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 47: Set to Fly on Sunday 4th Feb for SHSSP!

After the successful Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program publicity flight last week, we are now planning to fly the Science flight this coming Sunday. This flight has two main experiments on it, the first being a Spectrometer which will collect atmospheric composition data for the university and the second is a downward facing camera with a 9DOF inertial measurement unit which is going to be used to create stitched together images from the flight area.

The flight will lift off at 10:00am ACDT on the 4th of February from Younghusband in the Murray Mallee ~150km east of Adelaide.

UPDATE 2018-02-05: This launch has been performed and was recovered successfully – a full writeup is incoming… 

Payload Telemetry Details

As always amateur radio operators from across central and SE Australia are encouraged to get involved with telemetry reception and forwarding to the central habhub.org database.

There are two camera payloads as well as the RTTY and telecommand systems planned for this flight.

  • Primary:      434.650MHz RTTY 100 baud 8N1
  • SHSSP-1:   441.2MHz FSK 115k2 baud Wenet (downward facing camera)
  • VK5ARG:    443.5MHz FSK 115k2 baud Wenet (outward facing camera)

Information on how to receive, decode and relay the information is available as follows:

RTTY Payload

The auto-configure feature within dl-fldigi will automatically configure these settings for you once you pick the correct flight (“Horus 47 / SHSSP 2018 MkII”). The UKHAS tracking guide provides the information you need to set up a RTTY receiver:   https://ukhas.org.uk/guides:tracking_guide

WENET Picture Payloads

Information on setting up to receive the Wenet imaging payload is available here: https://github.com/projecthorus/wenet/wiki/Wenet-RX-Instructions-(Ubuntu-Debian)

Note that this is a few orders of magnitude more complicated than setting up for RTTY, and requires a machine running a recent version of Ubuntu, some Linux experience, and a RTLSDR+Preamp. You also need to be within 100-150km of the balloon to receive sufficient signal.  If you have a WENET capable ground station please concentrate on the 441.2MHz downlink to maximise the data we collect for the university.

Tracking and Viewing Information

If you want to follow the progress of the flights, you can visit www.habhub.org and access the live tracking information as events unfold. You can also access the live SSDV images  from ssdv.habhub.org/VK5ARG

The predicted flight path at this time is:

Keep watching the AREG Website for details as things can always change the closer we get to lift off.

High Altitude Ballooning: Willunga HS Supported by Project Horus

The Willunga High School is planning to launch a high altitude balloon, planned for this Thursday, the 7th of December. Launch time will be around 10:30 AM ACST. This flight is being carried out by the teachers at Willunga High School.

While not a direct Project Horus Flight, it is being supported by the Project Horus team with tracking payloads, recovery services and telemetry feeds. Amateur Radio operators from across the state are invited to contribute to the telemetry collection activities which will use the same Internet resources as Project Horus does.

Flight Predictions

The predictions are a bit variable – there is a weather change coming through Thursday & Friday which are throwing things out. As of Sunday 3rd December’s model the balloon is landing somewhere near Ki-Ki, but this is expected to change. If the predictions change markedly, the launch may be rescheduled to Friday.

Target burst altitude is 30km, but depending on predictions the flight may be cut-down early to ensure a safe recovery.

The radio payloads on this launch are currently planned to be:

  • RTTY Telemetry – 434.650 MHz
  • Cutdown / Mission Control payload – 431.650 MHz
  • Wenet Imagery on 441.200 MHz

As usual, assistance with tracking is greatly appreciated.
Information on tracking the RTTY payload is available here: https://ukhas.org.uk/guides:tracking_guide

Live tracking of the flight will be available on the HabHub Tracker: https://tracker.habhub.org/#!mc=-34.8,139.0&mz=9

Finally, if we can get enough packets down from the Wenet payload, live imagery will appear here: http://ssdv.habhub.org/VK5ARG

More news as we get closer to the day!

AREG at Adelaide Maker Faire 2017 – Update!

AREG will again have a stand at the Adelaide Maker Faire on this weekend. The faire runs from 10am to 4pm this Sunday, at the Tonsley Innovation hub in Adelaide’s SE suburbs. The AREG team are planning on showcasing a raft of things that link making and building with Amateur Radio.

AREG is stand number 76!

What will AREG be doing?

 If you have ever wanted to find out more about our Project Horus high altitude balloon program, or radio direction finding, satellite tracking, home built magnetic loop antenna construction and much more then this is an ideal opportunity to come and talk to the club members about some of their regular activities and how they are always “Making Things” within the hobby of Amateur Radio.

