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

Horus 43 - LaunchBox Flight Statistics
Metric Result
Flight Designation: Horus 43 – LaunchBox for Rostrevor College
Launch Date: 04/3/2017 23:37:09 UTC
Landing Date: 05/3/2017 01:52:53 UTC
Flight Duration: 2 Hours 15 Minutes
Launch Site: -35.07628 138.85695
Landing Site: -34.944965 139.318289
Distance Traveled: 44.5 km
Maximum Altitude: 25,907 m

Conclusion

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

Til next time – 73 from the Project Horus team

Introducing the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program to Amateur Radio

The Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program is conducted by the University of South Australia in partnership with the International Space University (ISU).

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 program is open to Australian and international participants from all disciplines


Who is this Program For?

The Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program 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

Project Space Balloon

On Sunday 22nd January, 45 students from 11 nations will come together as part of the International Space University’s Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program to perform an exciting stratospheric balloon launch experiment. Two simultaneous balloon launches will occur at McLaren Vale and Mt Barker, carrying satellite payloads designed and built by the program participants to an altitude of 35km. The payloads will capture and downlink images of the surrounding area to be watched live from the McLaren Vale launch site. In addition, a packet of Serafino grape seeds will be carried on each balloon for the flight. These “Space Seeds” are then to be planted at the Serafino winery. Also, over the next 5 days a competition to name the payloads will be run, with the winner receiving a mission patch flown into space on the balloon.


Amateur Radio Supporting STEM Education through SHSSP

The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group, comprising members of the general public who have interests in radio communications technologies and techniques, is a major supporter of the SHSSP program at UniSA. Members of AREG come from all walks of life, from plumbers to senior telecommunications and manufacturing engineers, electronics technicians to lawyers, couriers to fitters and turners. All are bound by their love of radio and what you can do with it, which has driven them to undertake the self training and education required to be licensed to operate transmitters within the international Amateur Radio Service.

Amateur Radio is a key activity within the Australian community where educational opportunities exist to enhance knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Bringing Amateur Radio to the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program and showing how it can form an integral part of such a significant activity clearly demonstrates the relationship between the Amateur Radio service and education. It reinforces the importance of the Amateur Radio service to the country.

AREG and the Amateur Service’s Contribution to Project Space Balloon

For this launch campaign, over 20+ members of AREG will be acting in support roles providing tracking and recovery teams, data collection teams, payload & communications systems design and launch services. The balloon payloads themselves will be connected to the ground via radio links provided via spectrum assigned to the Amateur Radio Service. Further,  as many as 50 more radio amateurs located across SE Australia will be engaged with telemetry collection in support of the flight, including some from as far away as Melbourne, Victoria (800+ km away).

AREG’s history in High Altitude Ballooning is also a long one. Members of the group have been active in High Altitude Ballooning since 2009, and with over 40 launches to their credit, significant expertise in the area has been developed. It has been one of the most active groups in this field in the last decade in Australia. All of this has been happening within the context of a self funded group of experimenters and explorers.

It is with that background that we are able to support this program. We are very pleased to be able to bring that experience back to the community and to be able to contribute to such a worthwhile venture.

AREG at the WIA STEM Symposium – November 2016

The Amateur Radio Experimenter’s Group has taken an active role in promoting STEM in Schools programs for a number of years now, particularly through our involvement with LaunchBox, who work with us and our Project Horus sub-group to fly high altitude balloons. Our recent foray into the Maker Faire and HackerSpace community through our participation in the Adelaide Maker Faire also has been an area where we see a great potential to improve the link between Amateur Radio and STEM in schools, particularly with secondary and tertiary level students.

AREG Road Trip to Canberra

It was against this backdrop that the group endorsed it’s President, Matt VK5ZM and Treasurer Grant VK5GR to make the 2400km round trip from Adelaide to Canberra to attend the inaugural WIA STEM symposium.

