AREG June Meeting tomorrow night!

The June meeting of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group will be held Friday June 15th, starting at 7.45pm. There will be no formal presentation this month. Instead, after the business meeting to be held at 8.00pm there will be an opportunity for a members show and tell.

Bring along your latest gadget and give people a chance to look and see!

The meeting will be held at the Fulham Community Centre, off Phelps Court, Fulham. Hope to see you there!

Next AREG Meeting Friday May 18th – RF Connector Myths Dispelled

Like most Amateur Radio operators your shack probably contains a plethora of different RF connectors linking radios to tuners, antennas, amplifiers, receivers etc. Have you ever wondered why there are so many varieties? Have you ever wondered which ones are the right ones to use in a given situation? Do you run high power and have you considered whether your connectors are up to the task, especially if you are dealing with high VSWR leading towards your tuner?

Our guest speaker this month is Matt VK5ZM, who will take you through the different types of connector and provide an insight into their design and the criteria to consider when choosing them for your installation.


The meeting will start at 7.45pm at the Fulham Community Centre, off Phelps Court in Fulham (formerly known as the Reedbeds hall) with the presentation starting at 8.00pm. Following the meeting, tea coffee and cake will be served followed by a club business meeting.

Visitors are most welcome to come along – the meeting is open to everyone. We would love to see you down at the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group!

AREG Members Decoding SSTV from Space!

Captured by VK5QI SatNOGS gateway

AREG members across VK5 have been enjoying the latest series of SSTV broadcasts from the International Space Station this week coming from RS0ISS. The following from the AMSAT UK website tells more:

ARISS Russia is planning a special Slow Scan Television (SSTV) event April 11-14 from the International Space Station in celebration of Cosmonautics Day.

The transmissions are to begin on April 11 at 11:30 UT and run through April 14 ending at 18:20 UT.

Supporting this event is a computer on the ISS Russian Segment, which stores images that are then transmitted to Earth using amateur radio, specifically the onboard Kenwood TM-D710E transceiver.

Transmitted images will be from the Interkosmos project period of the Soviet space program https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interkosmos

The transmissions which were coordinated with the ARISS scheduling team, will be made on 145.800 MHz FM using the PD-120 SSTV mode.

The pictures here were captured by Theo VK5MTM, Graham VK5EU and Mark VK5QI in Adelaide on the 144MHz band using FM receivers.


Photos captured by Theo VK5MTM

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Photos Captured by Graham VK5EU

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April Meeting: Project Horus Update

The next meeting of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group will be held on Friday 20th April starting at 7.45pm. The presentation will be given by Mark VK5QI on the latest developments with the new telemetry systems and modes that are being developed and show how you can become involved. The talk will cover:

  • Results of the recent THOR16 test flight
  • A progress report on modifying the Bureau of Meteorology RS41 RadioSondes
  • An introduction to the new MFSK modem being developed

Members will also be introduced to a new proposed member payload launch program. It’s aim is to encourage experimentation and technical development among club members in the area of high-altitude balloon payload development.

Visitors as always are MOST WELCOME! You will find us at the Fulham Community Centre, Phelps Court, Fulham!

APRIL FOOLS: AREG Launches new “World Wide Car Parks” awards program!

Are you an Awards chaser?

An urban worker?

Have a young family that takes up all of your waking weekend hours ?

Do you find you just don’t have the time to go bush or climb
those lofty summits to participate in programs like WWFF or SOTA?

Then this new award is for you!

Many amateur operators today live in situations that prevent them accessing the great outdoors either during the week or the weekend. Perhaps your commute is your only radio activity, or maybe you are lucky and you’re “mobile” whilst at work but only have 2m/70cm FM on board. So much of our lives are spent driving to and from car-parks that there has to be another way to have the same amount of fun as the park and summits activator. So, the “Awards Team” at AREG put their thinking caps on and asked themselves – how can we enhance the amateur radio experience for those who find themselves in such circumstances?

Introducing the World Wide Car Parks Award!

The aim is to contact at least 42 points worth of contacts to qualify the car-park for an award. Points are awarded per contact based on a number of factors outlined in the rules below. The more car parks you qualify multiplied by the sum of all contact points accumulated then contribute to your leader-board score. It is as simple as that!

Once you have made and logged the contacts, you can submit them to our new awards site (details below). Once your contacts are confirmed you will automatically be emailed your award.

