miller Band
0240 UTC-I Have the Touch by Peter Gabriel
0241 UTC-WTF Radio Worldwide ID
0242 UTC-I Don't Remember by Peter Gabriel
0244 UTC-What Do You Do When the Old Man's Gone? / From the Upper Class by Jethro Tull
0248 UTC-Combination by Aerosmith
0250 UTC-WTF Radio Worldwide ID
0250 UTC-Walkin' The Dog by Aerosmith
0254 UTC-Cecilia by Simon & Garfunkel
0254 UTC-Keep the Customer Satisfied by Simon & Garfunkel
0256 UTC-The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel
0259 UTC-Unknown Music
0304 UTC-Good Times Bad Times by Led Zeppelin
0305 UTC-Feelin' Stronger Every Day by Chicago
0309 UTC-Down To The Waterline by Dire Straits
0312 UTC-Fanfare for the Common Man by Emerson, Lake & Palmer
0314 UTC-Are We Ourselves? by The Fixx
0316 UTC-It Never Rains by Dire Straits

0350 UTC-OFF

The times in the report above are probably wrong because the W3PIE internet connection is so awful the audio is over a minute behind the actual broadcast.

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