Horus 44: Flight Report – Riverland BRL Field Day

On April 22nd 2017, the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group conducted an Amateur Radio focused balloon launch from the Riverland Radio Club’s VK5BRL Weekend event at Overland Corner Hotel in the Riverland. This launch was carried out to bring some interesting amateur radio based experiments to a new audience, and also to encourage more tracking stations to take part in Project Horus from the Riverland region (which is often a landing ground for the flights from the Adelaide Hills).

Ground Control

The launch campaign began at 9.00am with Bob VK5FO and Ray VK5RR helping Ivan VK5HS set up the balloon ground control station at the BRL Weekend event.

Horus 44 was the first flight of a new 2m/70cm voice repeater so we also were making contacts through the balloon using the VK5WOW special event callsign throughout the flight, promoting the Wireless Institute of Australia’s AGM which was being held in VK5 a few weeks later.

Launch Crew

Meanwhile the ground crew started preparations to launch the payloads. AREG members Matt VK5ZM, Mark VK5QI, Grant VK5GR, Darin VK5IX and Kim VK5FJ worked on assembling the payload train and filling the balloon with helium.

The predicted flight track was to take us east, to land tot he north west of Renmark. We certainly hoped is would follow that track, as there were many inaccessible obstacles in the Murray River marshlands area.

Lift Off

We were going to find out soon enough! Lift off was a text book effort, and straight away people were accessing the repeater, able to make contacts with VK5WOW. The only issue noticed early on was that the repeater’s receive filters were very narrow, enough to cause the mute to shut if you spoke to loudly. Even with that issue, contacts streamed through think and fast.

Once in the air, the repeater ran hot. The following stations made contact with VK5WOW via the balloon:

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The repeater footprint continued to expand, and just reached Melbourne before the balloon burst.

WENET brings Superb Pictures

In addition to the voice repeater, the WENET camera payload also flew collecting stunning images of the Riverland region from the air.

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Chase & Recovery

Meanwhile the chase teams had driven to Renmark and were watching intently as the balloon progressed along its path.  The two AREG teams were joined this time by Peter VK5PE and a crew from the Riverland Radio Club. The local knowledge they brought to the chase was invaluable!

At one stage we became quite nervous as it appeared it may actually land in the marshes. However, the winds once again became favorable and the landing zone looked very good indeed.

Recovery occurred after a short hike into a local conservation park, but not before we watched the balloon descend gracefully from about 1500m elevation!

Flight Statistics

The fight track for Horus 44 shows that there were fairly light high altitude winds on this day. Once clearing the ground winds the flight profile was remarkably vertical.

The detailed flight statistics are:

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This time we saw major contributions from many of our ground stations too. The following pi-chart shows who collected telemetry for this flight.

Conclusion

It was a very successful flight! A huge thank you again to everyone who was involved, and in particular to the Riverland Radio Club for the invitation to come and fly from their back yard. Thanks also to the AREG members who traveled and stayed in the Riverland to fly Horus 44, with a special thanks to Sharon VK5FSAW who once again helped with logistics through catering the lunches for those chasing the balloon!

“BRL Gathering” Balloon Repeater Launch – April 22nd – UPDATE

The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group is please to announce that it will be supporting an Amateur Radio focused balloon launch, to take place at the Riverland Radio Club’s VK5BRL Weekend event at Overland Corner Hotel in the Riverland.

This event is aimed at bringing together members of the Riverland Radio Club and amateurs from across SA & Victoria, in particular those who participate in the VK5BRL bi-weekly net on HF (heard on 7115kHz  at 8.30am Wednesday and Saturdays).

The morning festivities start off with an early breakfast of coffee, tea and of course bacon,  eggs and sausages.  This is then followed by the BRL net.   The AREG are looking to launch the balloon some time around 11am (to be confirmed) when the NOTAM is raised later this week.

AREG & Project Horus Involvement

The AREG will be marking this weekend with a special balloon flight. It has been some time since the flying repeater was heard on air, so it was felt that it was time to put some more amateur radio back into the balloon flights.

Balloon Repeater Frequencies

The balloon repeater will be heard on:

  • INPUT: 147.500MHz with 91.5Hz CTCSS (+/- thermal drift of the receiver)
  • OUTPUT: 438.850MHz (+/- thermal drift of the transmitter) – 0.8W into 1/4wave omni

Please note that this repeater is experimental, and may have performance issues during the flight.

To transmit to the balloon at the maximum range of 800km (once the balloon reaches 100,000ft ++) you should only need approximately 5-10W and an 2-4dB gain antenna.

Receiving the balloon at 400km range in a handheld environment should be achievable, but to hear the repeater at the maximum range of 800km you should expect to need a 10dB gain Yagi for a 0.4uV capable receiver and 2dB feeder loss

This setup is much the same as the LEO satellites but without the high speed Doppler shift.

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU CAN HEAR IT BEFORE YOU TRANSMIT!

Additionally, the receiver used in the repeater (a Dorji DRA818) appears to have quite sharp receive filters, which results in the repeater dropping out if the input signal is over-deviated (>4.8 kHz dev). Please talk using a regular speaking voice when using the repeater to avoid issues.

As we will be flying from Overland Corner instead of near Adelaide, coverage at apogee should almost reach Canberra. Contacts from Melbourne to Adelaide through the balloon should definitely be possible.

Other Balloon Payloads

Other payloads being flown on this flight will include:

  1. our standard 100bps 7N1 RTTY telemetry transmitter on 434.650MHz, and
  2. the Wenet imaging payload which will downlink on 441.2MHz at 115Kbit/s, and which will stream HD photos during the flight.

Images can be seen (here).

Tracking will again be available via www.habhub.org

If you would like to learn more about how to get involved in tracking the balloon, take a look at the following resources on the club website.

WIA AGM & Convention Special Event Callsign to be Net Control on the balloon repeater

The Riverland Radio Club will be activating the WIA AGM & Convention special event call sign VK5WOW via the balloon repeater during the event. Contacts with VK5WOW through the balloon will qualify for the award certificate.

Full details of the Convention 2017 award are available via  www.wia.org.au/members/wiaawards/agm2017/

Stay tuned for further details as the flight is finalised. We will announce the final flight time later this week as well as the predicted balloon track.