Horus 41/42 Flight Report: Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program Jan 2017


For the second year running, the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group was invited to partner with the University of South Australia and the International Space University in delivering the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program. This program, which is a 5 week intensive live in course offered by the universities to students from around the world, is designed to meet the needs of:

  • Professionals seeking more knowledge of and contacts in the international space sector

  • Graduate researchers in all fields seeking a broader knowledge of international space activities and the disciplines involved

  • Undergraduate students in the final two years of their studies seeking exposure to the various aspects of space studies to complement their undergraduate studies

* Extracted from the ISU Website

Part of the program comprises a simulated satellite launch campaign using a high altitude helium balloon platform, flown using the resources of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group and Project Horus, which are based here in Adelaide. This in fact marks the 7th year of the group’s High Altitude Balloon Project, which was the brainchild of Terry Baume VK5VZI.

Like many of the Horus launches, this one again sought to strengthen ties with programs that are related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in education. Bringing Amateur Radio into context with space studies and education helps highlight the huge diversity of the Amateur Radio service and it’s absolutely unique place in the Australian technology landscape. No other radio-communications service provides an opportunity for interested persons from a huge diversity of backgrounds to come together and undertake cutting edge explorations into communications technology.

ISU: Project Space Balloon

The project this year was set some very ambitious goals. Built on the success of last year’s flight, and the newly designed high speed transmission link capability designed by Mark VK5QI, with help from David VK5DGR and Bill VK5DSP, the plan this year was to send aloft two balloons simultaneously, carrying look down cameras observing in both the visible and near infrared spectrum. The aim was to conduct investigations into water resources through remote sensing imagery. These payloads were to downlink their data in real time over the Wenet 115kbit/s telemetry links. A third Wenet payload with an outward looking camera was also flown.

The students were then mentored through the construction of the second Wenet payload by Mark VK5QI and Matt VK5ZM. They were also given training in flight prediction, launch and recovery procedures by Matt and Grant VK5GR and were given opportunities to be involved in every aspect of the flights.

Ultimate launch control, tracking and recovery was then the responsibility of the AREG team, with over 20 members involved in some aspect of the flight, as well as many more amateur radio operators across South Australia who all contributed to receiving telemetry information from the balloon, which helped with the payload recovery efforts.

The Launch Campaign: Horus 41 – McLaren Vale

The day began early, with the AREG and University teams arriving at Serafino’s Winery in the picturesque McLaren Vale region at 8.00am. The first order of business was to unpack the balloon filling station, and then setup the Wenet SSDV receive ground station, which was to be used later in the day to capture the 115kbit telemetry from Horus 41 and relay it into the publicity event at the winery. Horus 41 ground was to be manned by Paul VK5BX and Bill VK5DSP (from UniSA), with much of the equipment supplied by Matt VK5ZM.

Matt and Chris VK5CP were also heavily involved in the publicity engine throughout the day, with Matt again proving adept as master of ceremonies during the launch, describing to the spectators what was happening and the overall process of getting the balloon in the air. He also played a major role in the formal part of the SHSSP program, giving a formal 10 minute presentation on the AREG, Project Horus and Amateur Radio to 100+ guests and VIPs invited to attend the launch.

The payloads were then laid out in order and the balloon train was prepared, with students helping the AREG team along the way. Some extra payload was added in the form of Serafino wine grape seeds, which will subsequently be planted to see if exposure to high altitude changes their character at all many years down the track.

Next, balloon filling got underway and the ISU student team set about helping Grant VK5GR, Andrew VK5XFG, Josh VK5JO and Sharon VK5FSAW getting the balloon filled and readied for launch. Horus 41 was to use a Totex balloon and was carrying approximately 1.2kg in payload weight.

The count down began and everyone kept an eye on the time, knowing that the team in Mt Barker were doing the same thing. We aimed to lift off at 10:00am, but due to some difficulties with the balloon filling equipment, this was delayed slightly. The count down went on hold while this was rectified, and then we resumed. By 10:02am everything was ready, and launch release was placed into Matt VK5ZM’s hands.

Contact was then made with Launch Team 2 up in Mt Barker to confirm how their preparations had run.

The Launch Campaign: Horus 42 – Mt Barker

The Mt Barker launch was a more low key affair, with just the ISU students and the AREG launch team. Mark VK5QI lead operations at Mt Barker, helped by Kim VK5FJ, Dennis VK5FDEN, Anthony VK5AHV, David VK5DGR, Andrew VK5AKH and Gary VK5FGRY. Horus 42 was using a larger Hwoyee Balloon as the flight path was predicted to encounter fewer obstacles.

