VK5RSB Repeater Extended Outages

Photo of downed powerlines courtesy ABC News

AREG’s VK5RSB Summertown repeaters  have been off air since Tuesday evening’s violent storm which has taken out power lines that feed the site. The restoration work according to SAPN is still progressing. The latest estimate for restoration is now 1.00pm today (31st December)..

We apologies for the outage on these major Adelaide repeater services, and are looking to see what can be done to reinstate the battery backup at the site which has failed.

Horus 40 Launch imminent – Jan 2nd 2017

Weather conditions are now looking somewhat better for a launch on Monday the 2nd of January. Liftoff is planned for 10.00am ACDT.

Ground wind conditions at Mt Barker should be light, and the current prediction (with some tweaking of launch parameters), has us landing somewhere north-east of Palmer:

Launch Details

The team will be launching from the Mt Barker High School oval. Our NOTAM’d launch time is 10AM ACDT, so we will be on-site from about 8:30-9AM. It is expected that balloon filling will take a bit longer this time, as we really need to get the balloon fill spot-on to achieve the desired flight path. Given this is an AREG test launch, visitors from the Amateur Radio community are welcome!

Payloads

There will be 5 payload boxes on this flight! (The most in a while)

  • RTTY Telemetry (434.650 MHz 8N1 ASCII 100baud) – The usual RTTY payload as has flown in the past.
  • Flight Control payload (TDMA) – we use this for telecommand to terminate the flight at the right altitude
  • Secondary Test Flight Control Payload (TDMA) – In-air test of new TDMA software updates.
  • Wenet Imagery Payload – 441.200 MHz 115Kbit/s Wideband FSK
  • GoPro HD Hero 3 Video Payload – 25fps 1080p video – to be collected after landing

As usual, you’ll be able to select the flight from a drop-down list in dl-fldigi to decode the RTTY.

Tracking will be available via habhub.org habhublogo

Wenet SSDV imagery will be available via ssdv.habhub.org/VK5QI

Wenet Payload

For those club members involved in the Wenet payload data collection. you *should* be able to decode it using the software stack from last flight, however some Raspberry Pi firmware updates have slightly adjusted what ‘115200 baud’ actually means (115387 -> 115177 baud). Receivers running the old software are going to see a fairly large symbol rate error, and may experience a performance hit because of that. While the old software should work, the best preparation would be to upgrade your software.

As an upgrade, this flight will be sending ‘Full HD’ 1080p images, which should make nice desktop backgrounds! Note that this flight will be sending maybe 2x the number of images as the previous flight, due to some threading improvements made to the software.

As always, the Wenet ground-station software is available on Github at: https://github.com/projecthorus/wenet with an install guide for Ubuntu Linux here. A RTLSDR and a 70cm preamplifier are required for reception.

Launch Site Map

For those who want to see the balloon filled and lift off, here is the venue:

 

 

Next Balloon Flight in Planning Stages

The Project Horus team through the Amateur Radio Experimenter’s Group is planning another balloon flight!

Well I’ve got NOTAM’s booked in for the 2nd, 4th, and 6th (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) 10AM, with the plan being to fly on Monday 2nd January. If the predictions are poor for the Monday (which is possible, given what’s coming towards SA weather wise over the next couple of days), then we may have to move to one of the other days, depending on personnel availability.

The flight is intended to have the following onboard:
  • Wenet SSDV payload (new box which I still need to build, new hardware), flying updated software. This will now have live GPS data overlaid on the image, as well as an AREG logo overlay. The images are now also full 1080p, so we’re effectively downlinking desktop backgrounds
  • RTTY Telemetry (the usual, 434.650 MHz)
  • Possibly a GoPro HD video camera We’ll evaluate that one closer to the date, and once I actually have a box made up for it.
Those running Wenet SSDV ground stations will need to update their software before this launch.
Cheers,
Mark

Merry Christmas and HNY 2016

The AREG executive and committee would like to wish all AREG members and Amateurs world wide a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Until next year stay safe and enjoy the Holiday DX Season.

