AREG-Horus SHSSP Balloon Flight – Summary

ISU LogoThe Australia Day launch of the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program high altitude balloon payload under an AREG / Project Horus balloon was a great success! Launched from the Mt Barker High School, in the Adelaide Hills, it was an almost “text book” launch.

AREG Flight Support Preparation

The AREG launch team were on site early in the morning to prepare for the event.  Matt VK5ZM made sure very knot was tied correctly while Mark VK5QI, Scott VK5TST and Ben VK5BB prepared the AREG payloads. Andrew VK5AKH and Gary VK5FGRY helped set up the event “environs” with the marquee and bollards/bunting to guide the crowd that was expected. Grant VK5GR meanwhile recorded the event (and will be making a short launch video soon). The flight used a 1600g latex balloon and was “powered” by Helium. Two AREG payloads flew, being the primary RTTY telemetry on the 434MHz band and the telecommand LoRa package used to control early flight termination if the need arose.

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The AREG crew were joined by the SHSSP participants and event organisers from the University of South Australia and International Space University a little later in the morning.

ISU Students getting involved

Balloon filling operations were supervised by Mark VK5QI who enlisted the help of several of the ISU students to control the balloon as it went through flight preparations.

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ISU Payload Preparation

The ISU payload included multiple SHIRTLOGOsensors and a telemetry transmitter of it’s own. There were three cameras onboard, a video camera looking down and an IR camera looking down and a stills camera looking out. The payload telemetry consisted of a 9600bps VHF data feed that the Uni was testing on the 2m amateur band (for a future Cubesat mission). The controller for their payload was based on a Raspberry Pi. The end result was impressive considering the students had little more than a week from concept to realisation!

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Balloon Launch

The launch was attended by visiting dignitaries from the Mt Barker Council including Mayor Ann Ferguson, various media reporters from several TV and radio networks and by more than 150 members of the public. It was presided over by John Connolly from NASA who is their ISU representative, as well as Associate Professor David Bruce from the University of South Australia.

The launch itself went faultlessly, with the surface winds dropping off at the last second to make it an easy gentle vertical ascent.

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Flight Tracking

habhubloogoA major contribution to the success of the flight was the reception and relaying of tracking data from a large network of amateur radio stations across South Eastern Australia.

To enhance the sense of involvement by the amateur radio community, the AREG operated the main telemetry beacon under the special amateur radio callsign of AX5ARG-1, to mark the occasion of the launch taking place on Australia Day. This captured the imagination of many first time tracking stations. It was great to see over 35 stations, including many first time contributors adding to the successful collection of flight telemetry.

AREG will be offering a special commemorative QSL card to mark this flight to all stations who can show they receive the telemetry. If you managed to upload data to then you automatically qualify. However, if you copied telemetry but didn’t manage to get it into the HabHub system, please send an email with a screen shot or captured telemetry frame to for inclusion in the SWL QSL card logs.

VK5RM-Screen Shot 01-26-16 at 11.36 AM

Screenshot of tracking courtesy AX5RM (relayed from VKLogger Forum)

launch 2Stations who heard the balloon and reported via HabHub:


AREG member Peter, VK5KX also made a major contribution establishing a remote telemetry command post high atop of the eastern rim of the Mt Lofty ranges. From there he was able to not only collect telemetry but also help the ground chase crews with liaison communications. Thanks Peter for your important contribution.

rrc-VK5HS-trackingteam-20160126_114429AREG’s good friends out at the Riverland Radio Club also made an impact not only with tracking but through publicity on ABC Riverland radio as well! Thanks Ivan VK5HS and the team!


Chase and Recovery

Finally, probably the most significant taskballoontrackshssp-2016 considering all that had gone before, was to recover the payloads once they landed. Three tracking teams were out in the field lead by Matt VK5ZM/Grant VK5GR in car 1, Mark VK5QI/Gary VK5FGRY/David VK5DGR in car 2 and a team from ISU in car 3.

