Horus Telemetry Test Flight 29th July 2018 – Flight Report

With all the successful flights that Project Horus has had recently, I guess it’s about time we had one that didn’t quite go to plan…

Windy conditions at the launch site made filling difficult

First up – the weather. If this was a full-size Project Horus launch, we would have likely cancelled and re-scheduled the flight. However, since this was just a small test flight with a disposable payload, we decided to have a go.

Thankfully we didn’t experience the forecast showers, however 30-40kph winds at the launch site made filling an exciting experience, with the balloon blown all over the place. Mark VK5QI, Will VK5AHV, Chris VK5FR and Matt VK5HZ were the launch crew for the morning. Graham VK5GH also made an appearance. Just as we were starting to tie off the balloon a wind gust came up and tore the balloon off the fillter… goodbye balloon! (Memories of Horus 8, though this time without the garage to stop the balloon flying away).

Bye bye balloon… (Photo courtesy Matt VK5HZ)

There was just enough gas left in the cylinder to fill a small ‘backup’ balloon (a 100g Hwoyee) and get enough lift to get the payload in the air.

The achieved ascent rate after launch was ~3m/s, a bit lower than the planned 5m/s, however with the switch to a smaller balloon, this actually resulted in a fairly similar flight path to what was originally planned.

The first part of the flight went pretty normally. Many receiving stations came online to decode the new 4FSK Horus Binary mode, including a few new callsigns. Will VK5AHV and Mark VK5QI headed off towards Bear Rock to track the payload as long as possible, while Marcus VK5WTF was already stationed up on Accomodation Hill to do the same. Ivan VK5HS and Peter VK5PE were already out in the expected landing area (South of Loxton), recovering the morning’s Bureau of Meteorology radiosonde launch.

Faulty payload!

At just about 9km altitude… something went wrong in the payload. The signal became very wide, and then immediately started drifting up the band. The current theory is that the payload flew through a cloud on ascent, and a combination of condensation within the payload and extreme cold caused some problem with the radio IC. UPDATE: Testing has confirmed that the issue was related to insufficient insulation around the radio IC. Better sealing around the payload edges solves the issue, and hopefully this won’t occur on future flights.

The transmitted signal continued to drift up through the 70cm band, topping out at about 436.4 MHz before descending back down again. At some point (estimated to be about 21km altitude) the balloon burst, sending the payload quickly back towards the ground.

As we watched the signal drifting back down the band, we wondered – what will happen when it gets back to the original frequency – 434.640 MHz? Sure enough, as the frequency drifted closer towards 434.640 MHz, the drift rate sped up, and it almost ‘snapped’ back into place – and the 4FSK started up again! (Later analysis of the telemetry showed that the GPS & micro-controller continued operating while the radio went walkabout.)

Quickly we rushed to get the decoder up and running again, to find the payload was at ~1km altitude and dropping fast. From Bear Rock we were able to decode the payload down to ~300m (at a distance of 140km, not bad!). Peter VK5PE’s home station in Renmark was able to track it down a bit further, to ~220m.

Ivan and Pete turned around (they were halfway back to Renmark) and were able to recover the payload not far from the last reported position.

Peter VK5PE with the payload in hand!

Even with the issues this flight, we still met the primary goal of getting stations decoding the new Horus Binary telemetry mode. Stations seen to upload telemetry included:

VK5APR, VK5EI, VK5FJGM, VK5FLJG, VK5KJP, VK5KX, VK5NEX, VK5PE, VK5QI, VK5ST, VK5TRM, VK5WTF, and ‘AUSMEZ’

Thanks to all for your participation! We will be evaluating the received data and working out better ways of weatherproofing the modified RS41 payloads to avoid the issues encountered on this flight. Expect to see the Horus Binary telemetry on future flights!

Horus Telemetry Test Launch – Sunday 29th July 11AM CST

UPDATE: Unfortunately the payload failed at approximately 9km altitude. It recovered on descent just prior to landing, and we were able to get a landing location. Ivan VK5HS and Peter VK5PE were able to recover the payload from the middle of a large field south of Loxton.

Thanks to all that decoded the initial part of the flight. If you could please e-mail your log files through as mentioned below that would be appreciated.