Horus Ground Control Strathalbyn comes Online

An unseen to the public but vitally important part of the exercise was the work being undertaken by Peter VK5KX and Scott VK5TST to provide a primary ground station for collecting the Wenet imagery. Peter found himself a suitable location on the SE edge of the Mt Lofty ranges and setup the communications bus. It served two purposes, with the first being the telemetry reception and internet uplink, but the second was also recovery team liaison on VHF amateur radio (2m). Repeater coverage in the landing zone was very poor, so simplex relays were used to maintain team communications.

Liftoff for SHSP 2017 – Tracking begins

Finally at 23:45UTC (10:15am) both Horus 41 and Horus 42 made it into the air. At the last minute, the ground winds sprung up at Mt Barker, causing some consternation. The launch was held for 2 minutes while the team waited for the winds to abate, and then we took to the skies. Telemetry started to stream in as the balloons gained height and more distant stations could receive the signals. Images were being received too and all looked good for two successful flights.

Shortly after lift off, however, the first wrinkle appeared in our plans. High Altitude Ballooning is never an exact science, and today wasnt going to be an exception. It turned out Horus 41 wasnt climbing as fast as intended and the low altitude winds were pushing it further south than planned. This was bad news, as it greatly increased the risk of a landing in Lake Alexandrina (and the consequential loss of the payloads) instead of on the open plain to the north of it.

An anxious hour followed where the predictor was watched very closely, tracking height, and the actual landing zone if the flight was stopped at any particular moment. Fortunately the track drifted north and we started to breath easier, once we passed 31km altitude and had removed the lake from the landing equation.

Horus 42 had an easier time, although it too had obstacles to avoid. One of the problems of summertime flying was that the jet stream was quite weak, and so flights don’t travel as far east as the team would prefer. Recovery in the Adelaide hills is never easy due to access and terrain. It’s flight track looked as follows:

This was also one of the most complicated flight campaigns AREG and Project Horus has undertaken. All up we had 2x LoRA transmitters, 2x RTTY transmitters and 3x 115Kbit Wenet transmitters on air on 70cm at the same time! This spectrum display shows how we were spread out across the Amateur 430-450MHz band – where we had to borrow space from the ATV and repeater link segments to accommodate everything.

This puts the amount of work into perspective in constructing and operating all of these facilities.

The reception of all of these telemetry feeds was only made possible by the contributions from amateur radio operators across the state. Those recorded in the system has having contributed telemetry frames were:





The AREG and SHSSP thank you all for your interest in the project and your contributions to the tracking and telemetry effort.

A special thank you too to Phil Heron MI0VIM who was in Australia this week and flew across to Adelaide especially for this event. For those who didn’t realize, Phil is one of the creators of the HabHub system that the UK High Altitude Society built that is used by Project Horus to support our flights.

And then the Images Flooded In…..

Once the payloads were in the air, the real business got underway. The pictures being retrieved were spectacular:

Horus 42 – Wenet Outward Looking Visible Spectrum

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Horus 41 – Near InfraRed Images

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Horus 42 – Near InfraRed Images

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Recovery – Horus 41

The recovery of Horus 41 was very easy (for a change) with the payload landing on a service track that we could easily get to within 100m by car. Touchdown was ~1km from the tracking team, although we weren’t lucky enough to catch a glimpse of it in the air. After the land-owners were approached, access to retrieve the payloads was obtained. Three of the SHSSP students plus the AREG Horus 41 tracking crew collected the payloads, and then as a surprise for the organizers were able to deliver them back to the launch venue and present them to the VIPs prior to the conclusion of their event.

Recovery – Horus 42

Horus 42’s flight recovery was also successful, although it did come close to landing on a major road! In the case of Horus 42, they were there to see the landing live! No small achievement (only about 1 in 5 flights are we there at the exact landing site).

Flight Statistics – Horus 41

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Flight Statistics – Horus 42

[table “” not found /]


All told, the day was considered a complete success. Both balloons achieved greater than 30km altitude, the images were successfully collected over the air on the Wenet network and 23 separate amateur stations across South Australia were involved in collecting tracking information.

The goals of Project Horus’s engagement with the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program in bringing Amateur Radio into education were met and then some! It was fantastic again working with the crew at the University of South Australia, and we hope that AREG is again invited back next year!

Keep Watching…

Stay tuned for a further blog post this week with some video animations of the tracking and some film clips of the launch and landing activities too! More to follow…..