The chase was one where best laid plans changed at the last minute. By quirk of fate, the VK5ZM team didn’t actually obtain the wind predictions used to drive the tracking system until after the 1800Z Global Forecast System model was released, which gave us a surprise. Overnight, the jet stream had intensified, which resulted in the balloon traveling ~25km further down-range than planned. This changed our chase route quite substantially at the last minute and instead of targeting Bow Hill, the VK5ZM team headed for Karoonda. Meanwhile the VK5QI team which had departed earlier was already heading for Bow Hill.

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In the end, the two AREG recovery vehicle teams rejoined each other out on the road and were on site before the balloon landed. However, due to local terrain and access restrictions, we did not catch sight of the parachute landing this time. The recovery teams had 3km of rough 4WD tracks and paddocks to negotiate and a further 2 km round trip hike through the thick Mallee using classic radio direction-finding techniques to navigate to the payload and then back to their vehicles.

Flight Statistics

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Thanks to all involved!

The SHSSP and AREG teams were ecstatic over the success of the event and there was also very good media coverage. Stories were aired on ABC891 radio in Adelaide and on ABC Riverland (thanks to the Riverland Radio Club who were following the event) as well as on NWS9-TV Adelaide and the ABC-TV South Australia news. The SHSSP event organisers were thank-full to the AREG for their contribution to the success of their stratospheric balloon launch project.

Many thanks must also go to all amateur radio operators who tracked and uploaded the telemetry data as well as to the UK High Altitude Society who built, maintain and provide access to the system for tracking balloon flights!

FreeDV Broadcast 31st Jan 2016

sadfaceDue to technical issues this morning the FreeDV broadcast team were unable to take callbacks using FreeDV.

Announcements were made using analog SSB and a few reports were achieved.

Stations wishing to provide a signal report are encouraged to email the AREG with the usual details, email addresses can be found on the “contact us” page.

Thanks and our apologies again for not being able to participate in the callback in DV.

FreeDV Broadcast Team, VK5ARG

SHSSP Balloon Flight a Success! Payload Recovered.

SHIRTLOGOJust a short update to let everyone know that we have successfully recovered the payloads from a scrub landing. Photos, stories and more soon. People in Adelaide should watch the ABC TV news tonight to see the publicity!

Thanks to all of the Amateur Radio operators who helped collect telemetry for the flight too!



HOWTO: High Altitude Balloon Tracking for SHSSP Flight

Tracking Systemshabhubloogo

Project Horus has a long association with the UK High Altitude Society who provide an excellent platform for tracking on monitoring balloon flights through their website. HabHub will again be a major focus for tomorrows flight.

How can you get involved?

The tracking system works most effectively when multiple stations receive the frames and relay them to the Internet. There, they can feed the flight prediction system which can in real time update the predicted landing zone for the balloon! So, to support this project, we are encouraging as many amateurs as possible to make an attempt to listen for and decode the telemetry and upload it to the Internet during the flight.

Tracking System Overview2

Flight Telemetry Details

The telemetry for the flight will be broadcast on 434.450MHz using 100 bps RTTY (7N2) under the AX5ARG-1 callsign. The callsign itself for the telemetry beacon is significant as the AX prefix being used is something that Australian amateur radio operators can only use on Australia Day. The AREG will be publishing a special QSL card to confirm reception of the balloon telemetry. To qualify, you will need to ensure that you have your decoded telemetry frames uploaded to the tracking page.

Information on decoding and uploading balloon telemetry using dl-fldigi can be found on the UKHAS Wiki Pages here or via the AREG Balloon tracking pages here 

The main telemetry payload will also be transmitting an experimental 4-FSK modem signal, developed by David Rowe. These transmissions will occur in between the RTTY packets, and won’t be decoded by dl-fldigi. More information on these experiments can be found on David’s Blog.

Lift off is planned for ~9:30am on Tuesday 26th January! See you on the air!


DL-FLDigi Software decoding a balloon

UPDATE: SHSSP Balloon Launch Countdown Continues!


Preparations are well underway now for the launch of the Stratospheric Balloon flight being conducted as part of the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program for the International Space University.

The participants are already well advanced in constructing their payload and have it on test in readiness for the flight.