This coming Sunday, the 29th of July, Project Horus will be performing a small balloon launch from Mt Barker High School Oval, at approximately 11AM CST. Live flight tracking will be available on the HabHub online tracker as usual.

This launch is another test flight of the new ‘Horus Binary’ telemetry payload, which uses a new modulation mode developed by David Rowe VK5DGR and Mark Jessop VK5QI with 6dB better performance than the usual RTTY telemetry. The first flight of this new payload was on the Horus 49 (Anstey 2.0) flight, where it performed well!

A modified Vaisala RS41, which transmits the new Horus Binary telemetry

The aim of this flight is to provide another opportunity for listeners to attempt decoding of this mode. Like the RTTY telemetry, the Horus Binary telemetry can be received using a 70cm Single-Sideband receiver. Telemetry will be on 434.640 MHz USB (+/- temperature drift). This will be the only payload on this flight, and we are not intending on recovering the payload (though others are welcome to go after it!).

Decoding of the the new mode is not supported in dl-fldigi, and hence new software must be installed – a guide on how to install and run the required Horus Binary decoder software is available here.  (A note to those listeners that decoded the binary payload on Horus 49: a few new features have been added to the Habitat uploader utility – please update to the latest version!)

To help debug some issues that were encountered on the last flight, it would be appreciated if all listeners e-mailed the ‘telemetry.log’ and ‘horusb_debug.log’ log files (created by the horusbinary uploader) through to Mark VK5QI (vk5qi@rfhead.net) at the conclusion of the flight.

 

Horus 49 – Anstey in Space v2.0 – Success!

On Sunday the 8th July, the Tea Tree Gully Library’s echidna mascot, Anstey, rose into the sky to an altitude of 36,374 metres under a High-Altitude Balloon. This was Anstey’s second flight into the stratosphere, and Project Horus’s 49th balloon launch.

Originally planned for the 30th of June, Horus 49 had to be delayed a week due to very poor weather conditions. Even still, this flight was a a long one for the chase teams! Fortunately we had the assistance of a team from the Riverland Radio Club who mobilized from their home base (much closer to the LZ) and who then played a big part in tracking and retrieving Anstey at the end of his flight. You can read about their adventure on the RRC Blog.

Launch Activities

As usual, the launch was from the Mt Barker High School oval – thanks must go to the school for allow us to use their oval for so many launches! A good number of AREG club members came along to help out with the launch. Also present at the launch were members of Anstey’s Space Club, there to watch the launch and see Anstey off into the stratosphere!

Filling the balloon.

Payloads were laid out, turned on and tested, and the balloon was filled with somewhat more gas than usual. The flight path predictions had a possible risk of landing close to Loxton, so additional gas was used to give a higher ascent rate (as it turned out, a *very* high ascent rate). Wind gusts made filling the balloon a bit of a challenge, but there were no lack of hands to help keep things from getting out of control.

At just after 10AM, the wind died down and we had a perfect launch!

Launch of Horus 49

The Flight

On board Anstey had two cameras recording things. The first was a GoPro miniature video camera! The second was a still camera that was sending photos live to ground as the flight progressed.

Chase & Recovery

Right after the launch, Mark VK5QI and Will VK5AHV quickly headed off towards the expected landing area to the South-West of Loxton – a long drive away! Marcus VK5WTF and partner were also following not far behind.

The ascent rate ended up being much higher than intended – ascent rates as high as 9m/s were observed at some points in the flight, resulting in a shorter than expected flight. Even still, the Hwoyee 1600g balloon used made it to a very respectable 36374 metres altitude before bursting.

With the original flight path prediction due to land near Loxton, it was looking pretty unlikely that the chase teams departing from Mt Barker would make it there before landing. Luckily, a group of Riverland Radio Club members were on the case! Ivan VK5HS, Peter VK5PE, Danny VK5DW and Andy VK5LA also headed out to chase, starting from the Loxton area. Rob VK5TRM was also out for the chase. Ivan & co had been practicing by hunting the Bureau of Meteorology radiosondes, so were well experienced in chasing balloons – so much so that they were able to get into position to watch the balloon land in an area of scrubland near the locality of Mantung (40km SW of Loxton).

Mark and Will were not far behind, arriving at the landing site a few minutes later. A short walk later and Anstey was sighted… about 8 metres up a gum tree!