One of the new projects on display will be the satellite tracker based on an earlier project by Joe VK3YSP and Julie VK3FOWL from SARCnet in Victoria. As an open source project, AREG members have been adapting it to track balloons based on the received GPS telemetry from our payloads.

 

So why not come on down! We would love to see you there. On site we hope to have a handheld listening on 439.025. We would also love to make QSOs with people on the VK5RSB 6m repeater (53.75MHz / 52.75MHz) which we will be accessing using a magnetic loop antenna from the site.

Horus 44: Flight Report – Riverland BRL Field Day

On April 22nd 2017, the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group conducted an Amateur Radio focused balloon launch from the Riverland Radio Club’s VK5BRL Weekend event at Overland Corner Hotel in the Riverland. This launch was carried out to bring some interesting amateur radio based experiments to a new audience, and also to encourage more tracking stations to take part in Project Horus from the Riverland region (which is often a landing ground for the flights from the Adelaide Hills).

Ground Control

The launch campaign began at 9.00am with Bob VK5FO and Ray VK5RR helping Ivan VK5HS set up the balloon ground control station at the BRL Weekend event.

Horus 44 was the first flight of a new 2m/70cm voice repeater so we also were making contacts through the balloon using the VK5WOW special event callsign throughout the flight, promoting the Wireless Institute of Australia’s AGM which was being held in VK5 a few weeks later.

Launch Crew

Meanwhile the ground crew started preparations to launch the payloads. AREG members Matt VK5ZM, Mark VK5QI, Grant VK5GR, Darin VK5IX and Kim VK5FJ worked on assembling the payload train and filling the balloon with helium.

The predicted flight track was to take us east, to land tot he north west of Renmark. We certainly hoped is would follow that track, as there were many inaccessible obstacles in the Murray River marshlands area.

Lift Off

We were going to find out soon enough! Lift off was a text book effort, and straight away people were accessing the repeater, able to make contacts with VK5WOW. The only issue noticed early on was that the repeater’s receive filters were very narrow, enough to cause the mute to shut if you spoke to loudly. Even with that issue, contacts streamed through think and fast.

Once in the air, the repeater ran hot. The following stations made contact with VK5WOW via the balloon:

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The repeater footprint continued to expand, and just reached Melbourne before the balloon burst.

WENET brings Superb Pictures

In addition to the voice repeater, the WENET camera payload also flew collecting stunning images of the Riverland region from the air.

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Chase & Recovery

Meanwhile the chase teams had driven to Renmark and were watching intently as the balloon progressed along its path.  The two AREG teams were joined this time by Peter VK5PE and a crew from the Riverland Radio Club. The local knowledge they brought to the chase was invaluable!

At one stage we became quite nervous as it appeared it may actually land in the marshes. However, the winds once again became favorable and the landing zone looked very good indeed.

Recovery occurred after a short hike into a local conservation park, but not before we watched the balloon descend gracefully from about 1500m elevation!

Flight Statistics

The fight track for Horus 44 shows that there were fairly light high altitude winds on this day. Once clearing the ground winds the flight profile was remarkably vertical.

The detailed flight statistics are:

MetricResult
Flight Designation:Horus 44 - BRL Weekend
Launch Date:22/4/2017 01:36:17 UTC
Landing Date:22/4/2017 04:25:41 UTC
Flight Duration:2 Hours 49 Minutes
Launch Site:-34.153467 140.339623
Landing Site:-34.107695 140.651783
Distance Traveled:29.1 km
Maximum Altitude:29,953 m

This time we saw major contributions from many of our ground stations too. The following pi-chart shows who collected telemetry for this flight.

Conclusion

It was a very successful flight! A huge thank you again to everyone who was involved, and in particular to the Riverland Radio Club for the invitation to come and fly from their back yard. Thanks also to the AREG members who traveled and stayed in the Riverland to fly Horus 44, with a special thanks to Sharon VK5FSAW who once again helped with logistics through catering the lunches for those chasing the balloon!

Horus 45 Balloon Flight for WIA Convention 2017 – Preparation Underway!

The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group is please to announce that it will be supporting the WIA AGM & Convention weekend with a balloon launch. This launch will take place from Hahndorf Oval, as part of the “Come and Try Radio” activities day to be held on Sunday 21st May.

This event is aimed at promoting the many different facets of Amateur Radio and giving people the opportunity to learn about how to get involved. AREG will be manning two complete tracking stations at the event, one a fixed ground station and the other will be one of the chase cars decked out in the equipment we use to chase balloons in.