SHSSP Payload

SHSSP Payload


Flight track prediction for Tuesday morning!

AREG and the Project Horus team are also working behind the scenes readying the chase teams and looking at the probable landing zones. The good news is that it looks to be (provided the weather holds) a textbook flight, landing in one of the teams preferred touchdown locations.


High Altitude Balloon Launch – 26th Jan 2016

(c) 2016 International Space UniversityThe Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program (SHSSP) is jointly organised by the International Space University (ISU) and the University of South Australia. It is a unique, five week live-in experience focusing on an international, intercultural and interdisciplinary (3 “I”s) educational philosophy for which the ISU is renowned.

The SHSSP have asked the AREG who have considerable experience with high altitude ballooning in Australia to assist with their participant Stratospheric Balloon Project, culminating in a high altitude balloon launch on Australia Day, the 26th of January 2016.

The balloon launch will take place, weather conditions favourable, from the Mt. Barker High School in the Adelaide Hills, just east of Adelaide.

The launch is expected to be released between 09:30 to 09:45 am local CDST January 26th, or 23:00 to 23:15 UTC January 25th .

The balloon is expected to carry two payloads, one supplied by the SHSSP participants as part of their course project and the usual AREG/Horus telemetry payloads. Telemetry will the normal RTTY mode on 434.450 MHz USB.

Please keep your eyes on the AREG website for more details closer to the date.

Matthew, VK5ZM

UPDATE: 23rd January – Balloon will ID as AX5ARG-1!

As the launch is occurring on Australia day, and Radio Amateurs across Australia can also use the AX prefix on that day in their callsigns, AREG has determined that the callsign that the balloon RTTY telemetry beacon will use for this flight is AX5ARG-1.

To commemorate the special callsign, stations who provide evidence of receiving the telemetry beacon via the habhub tracking database (through the use of dl-fldigi) will be eligible for the special QSL card. We hope this will encourage more people to attempt to receive the balloon and relay the telemetry to the Internet during this flight!


WIA Sunday Broadcast – VK5ARG FreeDV Relay on 7177kHz

wia-logo-image_1_hiresThe AREG (VK5ARG) is conducting an experimental re-transmissions of the National and VK5 WIA News Service in the FreeDV-1600 mode.

The aim is to encourage amateur radio operators to come and try FreeDV HF Digital voice.

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If you have FreeDV set up with your HF station why not tune in and see how you go? You can use one of the many open source software packages or perhaps using an SM1000 FreeDV modem to receive (and transmit FreeDV. You can visit the AREG HF Digital Voice project page for more information as well!

Callbacks are conducted after the broadcast tiki-download_fileproviding an ideal opportunity for you to experiment further with FreeDV!

You can also log your FreeDV WIA Broadcast reception report here:

For more information about FreeDV please visit the website or log onto Internet Relay Chat (IRC) on ( and connect to the #freedv channel.

Update: 17th January 2016 Activity

Following on from the broadcast reports were coming in from around the country. Some could decode it successfully, some couldnt. As this is an experiment, we are interested in all results. The following are some of the feedback received:

Michael VK5ZEA in Port Lincoln (~230km away) posted these samples:

Andrew Scott VK3BA in Melbourne (~700km away) posted this sample:

Thanks to Andrew and Michael for posting samples of what they received online!

VK5ARG at the Summer VHF/UHF Field Day 2016

The WIA Summer VHF/UHF field day is about encouraging amateur radio operators to get out in the field to make contact with as many stations as possible over the greatest distance possible on all amateur frequencies above 50MHz. This makes it a very diverse and interesting contest as you have a variety of stations participating, including:

  • home stations operating any or all VHF / UHF and Microwave bands
  • portable stations running stations on bands between 50-1296MHz
  • portable stations specializing in microwave (usually bands between 1296-10368MHz) usually operating distant mountain tops.
  • roving stations which change location constantly throughout the contest

Distances are calculated using the Maidenhead grid locator system and contest contacts consist of exchanging signal strength, a contact sequence number and which grid square you are operating from.

This year, the AREG decided to mount a portable station using the Club call-sign, VK5ARG, which operated in the 8 hour division.