With some persuasion from a SpiderBeam pole, Anstey was recovered. Many thanks to all those who came along for the chase!

Horus 49 Recovery Team

Live Wenet Imagery

Throughout the flight Anstey was imaged via a version of Project Horus’s ‘Wenet’ imagery payload, which transmits images down to the ground via a 115kbps 70cm transmitter. As expected the images of Anstey were amazing, and were viewable live via HabHub’s SSDV webpage.

This live imagery is only possible through volunteers running ground-stations. Thanks go to VK5APR, VK5EU, and VK5KX who ran stationary receivers. Mark VK5QI was also running a mobile Wenet receiver in his chase car.

CallsignPackets ReceivedTotal Data Received (MB)
VK5KX23846058.22
VK5QI (Mobile)21801253.23
VK5APR21304552.01
VK5EU15317537.40

Telemetry – RTTY & Horus Binary

As with all previous Project Hours flights, a RTTY payload was flown. Many listeners contributed to tracking this payload:

CallsignPackets HeardPercentage of Flight HeardPayload Alt at First RX (metres)Payload Alt at Last RX (metres)
VK5EI103393.4%3962695
VK5EU101792.0%7012780
VK5FAAP98288.8%16373203
VK5FJGM73966.8%11229329
VK5FLJG62656.6%22117751
VK5KX95586.3%1680193
VK5NEX91282.5%26335108
VK5ST83375.3%28783897
VK5ZAR79371.7%12055551

New to this flight was an experimental ‘Horus Binary’ payload, which was transmitting a MFSK telemetry mode developed by David Rowe VK5DGR and Mark Jessop VK5QI. This new mode has significant performance advantages over RTTY, and will hopefully become the new default telemetry system for Project Horus flights. David VK5DGR also has an overview of the payload and how it performed on the flight on his blog. Many stations were able to run the new decoding software and track the flight using this mode:

CallsignPackets HeardPercentage of Flight HeardPayload Alt at First RX (metres)Payload Alt at Last RX (metres)
VK5AKH/KX/ZM (Portable)151182.4%6970101
VK5APR154184.0%26314850
VK5FJGM123467.3%76925875
VK5FLJG157786.0%6755217
VK5FTAZ83245.4%91466484
VK5IX149181.3%818661
VK5KJP147180.2%27484404
VK5RR28815.7%33826400
VK5ST166390.7%24351286
VK5TRM171993.7%1854139
VK5QI (Mobile)156085.1%34364
VK5WTF (Mobile)103956.7%2776139

The new mode provides position updates twice as fast as the 100 baud RTTY payload, and with 6dB better decoding performance (meaning double the range!). The update rate may have been too fast it seems – while about 2600 packets were transmitted during the flight (confirmed as received on VK5QI’s mobile station), only ~1800 of these made it into the Habitat tracking database! This is likely a result of upload timeouts – some changes will be made to the software prior to the next Horus Binary flight so this issue can be further debugged. Still, the new mode performed incredibly well in the chase cars, providing  rapid and regular updates to the chase car mapping systems.

Thanks again to all who helped track the flight using both Wenet, RTTY, and the new modem. Expect the Horus Binary mode to make appearances on more flights in the future!

Upcoming Launches

To give more listeners an opportunity to decode the new Horus Binary mode (and to use up some leftover gas from Horus 49!), a small balloon launch will take place sometime in Late July. This will be a ‘small’ balloon launch (as per the CASR Part 101.E definition), flying a re-purposed RS41 radiosonde clocking in at just over 40 grams. A new version of the Horus Binary decoder will be released prior to this launch to allow better analysis of the upload issue encountered on Horus 49.

Also coming up is the 20th anniversary of AREG – as part of the celebrations, we will be performing Project Horus’s 50th launch! On this flight we expect to fly:

  • A 2m/70cm Cross-Band repeater, similar to what was flown at the WIA AGM launch.
  • A SSTV transmitter, sending images in the PD120 SSTV mode.
  • An APRS beacon (depending on weight budget)

.. along with the usual telemetry and cutdown payloads. Stay tuned!

Horus 49 – Anstey in Space – NEW DATE CONFIRMED

UPDATE: Anstey was successfully launched to a height of 36374 metres, followed by a landing in the Murray Mallee and a recovery by AREG and Riverland Radio Club members. A full write-up of the launch will be posted in the next few days.

