Horus Telemetry Test Flight 29th July 2018 – Flight Report

With all the successful flights that Project Horus has had recently, I guess it’s about time we had one that didn’t quite go to plan…

Windy conditions at the launch site made filling difficult

First up – the weather. If this was a full-size Project Horus launch, we would have likely cancelled and re-scheduled the flight. However, since this was just a small test flight with a disposable payload, we decided to have a go.

Thankfully we didn’t experience the forecast showers, however 30-40kph winds at the launch site made filling an exciting experience, with the balloon blown all over the place. Mark VK5QI, Will VK5AHV, Chris VK5FR and Matt VK5HZ were the launch crew for the morning. Graham VK5GH also made an appearance. Just as we were starting to tie off the balloon a wind gust came up and tore the balloon off the fillter… goodbye balloon! (Memories of Horus 8, though this time without the garage to stop the balloon flying away).

Bye bye balloon… (Photo courtesy Matt VK5HZ)

There was just enough gas left in the cylinder to fill a small ‘backup’ balloon (a 100g Hwoyee) and get enough lift to get the payload in the air.

The achieved ascent rate after launch was ~3m/s, a bit lower than the planned 5m/s, however with the switch to a smaller balloon, this actually resulted in a fairly similar flight path to what was originally planned.

The first part of the flight went pretty normally. Many receiving stations came online to decode the new 4FSK Horus Binary mode, including a few new callsigns. Will VK5AHV and Mark VK5QI headed off towards Bear Rock to track the payload as long as possible, while Marcus VK5WTF was already stationed up on Accomodation Hill to do the same. Ivan VK5HS and Peter VK5PE were already out in the expected landing area (South of Loxton), recovering the morning’s Bureau of Meteorology radiosonde launch.

Faulty payload!

At just about 9km altitude… something went wrong in the payload. The signal became very wide, and then immediately started drifting up the band. The current theory is that the payload flew through a cloud on ascent, and a combination of condensation within the payload and extreme cold caused some problem with the radio IC. UPDATE: Testing has confirmed that the issue was related to insufficient insulation around the radio IC. Better sealing around the payload edges solves the issue, and hopefully this won’t occur on future flights.

The transmitted signal continued to drift up through the 70cm band, topping out at about 436.4 MHz before descending back down again. At some point (estimated to be about 21km altitude) the balloon burst, sending the payload quickly back towards the ground.

As we watched the signal drifting back down the band, we wondered – what will happen when it gets back to the original frequency – 434.640 MHz? Sure enough, as the frequency drifted closer towards 434.640 MHz, the drift rate sped up, and it almost ‘snapped’ back into place – and the 4FSK started up again! (Later analysis of the telemetry showed that the GPS & micro-controller continued operating while the radio went walkabout.)

Quickly we rushed to get the decoder up and running again, to find the payload was at ~1km altitude and dropping fast. From Bear Rock we were able to decode the payload down to ~300m (at a distance of 140km, not bad!). Peter VK5PE’s home station in Renmark was able to track it down a bit further, to ~220m.

Ivan and Pete turned around (they were halfway back to Renmark) and were able to recover the payload not far from the last reported position.

Peter VK5PE with the payload in hand!

Even with the issues this flight, we still met the primary goal of getting stations decoding the new Horus Binary telemetry mode. Stations seen to upload telemetry included:

VK5APR, VK5EI, VK5FJGM, VK5FLJG, VK5KJP, VK5KX, VK5NEX, VK5PE, VK5QI, VK5ST, VK5TRM, VK5WTF, and ‘AUSMEZ’

Thanks to all for your participation! We will be evaluating the received data and working out better ways of weatherproofing the modified RS41 payloads to avoid the issues encountered on this flight. Expect to see the Horus Binary telemetry on future flights!

Horus Telemetry Test Launch – Sunday 29th July 11AM CST

UPDATE: Unfortunately the payload failed at approximately 9km altitude. It recovered on descent just prior to landing, and we were able to get a landing location. Ivan VK5HS and Peter VK5PE were able to recover the payload from the middle of a large field south of Loxton.