Horus 39: December 3rd 2016 Flight Report

logottgc


On Saturday December 3rd 2016, the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group launched the Tea Tree Gully Library mascot, Anstey the Echidna into the stratosphere as part of her next big adventure. In the past 12 months Anstey the Echidna has been to France, Italy, Ireland, Japan and New Zealand.

Flying an Echidna into near space is not without its challenges. It took a very large team of people from the Project Horus group within AREG, as well as a large number of amateur radio operators from across SE Australia to achieve this feat.

Launch Preparations

The first stage of the journey was to build the craft that would carry Anstey into the stratosphere. Mark VK5QI and Matt VK5ZM worked some long hours preparing the vehicle to make sure that not only would Anstey get a perfect view, but that those of us on the ground could also share her experience.

The cameras used included a GoPro Hero 3 and a Raspberry PiCam connected to the Wenet 115kBit/s 50mW data transmitter. This was only the second full flight of the Wenet system which has been co-developed by Mark VK5QI and David VK5DGR using an FSK modem developed by the team with help from Bill VK5DSP. (more on this shortly).

Balloon Launch Crew

On the ground, we had a large contingent of members from the Project Horus team. Matt VK5ZM lead the assembly of the balloon payload train while Mark VK5QI, Grant VK5GR, Kim VK5FJ and Gary VK5FGRY set about filling the balloon.

After the “Balloon meets tree” incident during Horus 38, we added an extra safety measure, with the release of a sounding balloon before the main launch.Grant VK5GR’s daughter, Amelia, did the honors.

Finally, the team from the Tea Tree Gully council started their Facebook live broadcast back to mission control and we prepared to send Anstey off into the sky on her epic journey.

Mission Control – Tea Tree Gully Library

Back at the library the staff had setup vk5bb-library“mission control” for the morning. Ben VK5BB and Olga VK5FOLG from AREG represented our club at the library and introduced themselves to David Brooks who organised the event. Ben goes on to report:

“David then performed the introductions, giving a little bit of history of the Tea Tree Gully area and how he believes that the local population growth was tied to events within both the USA and USSR space programs. In the back ground we were watching a number of video clips from the Launch site, looking at the equipment, Matt explaining what all the equipment in his vehicle was for, Mark explaining the tracking facilities in his car and the reporter doing his bit at launch time. 

David then introduced  Dr. Brent Gooden who was an expert in a number of fields, space suits, space medicine and Echidnas! He talked about how the Echidna was very well adapted physiologically wise to be able to take the rigors of space travel, all tongue in cheek but very well presented. Mean while on the wall behind the speakers, the images of Anstey were being displayed as they downloaded. Very nicely done!

Then I was invited to the rostrum to give a plug for AREG. I spent about 5 minutes talking about the history of AREG, Project Horus, that AREG was a “young” club and have a focus on radio technology and encouraging young people to look at STEM in their education which was well received.

I was well thanked by David and he publicly acknowledged that without AREG and Project Horus, this event would not have happened.”

Flight Ground Tracking Network

The next major component of the event was the flight ground tracking network. To retrieve the transmitted images from the balloon, we had positioned several stations around the state equipped with RTL-SDR dongles, pre-amps and the receiving software designed to collect the Wenet 115kBit/s telemetry stream. Station No.1 was Peter VK5KX and his partner Wendy, who camped on top of a hill overlooking Palmer on the eastern face of the Adelaide Hills.

tracking-data-recovery-centre-vk5kx

Ground Control Palmer – VK5KX

vk5kx-tracking-central

Ground control inside VK5KX

Peter reports “Wendy & I drove up to Palmer Saturday morning. We had to do some extra km’s due to chain of ponds road being closed, however we got there and rushed the setup completing everything in a nick of time. We were getting SSDV images before we had a lock on the balloon RTTY payload.

just_before_landing-mediumPointing the 5 element 70cm beam at a point in space to Rx the SSDV images was no easy task. I tried using a compass app on the phone, even a Theodolite app, but they were both giving erroneous readings, so I reverted back to a handheld magnetic compass. I did mange to get used to it and made a few notes as to where to point the beam and at what angle of elevation.  Some perfect images were decoded and uploaded.