Anstey at 36km Altitude on Horus 49!

Back in 2016, AREG & Project Horus helped Anstey the Echidna, the Tea Tree Gully Library’s mascot, explore near-space. Anstey didn’t have enough fun on the previous launch, and so on the 8th of July 2018, we will be re-launching Anstey back into near-space on a high-altitude balloon launch!

Anstey in near-space on Horus 39

The launch is currently scheduled for 10AM CST on Sunday the 8th July, however as usual, weather conditions may cause this to be re-scheduled. The launch will be from the Mt Barker High School Oval, and spectators are welcome. Launch crew should be on-site from approximately 9AM.

Tracking of the flight will be available via the HabHub tracker.

Telemetry Information

The telemetry frequencies for the flight are as follows:

  • RTTY Telemetry – ‘HORUS’ – 434.650 MHz  (100 baud, 425 Hz Shift, 7N2)
  • Wenet Imagery – 441.200 MHz (Wenet 115kbps FSK)
  • Experimental Horus Binary Payload – 434.640 MHz (100 baud 4FSK)

As usual, the RTTY telemetry can be decoded using dl-fldigi.


Note: Recent testing of dl-fldigi’s decode performance has found that the auto-configured RTTY receive bandwidth is too narrow, and can detrimentally impact decode performance (by up to 3dB!).

To fix this, open dl-fldigi, and in the Configure menu, select Modems, and then go to the ‘RTTY’ tab. Drag the ‘Receive filter bandwidth’ slider to 200, then click ‘Save’. Note that this setting will be reset whenever you hit the ‘Auto-Configure’ button!


Wenet Imagery

As with most Project Horus launches, this flight will feature live imagery via the Wenet high-speed imagery downlink. Images will be available throughout the flight at this link:

http://ssdv.habhub.org/HORUS

Reception of the Wenet signal requires a RTLSDR and a Linux PC/Laptop. Instructions on how to set up the required software are available here.

Experimental 4FSK Telemetry

This launch will include the use of a re-purposed Vaisala RS41 radiosonde, programmed to transmit a new binary 4FSK telemetry mode, developed by David VK5DGR and Mark VK5QI. This new mode is intended to eventually (read: probably a year away) replace RTTY telemetry on Horus flights. It runs at 100 baud, is approximately 850 Hz in bandwidth, and has an almost 6dB performance improvement over the current RTTY telemetry! 

Decoding this telemetry requires installation of a new decoder application (an updated version of FreeDV), and some helper scripts to upload the data to the online tracker. A guide on how to install and operate this new decoder is available here.

Conclusion

More information will be available closer to the flight!

REMINDER: Horus 48 Telemetry Test from Mt Lofty TOMORROW

THOR Receiver Tune & Test Day – Sunday 4th March ~10:30AM CDST

To help stations adapt to the new THOR16 signal, this coming Sunday there will be the opportunity for stations in the Adelaide metropolitan area to set up dl-fldigi as per the linked guide below and have a go receiving a higher-power version of the THOR16 signal. This will be broadcast from Mt Lofty Summit by Mark VK5QI. Mark will be on the VK5RSB 70cm repeater (439.900 -5MHz / 91.5Hz CTCSS) as ‘technical support’, to help assist setting up the software. The signal should be easily receivable from the Adelaide Metro area and some surrounds.

Look for the test signal on 434.640MHz

DL-FLDIgi Setup for THOR16

As usual, use dl-fldigi to decode telemetry, but in the case of the THOR16 payload, you will have to manually select the operating mode from the drop-down list as follows:

 

ADVANCE NOTICE – Horus 48 – Telemetry Test Flight & Test Transmission

On the weekend of the 10-12th of March (exact day TBD), Project Horus will be performing a small (not-so-)high-altitude balloon launch from Mt Barker. The flight will be a short one (~1.5 hrs), with a maximum expected altitude of only 13km. All the payloads have been custom-built to be very lightweight – the total payload mass for this launch is < 300 grams!

