Horus 46: International Space University – Jan 2018

The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group teamed up again this year with the International Space University’s Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program to simulate a space mission using Helium fueled high altitude balloons.

The Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program is an intensive, five week, live-in experience built around an international, intercultural, and interdisciplinary (3 “I”s) educational philosophy for which the International Space University (ISU) is renowned. 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 Balloon Mission – 2018

The original plan was to fly a multi-faceted ‘heavy’ mission that included downward as well as outward facing cameras, inertial measurement units reporting the camera orientation (so that the photos could be plotted and stitched together after the flight) and a spectrometer studying atmospheric gas makeup.

Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating, with flight paths landing in severe bush-fire rating zones within the Adelaide Hills, a risk the AREG team were not willing to take. So, at the 11th hour, the plan was re-cast to collect only outward images, without the flight termination devices on board, using disposable payloads. Thus, Horus 46 was born and flew on the 28th of January.

Predicted Flight track before launch

The Launch


(Video provided by Timothy Ryan @AstroTimOz)

The launch teams arrived at Serefino WInery at 8.00am and by 8:10am we had selected the launch and tracking sites. This year, due to the very calm ground winds we were able to lift off from the front lawns. The SHSSP students then helped with preparing the flight and filling the balloon. Grant VK5GR led the filling operations, aided by Josh VK5JO and WIll VK5AHV  while Mark VK5QI tended to the payloads, Peter VK5KX and Bill VK5DSP tended to the ground station receivers and Matt VK5ZM (club president) secured the balloon train and handled the publicity aspects of the event for AREG.

Telemetry and Images

Telemetry collection was vitally important for this flight as it represented about the only way that we were getting pictures back from the balloon. To this end, we again enlisted the help of Peter VK5KX and Bill VK5DSP who provided the primary image downlink stations for the day.

Mark VK5QI’s X-Quad antenna from Wimo generated a lot of interest as well as the tracking rig which now takes GPS data from the telemetry and computes the correct azimuth and elevation to aim the antenna at to receive the balloon. Lots of work went into that system by multiple club members so it was great to see it out in anger.

Back in Adelaide, Peter VK5APR and Graeme VK5EU also made major contributions. The Wenet telemetry scoreboard in the end was:

  • VK5KX: 275015 packets (67.14 MB)
  • VK5APR: 153431 packets (37.46 MB)
  • VK5DSP: 13682 packets (3.34 MB)
  • VK5EU: 89418 packets (21.83 MB)
  • VK5QI: 200777 packets (49.02 MB)

Tracking the RTTY payload required some finesse this time as it was an original Micronut complete with AFSK spacing and frequency drift issues of old. None the less multiple stations were able to contribute to the flight data collection.

What the Balloon Saw

The most spectacular aspect of any of these flights are the pictures collected from the high altitude cameras. These never get old and this flight did not disappoint.

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(Slideshow from the flight)

The final flight track looked as follows

The flight stats are as follows:

Flight Designation:Horus 46 - SHSSP18 #1
Launch Date:27/1/2018 23:39:30 UTC
Landing Date:28/1/2018 01:58:43 UTC
Flight Duration:2 Hours 19 Minutes
Launch Site:-35.22103 138.55374
Landing Site:-35.38075 139.1722
Distance Traveled:58.8 km
Maximum Altitude:21,213 m

Attempted Recovery

As with all flights, there is a degree of uncertainty. So with Horus 46, while the expectation was that we wouldn’t be recovering this one, none the less an attempt was going to be made. Mark VK5QI set out with Will VK5AHV to track and attempt recovery anyway.

For a while it was looking positive, but alas this balloon “exceeded specifications” in a most annoying way. It flew higher than planned, in fact nearly 4km higher, which shifted the final landing zone well and truly into the waters of Lake Alexandrina.


A big thank you is again owed to everyone who contributed to the flight either through direct flight operations or through telemetry gathering. Stay tuned as we are still hoping to fly the main scientific payloads next weekend (weather permitting).