The main aim is to get more people interested in tracking the balloons!

 

 

Flight Payloads

The payloads are still being finalized, as the jet-stream has returned and there are concerns that the flight could be carried downrange much further than planned.

Balloon Repeater Frequencies

The balloon repeater will be heard on:

  • INPUT: 145.775MHz with 91.5Hz CTCSS (+/- thermal drift of the receiver)
  • OUTPUT: 438.850MHz (+/- thermal drift of the transmitter) – 0.8W into 1/4wave omni

NOTE 1: The VHF frequency has changed this flight to avoid harmonic issues with the Wenet imaging payloads

NOTE 2: The repeater is built out of a received designed to receive Narrow FM (12.5kHz bandwidth) not the usual 25kHz wideband FM that amateurs use. Please keep your deviation down so that you can pass through the repeater without it closing it’s mute.

To transmit to the balloon at the maximum range of 800km (once the balloon reaches 100,000ft ++) you should only need approximately 10-20W and an 2-4dB gain antenna.

Receiving the balloon at 400km range in a handheld environment should be achievable, but to hear the repeater at the maximum range of 800km you should expect to need a 10dB gain Yagi for a 0.4uV capable receiver and 2dB feeder loss

This setup is much the same as the LEO satellites but without the high speed Doppler shift.

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU CAN HEAR IT BEFORE YOU TRANSMIT!

Other Balloon Payloads

Other payloads being flown on this flight will include:

  1. our standard 100bps 7N1 RTTY telemetry transmitter on 434.650MHz, and
  2. the Wenet imaging payload which will downlink on 441.2MHz at 115Kbit/s, and which will stream HD photos during the flight.

Images can be seen (here).

Tracking will again be available via www.habhub.org

Flight Time and Launch Location

If you would like to learn more about how to get involved in tracking the balloon, take a look at the following resources on the club website, or come on down to the launch on Hahndorf Oval. Preparations will begin around 1.00pm, with liftoff planned for 2.00pm. (See the location marked “Amateur Radio Come and Try Day”.

 

WIA AGM & Convention Special Event Callsign to be Net Control on the balloon repeater

The WIA AGM & Convention special event call sign VK5WOW and VI5WOW will be heard via the balloon repeater during the event. Contacts with VI5WOW and VK5WOW through the balloon will qualify for the award certificate.

Full details of the Convention 2017 award are available via  www.wia.org.au/members/wiaawards/agm2017/

UPDATE: Overland Corner Balloon Launch – Sat 22nd ~11am

Predicted Balloon Flight Track as at 7am 20th April

Preparations continue for the High Altitude Balloon launch, scheduled for Saturday morning from Overland Corner in the Riverland district of South Australia. This flight is one of the events that is planned as part of the BRL Weekend for the Riverland Radio Club.

The flight track prediction has been quite unstable for a few days but now has settled down into a reasonably accessible area near Renmark. This launch is being conducted in conjunction with the Riverland Radio Club’s BRL Weekend event at the Overland Corner Hotel.

Amateurs from across SA, VIC and NSW are invited to take part in one of the many amateur Radio facets of this flight, from receiving and relaying the telemetry, making contacts through the new balloon repeater and monitoring either direct or via the Internet the Wenet HD imagery payload.

Balloon Repeater Frequencies

This is the first test flight of a new experimental cross band voice repeater that has been built with weight in mind to fly under our balloons.The balloon repeater should be heard on:

  • INPUT: 147.500MHz with 91.5Hz CTCSS (+/- thermal drift of the receiver)
  • OUTPUT: 438.850MHz (+/- thermal drift of the transmitter) – 0.8W into 1/4wave omni

Please note that this repeater is experimental, and may have performance issues during the flight.

To transmit to the balloon at the maximum range of 800km (once the balloon reaches 100,000ft ++) you should only need approximately 10-20W and an 2-4dB gain antenna.

Receiving the balloon at 400km range in a handheld environment should be achievable, but to hear the repeater at the maximum range of 800km you should expect to need a 10dB gain Yagi for a 0.4uV capable receiver and 2dB feeder loss

This setup is much the same as the LEO satellites but without the high speed Doppler shift.

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU CAN HEAR IT BEFORE YOU TRANSMIT!

Additionally, the receiver used in the repeater (a Dorji DRA818) appears to have quite sharp receive filters, which results in the repeater dropping out if the input signal is over-deviated (>4.8 kHz dev). Please talk using a regular speaking voice when using the repeater to avoid issues.