The aim of this flight is to evaluate the performance of a new telemetry payload, which uses ‘THOR16‘ modulation. While about half the speed of the current RTTY payload, the THOR modes utilise forward error correction and interleaving. This promises to reduce or remove issues with mobile flutter and multi-path fading that we encounter with RTTY. In short, while we may not be getting telemetry sentences quite as often, we will have a much higher chance of the telemetry that is received being useful to us!

THOR Receiver Tune & Test Day – Sunday 4th March ~10:30AM CDST

To help stations adapt to the new THOR16 signal, this coming Sunday (a week prior to the launch) there will be the opportunity for stations in the Adelaide metropolitan area to set up dl-fldigi as per the linked guide below and have a go receiving a higher-power version of the THOR16 signal. This will be broadcast from Mt Lofty Summit by Mark VK5QI. Mark will be on the VK5RSB 70cm repeater (439.900 -5MHz / 91.5Hz CTCSS) as ‘technical support’, to help assist setting up the software. The signal should be easily receivable from the Adelaide Metro area and some surrounds.

Look for the test signal on 434.640MHz

Horus 48 Launch Campaign – Tentative 10-12th March

For the actual launch the following weekend, the telemetry frequencies for the flight are as follows:

  • RTTY – ‘HORUS’ – 434.650 MHz
  • THOR16 – ‘THORUS’ – 434.640 MHz

Both payloads are running 10mW transmit power, and have essentially identical antennas.

DL-FLDIgi Setup for THOR16

As usual, use dl-fldigi to decode telemetry, but in the case of the THOR16 payload, you will have to manually select the operating mode from the drop-down list as follows:

If you have the capability of running two 70cm receivers, please consider running two instances of dl-fldigi to decode both payloads. This may require either multiple PCs, or multiple sound cards. If you can only run a single receiver, please try and alternate between the different telemetry payloads.

We would very much appreciate reports as to your experiences decoding the different telemetry payloads – please e-mail these through to vk5qi@rfhead.net

Tracking for the launch will be available on the HabHub online tracker. We hope to see you as part of the tracking nets!

 

73 de Mark VK5QI

 

 

Horus 47: SHSSP 2018 Science Flight Report

Following unfavourable weather conditions the previous weekend, the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group planned a second attempt to fly the science payloads for the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program 2018 on Sunday February 4th. Again, the weather was not cooperating, which forced a change of the launch site in order to get off the ground. This meant a very early start as the launch teams left Adelaide at 7.00am to trek 150km east of the city into the Murray Mallee.

This flight was carrying a number of science experiments for the SHSSP students. This year the focus was on space navigation, so one particular focus was using the GPS data coupled with an initertial measurment unit to be able to plot the angle and direction of the camera taking the photos. The other experiment was a spectrometer which was measuring the precise wavelengths of light.

SHSSP18 Downward facing camera (courtesy UniSA and SHSSP)

Launch Preparation

Launch preparations began about 9am after the crew had arrived at the launch site. Thanks must go to Chris VK5CP who arranged access with the farmer who’s paddock we borrowed for the morning. Along the way the obligotory bakery stop had been made in the township of Mannum (I can vouch for their blueberry scrolls). Today we had a couple of new faces on the flight team, with Marcus VK5WTF and Mark VK5QN stepping in to give us a hand. Also on site was Mark VK5QI (Payload), Grant VK5GR (Balloon) and Will VK5AHV (Balloon). The team laid everything out and commenced assembling both the balloon train and the filling apparatus.

At the same time, Grant VK5GR started up his frist time chase vehicle and coaxed all of the linked software systems to life. Thanks to some loaned antennas from Matthew VK5ZM and LoRa receivers from Mark VK5QI, Grant was able to establish a full telemetry and tracking suite in just a matter of days to help assist with the chase.

Marcus filmed the proceedings too and you can see a short timelapse here of inflating the balloon.

Meanwhile, Mark VK5QN and Mark VK5QI (yes that did get confusing) assembled the balloon train. Mark VK5QN with his climbing and scouting background did a professional job of tying the balloon train together. You are most welcome to come again Mark!

Lift-Off

Finally the time came for liftoff. Mark VK5QI checked in with ATC Melbourne and we were given our clearance to fly. The team raised the balloon train and was thankful that we had almost zero ground winds. Mark did a final check that all the payloads were transmitting using a new handheld flight status monitor he had been working on and gave the the green light to commence countdown.