Thanks to all that decoded the initial part of the flight. If you could please e-mail your log files through as mentioned below that would be appreciated.

This coming Sunday, the 29th of July, Project Horus will be performing a small balloon launch from Mt Barker High School Oval, at approximately 11AM CST. Live flight tracking will be available on the HabHub online tracker as usual.

This launch is another test flight of the new ‘Horus Binary’ telemetry payload, which uses a new modulation mode developed by David Rowe VK5DGR and Mark Jessop VK5QI with 6dB better performance than the usual RTTY telemetry. The first flight of this new payload was on the Horus 49 (Anstey 2.0) flight, where it performed well!

A modified Vaisala RS41, which transmits the new Horus Binary telemetry

The aim of this flight is to provide another opportunity for listeners to attempt decoding of this mode. Like the RTTY telemetry, the Horus Binary telemetry can be received using a 70cm Single-Sideband receiver. Telemetry will be on 434.640 MHz USB (+/- temperature drift). This will be the only payload on this flight, and we are not intending on recovering the payload (though others are welcome to go after it!).

Decoding of the the new mode is not supported in dl-fldigi, and hence new software must be installed – a guide on how to install and run the required Horus Binary decoder software is available here.  (A note to those listeners that decoded the binary payload on Horus 49: a few new features have been added to the Habitat uploader utility – please update to the latest version!)

To help debug some issues that were encountered on the last flight, it would be appreciated if all listeners e-mailed the ‘telemetry.log’ and ‘horusb_debug.log’ log files (created by the horusbinary uploader) through to Mark VK5QI (vk5qi@rfhead.net) at the conclusion of the flight.

 

VK5ARG in the Trans-Tasman Low Band Challenge Contest 2018

Another TT-Lowband contest has come and gone and this year AREG has set a new personal best score! A huge thanks to everyone who came along and operated, helped set up or sat in the bleechers cheering us on. A huge thanks to Steve VK5SFA who allowed us to setup a 3 seat Multi-Multi station in his home covering all three bands. Steve also fed the team (the BBQ was excellent) and kept us plied with copious quantities of coffee! The unofficial final score was 5360 points for 280 QSOs over the 6 hour event. We now eagerly await the official results.

The Station

The setup consisted of the following:

160m – 2 turn Magnetic Loop Antenna (which is barely 5kHz wide and difficult to tune in hunt and peck mode – much easier when we were running)

80m – we had a choice of 2 antennas – an Inverted V with it’s apex at ~9m above ground as an NVIS antenna and an 80m monopole which worked better for the longer paths such as ZL.

40m – we had a rotatory dipole as part of Steve’s SteppIR  Beam

The transceivers this time it was an all ICOM affair with:

An IC7600 and SPE-1.3KFA Amp on 40m,

An IC7610 and Elecraft KPA500 on 80m

An IC7700 and an AMCOM1000 on 160m

All stations were running 400W PEP simultaneously thanks to a set of 500W rated filters from Low Band Systems loaned to us by Peter VK5KX (thanks Pete!).

The Team

We had a great turnout from the club with lots of people contributing. Thanks must be given to Grant VK5GR, Mark VK5QI and Andrew VK5AKH who together with Steve provided the station equipment. Chris VK5FR also helped with installation on the day. We were also visited by Ben VK5BB and Olga VK5FOLG whom we are trying to recruit as future contest operators – great to see you drop by!

The operating team then consisted of Theo VK5MTM, Darin VK5IX, Steve VK5SFA, Grant VK5GR, Mark VK5QI, Andrew VK5AKH. Between the 6 of us we kept all three stations manned running CW and SSB for the full 6 hours – a fantastic result.

We also had Matthew VK5ZM and his son Daniel along with Darin’s son Cameron and Steve’s wife Linda as the cheer squad. It was all most pleasant being able to sit in the lounge chairs with the contestors going hard at it all around us. A fantastic atmosphere and a great night.

The Contest

So how did it go? 80m was the stand out band of the evening with it generating the majority of the contacts. 40m was great early on but once the sun set across the contest area the band filled up with stations from across the Pacific with the hum of several other contests running at the same time. Unfortunately the TT Low Band contest doesn’t allow you to log calls from other than VK & ZL so 40m became very hard going later in the evening. 160m saw a steady stream of signals throughout the night and was a lot of fun, although challenging to work search and pounce as it would take 2-3 minutes to change even 5kHz in frequency to call someone new on SSB.

All up the following map tells the tale of where we managed to work in the contest

Map processed through tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer/

Conclusion

Overall it was a great night and this year has cemented this as a regular fixture in the club’s contesting calendar! We now eagerly look forward to the results to see how we did!

Next Meeting: AGM + IT Security in the Shack – do you know who’s watching?

The next meeting of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group will be held on Friday July 20th 2018, at the Fulham Community Centre, Phelps Court, Fulham. Doors open at 7.45pm for an 8.00pm start.

This will be the clubs Annual General Meeting. More importantly, it marks the 20th anniversary of the formation of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group! Cake and refreshments will be served befitting our 20 year history!

At the meeting all positions will be declared vacant and the elections for 2018/19 will be held. Come along and join us in celebrating this milestone achievement for the club!


“IT Security in the Shack – do you know who’s watching?”

Our special guest presenter for the evening is Derek VK5TCP who will be talking with us about  IT security and what the risks really are!

Derek is a director of  a specialist cyber security group called CyberOps and has greater than 30 years expereince in IT and business risk.

He will cover:

  • How The Cyber Security Landscape Is Changing?
  • What the criminals are getting up to?
  • What are your risks at home?
  • Hardware hacking tools, techniques and devices.
  • What does a penetration test involve and what does it find?
  • How can I protect my own Internet connected devices?
  • Where can I find the best practice guides?

In this modern era where everyone has more IT infrastructure around them than they perhaps even realize, the importance of IT security can not be under estimated. This fascinating talk will at the very least arm you with knowledge and tools you can use to safeguard your own online activities.


Where to find us?

Everyone is most welcome to attend! You can find us at 1 Phelps Court, Fulham in the Fulham Community Centre (formerly known as the Reedbeds Community Centre).

 

Horus 49 – Anstey in Space v2.0 – Success!

On Sunday the 8th July, the Tea Tree Gully Library’s echidna mascot, Anstey, rose into the sky to an altitude of 36,374 metres under a High-Altitude Balloon. This was Anstey’s second flight into the stratosphere, and Project Horus’s 49th balloon launch.

Originally planned for the 30th of June, Horus 49 had to be delayed a week due to very poor weather conditions. Even still, this flight was a a long one for the chase teams! Fortunately we had the assistance of a team from the Riverland Radio Club who mobilized from their home base (much closer to the LZ) and who then played a big part in tracking and retrieving Anstey at the end of his flight. You can read about their adventure on the RRC Blog.

Launch Activities

As usual, the launch was from the Mt Barker High School oval – thanks must go to the school for allow us to use their oval for so many launches! A good number of AREG club members came along to help out with the launch. Also present at the launch were members of Anstey’s Space Club, there to watch the launch and see Anstey off into the stratosphere!

Filling the balloon.

Payloads were laid out, turned on and tested, and the balloon was filled with somewhat more gas than usual. The flight path predictions had a possible risk of landing close to Loxton, so additional gas was used to give a higher ascent rate (as it turned out, a *very* high ascent rate). Wind gusts made filling the balloon a bit of a challenge, but there were no lack of hands to help keep things from getting out of control.

At just after 10AM, the wind died down and we had a perfect launch!

Launch of Horus 49

The Flight

On board Anstey had two cameras recording things. The first was a GoPro miniature video camera! The second was a still camera that was sending photos live to ground as the flight progressed.

Chase & Recovery

Right after the launch, Mark VK5QI and Will VK5AHV quickly headed off towards the expected landing area to the South-West of Loxton – a long drive away! Marcus VK5WTF and partner were also following not far behind.

The ascent rate ended up being much higher than intended – ascent rates as high as 9m/s were observed at some points in the flight, resulting in a shorter than expected flight. Even still, the Hwoyee 1600g balloon used made it to a very respectable 36374 metres altitude before bursting.

With the original flight path prediction due to land near Loxton, it was looking pretty unlikely that the chase teams departing from Mt Barker would make it there before landing. Luckily, a group of Riverland Radio Club members were on the case! Ivan VK5HS, Peter VK5PE, Danny VK5DW and Andy VK5LA also headed out to chase, starting from the Loxton area. Rob VK5TRM was also out for the chase. Ivan & co had been practicing by hunting the Bureau of Meteorology radiosondes, so were well experienced in chasing balloons – so much so that they were able to get into position to watch the balloon land in an area of scrubland near the locality of Mantung (40km SW of Loxton).

Mark and Will were not far behind, arriving at the landing site a few minutes later. A short walk later and Anstey was sighted… about 8 metres up a gum tree!

With some persuasion from a SpiderBeam pole, Anstey was recovered. Many thanks to all those who came along for the chase!

Horus 49 Recovery Team

Live Wenet Imagery

Throughout the flight Anstey was imaged via a version of Project Horus’s ‘Wenet’ imagery payload, which transmits images down to the ground via a 115kbps 70cm transmitter. As expected the images of Anstey were amazing, and were viewable live via HabHub’s SSDV webpage.

This live imagery is only possible through volunteers running ground-stations. Thanks go to VK5APR, VK5EU, and VK5KX who ran stationary receivers. Mark VK5QI was also running a mobile Wenet receiver in his chase car.

CallsignPackets ReceivedTotal Data Received (MB)
VK5KX23846058.22
VK5QI (Mobile)21801253.23
VK5APR21304552.01
VK5EU15317537.40

Telemetry – RTTY & Horus Binary

As with all previous Project Hours flights, a RTTY payload was flown. Many listeners contributed to tracking this payload:

CallsignPackets HeardPercentage of Flight HeardPayload Alt at First RX (metres)Payload Alt at Last RX (metres)
VK5EI103393.4%3962695
VK5EU101792.0%7012780
VK5FAAP98288.8%16373203
VK5FJGM73966.8%11229329
VK5FLJG62656.6%22117751
VK5KX95586.3%1680193
VK5NEX91282.5%26335108
VK5ST83375.3%28783897
VK5ZAR79371.7%12055551

New to this flight was an experimental ‘Horus Binary’ payload, which was transmitting a MFSK telemetry mode developed by David Rowe VK5DGR and Mark Jessop VK5QI. This new mode has significant performance advantages over RTTY, and will hopefully become the new default telemetry system for Project Horus flights. David VK5DGR also has an overview of the payload and how it performed on the flight on his blog. Many stations were able to run the new decoding software and track the flight using this mode:

CallsignPackets HeardPercentage of Flight HeardPayload Alt at First RX (metres)Payload Alt at Last RX (metres)
VK5AKH/KX/ZM (Portable)151182.4%6970101
VK5APR154184.0%26314850
VK5FJGM123467.3%76925875
VK5FLJG157786.0%6755217
VK5FTAZ83245.4%91466484
VK5IX149181.3%818661
VK5KJP147180.2%27484404
VK5RR28815.7%33826400
VK5ST166390.7%24351286
VK5TRM171993.7%1854139
VK5QI (Mobile)156085.1%34364
VK5WTF (Mobile)103956.7%2776139

The new mode provides position updates twice as fast as the 100 baud RTTY payload, and with 6dB better decoding performance (meaning double the range!). The update rate may have been too fast it seems – while about 2600 packets were transmitted during the flight (confirmed as received on VK5QI’s mobile station), only ~1800 of these made it into the Habitat tracking database! This is likely a result of upload timeouts – some changes will be made to the software prior to the next Horus Binary flight so this issue can be further debugged. Still, the new mode performed incredibly well in the chase cars, providing  rapid and regular updates to the chase car mapping systems.