DSC_6422-web Bob, VK5FO and Ray, VK5RR arrived onsite just after 10am and after meeting Paul from the Salvation Army commenced the set-up of the station.  Andy VK5AKH arrived and assisted with the station set-up.


Ray VK5RR and Bob VK5FO setting up

The station was very similar to the Team DSC_6427-webVK5FI station that Bob and Ray set up for the Spring Field Day, with the addition of 23cm.

A few small changes were made to the station from the lessons learnt during the Spring FD – and that was ensuring that each band had a dedicated logging laptop and adding some headphones!

The addition of the club marquee was most welcome with temperatures in the mid 30’s – we were able to operate in relative comfort!

The station was set-up and ready to go a few minutes to go before the start time of the contest.

During the course of the day we had a few visitors drop in to take a look at the station, and Ben VK5BB, popped in for an hour or so and operated the 6m station for part of his time.

Everyone present had a great time, and the highlight of the day was Bob VK5FO making a few DX contacts on 6m – working 3x ZL stations an a VK4 station.

At the end of the 8 hours, the station was pulled down and packed up in about 45 minutes.

We would like to extend a special thank you to the Salvation Army Wynn Vale for allowing AREG access to their land behind the Hall.  The site proved to be quite good for this type of station with excellent take-off in all directions for VHF and UHF.

Photo Gallery from the Day!

AREG Members Roving during the Contest too!

While the club members were having fun manning the station in Adelaide, Matt VK5ZM and Grant VK5GR took a different slant on the contest and entered the Roving section operating as VK5GR.



VK5GR operating from Port Giles next to the silos

They started out the day by driving to Port Giles  on Yorke Peninsula. This was significant as it allowed them to activate major grid square PF84. 6m was the surprise here working VK7DD on 52.525 FM. Good contacts were also had with many Adelaide stations on 144 and 432MHz.

After about an hour they packed up and hit the road, contesting along the way. At each new 6 letter grid they came to they stopped for 5-10 minutes and made a set of contacts on both 2m and 70cm using just the mobile antennas on the car. The tropospheric ducting was strong across the gulf as all of the signals were S9++ – not bad for an average 70-100km path!

After Port Vincent it was decided that things needed to be sped up a little or the objective of at least 4 major grid squares in 8 hours wasnt going to be met. So they started contesting while mobile on the highway (at 100kph). This proved challenging as they now were working a new grid square about every 3-4 minutes! Usually there was time for 2-3 contacts per square on one or two bands before they had to stop, update their locator in the logging software and go again. They kept this routine up for about 8 squares before reaching the slag heap lookout at Ardrossan.

At Ardrossan they came across Tim M8Qe6el-smallVK5ZT who was participating in the microwave section of the contest. It was great to see the microwave guys in full swing! Matt and Grant then also broke out the 6m antenna and  gave some calls on both 50.2 SSB and 52.525 FM so that they could claim 6m for grid square PF85.

As time was then running short, they then decided to drop an attempt to work from PF86 (which was going to be a very difficult path to Adelaide) and instead focus on distance contacts from the northern edge of PF95 and southern edge of PF96. To do this they headed for Kulpara, where they also found Iain VK5ZD operating also in the microwave section. Some more 2m and 70cm contacts were had just from the mobile whips on the car (but with the advantage of ~200m elevation on top of the Hummocks range) before then packing up and heading for their last site of the day on Middle Range Hill near Nantawarra. This allowed them to activate grid square PF96ca.

Here they broke out the big guns and put up the 2m beam. A couple of contacts were made on SSB including to Port Pirie and the Riverland, plus multiple contacts back down into Adelaide. 6m and 70cm were also activated, with every contact on average exceeding 120-140km. Finally they dropped back into PF95cx for a 20 minute closing flurry before the 8 hours was up.


Everyone in the club who participated had a great day, be it on the road, operating from home or portable in Wynn Vale. It has certainly stirred up some enthusiasm so look out for VK5ARG operating in the Winter Field day in 2016! To hear more about the activities over the weekend come along to the club on Friday the 15th of January!