Grant VK5GR then released the balloon and we witnessed a near text book launch. As it climbed, the balloon hit it’s ascent target speed of 5m/s and everything looked good for a successful flight. The ground teams then scrambled to pack everything away and get rolling. It was going to be a long chase, with the landing zone predicted to be up in the north eastern Barossa Valley, and a detour around the River Murray required past Bow Hill and up to Blanchtown so that delays on the river car ferrys could be avoided.

Tracking Control

Meanwhile 58km to the north west, the ground tracking crew of Peter VK5KX and Darin VK5IX were awaiting signal aquisition as the balloon cleared the horizon. They had lots of signals to track this flight, including the 100 Baud RTTY, the LoRa Telecommand system and two Wenet Imaging payloads. Peter again setup his automated tracking antenna (seen on the previous week’s flight) and with Darins help was able to collect and upload to the internet the image signals from both payloads.

Peter took the following video of the Wenet systems in action

The Chase

Meanwhile, back in the two chase cars, Marcus VK5WTF, Mark VK5QI and Will VK5AHV headed out first and made the dash up to the valley.

Mark VK5QN and Grant VK5GR had a slightly slower start, as they had to first drop the gas trailer at a staging point in Younghusband before they too could join the chase.

Wenet Images

This was the first time the balloon and been flown this far NE of Adelaide so it was great to see some different angles of the state. The weather was nearly perfect as well with hardly a cloud in the sky. These photos were taken by the AREG Wenet payload with an outward facing camera.

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One of the last photos actually captured a shot of Mark VK5QI’s chase car as the team was fortunate to be in visual range of the landing.

Grant’s team wasnt quite so lucky due to a software issue involving timezones and the prediction tools and he didnt make it to the landing zone until about 5 minutes after it landed.

Once the balloon landed, both teams met up with the local land owner before being given permission to drive in and pick up the payloads. We were very lucky that the balloon landed approximately 100m from the access track in an empty stubble field. Definitely one of the easier recoveries of recent times!

After we bid farewell to the land owner it was off back home – of course via another bakery (this time in the main street of Truro). Mark’s chase team had the luxury of being able to head straight back to Adelaide. Meanwhile Grant had to return to Younghusband to pick up the gas bottles and trailer. For the VK5GR team it was nearly a 600km 10.5hr round trip this time.

Flight Path & Statistics

Horus 47 flew an interesting course this time. This is a rather uncommon flight track for the AREG team.

The flight statistics are below

MetricResult
Flight Designation:Horus 47 - SHSSP18 #2
Launch Date:04/2/2018 23:59:04 UTC
Landing Date:04/2/2018 02:19:52 UTC
Flight Duration:2 Hours 30 Minutes
Launch Site:-34.878614 139.492314
Landing Site:-34.313174 139.107985
Distance Traveled:72.7 km
Maximum Altitude:32,507 m

Again many amateurs from across the state got involved in telemetry collection. We wish to thank everyone who took part as you all help make the chase and recovery more successful.

The following is the chart of who contributed to the telemetry gathering effort:

Thanks goes to the following who contributed: VK5QI, VK5KJP, VK5ST, VK5NEX, VK5EU, VK5APR, VK5KX, VK5GR, VK5FTAZ, VK5ZAI, VK5DJ, VK5FAAP, VK5ZEA, VK5ALX, VK5KIK

A few stations also contributed to receiving the Wenet digital imaging downlinks. These stations were:

SHSSP1 Payload

  • VK5APR: 145509 packets (35.52 MB)
  • VK5WTF: 91884 packets (22.43 MB)
  • VK5EU: 146129 packets (35.68 MB)
  • VK5DSP (UniSA Team): 133871 packets (32.68 MB)
  • VK5KX: 99419 packets (24.27 MB)

VK5ARG Payload

  • VK5QI: 198691 packets (48.51 MB)
  • VK5KX: 185197 packets (45.21 MB)

Conclusion

So that marks the end of the story for the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies balloon launch program for 2018. We hope everyone had a great time and again thank everyone who contributed or participated in making the flights possible!

73 till next time de VK5ARG

Acknowledgements: Thanks to VK5QI, VK5QN, VK5GR, VK5WTF, VK5KX, VK5IX, VK5AHV and SHSSP for all the material in this report.

