Horus 57 Flight Report – 40km Altitude Achieved!

Horus 57 was the first ‘large’ Project Horus high-altitude balloon launch in over a year, and was aimed at getting more stations involved in receiving the common telemetry and imagery systems used on our launches, and at the same time try and get some nice imagery of our state from the air!

The launch was originally scheduled for the 1st of May, but weather conditions resulted in the imagery launch being bumped a week, and a small telemetry launch taking its place. The telemetry-only flight was very well received, with 37 unique stations contributing telemetry, building anticipation for the full-scale launch, which was performed on Saturday the 7th of May at 10AM.

The Payloads: Wenet Imagery

Horus 57 Wenet PayloadThe main payload on this launch was a Wenet imagery payload. Wenet is an imagery downlink system first developed by David VK5DGR and Mark VK5QI in 2016, to enable high resolution imagery to be downlinked from a balloon launch. It uses Frequency Shift Keying (FSK) at 115kbit/s to send specially encoded JPEG images which can be reassembled from packets received by many spatially diverse receivers.  It’s also completely open source, so anyone can have a go at using it!

This particular Wenet payload was testing a camera lens made by ArduCam, in the hope of obtaining higher quality imagery. Unfortunately this lens de-focused as the temperature of the payload dropped during flight, resulting in many blurred images. We’ll be switching back to the tried-and-tested Raspberry PiCam v2 for future flights of this payload.

The Payloads: Tracking & Flight Management

Reprogrammed RS41

The flight also included the usual complement of telemetry and flight management payloads. Primary telemetry was provided by a reprogrammed RS41, transmitting the ‘Horus Binary‘ 4FSK mode on 434.200 MHz. This was received by a large number of amateur stations running the ‘Horus-GUI’ demodulation software. Tracking of the payload was available on the SondeHub-Amateur tracker online, allowing global access to the position of the balloon throughout the flight.

The separate flight management payload was a LoRa-based payload operating in the 70cm amateur band. This payload allows remote termination of the flight if necessary (and it was very nearly used on this flight!).

The Payloads: LoRaWAN Beacon

Horus 55 LoRaWAN PayloadAlso on this flight was an experimental LoRaWAN tracking payload built by Liam VK5LJG. The aim was to transmit position beacons into ‘The Things Network‘ (‘TTN’), which has gateways (receiver stations) in many locations across Australia. This payload previously flew on Horus 55.

The payload operated on the 915-928 MHz LIPD band, with a transmit power of ~50mW. The hardware was a RAK Wireless RAK5205 board, running custom firmware for the flight. Position updates were only sent every ~3 minutes to comply with TTN fair-usage guidelines.

Unfortunately this payload stopped being received approximately 30 minutes into the flight, due to a misconfiguration. We’ll try this again on another flight!

Launch!

The launch crews arrived on-site at the Mt Barker High School oval around 9AM on the Saturday morning, and started preparations for launch. The entire preparation process through to launch was documented by AREG club member Iain VK5ZD:

This flight used a Hwoyee 1600g balloon, one of the largest balloon sizes we regularly use. Since the combined payload mass was relatively light (~600g), a relatively small amount of gas was required, resulting in the balloon being quite under-inflated, and prone to wind drag.

Immediately after launch, it was noted that the ascent rate was lower than the expected 5 m/s, a direct result of the increased drag on the under-inflated balloon.

Thanks to all that helped out at the launch site! It was great to see some new faces, and the many hands made the launch much easier.

Starting the Chase

Original Horus 57 Flight-Path Prediction

Original Horus 57 Flight-Path Prediction

The original flight path prediction had the flight landing somewhere off the Stott highway, between Swan Reach and Loxton. However, the slower than expected ascent rate after launch meant the live flight-path predictions began to move further to the east.

The chase teams for the day consisted of Mark VK5QI and Will VK5AHV, and Gerard VK5ZQV.

The chase teams immediately headed off towards Swan Reach, and met up with some members of the Riverland Radio Club who had setup a receiving station for the imagery payload near the locality of Maggea. Peter VK5PE, Colin VK5CBM, Andy VK5LA, and Ivan VK5HS with his grandson Reece had decided to head out to setup near the predicted landing area and have a go at receiving imagery. This was their first time receiving the Wenet imagery payload, and so had brought along a lot of equipment to experiment with!

Riverland Radio Club Portable HAB Receiving Station

Riverland Radio Club Portable Receiving Station

There was also many other stations that had gone portable to receive the Wenet imagery. Peter VK5KX was setup near Sanderston with a WiMo X-Quad antenna and tracking rotator system, and Andrew VK5LA setup north of Swan Reach with a 15-element yagi. Andrew VK5CLD was also setup near Mt Barker summit with a homebrew 8-element yagi.