The Rules

VALID CONTACTS

  1. you must be located in a car park when making the contact to qualify for the award. Car park in this definition means a formal area/building set aside for parking cars that is not part of a street or road. (I.e. must be in a parking station – street parking is not accepted). There is an exception however to this rule which is if you are on a designated freeway (where parking is not normally permitted) and are moving at less than 5 kilometres/hour (3.1miles/hour).
  2. a contact must use some form of Amateur Radio somewhere in the process of communicating and include an exchange of call-signs, signal reports and car-park identifiers.
  3. a car park identifier will simply consist of the program prefix for your country, the first 4 letters of your grid square and then the street address of the car park. For example, VKCP-PF95-67FranklinStAdelaide+07. (we thought of serialising each car park like they do in WWFF however there are so many that we felt we would never keep up). The last number is important as it is the level of the car park you are operating from and affects the points awarded.

CONTACT POINTS

This is where the challenge lies. How many contacts you need to make to qualify a car park depends on the type of car park you choose and how you make the contact.

4. You get a bonus points for the type of car park and the floor number you operate from. So a contact made from an indoor parking station earns you:

  • Level 5 and above is worth 1 point
  • Level 4 is 2 points
  • Level 3 is 3 points
  • Level 2 is 4 points
  • Level 1 is 5 points (this is the ground floor)
  • 1 level below ground is 10 points
  • 2 levels below ground is 20 points
  • 3 or more levels below ground is 50 points

If you make a contact from an open air ground level car park each contact is only worth 1 point.

Contacts from a freeway moving less than 5km/h (3.1mph) count for 2 points always unless they are in an underground tunnel in which case they are worth 10 points x the length of the tunnel you are travelling through in kilometres.

5. Multipliers are available based on the nature of the contact. Scoring is then calculated based on the number of points total multiplied by the sum of all multipliers.

(a) Simplex contacts are worth 2 multipliers

(b) Use of repeaters, Hotspots, Echo link etc is allowed but do not add any multipliers.

  • in addition, the use of a DMR/Fusion/DSTAR hotspot over cellular provided internet to make the contact will only qualify where the car park in question does not have a cellular in building coverage antenna system inside it.
  • use of EchoLink only qualifies if connected over Cellular Internet and there is no in building cellular antenna system in the car park.

(c) The sum of all DXCC worked per car park can be added as a multiplier. (Note a special talk group on DMR will be established for the awards program plus new Fusion, DSTAR and Echolink conference channels so that the program does not impact day top day repeater operations).

6. Additional multipliers are available for the following activities:

  • Getting Locked in the car park over night – 50 multiplier points
  • Using car park infrastructure as an antenna – 20 multiplier points (Note 1)
  • Operation on MF from an indoor car park – 100 multiplier points (Note 2)
  • Operation on HF and 6m from an indoor car park – 10 multiplier points (Note 3)
  • The following is then a sliding scale as you move up in frequency:
    • 2m = 1 multiplier points
    • 70cm = 3 multipliers points
    • 23cm = 5 multiplier points
    • 13/9 and 6cm = 10 multiplier points
    • 3cm and above = 20 multiplier points
  • Car park to Car park contacts are worth 2 multiplier points

Note 1 – setting off the building fire alarms when transmitting using car park infrastructure will result in a disqualification!
Note 2 – only qualifies if the contact made from levels that are below ground
Note 3 – double points if doing this while driving in the car park and NOT destroying car park lighting infrastructure

AWARD ENDORSEMENTS

7. Special endorsements are available for types of vehicle and transmitted power level as well. These are expected to be sought after additions to your awards certificate.

  • RV and Van category – but only if the applicant has made indoor car park contacts from these vehicles without damaging car park infrastructure. (Indoor Car parks with high clearance are rare hence the value of this endorsement)
  • Motorbike MF category
  • QRP Category – less than 5W
  • Self Powered QRO Category – more than 100W PEP
  • Assisted Power QRO Category – more than 400W PEP – only valid from Tesla charging stations – see notes earlier about the fire systems
  • Hi-Rise Rooftop Parkour assisted Handheld Operation (qualifies for a special Hi-Rise on the Air (HOTA) award endorsement)

LOG SUBMISSION AND CERTIFICATES

To obtain your award, you need to work the required contacts and submit a log to the following web page. http://www.areg.org.au/Logs

If your log is accepted you will be emailed your certificate of achievement!

All logs must be received before April 1st each year in order to be considered for each year’s Honour roll so get cracking and see how many stations you can work!

Good Luck!

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

A. AREG is in no way to be held liable for your actions or behavior in a car park. You are expected to follow the rules of the car park operators at all times and always comply with the directions of security staff. If you have the SWAT team called on you for suspicious activities that is your issue.

