Horus 47: SHSSP 2018 Science Flight Report

Following unfavourable weather conditions the previous weekend, the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group planned a second attempt to fly the science payloads for the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program 2018 on Sunday February 4th. Again, the weather was not cooperating, which forced a change of the launch site in order to get off the ground. This meant a very early start as the launch teams left Adelaide at 7.00am to trek 150km east of the city into the Murray Mallee.

This flight was carrying a number of science experiments for the SHSSP students. This year the focus was on space navigation, so one particular focus was using the GPS data coupled with an initertial measurment unit to be able to plot the angle and direction of the camera taking the photos. The other experiment was a spectrometer which was measuring the precise wavelengths of light.

SHSSP18 Downward facing camera (courtesy UniSA and SHSSP)

Launch Preparation

Launch preparations began about 9am after the crew had arrived at the launch site. Thanks must go to Chris VK5CP who arranged access with the farmer who’s paddock we borrowed for the morning. Along the way the obligotory bakery stop had been made in the township of Mannum (I can vouch for their blueberry scrolls). Today we had a couple of new faces on the flight team, with Marcus VK5WTF and Mark VK5QN stepping in to give us a hand. Also on site was Mark VK5QI (Payload), Grant VK5GR (Balloon) and Will VK5AHV (Balloon). The team laid everything out and commenced assembling both the balloon train and the filling apparatus.

At the same time, Grant VK5GR started up his frist time chase vehicle and coaxed all of the linked software systems to life. Thanks to some loaned antennas from Matthew VK5ZM and LoRa receivers from Mark VK5QI, Grant was able to establish a full telemetry and tracking suite in just a matter of days to help assist with the chase.

Marcus filmed the proceedings too and you can see a short timelapse here of inflating the balloon.

Meanwhile, Mark VK5QN and Mark VK5QI (yes that did get confusing) assembled the balloon train. Mark VK5QN with his climbing and scouting background did a professional job of tying the balloon train together. You are most welcome to come again Mark!

Lift-Off

Finally the time came for liftoff. Mark VK5QI checked in with ATC Melbourne and we were given our clearance to fly. The team raised the balloon train and was thankful that we had almost zero ground winds. Mark did a final check that all the payloads were transmitting using a new handheld flight status monitor he had been working on and gave the the green light to commence countdown.

Grant VK5GR then released the balloon and we witnessed a near text book launch. As it climbed, the balloon hit it’s ascent target speed of 5m/s and everything looked good for a successful flight. The ground teams then scrambled to pack everything away and get rolling. It was going to be a long chase, with the landing zone predicted to be up in the north eastern Barossa Valley, and a detour around the River Murray required past Bow Hill and up to Blanchtown so that delays on the river car ferrys could be avoided.

Tracking Control

Meanwhile 58km to the north west, the ground tracking crew of Peter VK5KX and Darin VK5IX were awaiting signal aquisition as the balloon cleared the horizon. They had lots of signals to track this flight, including the 100 Baud RTTY, the LoRa Telecommand system and two Wenet Imaging payloads. Peter again setup his automated tracking antenna (seen on the previous week’s flight) and with Darins help was able to collect and upload to the internet the image signals from both payloads.

Peter took the following video of the Wenet systems in action

The Chase

Meanwhile, back in the two chase cars, Marcus VK5WTF, Mark VK5QI and Will VK5AHV headed out first and made the dash up to the valley.

Mark VK5QN and Grant VK5GR had a slightly slower start, as they had to first drop the gas trailer at a staging point in Younghusband before they too could join the chase.

Wenet Images

This was the first time the balloon and been flown this far NE of Adelaide so it was great to see some different angles of the state. The weather was nearly perfect as well with hardly a cloud in the sky. These photos were taken by the AREG Wenet payload with an outward facing camera.

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One of the last photos actually captured a shot of Mark VK5QI’s chase car as the team was fortunate to be in visual range of the landing.

Grant’s team wasnt quite so lucky due to a software issue involving timezones and the prediction tools and he didnt make it to the landing zone until about 5 minutes after it landed.

Once the balloon landed, both teams met up with the local land owner before being given permission to drive in and pick up the payloads. We were very lucky that the balloon landed approximately 100m from the access track in an empty stubble field. Definitely one of the easier recoveries of recent times!

After we bid farewell to the land owner it was off back home – of course via another bakery (this time in the main street of Truro). Mark’s chase team had the luxury of being able to head straight back to Adelaide. Meanwhile Grant had to return to Younghusband to pick up the gas bottles and trailer. For the VK5GR team it was nearly a 600km 10.5hr round trip this time.

Flight Path & Statistics

Horus 47 flew an interesting course this time. This is a rather uncommon flight track for the AREG team.

The flight statistics are below

MetricResult
Flight Designation:Horus 47 - SHSSP18 #2
Launch Date:04/2/2018 23:59:04 UTC
Landing Date:04/2/2018 02:19:52 UTC
Flight Duration:2 Hours 30 Minutes
Launch Site:-34.878614 139.492314
Landing Site:-34.313174 139.107985
Distance Traveled:72.7 km
Maximum Altitude:32,507 m

Again many amateurs from across the state got involved in telemetry collection. We wish to thank everyone who took part as you all help make the chase and recovery more successful.