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Burst & Recovery

As the flight progressed, the reported altitude reached the expected 38000 m, and kept on rising! Unfortunately for the chase teams, at this altitude the balloon and payloads were heading east at 150 kph, and the predicted landing location with it, and so they had to get back on the road and continue onwards.

There was a tense period as the predicted landing location moved right across the Murray River, before finally moving further onwards to the east of Loxton. Around this time the flight continued on upwards, passing through 39000 m altitude, then finally 40000 m.

The ascent rate slowed down considerably above 40 km altitude, and there was a short time when the use of the cutdown payload was seriously considered to avoid the payloads ending up across the Victorian border. This ended up not being necessary though, as the balloon burst for a maximum reported altitude (based on the Wenet telemetry) of 40246 m! This is most likely the highest altitude ever reached by an amateur balloon launch in Australia!

Wenet Imagery from 40205m altitude!

The payloads then began to plummet back to earth (a peak descent rate of 114 m/s was observed just after burst!) and ended up landing in a newly seeded paddock approximately 15 km to the north-east of Loxton.

Horus 57 Flight Path

Horus 57 Flight Path

After obtaining permission from the landowner, the chase teams were able to carefully drive into the paddocks and recover the payloads.

The Wenet imagery payload was still operating, and captured the recovery and walk back to the car:

Wenet Imagery!

All the way through the flight, the Wenet payload continued to transmit live imagery to many receiving stations around the state. Unfortunately the new ArduCam lens shifted in focus due to the extreme cold temperatures experienced during the flight, resulting in most of the imagery above 3 km altitude being blurred. The lens appeared to recover around the peak of the flight, but then degraded again on descent before recovering after landing:

Wenet Reception Statistics

This flight saw the highest number of Wenet receiver stations ever, with 14 separate receiving stations contributing imagery packets. As a result, we had 100% image reception over the vast majority of the flight! This is a great result, and allows those watching from home to experience our high-altitude balloon launches in near real-time.

The following amount of data was contributed by each station:

  • VK5LA: 205297 packets (50.12 MB)
  • VK5KX: 179744 packets (43.88 MB)
  • VK5QI-1 (Home): 160507 packets (39.19 MB)
  • VK5CBM: 145899 packets (35.62 MB)
  • VK5PW: 134465 packets (32.83 MB)
  • VK3TNU: 134264 packets (32.78 MB)
  • VK5APR: 157585 packets (38.47 MB)
  • VK5EME: 146062 packets (35.66 MB)
  • VK5QI (Mobile): 131933 packets (32.21 MB)
  • VK5HS: 104472 packets (25.51 MB)
  • VK5CLD: 47650 packets (11.63 MB)
  • VK5IS: 21995 packets (5.37 MB)
  • VK5TRM: 16950 packets (4.14 MB)
  • VK5FJGM: 5355 packets (1.31 MB)

Horus 57 Wenet Receiver Map

While most of the receiver stations were relatively close to the flight path, we also saw Ian VK5IS receiving from 160km away, and Tim VK3TNU receiving from over 300km distance! Tim was using a 9-element RFI yagi, paired with a RTLSDR and preamplifier, and has set the new record for Wenet reception distance!

The following plots show the percentage of each image that was received by each receiver station:

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Horus Binary (4FSK) Telemetry Reception Statistics

We also saw a huge number of Horus Binary receiving stations come online for this flight, with stations as far away as Melbourne contributing telemetry. A total of 41 unique callsigns were observed to upload telemetry throughout the flight, which is also a new record for a Project Horus launch!

A huge thanks to everyone that contributed to the flight tracking, and we hope to see you on the map on future launches!

Detailed statistics for each receiver are available in the table below:

[table id=41 /]

The SondeHub-Amateur Tracker

Horus 56 and 57 made use of the new SondeHub-Amateur tracker website to enable anyone online to follow the flight’s progress. This is an extension to the SondeHub Radiosonde tracker, which allows tracking of meteorological radiosondes, and is developed by club members Michaela VK3FUR and Mark VK5QI, along with many other contributors.

The SondeHub-Amateur tracker in action during Horus 57.

The SondeHub project is supported by a grant from Amateur Radio Digital Communications, via the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group.

Flight Summary

[table id=42 /]

Future Launches

The next large Horus launch will likely be a re-flight of the DVB-S payload flown on Horus 55, with an improved payload antenna. This will likely need to wait until after winter, for clearer skies.