B.AREG is not liable for any car parking fees you incur in acquiring contacts for this award. All parking costs are your own responsibility.

C. Self spotting is permitted. The committee is considering a bonus points scheme for the number of social media outlets one individual can find to alert people to their presence. There is a special trophy available if you manage to self spot by calling a commercial radio talk-back show and talking about what you are doing provided you get your operating frequency broadcast over the respective AM or FM station concerned.

D. Disputes with award scoring or validity will only be considered by the AREG committee once a year on April 1st before midday. Disputes must be forwarded to the correct galaxy and be filed in the cabinet at the bottom of the broken stairs in the draw above the one marked beware of the leopard in order for them to be considered by the committee. Don’t forget to take a torch as the light is broken.

High Altitude Ballooning: Horus 48 – Flight Report

At 10:08AM CDST, on the 11th of March 2018, Horus 48 was launched from Mt Barker.

This planning for this flight started out as an excuse to use up some helium leftover from the previous two launches, and quickly evolved into a mechanism for testing out some new payloads and launch concepts – the main one being the use of the ‘THOR16‘ data mode, which is considerably more robust to interference than RTTY, at the cost of being about 50% slower.

Horus 48 Payloads

Horus 48 Payloads

As we only had a limited amount of leftover helium available (~1.6m^3), the mass of the payloads had to be kept to an absolute minimum. New foam payload boxes were built with this in mind, with the new THOR16 and RTTY payloads weighing in around 70g each. (Thanks to Peter VK5KX for supplying the antenna wire!)

The week prior to the launch, a ‘test and tune day’ was conducted. An example THOR16 signal was broadcast from Mt Lofty summit, with many stations tuning in and decoding telemetry. The responses from this test were promising, with one station reporting he had much more success with THOR with it’s forward-error-correction, as local LIPD noise would disrupt RTTY decoding resulting in invalid telemetry.

Thanks to the following stations who participated – it was great to see so much interest!

VK5FJGM VK5ZAR VK5KJP VK5KIK VK5FTAZ VK5APR VK5NIG VK5NG VK5KX VK5AKK & VK5OI

Launch Preparation

The launch was quite light-on with helpers – Mark VK5QI and Will VK5AHV performed the launch activities, with help from David VK5DGR, Drew VK5XFG, Rod VK5ZOT and a few others.

The original intention to use a small 100g balloon went out the window the night before the launch, when it was discovered the specified burst diameter for the 100g balloon was not quite as expected – this would have resulted in a ~3km burst altitude! Instead an old 1000g Hwoyee balloon was used. The larger balloon meant all the gas in the cylinder had to be used up, and even this only resulted in an ascent rate of 2.5m/s (we usually aim for 5m/s).

To counter the low ascent rate, which would have resulted in a 4 hour long flight, and a landing well to the east of Bowhill, one of the Horus cutdown payloads was flown, allowing termination of the flight via a command from the ground. This cutdown payload used a newly developed cutdown device (to be kept under wraps for now!), which is intended to replace the nichrome wire string-cutter device previously used – Experiment #2 for this flight!

All up, the payloads combined only weighed ~300g. The smallest parachute we have in stock was used (a 2ft ‘Rocketman’), and was hung off the side of the balloon train instead of in-line with the payloads as we would usually do. This was to try and reduce the tangling of the parachute with the payload string that had been encountered on the last few flights – Experiment #3!

Launch & Chase

 

Launch was pretty much textbook – some light winds encountered during filling died down for an easy release into the skies. Will and Mark immediately headed off towards the target landing area, while David VK5DGR and co headed off to Mannum for a bakery stop.

At about 10km altitude the cutdown signal was sent to the payload, with the intent of landing the payload to the south-east of Mannum. The new cutdown device worked first-go – a success for Experiment #2! The payloads then quickly descended to a landing on a property just across the river from Port Mannum.

Will and Mark caught sight of the payloads at about 800m altitude, and were able to watch the payloads descending behind a hill, into an empty field. The parachute was clearly doing its job, and was not tangled up or ensnared in the other payloads – another successful experiment!

A quick discussion with the landowners (and their friendly dogs) and permission to enter the field and retrieve the payloads was granted. A short walk and the payloads were in hand!

Flight Statistics

Everything is more interesting with data – so here is the flight’s vital statistics.