AREG saw this as an opportunity to firstly share it’s own experiences with others, as well as build networks with other like minded amateurs who either were already engaged in their own contact with the STEM programs in schools or who were wanting to initiate programs of their own. The group also saw this as a way of tapping into the resources of the WIA to help facilitate the communications between affiliated clubs engaged in these activities, and also as an opportunity to contribute to resources that the WIA could develop to support the regional clubs in their STEM endeavors.

The speakers at the Symposium

The event itself, enabled through the hard work of the Canberra Region Amateur Radio Club on behalf of the WIA, provided a fascinating insight into the world of STEM and the challenges STEM faces in schools. (Thanks in particular to Amanda VK1WX, CRARC president).

The WIA Introductions

AREG received presentations firstly from Fred Swainston VK3DAC on the WIA’s vision of STEM, followed by one technological idea from Phil Wait VK2ASD on kits that could potentially be made available to schools based around cheap RTL-SDR Dongles as a way of introducing radio spectrum and communications studies into schools.

Geffory McNamarra wins PM’s Science Prize

STEM from a Science Teacher

Next up was a presentation by Geoffrey McNamara, a science teacher from Melrose High in the ACT who has been doing amazing work encouraging students to take an interest in science based investigations in secondary school. Geoffrey has implemented a program along an apprenticeship model where he has brought in experts from their fields to work with students one on one in a field of research. Many of those who are lucky enough to go through that program have gone on to a career in science.

Two principle points however came out of talking with Geoff that any initiatives need to take into account.

  1. You need to show students the “Wow Factor” behind any scientific endeavor, to spark their interest and light the fire to drive them to take it further.
  2. Science Teachers are incredibly time poor and severely under funded.

Radio Astronomy and STEM

The Lewis Center provides the gateway to this program via JPL

Next the participants received a presentation from Dr David Jauncey, talking about programs like GAVRT (Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope) where students in the USA can access a decommissioned radio telescope at the Goldstone Deep Space Network station in California. He also discussed how Tidbinbilla in the ACT is engaged in some schools programs (although not to the extent that Goldstone is). Out of this it was again clear that the principle aim of STEM programs is to garner that spark in students that science is “wow” and has something genuinely interesting and inspiring to offer as a career or at the very least as a life skill and perspective.

Practical Science and Physics Experiments enabled by Amateur Radio

Next up was Dr George Galanis VK3EIP, who is attempting to construct a system that could be used to demonstrate practical physics experiments using radio at schools. His idea is that you take a portable EME station to a school and conduct experiments such as measuring the echo delay from the moon, and even bouncing SSB voice off the moon and letting the students gain a real appreciation of the time delay involved in transmitting radio waves that far into space.

Other uses of the same equipment were also discussed in the field of radio astronomy. The ability to look at the microwave radio noise from the sun and show how to calibrate the dish, as well as other radio astronomy experiments are all practical demonstrations of radio that are relevant to the classroom. Again, the underlying theme to come out of this was to find ways to spark an enthusiasm in students and give them a memorable ‘wow’ experience, to implant science and technology as something worth following up later in life through tertiary studies and beyond, was the core theme of Dr Galanis’s presentation.

Accessing STEM through the Maker and Hacker-Space Movements

The final formal presentation was given by Matt and Grant from AREG. Matt opened with a story about a conversation he had once with a good amateur radio friend, Harro VK5HK (sk). Harro once asked Matt “What is radio?” Matt gave a very engineering focused answer about Maxwell’s equations etc, to which Harro politely pointed out “Yes, but no…. What is it really?” he asked again rhetorically? “Magic” was his answer.

It is the magic of radio, and getting people to the realization that it really is a form of magic that was the “wow” moment amateur radio can bring – when presented in the right way. It is the magic of being able to talk into a box on one side of the globe, and have someone on the other side talk back. When you think that there is no other infrastructure in between, and yet this is still possible, then you again have that hook or spark that leads to a “Wow” moment in young people that you hope will stick with them throughout their years. Undertaking that sort of communications in inventive and awe-inspiring ways, such as talking to ISS, or via live TV where the internet is not involved is a definite opportunity to “light the fire of imagination” in young people today.

