Balloons Balloons Balloons – Two Launches next weekend!

horus-logo-blackProject Horus is having a very busy month! Next weekend, Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th of December we are flying a balloon on each day for two separate groups.

Saturday 3rd December – Tea Tree Gully Council – Horus 39

AREG was approached recently by the Tea Tree Gully Council Library to undertake a rather unique balloon flight. Their mascot, “Anstey the Echidna” wanted to go into space, having already been around the world to France, Italy, Ireland, Japan and New Zealand. Of course the Project Horus crew was happy to oblige!

Tea Tree Gully Library - Anstey in Space

Tea Tree Gully Library – Anstey in Space

We are hoping to not only record the film of Anstey’s journey on a GoPro camera, but the images from the flight are also going to hopefully be beamed down to earth live over the new ‘Wenet’ SSDV system that the project team is developing. Amateur Radio operators will be able to help out with the flight through telemetry collection from across SE Australia.

Horus 39 Flight Details


Anstey checking out the previous flight, learning how it is done!

Liftoff is planned for 11:00am ACDT – 3rd December from a location near Mylor in the Adelaide Hills. The payloads will be:

  • Standard RTTY Telemetry: 434.650 MHz, 100 baud ASCII-7N1
  • “Anstey” the Space Echidna. + GoPro HD Hero 3
  • Wenet Imagery payload: 441.200 MHz
  • Emergency Jettison Module (in case Anstey’s spacecraft fails)

Anstey’s flight path is predicted to take her at least 30km up into the stratosphere, and roughly 150km down range into the Murray Mallee. AREG and North East Radio Club members will be tracking the flight from a number of locations, and will have chase teams following Anstey on her journey.


Sunday 4th December – LaunchBox – STEM in Schools Program – Horus 40

The second flight of the weekend will take place on Sunday 4th December. This is a flight for LaunchBox for one of the Schools here in Adelaide. Once again student science experiments will be flown, hopefully inspiring more young people to take up a career in science.

Horus 40 Flight Details

Liftoff is planned for 10AM ACDT from Mt Barker High School. The payloads will be:

  • Standard RTTY Telemetry: 434.650 MHz, 100 baud ASCII-7N1
  • Wenet Imagery Payload: 441.200 MHz
  • LaunchBox payload
  • Flight Path Management and Control Payload

How can you get involved?

The Horus telemetry system is based on a “distributed listener” principle with multiple receivers listening for the same frames, increasing the chance of picking them up correctly. Amateur Radio operators across SE Australiahabhublogo are encouraged to set up their 70cm receivers and tune to the 100 baud RTTY telemetry frequency of 434.650MHz.

The more people we have collecting telemetry data and forwarding it to the internet, the greater the chance of us recovering the payloads!

Instructions of what software to download and use to decode the telemetry and forward it to the Internet can be obtained from the habhub,org website.

Live Online Tracking Links

Tracking System Overview2

AREG at the WIA STEM Symposium – November 2016

The Amateur Radio Experimenter’s Group has taken an active role in promoting STEM in Schools programs for a number of years now, particularly through our involvement with LaunchBox, who work with us and our Project Horus sub-group to fly high altitude balloons. Our recent foray into the Maker Faire and HackerSpace community through our participation in the Adelaide Maker Faire also has been an area where we see a great potential to improve the link between Amateur Radio and STEM in schools, particularly with secondary and tertiary level students.

AREG Road Trip to Canberra

It was against this backdrop that the group endorsed it’s President, Matt VK5ZM and Treasurer Grant VK5GR to make the 2400km round trip from Adelaide to Canberra to attend the inaugural WIA STEM symposium.

AREG saw this as an opportunity to firstly share it’s own experiences with others, as well as build networks with other like minded amateurs who either were already engaged in their own contact with the STEM programs in schools or who were wanting to initiate programs of their own. The group also saw this as a way of tapping into the resources of the WIA to help facilitate the communications between affiliated clubs engaged in these activities, and also as an opportunity to contribute to resources that the WIA could develop to support the regional clubs in their STEM endeavors.

The speakers at the Symposium

The event itself, enabled through the hard work of the Canberra Region Amateur Radio Club on behalf of the WIA, provided a fascinating insight into the world of STEM and the challenges STEM faces in schools. (Thanks in particular to Amanda VK1WX, CRARC president).