MetricResult
Flight Designation:Horus 48 - THOR16 Test Flight
Launch Date:2018-03-10 23:38 UTC
Landing Date:2018-03-11 01:16 UTC
Flight Duration:1 Hour 37 Minutes
Launch Site:-35.07568, 138.85701
Landing Site:-34.93807, 139.31944
Distance Traveled:44 km
Maximum Altitude:10,187 m
Horus 48 Flight Path

Horus 48 Flight Path

New Telemetry System Performance

Even with a 10.2km maximum altitude, many receiver stations around the state were able to decode both the THOR16 and RTTY telemetry:

RTTY Telemetry Scoreboard
CallsignPackets HeardPercentage of Flight HeardPayload Alt at First RX (metres)Payload Alt at Last RX (metres)
VK5APR60.7%13921465
VK5DSP687.9%52556203
VK5EU78190.8%7571454
VK5FJGM/M18521.5%56048306
VK5HS44651.9%38783414
VK5KFB30335.2%58285649
VK5KIK586.7%27413749
VK5KJP64875.3%12443210
VK5KX-0177289.8%771163
VK5NG111.3%46724804
VK5OI15417.9%22656506
VK5QI-971282.8%35722
VK5TRM70.8%24981782
VK5ZAR26330.6%73035162
VK5ZM49057.0%2339163
VK5ST62372.4%31711260
VK5ZAI69480.7%18161843
THOR Telemetry Scoreboard
CallsignPackets HeardPercentage of Flight HeardPayload Alt at First RX (metres)Payload Alt at Last RX (metres)
VK5AKK27093.1%621903
VK5APR22979.0%9682688
VK5DSP16055.2%22283591
VK5EI27594.8%6211602
VK5FAAP22979.0%18251840
VK5FJGM/M12944.5%36301602
VK5HS10435.9%56432688
VK5KIK12743.8%8081132
VK5KX-0225889.0%1331307
VK5NEX23681.4%12172445
VK5NG17861.4%4853903
VK5NIG5619.3%14209863
VK5OI19165.9%7442325
VK5QI-913947.9%36231
VK5RR11840.7%60184988
VK5ST19968.6%33121840
VK5TRM3712.8%91187969
VK5ZAR15252.4%8612206
VK5ZEA13747.2%51186667

The callsign pie chart shows the combined result of both RTTY and THOR telemetry streams – great to see so many contributors this time!

So, was the THOR16 telemetry useful? It’s hard to tell with just one launch. From the chase-car, the following observations were noted:

  • The slow speed of THOR16 (one update every ~20 seconds) makes tracking the flight through critical stages like burst and descent difficult. The chase team ended up switching to the cutdown payload telemetry (updates every 5 seconds) to get more frequent position updates.
  • THOR16 was quite robust to mobile fading, however,
  • … fldigi has no automatic frequency correction for THOR16. While the payload’s transmitter didn’t drift very far, it did drift far enough for the performance of the demodulator to drop, resulting in quite a few lost packets until the issue was noticed.

Since the THOR16 payload is so light (only 65 grams) you can expect to see it on more upcoming flights – please continue to send in reports on how it compares to the RTTY payload!

Thanks again to all listeners who decoded data from the flight, including those who went portable to track the payload down to the ground (VK5KX, VK5ZM & VK5GR).

RTTY as received at VK5KX

THOR16 as received at VK5KX

Addendum: HabHub Tracker Issues

Some listeners noted issues with the Tracker where the payload list on the left side of the webpage did not populate. This is a known bug and is currently being worked on. The bug is related to window sizes, so if you re-size your browser window slightly it should re-draw the web-page, and the payload list should appear.

Next AREG Meeting: March 23rd – Introducing FT8 Mode

The next meeting of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group will be held  1 week later than usual this month, on Friday March 23rd. The date has been delayed as the SA State Election is being held on the 17th and the hall is being setup as a polling booth the night before (our usual meeting night).

The presentation for the evening will be “Introducing FT8 Mode, what is all the hype about?” by Grant VK5GR.

Grant has closely followed the development of FT8 since it’s inception and was an early user of it in DXpedition environments during his activation of Niue last year.

Areas to be covered will include:

  • a brief description of the FT8 protocol
  • the basic hardware and software requirements to get on air
  • how to get that little bit more out of FT8 – add on packages like JTAlert
  • a look at FT8 operating practices
  • how to chase rare DX using FT8 – a practical tips guide
  • a discussion about the new Expedition mode that has been developed

Currently a live demonstration is also being planned. Grant will be available for questions after the presentation during supper.


The meeting  will be held at the Fulham Community Centre (previously known as the ReedBeds) with parking accessed from Phelps Court, Fulham. The venue will be open from 7.45pm with the meeting starting at 8.00pm. Following the technical presentation there will also be the usual club business meeting.

Visitors are always welcome! So come along and meet the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group!

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: