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 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.

Project Horus Flight #43 Report – Sunday March 5th 2017

AREG finally had the weather smile on us today with a near textbook launch for Horus 43. This flight, conducted for Rostrevor College through LaunchBox, had been previously delayed multiple times due to either ground conditions, upper atmosphere conditions or both, so it was great to see it finally in the air.

Ground Preparations

The ground crew saw some new faces get involved today which was great. Balloon filling and handling was undertaken by Mark VK5QI, Darin VK5IX, Gary VK5FGRY, Grant VK5GR, Will VK5AHV, Marcus VK5WTF and Kim VK5FJ. Filling and liftoff went without a hitch!

Payloads

The payloads flown on this flight included:

  • 100bps RTTY FSK Telemetry Beacon
  • LoRa Telecommand
  • Wenet Imaging
  • LaunchBox Student Experiments

The images collected from Wenet were again spectacular – we never get tired of looking through what the balloon can see during it’s flight.

On the Ground before Liftoff

Ascent

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Landing

Note how close some of the shots of the River Murray are towards the end of this set!

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Chase & Tracking Teams

Two primary chase teams set out this time to recover the balloon payloads. Mark VK5QI lead the first team with Gary VK5FGRY and Will VK5AHV, while Darin VK5IX and his son headed out in the second.

Marcus VK5WTF meanwhile carried out his first shakedown attempt at kitting his vehicle out as well. After launch, Marcus headed to Bear Rock lookout near Palmer to join Peter VK5KX who again provided our primary Wenet downlink station. Grant VK5GR also paid Peter a visit and got to see the ground tracking side of the operation for the first time! We were also visited by Tim VK5ZT who decided to pay us a visit – great to see you out and about Tim!

Recovery went well in the end, with the teams being there for landing. They captured photos of the balloon moments before touchdown. 

Tracking Network

The tracking network continues to grow as well. We saw some new ground stations participate in collecting the Wenet image telemetry for the first time this flight! Stations who contributed to the image collection this time included:

VK5FJ, VK5QI, VK5EU, VK5KX, VK5DF

Welcome aboard to our first timers!

On the RTTY tracking side, there was a large group of participants. The following give you an idea of the magnitude of each station’s contribution – some from as far away as 300km from the launch site!

Flight Path

The flight path itself was pretty much textbook, with one minor wrinkle. It was planned for the flight to exceed 28-30km, however this time the balloon burst early. This caused some tense moments during landing when it started getting very close to the River Murray! There were some thoughts that it might go swiming at one stage, however thankfully that was averted.

Flight Statistics

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Conclusion

Another successful flight and one we are happy to finally be able to complete.

Til next time – 73 from the Project Horus team