The WIA Introductions

AREG received presentations firstly from Fred Swainston VK3DAC on the WIA’s vision of STEM, followed by one technological idea from Phil Wait VK2ASD on kits that could potentially be made available to schools based around cheap RTL-SDR Dongles as a way of introducing radio spectrum and communications studies into schools.

Geffory McNamarra wins PM’s Science Prize

STEM from a Science Teacher

Next up was a presentation by Geoffrey McNamara, a science teacher from Melrose High in the ACT who has been doing amazing work encouraging students to take an interest in science based investigations in secondary school. Geoffrey has implemented a program along an apprenticeship model where he has brought in experts from their fields to work with students one on one in a field of research. Many of those who are lucky enough to go through that program have gone on to a career in science.

Two principle points however came out of talking with Geoff that any initiatives need to take into account.

  1. You need to show students the “Wow Factor” behind any scientific endeavor, to spark their interest and light the fire to drive them to take it further.
  2. Science Teachers are incredibly time poor and severely under funded.

Radio Astronomy and STEM

The Lewis Center provides the gateway to this program via JPL

Next the participants received a presentation from Dr David Jauncey, talking about programs like GAVRT (Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope) where students in the USA can access a decommissioned radio telescope at the Goldstone Deep Space Network station in California. He also discussed how Tidbinbilla in the ACT is engaged in some schools programs (although not to the extent that Goldstone is). Out of this it was again clear that the principle aim of STEM programs is to garner that spark in students that science is “wow” and has something genuinely interesting and inspiring to offer as a career or at the very least as a life skill and perspective.

Practical Science and Physics Experiments enabled by Amateur Radio

Next up was Dr George Galanis VK3EIP, who is attempting to construct a system that could be used to demonstrate practical physics experiments using radio at schools. His idea is that you take a portable EME station to a school and conduct experiments such as measuring the echo delay from the moon, and even bouncing SSB voice off the moon and letting the students gain a real appreciation of the time delay involved in transmitting radio waves that far into space.

Other uses of the same equipment were also discussed in the field of radio astronomy. The ability to look at the microwave radio noise from the sun and show how to calibrate the dish, as well as other radio astronomy experiments are all practical demonstrations of radio that are relevant to the classroom. Again, the underlying theme to come out of this was to find ways to spark an enthusiasm in students and give them a memorable ‘wow’ experience, to implant science and technology as something worth following up later in life through tertiary studies and beyond, was the core theme of Dr Galanis’s presentation.

Accessing STEM through the Maker and Hacker-Space Movements

The final formal presentation was given by Matt and Grant from AREG. Matt opened with a story about a conversation he had once with a good amateur radio friend, Harro VK5HK (sk). Harro once asked Matt “What is radio?” Matt gave a very engineering focused answer about Maxwell’s equations etc, to which Harro politely pointed out “Yes, but no…. What is it really?” he asked again rhetorically? “Magic” was his answer.

It is the magic of radio, and getting people to the realization that it really is a form of magic that was the “wow” moment amateur radio can bring – when presented in the right way. It is the magic of being able to talk into a box on one side of the globe, and have someone on the other side talk back. When you think that there is no other infrastructure in between, and yet this is still possible, then you again have that hook or spark that leads to a “Wow” moment in young people that you hope will stick with them throughout their years. Undertaking that sort of communications in inventive and awe-inspiring ways, such as talking to ISS, or via live TV where the internet is not involved is a definite opportunity to “light the fire of imagination” in young people today.

It was this theme of “Radio is Magic” that Matt and img_3237-mediumGrant spoke to, explaining how they had brought amateur radio to young people through things like Amateur Television at JOTA, or through High Altitude Ballooning via Project Horus that members of AREG have been involved with now for nearly 6 years. The very recent foray into the Maker Faire and the group’s contacts with people in the Hackerspace movement were also discussed.  It was shown how lighting that spark even as people are in their tertiary studies was a way to leave a lasting impression and would and does lead to people taking up Amateur Radio in their twenties – a key demographic that AREG sees as fertile ground to recruit into amateur radio and to also promote the ongoing relevance of amateur radio today.