After the balloon burst, we manageburst_and_parachute-mediumd to track it for some time before starting to have some issues decoding the RTTY. I could see the data clearly but the fl-digi window stayed red, only occasionally going green. To be investigated later. We went on to camp on the hill that night in preparation for Horus 40 on Sunday morning.

When Sunday arrived, the weather appeared with a vengeance. The winds
were so fierce that they nearly blew us away. It did managed to blow some seats and gear down the hill. Unfortunately in it’s path was the beam antenna on it’s tripod. I now need to do some maintenance on the beam.  I notified the Sunday launch crew that we were pulling the plug and then the fun began as we tried to expediently get all the gear in the bus somewhere. Then the rain started too, as I ventured 2/3 the way down the hill to retrieve a red plastic box, the trip back to the bus against the wind & uphill wasn’t pleasant…..”

Bob VK5FO and Ray VK5RR operated ground control No.2 from their home near Waikerie in the Riverland. Bob reported:

“at the last minute before the Launch, we were able to borrow an RTL-SDR and Pre-Amp in order to set up an additional station to RX the SSDV pictures from the Balloon. The RX station was set up in the Riverland, near Waikerie and was reporting Telemetry and Image data as VK5RR.

20161202-141417z-medium 36km_altitude_pic-medium

Given that the site was about 100km+ away from the flight path, it was actually an unknown if it would even RX any data. We monitored the flight data and once the Balloon hit around 6,000M we started to RX some telemetry. It was noted that once the signal got to around 6 or 7db above the noise floor it was getting consistent decodes.

Now, the Antenna used was not ideal – it is a typical “white stick 2/70 Dual band antenna, around 25M of RG-213 before the Pre-Amp. Once we were getting good decodes the RX site was left  unattended for the rest of the flight. We contributed to the image data on SSDV.habhub.org and noticed that at around the 27,000m mark  we lost RX of the image signal.  This was probably a null in the Antenna – given that this was probably around the 25 Degrees elevation from the RX location.

After the Balloon burst, we again started to RX Image data, and this time it was right down to approx 2,000M (at over 140km away).

On checking the recorded images, we had partial data on several, and nearly 100% of others.  A total of 127 Images (complete and partial) were received, and a total of 253 images of the flight were recorded and uploaded.  The RX site provided image data for around 1/2 of the images of this flight.”

We also had Kim VK5FJ receiving the balloon from Mt Barker as well as the two mobile recovery vehicles with VK5QI and VK5ZM, all who contributed some data to the successful images relayed back to Mission Control live from the balloon.

The following animation is compiled from the still images collected from the balloon SSDV telemetry system.

More details about the Wenet system designed by the Horus team and the SSDV platform provided by UKHAS and Phil Heron can be found elsewhere on the AREG site.

Flight Statistics

The flight itself was almost a text book affair. The flight track can be seen in the following animation created by Grant VK5GR from the telemetry raw data.

The vital statistics are:

Horus 39 - Anstey the Echidna
Metric Result
Flight Designation: Horus 39 – Tea Tree Gully Library & Tea Tree Gully Historical Society
Launch Date: 3/12/2016 00:30:54 UTC
Landing Date: 26/1/2016 03:06:39 UTC
Flight Duration: 2 Hours 35 Minutes
Launch Site: -35.07628 138.85695
Landing Site: -35.26141 140.14545
Distance Traveled: 119.2 km
Maximum Altitude: 37,121 m

The team would like to thank all of the following stations for their contribution to the  telemetry collection effort:

VK5APR, VK5EU, VK5FTAZ, VK5KJP, VK5KX, VK5NEX, VK5PJ, VK5QI, VK5RR, VK5ZEA, VK5ZM

Recovering Anstey – in a field of Triticale

burst-mediumThe final act was for the balloon to burst and for Anstey to return to earth to tell her tale. The mobile tracking crews, based on the available predictions, had headed for Lameroo in the Murray Mallee about 250km east of Adelaide. Once the balloon burst however, we discovered that it was falling faster than predicted.