Horus 46: International Space University – Jan 2018

The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group teamed up again this year with the International Space University’s Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program to simulate a space mission using Helium fueled high altitude balloons.

The Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program is an intensive, five week, live-in experience built around an international, intercultural, and interdisciplinary (3 “I”s) educational philosophy for which the International Space University (ISU) is renowned. The program provides a multidisciplinary understanding of the key activities and areas of knowledge required by today’s space professions, including:

• Space science and exploration
• Space applications and services
• Human spaceflight and life sciences
• Space systems engineering and technologies
• Space policy and economics
• Space business and project management and
• Space law and regulatory issues

The Balloon Mission – 2018

The original plan was to fly a multi-faceted ‘heavy’ mission that included downward as well as outward facing cameras, inertial measurement units reporting the camera orientation (so that the photos could be plotted and stitched together after the flight) and a spectrometer studying atmospheric gas makeup.

Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating, with flight paths landing in severe bush-fire rating zones within the Adelaide Hills, a risk the AREG team were not willing to take. So, at the 11th hour, the plan was re-cast to collect only outward images, without the flight termination devices on board, using disposable payloads. Thus, Horus 46 was born and flew on the 28th of January.

Predicted Flight track before launch

The Launch

 

(Video provided by Timothy Ryan @AstroTimOz)

The launch teams arrived at Serefino WInery at 8.00am and by 8:10am we had selected the launch and tracking sites. This year, due to the very calm ground winds we were able to lift off from the front lawns. The SHSSP students then helped with preparing the flight and filling the balloon. Grant VK5GR led the filling operations, aided by Josh VK5JO and WIll VK5AHV  while Mark VK5QI tended to the payloads, Peter VK5KX and Bill VK5DSP tended to the ground station receivers and Matt VK5ZM (club president) secured the balloon train and handled the publicity aspects of the event for AREG.

Telemetry and Images

Telemetry collection was vitally important for this flight as it represented about the only way that we were getting pictures back from the balloon. To this end, we again enlisted the help of Peter VK5KX and Bill VK5DSP who provided the primary image downlink stations for the day.

Mark VK5QI’s X-Quad antenna from Wimo generated a lot of interest as well as the tracking rig which now takes GPS data from the telemetry and computes the correct azimuth and elevation to aim the antenna at to receive the balloon. Lots of work went into that system by multiple club members so it was great to see it out in anger.

Back in Adelaide, Peter VK5APR and Graeme VK5EU also made major contributions. The Wenet telemetry scoreboard in the end was:

  • VK5KX: 275015 packets (67.14 MB)
  • VK5APR: 153431 packets (37.46 MB)
  • VK5DSP: 13682 packets (3.34 MB)
  • VK5EU: 89418 packets (21.83 MB)
  • VK5QI: 200777 packets (49.02 MB)

Tracking the RTTY payload required some finesse this time as it was an original Micronut complete with AFSK spacing and frequency drift issues of old. None the less multiple stations were able to contribute to the flight data collection.

What the Balloon Saw

The most spectacular aspect of any of these flights are the pictures collected from the high altitude cameras. These never get old and this flight did not disappoint.

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(Slideshow from the flight)

The final flight track looked as follows

The flight stats are as follows:

MetricResult
Flight Designation:Horus 46 - SHSSP18 #1
Launch Date:27/1/2018 23:39:30 UTC
Landing Date:28/1/2018 01:58:43 UTC
Flight Duration:2 Hours 19 Minutes
Launch Site:-35.22103 138.55374
Landing Site:-35.38075 139.1722
Distance Traveled:58.8 km
Maximum Altitude:21,213 m

Attempted Recovery

As with all flights, there is a degree of uncertainty. So with Horus 46, while the expectation was that we wouldn’t be recovering this one, none the less an attempt was going to be made. Mark VK5QI set out with Will VK5AHV to track and attempt recovery anyway.

For a while it was looking positive, but alas this balloon “exceeded specifications” in a most annoying way. It flew higher than planned, in fact nearly 4km higher, which shifted the final landing zone well and truly into the waters of Lake Alexandrina.

Conclusion

A big thank you is again owed to everyone who contributed to the flight either through direct flight operations or through telemetry gathering. Stay tuned as we are still hoping to fly the main scientific payloads next weekend (weather permitting).