The high altitude ballooning in particular was discussed in some detail as a way of engaging with schools programs. The AREG representatives explained how that had worked through LaunchBox as a great way to inspire even primary school children to develop a wonder of science. The example of how the Project Horus balloons have been used to fly simple experiments to answer a child’s question of “will my corn kernel turn into popcorn in the near vacuum of near space?” hits home to how activities like this can spark someone on a journey of scientific curiosity that will potentially stay with them for the rest of their lives. (By the way, sadly the answer was no – the corn stays as a corn kernel).

One particular STEM area that was then discussed was that there are multiple facets to how you engage with STEM in schools. The obvious way is to undertake direct interactions with students, and you can also take the second tier approach and market amateur radio as a tool to the science teachers themselves. There are conferences and science fairs around the nation completely untapped by amateur radio where with the right presentation, the magic of radio could reach the classroom by recruiting the teachers who are already there. As a result, there was discussions around 1) trying to identify existing teachers who hold a license and 2) looking further at avenues and support requirements to recruit new teachers into the hobby, so as to enhance that conduit into the classroom as well.

Where to from here?

After the presentations the symposium broke for lunch, during which many useful discussions were had. After the break, we went back into the hall and broke into three working parties. The aim was to develop initial ideas around the following three questions:

  1. The Way Forward to further develop the concept
  2. Promotion and Marketing that can be developed by the WIA
  3. Other Technologies not identified at the Symposium

Lots of good ideas were put forward and are now being collated by the WIA for distribution. The WIA indicated that all of the presentations that were made, the papers that were received and the data generated from the three working parties will be made available in due course via the WIA website.


Overall, Matt and Grant came away feeling that the WIA had made some good first steps into addressing how to get amateur radio engaged with STEM in schools. It also was clear that this is not an initiative that can be driven solely by the WIA. It will take the formation of teams of people in each state and territory who can then begin the work of building local responses in alignment with a national Amateur Radio in STEM framework. The WIA can play a facilitation role here that will be positive for both Amateur Radio and STEM education in Australia.

The next step AREG see’s is that the WIA needs to establish an Amateur Radio in STEM advisory committee, made up initially from the general WIA members who attended the symposium plus others who couldn’t make it but still wish to contribute. This committee needs to take the work already started and complete building the national frame work for Amateur Radio in STEM. It can then turn that into a set of individual regional initiatives driven through the radio clubs network so that collectively the Amateur Radio Service can set forward on the task of tackling this multi-faceted arena.

AREG would like to thank the WIA for taking the time to run the symposium and in particular would like to thank all those who made the effort to attend and participate, as well as thank those who contributed papers and inputs. It is hoped that this is only the beginning of a new focus on how to demonstrate to a new generation the ongoing relevance and importance not only of Amateur Radio to the country, but also STEM education in general in Australia. Getting everyone together in one place was a fantastic start to this as it has established new networks and shared many different perspectives on how to tackle the issue. There very much is an exciting future ahead for Amateur Radio and STEM studies nationally.


Next Meeting: Friday Nov 25th: Live Balloon Imaging System

Note: Changed meeting week this month – 4th Friday (not the normal 3rd)

SSDV Experimental Payload – ‘Wenet’

Mark VK5QI and David VK5DGR have been working on a slow scan digital image payload for the balloon system which transmits at 115kbit/s on a new downlink channel. This system makes uses of the UKHAS SSDV server to stitch together images from packets uploaded by multiple receivers. You can read more about the system on Mark VK5QI’s blog.

Unlike analog SSTV, SSDV sends down compressed JPEG images via some form of data link. Written by Philip Heron, the SSDV software converts a JPEG image into a set of packets which can be transmitted via a radio link and then re-assembled on the ground. Unlike regular JPEG images, if a packet is lost, SSDV will still produce a full image, albeit with some portions missing.

Wenet RX software running within a Ubuntu Virtual Machine

At the meeting Mark and David will give you an insight into how it works. This system will be demonstrated in the field as well during coming Horus flights.

Meeting Time

The clubrooms will be opened from 7.45pm with the presentation starting at 8.00pm. Visitors are most welcome! You will find us here:

Horus 38: Flight Report – 13th November 2016

Horus 38 was to be the first flight in a long time featuring horus-logo-blackpayloads only for AREG and the Project Horus group. It also marked the welcome return of Terry VK5VZI to the project (who had been travelling for work for some time), who brought many new faces to the event. It was fantastic to see new people taking an interest in Project Horus.

