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How to Use the SPOT Messenger Beacon


The SPOT Satellite Messenger is a small, lightweight tracking device commonly used by boaters and hikers. It is fairly reliable and good as a backup tracker.

The SPOT Messenger


One Time Cost to purchase: $150

Re-use Cost: 4 lithium AAA batteries

Annual Cost: $150 service


  • Good reception

  • Small size

  • Rugged Construction


  • 10 min update frequency

  • No altitude recorded

  • Does not upload position reports at higher altitudes (approximately 21000 foot limit)

Purchasing the SPOT:

Go to the SPOT website: and hit "Where To Buy" at the top. Order your spot, as well as your tracking plan.

Using the SPOT:

The SPOT needs little in the way of setup.

  1. Unscrew the back plate of your spot

  2. Insert 4 AA lithium batteries

  3. Screw the back plate back on

  4. Hold down the power button on front

  5. Hold down the foot-print button on front

  6. Make sure that both pressed buttons flash green periodically.

  7. Activate your SPOT online at

The SPOT will automatically track satellites and acquire a GPS signal assuming it is outside and can see the sky. It will transmit a packet every 10 minutes, which will be logged online. To track it:

  1. Go to

  2. Log in under "My Account"

  3. Check the boxes you wish to have displayed

  4. Hit "Show on Map"

The SPOT will give you a Google maps image much like this one.

Balloon Launch:

Place the SPOT in your payload box, preferably not under anything metal. The spot will need to be facing up, with its flat top side to the sky. Make sure to test that the beacon works in the box with everything turned on before sending it to space.

At the launch site:

  1. Turn your SPOT on following the instructions

  2. If you have a web-enabled cell phone, check online to see if packets are getting through

  3. If your phone is not web-enabled, call someone with internet to verify the SPOT is transmitting position reports

  4. Package your SPOT with your balloon and launch!

Following the launch:

  1. If you do not have internet on your phone,  go somewhere with internet (or call a friend with internet access)

  2. will automatically track your balloon.

  3. You will not receive data from higher elevations. Simply wait for the balloon to return to earth, or use other tracking devices at this time.

  4. Track where it lands, note the final gps lat/long, and travel there to get your balloon

After a successful retrieval:

  1. Turn off your SPOT