In the meantime, there are some initial plans for:

  • A re-flight of the LoRaWAN payload, though not to as high an altitude as on this flight.
  • Experiments with new sensors attached to our primary tracking payload.
  • Another Wenet flight, to give some more opportunities for listeners to refine their receiver setups.

Stay tuned!

Horus 57 Imagery Flight – THIS WEEKEND – Saturday 7th May

This flight was a huge success, reading over 40km altitude! Thanks to all that were involved in the launch and received telemetry. A full writeup will be written in the next few days.

The re-attempt of the imagery launch intended for last weekend will now occur this weekend on Saturday the 7th of May, with a planned launch time of 10AM ACDT.

Update Friday 6th May: Launch is GO! With the ~25kph winds forecast for the launch site, we will likely be going with the larger balloon, to avoid having to perform accurate filling.

Weather predictions are still somewhat variable for Saturday, and the final GO / NO-GO decision will be made Friday evening, around 8PM. Check this post on Saturday morning for the final launch decision.

Depending on the weather conditions, we will be launching under either a 600g Hwoyee balloon, with an expected maximum altitude of 28km, or a 1600g Hwoyee balloon, with an expected maximum altitude of 38km(!). This will likely be decided on the morning of the launch based on wind conditions at the launch site. If we go with the larger balloon, the radio footprint of the launch will be approximately 1400km in diameter.

We will be launching from the Mt Barker High School Oval, with the launch team on-site from approximately 9:00AM. Visitors are welcome! Note that there are construction works around the entrance to the oval (off Stephenson Street), but the oval is still accessible.

Tracking of the flight will be available on the SondeHub Amateur Tracker at the following link: https://amateur.sondehub.org/#!mt=Mapnik&mz=9&qm=6h&mc=-34.91296,139.36432&f=HORUS-V2

Assuming the imagery payload works as intended (fingers crossed!), live imagery using the combined contributions of the ‘Wenet’ receiver stations will be available here: https://ssdv.habhub.org/VK5ARG

The predicted flight path (for 28km burst altitude) is currently as follows:

Primary Telemetry – 434.200 MHz

Reprogrammed RS41The primary tracking telemetry will be transmitted on 434.200 MHz using the Horus Binary 4FSK data mode. Amateurs in the Central SA region, and even those as far away as Melbourne are encouraged to get involved with the flight through receiving and uploading flight telemetry from our 70cm band tracking beacons. Every piece of telemetry data is valuable to the flight tracking and recovery teams so if you can help join the distributed receiver network to collect that data you will be making an important contribution to the project!

If you try receiving the telemetry from this flight, you’ll need a SSB-capable 70cm receiver (or a SDR), and the Horus-GUI telemetry decoder software. A brief guide on setting this up is available here: https://github.com/projecthorus/horusdemodlib/wiki/1.1-Horus-GUI-Reception-Guide-(Windows-Linux-OSX)

Note that you will need to use a ‘dial’ frequency of 434.199 MHz for the 4FSK signal to be centred in your receiver passband and hence be decodable.

Tracking Details – Imagery – 443.500 MHz

Imagery on this flight will be transmitted via the Wenet downlink system, which uses 115kbit/s Frequency-Shift-Keying to send HD snapshots. Reception of the Wenet imagery requires a Linux computer, a RTLSDR, and a 70cm antenna with some gain (a 5-element Yagi is usually enough).

Imagery received via the Wenet payload from a previous flight.

A guide on how to get set up to receive the Wenet signal is available here: https://github.com/projecthorus/wenet/wiki/Wenet-RX-Instructions-(Linux-using-Docker)

During the flight, the live imagery will be available at this link:

http://ssdv.habhub.org/

Horus 56 (Telemetry-Only) – Flight Report

Due to adverse predicted weather conditions, the imagery flight planned for Sunday the 1st of May was replaced with a telemetry-only launch. A Vaisala RS41 radiosonde, re-flashed with ‘Horus Binary’ firmware was launched under a 200g Hwoyee balloon, with a planned target altitude of 27km. The aim of the flight was to give receivers in the Central South Australia area an opportunity to get set up to receive the flight telemetry using the ‘Horus-GUI’ software.

Launch team filling the balloon.

This launch was performed from the Mt Barker High School Oval, a common launch site used by the group. The site was a little breezy, which would have made filling a larger balloon a bit difficult, but with the small balloon it was no problem. Thanks to those that came along and helped out!

 

In retrospect, the weather would have actually been pretty good for imagery, but this was difficult to tell based on the predictions in the preceding days. We’ll try to launch the imagery payload next weekend (hopefully on Saturday the 7th of May).

Many New Receivers!