However, as always it seems when we try these flights for ourselves, Murphy seems to come out to play, ensuring things dont quite go to plan…..

The Flight Outline

The payloads for this flight were planned to be the standard 100 baud RTTY beacon, the SSDV live imaging payload (with improved modem software), several GoPro cameras (we had one pointing up and one pointing out – the plan being to see the balloon grow in size through the flight), and we had our commandable standard flight termination payload. The main objectives were to get some more video footage for AREG’s own use, and to conduct a further test of the SSDV system under flight conditions.

Flight Preparation

Preparations for lift off went smoothly and the balloon train was quickly assembled. Since all of the payloads had been pre-assembled, the weights of everything were already known which sped up the process of getting the flight off the ground.

SSDV Ground Station

In addition to the team at Mt Barker, we also had Peter VK5KX and Andrew VK5AKH setup at Palmer on the back of the Mt Lofty ranges ready to receive the SSDV telemetry and relay it to the Internet. We had high hopes that would improve the number of pictures we could capture during the flight.


This launch, like Horus 37, was conducted under challenging conditions with squalls and wind gusts sweeping through the area prior to lift off. The surface winds were proving unpredictable, with periods of calm followed by 40-50km/h winds. We had successfully launched in conditions like this previously, but like all things, our luck had to run out eventually, and so it did this day!

At release, the wind picked up again at the wrong moment. While we avoided the payloads hitting the ground when letting it go, it then encountered a more serious obstacle. A final gust of wind pushed the balloon train into the path of a tree on the edge of the oval. For a second we thought it might just clear it, but no – alas it collected it full on. Then, after an agonizing 20-30 seconds, it freed itself (although not before mashing the polystyrene payload boxes fairly well), only to get snagged a second time in the next street. There it met it’s destruction when three of the four payloads were ripped from the balloon. The RTTY beacon, the SSDV experiment and the camera payload were all left mangled and grounded, while only the balloon cutdown payload continued on it’s flight.

David VK5DGR has “kindly” conducted a post mortem of the event on his blog which you can see here:

After going and collecting our battered payloads, we regrouped. We still had a balloon in the air to chase. So, with that, we reconfigured our chase cars and switched primary tracking to the backup telemetry feed. Unfortunately this precluded most amateurs from joining in (as the secondary is also the flight termination telecommand system and so is deliberately kept somewhat obscure for obvious reasons). We apologies for not being able to involve everyone this time. Dont worry, however, because there are two more flights planned for the very near future!

The Flight

After the nasty takeoff, the flight itself went well. Murphy however wasn’t done with us yet. We had decided to bring the remaining payload down early, in order to make recovery as easy as possible. The button was pushed, the commands were acknowledged, but the payload didn’t detach! Hearts sank again as we realized we would have to track it all the way and hope that it didn’t land somewhere inaccessible. The pre-flight predictions were all based on the full payload weight being there. Once three quarters of it was left behind, the ascent rate became much higher, changing the landing zone (based on the original predicted burst height) considerably.

Luck wasn’t completely with Murphy however, and we finally had some when the balloon burst early of it’s own accord. At around 27km altitude, descent began, giving the ground crews a repreive and a relatively easy to recover landing location.


Flight Track Profile for Horus 38

The Recovery

At the end of the day, the teams converged on an empty paddock outside of Sanderston on the Murray Plains and collected the remains of the payload from the flight. Not an ideal day, but one which ended well with a successful recovery. The teams were close enough to actually see the balloon land, something we have missed for a few flights, so at least our tracking and tactical work is at the top of our game.

Flight Statistics

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There are lots of lessons to learn from this flight. The main one will be to reconsider the layout of the payloads on the balloon train. With three 70cm transmitters and one 70cm receiver we had taken to spacing out the payloads considerably. This long train is what compromised the take off, and ultimately lead to the partial failure of the flight. The team is also reviewing our flight manual to consider the surface winds in more detail. Ultimately, even after 38 flights, there is still more to learn. Thats the fascinating aspect of this corner of the hobby!