Launch Day: Horus 41/42 Tracking Details

Watch here for details of tracking both Horus 41 (VK5ARG-1) and Horus 42 (VK5ARG-2). The links to the Wenet payload images will give you a look at the two look down cameras – one filming in visible light, the other in Infra Red.

Live updates on the flight progress from the chase teams will be available via the club Facebook page www.facebook.com/vk5arg

Flight Times / Locations:

Horus 41 – McLaren Vale – 10:00am ACDT

  • RTTY Telemetry: 434.650MHz 100 bps
  • Wenet Imagery Payload 441.2MHz 115Kbit/s

Horus 42 – Mt Barker – 10:00am ACDT

  • RTTY Telemetry: 434.075MHz 100 bps
  • Wenet Imagery Payload: 443.5MHz 115Kbit/s

Both balloons are intended to be launched simultaneously! Listen on the VK5RSB 70cm repeater for the launch coordination.  Tracking details for RTTY payloads can be found here (click).

For some background on this event take a look here (click).


Introducing the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program to Amateur Radio

The Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program is conducted by the University of South Australia in partnership with the International Space University (ISU).

The program provides a multidisciplinary understanding of the key activities and areas of knowledge required by today’s space professions, including

  • space science and exploration
  • space applications and services
  • human spaceflight and life sciences
  • space systems engineering and technologies
  • space policy and economics
  • space business and project management and
  • space law and regulatory issues

The program is open to Australian and international participants from all disciplines

Who is this Program For?

The Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program is designed to meet the needs of:

  • Professionals seeking more knowledge of and contacts in the international space sector
  • Graduate researchers in all fields seeking a broader knowledge of international space activities and the disciplines involved
  • Undergraduate students in the final two years of their studies seeking exposure to the various aspects of space studies to complement their undergraduate studies

Project Space Balloon

On Sunday 22nd January, 45 students from 11 nations will come together as part of the International Space University’s Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program to perform an exciting stratospheric balloon launch experiment. Two simultaneous balloon launches will occur at McLaren Vale and Mt Barker, carrying satellite payloads designed and built by the program participants to an altitude of 35km. The payloads will capture and downlink images of the surrounding area to be watched live from the McLaren Vale launch site. In addition, a packet of Serafino grape seeds will be carried on each balloon for the flight. These “Space Seeds” are then to be planted at the Serafino winery. Also, over the next 5 days a competition to name the payloads will be run, with the winner receiving a mission patch flown into space on the balloon.

Amateur Radio Supporting STEM Education through SHSSP

The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group, comprising members of the general public who have interests in radio communications technologies and techniques, is a major supporter of the SHSSP program at UniSA. Members of AREG come from all walks of life, from plumbers to senior telecommunications and manufacturing engineers, electronics technicians to lawyers, couriers to fitters and turners. All are bound by their love of radio and what you can do with it, which has driven them to undertake the self training and education required to be licensed to operate transmitters within the international Amateur Radio Service.

Amateur Radio is a key activity within the Australian community where educational opportunities exist to enhance knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Bringing Amateur Radio to the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program and showing how it can form an integral part of such a significant activity clearly demonstrates the relationship between the Amateur Radio service and education. It reinforces the importance of the Amateur Radio service to the country.

AREG and the Amateur Service’s Contribution to Project Space Balloon

For this launch campaign, over 20+ members of AREG will be acting in support roles providing tracking and recovery teams, data collection teams, payload & communications systems design and launch services. The balloon payloads themselves will be connected to the ground via radio links provided via spectrum assigned to the Amateur Radio Service. Further,  as many as 50 more radio amateurs located across SE Australia will be engaged with telemetry collection in support of the flight, including some from as far away as Melbourne, Victoria (800+ km away).

AREG’s history in High Altitude Ballooning is also a long one. Members of the group have been active in High Altitude Ballooning since 2009, and with over 40 launches to their credit, significant expertise in the area has been developed. It has been one of the most active groups in this field in the last decade in Australia. All of this has been happening within the context of a self funded group of experimenters and explorers.

It is with that background that we are able to support this program. We are very pleased to be able to bring that experience back to the community and to be able to contribute to such a worthwhile venture.

SHSSP Horus 41/42 Flights GO for Sunday 22nd

UniSA Flights are GO for Sunday  
Matt and I have just called ‘GO’ for the launches on the weekend. We have enough control variables to play with to be able to make the flights viable with the current predictions. Liftoff will be 10:00am ACDT Sunday from both sites.
Now, onto the current predicted flight paths (with the proviso that things still have a chance of changing a bit between now and then).