Thanks again to all who helped track the flight using both Wenet, RTTY, and the new modem. Expect the Horus Binary mode to make appearances on more flights in the future!

Upcoming Launches

To give more listeners an opportunity to decode the new Horus Binary mode (and to use up some leftover gas from Horus 49!), a small balloon launch will take place sometime in Late July. This will be a ‘small’ balloon launch (as per the CASR Part 101.E definition), flying a re-purposed RS41 radiosonde clocking in at just over 40 grams. A new version of the Horus Binary decoder will be released prior to this launch to allow better analysis of the upload issue encountered on Horus 49.

Also coming up is the 20th anniversary of AREG – as part of the celebrations, we will be performing Project Horus’s 50th launch! On this flight we expect to fly:

  • A 2m/70cm Cross-Band repeater, similar to what was flown at the WIA AGM launch.
  • A SSTV transmitter, sending images in the PD120 SSTV mode.
  • An APRS beacon (depending on weight budget)

.. along with the usual telemetry and cutdown payloads. Stay tuned!

Horus 49 – Anstey in Space – NEW DATE CONFIRMED

UPDATE: Anstey was successfully launched to a height of 36374 metres, followed by a landing in the Murray Mallee and a recovery by AREG and Riverland Radio Club members. A full write-up of the launch will be posted in the next few days.

Anstey at 36km Altitude on Horus 49!

Back in 2016, AREG & Project Horus helped Anstey the Echidna, the Tea Tree Gully Library’s mascot, explore near-space. Anstey didn’t have enough fun on the previous launch, and so on the 8th of July 2018, we will be re-launching Anstey back into near-space on a high-altitude balloon launch!

Anstey in near-space on Horus 39

The launch is currently scheduled for 10AM CST on Sunday the 8th July, however as usual, weather conditions may cause this to be re-scheduled. The launch will be from the Mt Barker High School Oval, and spectators are welcome. Launch crew should be on-site from approximately 9AM.

Tracking of the flight will be available via the HabHub tracker.

Telemetry Information

The telemetry frequencies for the flight are as follows:

  • RTTY Telemetry – ‘HORUS’ – 434.650 MHz  (100 baud, 425 Hz Shift, 7N2)
  • Wenet Imagery – 441.200 MHz (Wenet 115kbps FSK)
  • Experimental Horus Binary Payload – 434.640 MHz (100 baud 4FSK)

As usual, the RTTY telemetry can be decoded using dl-fldigi.


Note: Recent testing of dl-fldigi’s decode performance has found that the auto-configured RTTY receive bandwidth is too narrow, and can detrimentally impact decode performance (by up to 3dB!).

To fix this, open dl-fldigi, and in the Configure menu, select Modems, and then go to the ‘RTTY’ tab. Drag the ‘Receive filter bandwidth’ slider to 200, then click ‘Save’. Note that this setting will be reset whenever you hit the ‘Auto-Configure’ button!


Wenet Imagery

As with most Project Horus launches, this flight will feature live imagery via the Wenet high-speed imagery downlink. Images will be available throughout the flight at this link:

http://ssdv.habhub.org/HORUS

Reception of the Wenet signal requires a RTLSDR and a Linux PC/Laptop. Instructions on how to set up the required software are available here.

Experimental 4FSK Telemetry

This launch will include the use of a re-purposed Vaisala RS41 radiosonde, programmed to transmit a new binary 4FSK telemetry mode, developed by David VK5DGR and Mark VK5QI. This new mode is intended to eventually (read: probably a year away) replace RTTY telemetry on Horus flights. It runs at 100 baud, is approximately 850 Hz in bandwidth, and has an almost 6dB performance improvement over the current RTTY telemetry! 

Decoding this telemetry requires installation of a new decoder application (an updated version of FreeDV), and some helper scripts to upload the data to the online tracker. A guide on how to install and operate this new decoder is available here.

Conclusion

More information will be available closer to the flight!