73’s till next time de Project Horus

AREG at the AHARS Buy N Sell 2016

It has been a busy month and this news is a little late – but better late than never! The committee wants to thank all of those members who participated in the club’s fundraising efforts leading to the AHARS Buy N Sell event this year. The club again was able to muster a wide variety of items for the tables and trade was brisk.  A lot of preparatory work went into the event lead by Scott VK5TST who hosted many working bee’s preparing items for sale.  On the day, the club was represented by Grant VK5GR, Mark VK5AVQ, Chris VK5SA, Andy VK5AKH and Scott VK5TST . Thanks team for a job well done!


AREG at the Adelaide Maker Faire 2016 – Huge Success


Mark VK5QI, Kim VK5FJ, Matt VK5ZM and Grant VK5GR at Maker Fare 2016

The Amateur Radio Experimenter’s Group achieved it’s goals of putting amateur radio before the public at the Adelaide Maker Faire 2016 held on November 6th, with a huge amount of interested generated from the stand and the 15 minute presentation given at the event by Mark VK5QI on Project Horus. Those who manned the stand couldn’t be happier with the response, and genuinely hope to hear further from a number of people who have had their interest sparked in the hobby in the near future!

A huge thank you has to go to Kim VK5FJ who coordinated AREG’s presence, as well as to Mark VK5QI who prepared much of the Project Horus material for the stand. A number of other members also spent most of the day there manning the stand promoting Amateur Radio, as well as to those members behind the scenes who helped with preparing publicity handouts and business cards for the event (Scott VK5TST, Gary VK5FGRY and Mark VK5QI). A huge thank you to all of you as well!

AREG certainly hopes to be back at the Maker Faire in 2017!

AREG at the Adelaide Maker Faire TODAY!


How does the amateur radio service relate to the maker movement you might ask? In many ways, amateur radio is the grandfather of the maker movement. People have been tinkering and experimenting, building their own equipment and radio stations, all in the quest to communicate with each other for well over 120 years!

Today, the range of things within Amateur Radio to get involved in building, designing, inventing or experimenting with is even broader, really only limited by your imagination! 

The following article from in the USA gives you a great introduction to the relationship between the Maker Movement and Amateur Radio.

The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group is today at the Adelaide Maker Faire 2016! Billed as the largest Maker Faire in the southern hemisphere, this is a great opportunity to come and find out more about Amateur Radio!

You can find the event in the grounds of the new Tonsley TAFE campus! AREG will be there from 10am to 4pm. Come and say hello!


Balloon Launch November 13th: Horus 38 – 10:00am ACDT

The Amateur Radio ExperimentersIMG_1767-1024 Group is planning another High Altitude Balloon Launch. Designated Horus 38, it will be an internal project team flight carrying payloads specifically for AREG members. Multiple payloads will be included.

UPDATE: Due to the high wind conditions at the launch site, most of the payloads did not make it off the ground (including the video and SSDV payloads). Currently only the LoRa Cutdown payload is in the air. Chase teams are en-route to recover this payload now. 

Live Tracking Links

Flight Track Prediction

The following is the predicted track for the balloon tomorrow. We will be targeting a 5m/s ascent rate, a 30km burst altitude, and 7.5m/s descent rate.

SSDV Experimental Payload – ‘Wenet’

Mark VK5QI and David VK5DGR have been working on a slow scan digital image payload for the balloon system which transmits at 115kbit/s on a new downlink channel. This system makes uses of the UKHAS SSDV server to stitch together images from packets uploaded by multiple receivers. It first flew on Horus 37, and after some refinement will be flown again on this flight. Information on this system is available here.

HD Video Camera Payload

We are also going to fly an upward facing and an outward facing camera, and hope to collect images of the balloon expanding and (hopefully) bursting, as well as some HD video imagery similar to what was achieved back on Horus 12. Thanks to Scott VK5TST and Josh VK5JO for the loan of the GoPro Hero3 cameras for this flight.

RTTY Telemetry

The standard RTTY 70cm telemetry payload will be flying as well. Listen out on 434.650MHz USB, 100 baud  ASCII-7N1. You can get involved through capturing telemetry data and relaying it back to the chase team via the Internet (details on how to setup and operate dl-fldigi are available here:

Flight Details

Visitors from the Amateur Radio service are welcome to come along to the launch this time (as it is not for a school or other organisation). Launch details at this stage are below, however keep watching the website closer to the time for confirmation and up to date details:

  • When: 13th November (Sunday), approx. 10AM CDT launch time.
  • Where: Mt Barker High School Oval