McLaren Vale – Horus 41
Ascent Rate: 5m/s
Cutdown at: 32km
Descent Rate: 4m/s
Mt Barker – Horus 42
Ascent Rate: 5m/s
Burst/Cutdown at: 34km
Descent Rate: 4m/s

 How to get involved?
There will be many ways of getting involved in the flight. A live stream of the event will be available (details TBA). You can follow along the university project via their Facebook page as well!
They are also running a competition to name the two balloons. If you’re a primary school or high school student please fill out the form below to submit your idea for a name!  (click here).
Keep visiting our website for ongoing updates for this project!
Details of the payloads and how to track them are available here (click).

Horus 41/42 Balloon Flights – Sunday 22nd Jan – Frequencies

 The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group is pleased to announce that it has been invited back to participate in the International Space University’s Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program (SHSSP) for 2017.

This year, the club will be extremely busy with plans to simultaneously launch two balloons from two launch
sites. This means double the number of payloads to track and double the fun for the launch and tracking teams as well!

Flight Times / Locations:

Horus 41 – McLaren Vale – 10:00am ACDT

  • RTTY Telemetry: 434.650MHz 100 bps
  • Wenet Imagery Payload 441.2MHz 115Kbit/s

Horus 42 – Mt Barker – 10:00am ACDT

  • RTTY Telemetry: 434.075MHz 100 bps
  • Wenet Imagery Payload: 443.5MHz 115Kbit/s

Both balloons are intended to be launched simultaneously! Listen on the VK5RSB 70cm repeater for the launch coordination.  Tracking details for RTTY payloads can be found here (click).

Launch Site Map

Image from Horus 40 – sample of whats to come for Horus 41/42

Payload Information

The university project this year is using the Wenet payload designed by Mark VK5QI to accommodate 2 cameras taking alternate photographs, both facing downwards. One will be shooting in the visible light spectrum while the other will be photographing the IR spectrum. Additional telemetry is now being included also, with an Inertial Measurement Unit on board giving payload orientation data. The hope is to combine the data from both balloons into a stereoscopic representation of the terrain and vegetation below.

All of the images are being collected live and will be available via the Internet (watch this page for details closer to the day).

How to get involved?

Visitors are welcome at the launch sites on Sunday morning. AREG members are encouraged to dress in their club apparel as there will (hopefully) be lots of media around, at least at the McLaren Vale launch site at Serafino’s Winery.

You can get involved in tracking the flights from home. The more stations involved, the better! We will have our hands full with two balloons in the air so help from ground stations collecting telemetry and forwarding it to the Internet for us.

For the adventurous, you may also like to get involved in receiving the Wenet transmissions and receiving the pictures directly! All you need is a Linux based PC running Ubuntu 16.04 RX, an RTL-SDR Dongle, a preamplifier (because the RTL-SDR needs all the help it can get) and a suitable UHF 70cm antenna.

Details of the receive system are given on Mark VK5QI’s GitHub page: https://github.com/projecthorus/wenet

If you would like more information, contact the president, Matt VK5ZM@wia.org.au

More news as the launch gets closer and details are confirmed. We wont know with reasonable certainty that we are flying until ~48hrs before liftoff.

Next Meeting: 20th Jan – Radio Beginner Series: The art of QSLing

During 2017, the AREG is planning a set of presentations to be known as the “Radio Beginner Series”. The intention is that every 4 months, the evening will be dedicated to something simple, but which any beginner starting out may not have been exposed to before. Ideal for foundation licensees, but also equally applicable to old hands trying out a new aspect of the hobby that they haven’t engaged with before.

The Art of QSL Cards and Confirmations

This month, the topic of sending and receiving QSL cards will be introduced, including all of the ways that you can achieve confirmation of your contacts, particularly if you are chasing awards. The talk will cover things like:

  • QSL card design – what to put on your cards
  • Ways of sending physical cards
    • Bureau
    • Direct – IRCs and “Green Stamps”
    • via QSL Managers
  • How to get electronic confirmation
    • ARRL’s Logbook of the World
    • eQSL.cc
    • ClubLog Log Matching & OQRS QSL Request Services
  • How do you manage Multiple Logs on these services?

The doors will open at 7.45pm, with meeting starting at 8.00pm. After the main presentation, tea coffee and supper is available followed by a general meeting. Hope to see you there!

Horus 40 Flight Report: January 2nd 2017

On Monday January 2nd 2017, the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group launched a test flight of some new telemetry equipment, and trialed the updated Wenet SSDV system being developed by the group. The aim was to validate some new software ready for a dual flight being planned for January 22nd for the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program (SHSSP) run by the University of South Australia.