The following is the chart of who contributed to the telemetry gathering effort:

Thanks goes to the following who contributed: VK5QI, VK5KJP, VK5ST, VK5NEX, VK5EU, VK5APR, VK5KX, VK5GR, VK5FTAZ, VK5ZAI, VK5DJ, VK5FAAP, VK5ZEA, VK5ALX, VK5KIK

A few stations also contributed to receiving the Wenet digital imaging downlinks. These stations were:

SHSSP1 Payload

  • VK5APR: 145509 packets (35.52 MB)
  • VK5WTF: 91884 packets (22.43 MB)
  • VK5EU: 146129 packets (35.68 MB)
  • VK5DSP (UniSA Team): 133871 packets (32.68 MB)
  • VK5KX: 99419 packets (24.27 MB)

VK5ARG Payload

  • VK5QI: 198691 packets (48.51 MB)
  • VK5KX: 185197 packets (45.21 MB)

Conclusion

So that marks the end of the story for the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies balloon launch program for 2018. We hope everyone had a great time and again thank everyone who contributed or participated in making the flights possible!

73 till next time de VK5ARG

Acknowledgements: Thanks to VK5QI, VK5QN, VK5GR, VK5WTF, VK5KX, VK5IX, VK5AHV and SHSSP for all the material in this report.

Horus 47: Set to Fly on Sunday 4th Feb for SHSSP!

After the successful Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program publicity flight last week, we are now planning to fly the Science flight this coming Sunday. This flight has two main experiments on it, the first being a Spectrometer which will collect atmospheric composition data for the university and the second is a downward facing camera with a 9DOF inertial measurement unit which is going to be used to create stitched together images from the flight area.

The flight will lift off at 10:00am ACDT on the 4th of February from Younghusband in the Murray Mallee ~150km east of Adelaide.

UPDATE 2018-02-05: This launch has been performed and was recovered successfully – a full writeup is incoming… 

Payload Telemetry Details

As always amateur radio operators from across central and SE Australia are encouraged to get involved with telemetry reception and forwarding to the central habhub.org database.

There are two camera payloads as well as the RTTY and telecommand systems planned for this flight.

  • Primary:      434.650MHz RTTY 100 baud 8N1
  • SHSSP-1:   441.2MHz FSK 115k2 baud Wenet (downward facing camera)
  • VK5ARG:    443.5MHz FSK 115k2 baud Wenet (outward facing camera)

Information on how to receive, decode and relay the information is available as follows:

RTTY Payload

The auto-configure feature within dl-fldigi will automatically configure these settings for you once you pick the correct flight (“Horus 47 / SHSSP 2018 MkII”). The UKHAS tracking guide provides the information you need to set up a RTTY receiver:   https://ukhas.org.uk/guides:tracking_guide

WENET Picture Payloads

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.  If you have a WENET capable ground station please concentrate on the 441.2MHz downlink to maximise the data we collect for the university.

Tracking and Viewing Information

If you want to follow the progress of the flights, you can visit www.habhub.org and access the live tracking information as events unfold. You can also access the live SSDV images  from ssdv.habhub.org/VK5ARG

The predicted flight path at this time is:

Keep watching the AREG Website for details as things can always change the closer we get to lift off.

High Altitude Ballooning: Willunga HS Supported by Project Horus

The Willunga High School is planning to launch a high altitude balloon, planned for this Thursday, the 7th of December. Launch time will be around 10:30 AM ACST. This flight is being carried out by the teachers at Willunga High School.

While not a direct Project Horus Flight, it is being supported by the Project Horus team with tracking payloads, recovery services and telemetry feeds. Amateur Radio operators from across the state are invited to contribute to the telemetry collection activities which will use the same Internet resources as Project Horus does.

Flight Predictions

The predictions are a bit variable – there is a weather change coming through Thursday & Friday which are throwing things out. As of Sunday 3rd December’s model the balloon is landing somewhere near Ki-Ki, but this is expected to change. If the predictions change markedly, the launch may be rescheduled to Friday.

Target burst altitude is 30km, but depending on predictions the flight may be cut-down early to ensure a safe recovery.

The radio payloads on this launch are currently planned to be:

  • RTTY Telemetry – 434.650 MHz
  • Cutdown / Mission Control payload – 431.650 MHz
  • Wenet Imagery on 441.200 MHz

As usual, assistance with tracking is greatly appreciated.
Information on tracking the RTTY payload is available here: https://ukhas.org.uk/guides:tracking_guide

Live tracking of the flight will be available on the HabHub Tracker: https://tracker.habhub.org/#!mc=-34.8,139.0&mz=9

Finally, if we can get enough packets down from the Wenet payload, live imagery will appear here: http://ssdv.habhub.org/VK5ARG

More news as we get closer to the day!

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

Introduction

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:

Horus 41 RTTY – VK5QI-9, VK5ZM, VK5AKK, VK5ZRL, VK5DF, VK5EI2, VK5NEX, VK5KIK, VK5PJ, VK5ZLX, VK5HS, VK5DMC, vk5ftaz, VK5DF/p, VK5EI, VK5KX, VK5DC, VK5FJGM, VK5ALX, VK5RR, VK5EU, VK5PJ/P

Horus 42 RTTY – VK5AKH, VK5AKK, VK5KJP, VK5KIK, VK5ZEA, VK5DC, VK5PJ, VK5KX, VK5RR, VK5DF/p, VK5ALX, VK5DF, VK5DMC, vk5ftaz, VK5HS, VK5ZLX, VK5TST, VK5EU

SHSSP1 SSDV: VK5DSP,VK5ZM,VK5FI

SHSSP2 SSDV: VK5AKH,VK5KX,MI0VIM,VK5RR

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

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Conclusion

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…..