As the balloon and payload ascended, it was great to see many receiver stations coming online to contribute telemetry. The new SondeHub-Amateur tracker shows the signal-to-noise ratio that each receivers is seeing, so it was interesting to watch how this varied for the different receiver stations. There were a few bugs encountered on the tracker which should be fixed before the next launch.

Horus 56 being received by 36 stations simultaneously!

Over the course of the flight we ended up seeing telemetry from 37 unique callsigns, including many new stations, and a few we haven’t seen in a while. We also saw stations from as far away as Swan Hill and Horsham in Victoria, and Mount Gambier in the South-East of South Australia!

After the launch, a few of the launch team headed up to a lookout near Mt Pleasant to track the flight (and get some lunch from the Mt Pleasant Bakery!). As this was just a telemetry payload (and we have plenty of those thanks to the Bureau of Meteorology!) there was no attempt to recover it.

The balloon burst just under 25km, a bit short of the expected 27km, and came to land to the east of Bowhill.

Overall flight path of Horus 56

Flight Telemetry Statistics

The following callsigns uploaded telemetry during this flight:

VK5QI, VK5ARG, VK5AKK, VK5BRL, VK5NTM, VK5TRM, VK5FATT, VK5KX, VK5LA, VK5MAD, VK5RM, VK5FJGM, VK5LJG, VK5APR, VK5HS, VK5GA, VK5EI, VK5ST, VK5PE, VK5GY, VK5LN, VK5CV, VK2DG, VK3MTV, VK5SWR, VK5FD, VK5CLD, VK3OF, VK5PJ, VK5DJ, VK5ATF, VK5DMC, VK5LO, VK3GP, VK5MAS, VK5NEX, VK5EME

Thanks for contributing to the flight tracking!

Next Launch – Imagery!

Weather permitting, we’ll have another attempt at the imagery launch next weekend, on either Saturday the 7th, or Sunday the 8th of May (noting Sunday is Mother’s Day – we’ll try and avoid this if possible!). We’ll post more about this as weather predictions become available.

Next Project Horus Launch – Horus 56 – Sunday 1st May – NOW TELEMETRY ONLY

Update Sunday 1st May: This telemetry-only launch was a great success, with many new stations contributing telemetry! There will be a separate post with information on the flight. We are still planning to perform the imagery flight next weekend, hopefully avoiding Mothers Day.

The AREG’s High-Altitude Ballooning sub-group, Project Horus, is planning their next launch for Sunday the 1st of May, with a planned launch time of 10 AM.

Updated Saturday 30th April

Due to adverse flight path predictions and cloud cover forecasts, the full imagery launch will not occur on Sunday the 1st of May, and will be postponed to the following weekend, (the exact day TBD) conditional on better weather forecasts.

However, since we have a NOTAM (NOtice To Air Missions) approved for the 1st of May, we will make use of it and do a telemetry-only launch, flying a single 70cm telemetry beacon. We are aiming for a maximum altitude of around 27km.

This is a great opportunity for those who have never tracked a Project Horus launch before to get setup to receive telemetry prior to the full-scale launch the following weekend. See below for information on how to receive the telemetry payload.

Live tracking for the flight will be available on the new SondeHub-Amateur tracker, at: https://amateur.sondehub.org/#!mt=Mapnik&mz=9&qm=1d&mc=-34.91286,139.36396&q=HORUS-V2

We will now be launching from the Mt Barker High School Oval, with the launch team on-site from approximately 9:30AM. Visitors are welcome!

The current flight path predictions have the payload landing to the east of Purnong:

Primary Telemetry – 434.200 MHz

Reprogrammed RS41The primary tracking telemetry will be transmitted on 434.200 MHz using the Horus Binary 4FSK data mode. Amateurs in the Adelaide and Central SA region are also encouraged to get involved with the flight through receiving and uploading flight telemetry from our 70cm band tracking beacons. Every piece of telemetry data is valuable to the flight tracking and recovery teams so if you can help join the distributed receiver network to collect that data you will be making an important contribution to the project!

If you try receiving the telemetry from this flight, you’ll need a SSB-capable 70cm receiver (or a SDR), and the Horus-GUI telemetry decoder software. A brief guide on setting this up is available here: https://github.com/projecthorus/horusdemodlib/wiki/1.1-Horus-GUI-Reception-Guide-(Windows-Linux-OSX)

Note that you will need to use a ‘dial’ frequency of 434.199 MHz for the 4FSK signal to be centred in your receiver passband and hence be decodable.

Tracking Details – Imagery – 443.500 MHz

This payload will not be flying on Sunday the 1st of May. We hope to fly this on our backup launch date of Sunday the 8th of May.