Launch Preparations

The payloads being flown this flight included:

  • 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

Wenet had been upgraded this flight to send back 1920×1080 frames and include on each frame some telemetry information too!

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 tended to the payloads. Grant VK5GR, Josh VK5JO, Gary VK5FGRY and Andrew VK5XFG set about filling the balloon.

Liftoff went flawlessly, which meant the chase and tracking was next.

Flight Ground Tracking Network

As in Flight 39, Peter VK5KX and crew stationed themselves on top of a hill over looking Palmer in the Adelaide Hills. From there, he was able to receive much of the data from the Wenet transmitter carrying the SSDV data.

When the balloon reached 15km altitude and was almost directly overhead, he also reported that using a telescope he was able to get a visual lock on the balloon for a time!

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

“We were really trying to run several experiments on our rx capability and do a bit of a shakedown before the Dual launch. Some things worked, some things failed – but we have a much better insight into what is needed.

First off the Good.

Wenet – both of our Wenet RX set ups worked great – well, WinSDR, Pre-Amp and Laptop with software.  We again used a dual-band white stick antenna – so about 8db gain on 70cm.  We were able to RX images from 1,800M up to 25,000M and then from 25,000 back down to just 900M!  Abovr 25,000M we did see some data, but not reliable at all.

Our 2nd Antenna – we used for experimenting with was nothing more than a mobile dual band whip – and we may as well have not bothered from this distance – 4.5db gain does not cut it.

This is very similar to what we experienced the previous flight – but this flight was much closer to us – about 90km v’s the 120-130km of the last one and as a result we had rock-solid +10db WENET signals for most of the flight – except when it was very close to the ground and again once it flew out of the antenna pattern over 25,000M

Except during the extremes, we had almost 100% decode on all images – well over 100Meg of images in the images directory!

…and then the not so good…

We had a lot of trouble even hearing the RTTY telemetry – and it was not until it was about 6,000M that we even heard it!  We used our usual set up – of the IC-7100 in the car with a dual-band mobile whip to RX – and this is what we have used in the past without issue – Not so much of an Issue – except that it provides useful information WRT the Az and El of the balloon from your location – which might be needed – especially to be able to track the Payload with a directional array.

I suspect that we were had the car parked behind the shed and it was causing us to sit in the shadow of the flight until it hit the 6,000M mark.  This is something easily rectified on the next flight – move the car or put the antenna on the shed roof!

As usual, the RTTY should be able to be decoded by anyone within about 100km with a fairly simple antenna, further with a little bit of gain.

So, while not everything was perfect, we were very happy with the resultant WENET Images we received.”

Flight Data

The end result of all of the ground station work was that the Wenet SSDV image payload worked a treat, Here is a slideshow of the pictures captured:

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In addition, a GoPro was flown on the flight. The payload container this time suffered from some stability issues and so the images are not fantastic quality, but we did get some excellent frames out of the video at the time of balloon separation due to the tumbling. A number of selfies were taken of the other payloads and the parachute just as decent began. Check out the video here:

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:

[table “” not found /]


The final flight tracks can be seen here:

Maps from in car trackers

maps from HabHub.org

Chase & Telemetry Teams

The chase tracking for this flight was carried out by three teams this flight. Matt VK5ZM formed a team with Grant VK5GR, Josh VK5JO and Andrew VK5XFG, Andy VK5AKH had a team with Will Anthony VK5AHV, Darin VK5IX and his son Cam, and Mark VK5QI had a team with David VK5DGR and Gary VK5FGRY.

The chase teams in particular were using this flight to also get ready for the big dual flight planned on January 22nd.

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


Recovering Horus 40

The team had always planned on terminating the flight early as trying to recover the payloads in the Adelaide Hills, particularly the fairly remote eastern side is never easy. There were a number of tense minutes when the trigger mechanism appeared not to work, causing the balloon to fly further east than planned. Our worst nightmares looked like they were then going to materialize with a landing targeting the mountain goat country on the back of the escarpment. Fortunately, the payloads landed in a relatively accessible location, not far from an access road. A short hike up a hill and everything was found intact laid out before us awaiting collection.



Everyone declared Horus 40 a success, despite the issues with the delayed flight termination. Some fantastic images were obtained of Adelaide from 26km altitude, encouraging the team to continue to fly the SSDV payloads and enhance the ground station tracking systems. (More on that to follow).

Regards, The Project Horus team