It was this theme of “Radio is Magic” that Matt and img_3237-mediumGrant spoke to, explaining how they had brought amateur radio to young people through things like Amateur Television at JOTA, or through High Altitude Ballooning via Project Horus that members of AREG have been involved with now for nearly 6 years. The very recent foray into the Maker Faire and the group’s contacts with people in the Hackerspace movement were also discussed.  It was shown how lighting that spark even as people are in their tertiary studies was a way to leave a lasting impression and would and does lead to people taking up Amateur Radio in their twenties – a key demographic that AREG sees as fertile ground to recruit into amateur radio and to also promote the ongoing relevance of amateur radio today.

The high altitude ballooning in particular was discussed in some detail as a way of engaging with schools programs. The AREG representatives explained how that had worked through LaunchBox as a great way to inspire even primary school children to develop a wonder of science. The example of how the Project Horus balloons have been used to fly simple experiments to answer a child’s question of “will my corn kernel turn into popcorn in the near vacuum of near space?” hits home to how activities like this can spark someone on a journey of scientific curiosity that will potentially stay with them for the rest of their lives. (By the way, sadly the answer was no – the corn stays as a corn kernel).

One particular STEM area that was then discussed was that there are multiple facets to how you engage with STEM in schools. The obvious way is to undertake direct interactions with students, and you can also take the second tier approach and market amateur radio as a tool to the science teachers themselves. There are conferences and science fairs around the nation completely untapped by amateur radio where with the right presentation, the magic of radio could reach the classroom by recruiting the teachers who are already there. As a result, there was discussions around 1) trying to identify existing teachers who hold a license and 2) looking further at avenues and support requirements to recruit new teachers into the hobby, so as to enhance that conduit into the classroom as well.

Where to from here?

After the presentations the symposium broke for lunch, during which many useful discussions were had. After the break, we went back into the hall and broke into three working parties. The aim was to develop initial ideas around the following three questions:

  1. The Way Forward to further develop the concept
  2. Promotion and Marketing that can be developed by the WIA
  3. Other Technologies not identified at the Symposium

Lots of good ideas were put forward and are now being collated by the WIA for distribution. The WIA indicated that all of the presentations that were made, the papers that were received and the data generated from the three working parties will be made available in due course via the WIA website.

Conclusion

Overall, Matt and Grant came away feeling that the WIA had made some good first steps into addressing how to get amateur radio engaged with STEM in schools. It also was clear that this is not an initiative that can be driven solely by the WIA. It will take the formation of teams of people in each state and territory who can then begin the work of building local responses in alignment with a national Amateur Radio in STEM framework. The WIA can play a facilitation role here that will be positive for both Amateur Radio and STEM education in Australia.

The next step AREG see’s is that the WIA needs to establish an Amateur Radio in STEM advisory committee, made up initially from the general WIA members who attended the symposium plus others who couldn’t make it but still wish to contribute. This committee needs to take the work already started and complete building the national frame work for Amateur Radio in STEM. It can then turn that into a set of individual regional initiatives driven through the radio clubs network so that collectively the Amateur Radio Service can set forward on the task of tackling this multi-faceted arena.

AREG would like to thank the WIA for taking the time to run the symposium and in particular would like to thank all those who made the effort to attend and participate, as well as thank those who contributed papers and inputs. It is hoped that this is only the beginning of a new focus on how to demonstrate to a new generation the ongoing relevance and importance not only of Amateur Radio to the country, but also STEM education in general in Australia. Getting everyone together in one place was a fantastic start to this as it has established new networks and shared many different perspectives on how to tackle the issue. There very much is an exciting future ahead for Amateur Radio and STEM studies nationally.