Horus 46 High Altitude Balloon Launch Sunday 27th

 The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group has been again asked to support the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program for the International Space University in 2018. Held in conjunction with the University of South Australia in Adelaide, this year AREG is launching one balloon for the group carrying a variety of sensors and cameras. The students this year are focusing on space navigation and will be attempting to take the GPS and 9DOF orientation sensor data from the payload to pinpoint where in space the photos were taken from, and then overlay them like a checkerboard over the ground.

The flight will lift off at 10:00am ACDT on the 28th of January from Serefino Winery east of McLaren Vale.

Tracking of the flight will be available on the HabHub Tracker, available at this link. (Note that other balloon launches will also be visible on this page, including the Bureau of Meteorology launches from Adelaide Airport).

Live Imagery from the launch will be available at this link: http://ssdv.habhub.org/VK5ARG

Payload Telemetry Details

UPDATE: Due to the weather, there is now only one camera payload (as well as the RTTY and tele-command systems) planned for this flight, with a much lower planned burst altitude (~17km instead of 30km). This is because of the flight path and recovery concerns in the face of Severe fire-ban and harsh weather forecasts.

  • Primary Telemetry:   434.650MHz +/- 5 KHz RTTY 100 baud 8N1
  • Imagery Payload:   441.2MHz FSK 115k2 baud Wenet

As always we can use the help with receive stations copying the telemetry and pushing this to the internet for us. If you have a Wenet capable ground station please concentrate on the 441.2MHz downlink to maximise the data we collect for the university.

The auto-configure feature within dl-fldigi will automatically configure these settings for you once you pick the correct flight (‘Horus / SHSSP 2018’). The UKHAS tracking guide provides the information you need to set up a RTTY receiver:  https://ukhas.org.uk/guides:tracking_guide

Note that the RTTY payload on this launch is one of our ‘vintage’ MicroNut payloads, and is expected to drift a few kHz during the flight. dl-fldigi will keep track of the signal if it’s within your receiver’s passband, but you may need to re-tune during the flight.

Information on setting up to receive the Wenet imaging payload is available here: https://github.com/projecthorus/wenet/wiki/Wenet-RX-Instructions-(Ubuntu-Debian)

Note that this is a few orders of magnitude more complicated than setting up for RTTY, and requires a machine running a recent version of Ubuntu, some Linux experience, and a RTLSDR+Preamp. You also need to be within 100-150km of the balloon to receive sufficient signal.

The Flight Path

This flight is not ideal as it is landing in the Adelaide Hills, an area that can make recovery difficult for multiple reasons. The planning group are watching this very closely.

A note on the Weather

With the weather in the high forties this coming weekend if the CFS issue a Severe or higher fire ban on Saturday at 4pm then the flight will be scaled back or cancelled. It is possible a light weight disposable flight may still run (without the expensive scientific payloads) so we will still be looking for tracking. It all depends on the flight path and the fire ban status issued by the CFS. A final call will be made Sunday morning and will be posted to the AREG Website before launch.


Next Meeting: Chasing DX (or how to work 3Y0Z)

Welcome to 2018!

The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group Monthly Meetings are starting up again with one of our Beginners Series  of talks, but this one will have a twist. We will be running it as a panel discussion with the topic “HF Operating Etiquette – How to Work 3Y0Z”, and wish to invite all of the active DX chasers and HF operators in the room to share their collective thoughts on what to do and what not to do when chasing HF DX in general.

The aim is to spread the collective knowledge about how to get through those piles for that special ATNO (All Time New One) like the Bouvet Island DXPedition (#2 on the most wanted list). Topics will be guided by moderators and will include HF operating etiquette, how to work HF split, how, when and where to call in a pileup, what to consider propagation wise and much more.

We will have a live scribe taking down all of the best ideas and will post them here after the meeting for future reference.

Where and when is the meeting?

Friday January 19th – 7.45pm (for an 8.00pm start)
Fulham Community Centre, Phelps Court, Fulham.

Visitors are most welcome to come and participate in the evening. We hope to see you there!