HMS Weather

Tracking and Recovering a Weather Balloon

June 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Summary: Recovering a weather balloon after launch involves using some equipment to track the flight.

What goes up must come down, and so too with a weather balloon. These tips will help you recover your balloon after launch.

Payload Requirements

If you’re going to track weather balloons, your kit needs a payload arm to hold everything you need. The gas in the balloon will help hold everything and bring it into the stratosphere, but the payload must have a GPS unit on board. This unit looks like a small circuit board and fits securely onto the payload arm. You can also install a camera that will snap photos periodically during the ascent. Just be wary. There are certain weight requirements you must meet based on the size of the balloon and volume of gas used.


You can estimate your balloon’s trajectory through some simple calculations, and the usage of a program like Google Maps. First, you have to calculate the size fo your balloon and how much gas it can hold. Next, you use that volume of gas to determine the potential distance your balloon can travel with the payload attached. This won’t tell you precisely where you can recover the balloon, but it will give an idea of what to expect the day of launch.

Day of Launch

Remember that conditions change daily, so a beautiful day might have heavy winds higher up that you won’t notice. Be prepared to check the GPS datalogger coordinates frequently, and have a car handy to drive to the location for pickup. It also helps to have hiking boots, as the balloon won’t always drop in the middle of the road.