Special Event Callsign via the Balloon

As part of the WIA AGM & Convention weekend promotion, we also hope to activate VK5WOW, the special event callsign for that event, via the Balloon Repeater!

Contacts with the special event callsign via the balloon will qualify towards the Convention Award. The flight payloads will be one of the topics presented at the convention by Mark VK5QI, so make a contact through the balloon and then come on down to Hahndorf between May 19-21st to hear about how Project Horus flys and how you too can get involved in this fascinating aspect of the hobby!

Other Balloon Payloads

Other payloads being flown on this flight will include:

  1. our standard 100bps 7N1 RTTY telemetry transmitter on 434.650MHz, and
  2. the Wenet imaging payload which will downlink on 441.2MHz at 115Kbit/s, and which will stream HD photos during the flight.

Images can be seen (here).

Tracking will again be available via www.habhub.org

If you would like to learn more about how to get involved in tracking the balloon, take a look at the following resources on the club website.

Caveats – The weather may beat us

There is a small wrinkle in the plans currently and that is the weather. There have been significant rainfalls across the region in the last few days which may have made many of the dirt roads we might need to use impassable. The team is monitoring the situation and will advise if we have to call it off due to access. It currently depends on where the landing zone ends up. Stay tuned, and understand we are trying to plan a way to ensure we do get into the air on Saturday!

“BRL Gathering” Balloon Repeater Launch – April 22nd – UPDATE

The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group is please to announce that it will be supporting an Amateur Radio focused balloon launch, to take place at the Riverland Radio Club’s VK5BRL Weekend event at Overland Corner Hotel in the Riverland.

This event is aimed at bringing together members of the Riverland Radio Club and amateurs from across SA & Victoria, in particular those who participate in the VK5BRL bi-weekly net on HF (heard on 7115kHz  at 8.30am Wednesday and Saturdays).

The morning festivities start off with an early breakfast of coffee, tea and of course bacon,  eggs and sausages.  This is then followed by the BRL net.   The AREG are looking to launch the balloon some time around 11am (to be confirmed) when the NOTAM is raised later this week.

AREG & Project Horus Involvement

The AREG will be marking this weekend with a special balloon flight. It has been some time since the flying repeater was heard on air, so it was felt that it was time to put some more amateur radio back into the balloon flights.

Balloon Repeater Frequencies

The balloon repeater will be heard on:

  • INPUT: 147.500MHz with 91.5Hz CTCSS (+/- thermal drift of the receiver)
  • OUTPUT: 438.850MHz (+/- thermal drift of the transmitter) – 0.8W into 1/4wave omni

Please note that this repeater is experimental, and may have performance issues during the flight.

To transmit to the balloon at the maximum range of 800km (once the balloon reaches 100,000ft ++) you should only need approximately 5-10W and an 2-4dB gain antenna.

Receiving the balloon at 400km range in a handheld environment should be achievable, but to hear the repeater at the maximum range of 800km you should expect to need a 10dB gain Yagi for a 0.4uV capable receiver and 2dB feeder loss

This setup is much the same as the LEO satellites but without the high speed Doppler shift.

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU CAN HEAR IT BEFORE YOU TRANSMIT!

Additionally, the receiver used in the repeater (a Dorji DRA818) appears to have quite sharp receive filters, which results in the repeater dropping out if the input signal is over-deviated (>4.8 kHz dev). Please talk using a regular speaking voice when using the repeater to avoid issues.

As we will be flying from Overland Corner instead of near Adelaide, coverage at apogee should almost reach Canberra. Contacts from Melbourne to Adelaide through the balloon should definitely be possible.

Other Balloon Payloads

Other payloads being flown on this flight will include:

  1. our standard 100bps 7N1 RTTY telemetry transmitter on 434.650MHz, and
  2. the Wenet imaging payload which will downlink on 441.2MHz at 115Kbit/s, and which will stream HD photos during the flight.

Images can be seen (here).

Tracking will again be available via www.habhub.org

If you would like to learn more about how to get involved in tracking the balloon, take a look at the following resources on the club website.

WIA AGM & Convention Special Event Callsign to be Net Control on the balloon repeater

The Riverland Radio Club will be activating the WIA AGM & Convention special event call sign VK5WOW via the balloon repeater during the event. Contacts with VK5WOW through the balloon will qualify for the award certificate.

Full details of the Convention 2017 award are available via  www.wia.org.au/members/wiaawards/agm2017/

Stay tuned for further details as the flight is finalised. We will announce the final flight time later this week as well as the predicted balloon track.