We determined that again the burst hadn’t been a clean one (confirmed with one of the SSDV images we collected) and along with the payloads, a large chunk of the balloon was coming back still attached! The drag of the parachute slowed the descent, but not as slow as originally planned, with the payloads eventually returning to earth at ~9m/s. This caused something of a scramble among the tracking teams as the landing suddenly looked to be about 30km short of where we expected. Fortunately, we weren’t that far away when it touched down, and a good fix from the beacons was obtained before the landing.

After about 20 minutes, we had located the land owners, who were curious to see what we had landed on their property. They were very helpful and friendly farmers who lead us to the landing site in our vehicles. We should have been able to drive right to the payload, except at the critical moment, the telemetry computer crashed in the VK5ZM chase car. So, out with the yagi and direction finding gear to find Anstey the old fashioned way.

After a further 15 minutes, and a hike across a 1m high crop paddock, Anstey was found safe and well.

Conclusion

Everyone declared Horus 39 a success, and looking at the comments and feedback received via social media, it would appear it was very well received by the amateur radio community across Australia as well. We are looking forward to the next time we can fly and hope you will come on the journey too! 73 de Project Horus, Adelaide!

HORUS 40 Balloon Flight: Sunday 4th Dec – CANCELLED

horus-logo-blackThe flight planned for today had to be cancelled at the last minute due to the weather conditions at the launch site. Heavy rain and high winds just as we were to start filling the balloon forced us to call a halt to the proceedings.

The planned flight will now be rescheduled for the first few weeks back at school in the new year (first week of February is being considered)..


It is a very busy weekend for the Project Horus team within the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group. Yesterday (Saturday) we flew a payload for Tea Tree Gully Council Library. Today (Sunday) we are flying a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) payload through LaunchBox for a local Adelaide high school.

The predicted flight track for Horus 40 is below.

flight-track-satnight

The parameters being considered for this flight will make it a fast one, as we are aiming to prevent it landing in the inaccessible territory at the western end of Ngarkat Conservation Park, plus we have some less than favorable surface launch conditions to deal with in the morning according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

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

Tracking will be available via habhub.org habhublogo

SSDV imagery will be available via ssdv.habhub.org/VK5QI

How can you get involved?

Amateurs across SE Australia can contribute to the flight through RTTY telemetry data collection and forwarding to the Internet. Multiple members of AREG are also involved collecting the SSDV imagery data from the 115kbit/s high speed downlink. Follow the links from HabHub or on the AREG website for more details.

Anstey Echidna’s Balloon Flight – TODAY (Horus 39)

Launch Preparations to fly Anstey the Echidna  into space are continuing. Her spacecraft is ready and flight plans are being reviewed ready for liftoff.

The AREG group who are flying this payload for the Tea Tree Gully Library have been working feverishly in the background building the payloads to carry Anstey on her epic journey. Mark VK5QI has worked some long hours to get everything ready, as has many members of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group looking to receive as much of the SSDV imagery as possible.

Launch is planned for 11:00am Saturday (barring unforsean circumstances). The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group will have both it’s launch and chase teams on site from 10:00am to make the final preparations.

prediction-friday

The flight track prediction is also now firming up. It looks like it will be a long drive, with landing predicted to be north of Parrakie on the Adelaide to Pinnaroo road. Stations as far away as Melbourne should be able to hear the telemetry beacon as the balloon reaches apogee.

You can track the balloon payloads via one of the channels below:

  • Standard RTTY Telemetry: 434.650 MHz, 100 baud ASCII-7N1
  • Wenet Imagery payload: 441.200 MHz

This is the live track imagery.

 

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


Also DONT FORGET, there is another balloon flying on Sunday for Launchbox – details to follow!