Imagery on this flight will be transmitted via the Wenet downlink system, which uses 115kbit/s Frequency-Shift-Keying to send HD snapshots. Reception of the Wenet imagery requires a Linux computer, a RTLSDR, and a 70cm antenna with some gain (a 5-element Yagi is usually enough).

Imagery received via the Wenet payload from a previous flight.

A guide on how to get set up to receive the Wenet signal is available here: https://github.com/projecthorus/wenet/wiki/Wenet-RX-Instructions-(Linux-using-Docker)

During the flight, the live imagery will be available at this link:

http://ssdv.habhub.org/

April Fox Hunt – Friday 8th April – CANCELLED

UPDATE: It’s unlikely we’ll be able to re-schedule a hunt this month. The next hunt will be on Friday the 13th of May.

The next monthly AREG fox-hunt is scheduled for this coming Friday night, the 8th of April, with hunters meeting from 6:15pm at the Adelaide Aquatic Centre car park.

This hunt will again see our usual two 2m (145.3 MHz, 144.390 MHz) and as well as our 70cm foxes (439.4 MHz) deployed somewhere within the Adelaide metropolitan area. The hunt kicks off with the transmitters being activated at 6.30pm.

Liaison will be via the Summertown (VK5RSB) UHF Repeater on 439.900MHz (-5MHz Input with 91.5Hz CTCSS).

Last month Theo VK5IR successfully found the 70cm fox using a receiver system consisting of a 70cm Yagi antenna made of tape measure, a RTL-SDR, and a tablet PC. This hold some promise in being a fairly cheap way of getting into fox-hunting, though there are some kinks still to be worked out. For now, here’s a video of Theo finding the fox:

Hope to see you there on the night!

Next AREG Meeting: Cloud-Free Power Monitoring – Friday 18th March

The next AREG meeting will be held this coming Friday (18th March). As the clubrooms will be in use in preparation for the South Australian State Election, this meeting will an online-only Zoom meeting.

No description available.

This month’s presentation will be on power monitoring & home automation, with a focus on locally hosted systems, without a reliance on 3rd-party ‘cloud’ services. Andy VK5AKH will present his findings from setting up such systems at his new home.

The presentation will commence at 7.45pm ACDT on Zoom (that is 7.15pm QST or 8.15pm AEDT for our interstate members), and will be followed by a general business meeting.

As this is an online-only meeting, we would like to invite visitors to participate via Zoom – please e-mail vk5arg@areg.org.au, and we’ll send you a Zoom link prior to the meeting.


See you online!

Next AREG Meeting: SSTV Operation – Friday 18th February

The next AREG meeting will be held this coming Friday (18th February) at our clubrooms at the Fulham Community Centre. Doors will open at 7.15pm.

This month’s presentation will be on basic Slow-Scan Television (SSTV) operation, by Grant VK5GR, who will introduce some of the simple software you can use at home to generate, send and receive slow scan TV on HF.

The talk will include a live demo on either 20 or 40m and will also introduce the new AREG SSTV Skimmer receiver now in operation at the club’s remote receive site. SSTV Contesting Japanese style will also get a mention!

 

The presentation will commence at 7.45pm ACDT and will also be streamed live for members on Zoom (that is 7.15pm QST or 8.15pm AEDT for our interstate members). The meeting will also be live-streamed on Youtube on Hayden VK7HH’s Ham Radio DX channel.

The presentation will be followed by a general business meeting. All members are encouraged to attend either in person at the hall or via Zoom if you are remote. The event at the call will be run in a COVID safe manner.


To find us in person, the meeting will be held at the Fulham Community Centre, Phelps Court, Fulham SA. See you there!

Next AREG Meeting: Holiday Projects Lightning Talks – Zoom Meeting Only – Friday 21st January

Happy New Year to all from AREG, and hopefully you are all staying safe!

Given the current COVID situation in South Australia and the high risk of an in-person meeting, the AREG committee has decided to run the January business meeting as an online-only Zoom meeting.

Lightning Talks

The presentations this month will be a series of ‘Lighting Talks’ (5 minutes hard limit!) from members, about what projects they have been doing over the holiday break. This could be anything from a (short) presentation on a technical topic, to a live video demonstration of a project they have been building!

The Zoom session will open at 7.30pm ACDT (8.00pm AEDT, 7.00pm QST), with presentations starting at 7.45pm ACDT, followed by a business meeting. Invites for the Zoom session will be sent out on the AREG mailing list closer towards the evening.

We hope that the COVID situation calms down in the coming months, allowing us to return to in-person meetings.

73, Mark VK5QI