Horus 53 – Flight Report

Horus 53 was the first launch in the Project Horus Member Payload launch program, which features new payloads developed by AREG club members. This launch’s payload was the brainchild of Derek VK5TCP, and was a Hak5 ‘WiFi Pineapple’, a wireless penetration testing device which was configured to log all WiFi access points it observed, but also broadcast a WiFi access point for observers to try and connect to. Also flying was the usual array of telemetry beacons, and a Wenet imagery payload.

Launch preparations went smoothly, and with excellent (if maybe a little cold) weather, Horus 53 was launched just after 10AM on the 25th of August 2019, by the youngest member of the launch crew – Tom:

Launch of Horus 53! (Photo credit Gerard VK5ZQV)

With launch complete, the balloon filling gear was quickly packed up and the chase teams departed. Chasing the balloon this flight was:

  • Team QI: Mark VK5QI, Will VK5AHV and Chris VK5FR
  • Team Derek: Derek VK5TCP and Derek VK5RX
  • Team LJG: Liam VK5LJG (Solo)
  • Team WTF: Marcus VK5WTF + IMD product

While Mark, Derek and Liam’s teams were focused on recovering the payloads, Marcus’s aim was to situate himself directly under the balloon flight path and try and connect to the flying WiFi access point (more on this later!).

The chase on this flight was fairly uneventful – the balloon ascended as planned, and burst at an altitude of 31.659km. The chase teams headed out along the Karoonda highway, and were able to get well ahead of the balloon and wait near the predicted landing site.

View of the chase-car mapping software near the end of the flight, as is used by the chase teams to navigate.

All throughout the flight the Wenet payload was downlinking stunning imagery of the state:

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With the permission of the landowner, the chase teams were able to access the property where the payloads were predicted to land, and positioned themselves to try and watch the landing. Unfortunately the wind model was incorrectly predicting the ground-level winds as being higher than they really were, and the payloads dropped almost straight down for the last 500m or so, to land right in a tree right next to the road the chase teams had just been on 5 minutes earlier! The Wenet payload was hanging nicely in a tree, and was able to capture images of the chase teams arriving on-site just a few minutes after landing.

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All the payloads (and quite a bit of the balloon…) were accounted for and in good condition, though the wind-vane that adorned Derek’s WiFi Pineapple payload was nowhere to be seen, and likely tore off at balloon burst.

The chase team with the recovered payloads. (Marcus VK5WTF behind the camera)

WiFi Pineapple Payload Results

Derek’s payload performed perfectly throughout the flight, though the narrow beam-width of the antenna used on it did mean it only saw a few tens of WiFi access points. mainly near the beginning and end of the flight. The WiFi access point was connected to successfully during the flight by Marcus VK5WTF, who recounts his experience below:

Equipment at my end was a Linux laptop running Kismet software, with a USB WiFi adaptor (AWUS036H) plugged into a 2.4 GHz gridpack I picked up a Gippstech two years ago. As a backup I also took my own WiFi Pineapple Nano, just to send out SSID beacons for the payload to pick up.

Looking at the predicted path I marked a few places I could use as ground stations, mostly around the Karoonda Hwy. The plan was to set up a table and lay the gridpack on its back pointing straight up, and I found the perfect sized plastic tub to do the job.

First location was the Sunnyside Lookout north of Murray Bridge. Here I could test scanning for the payload and have a first attempt at connecting to it.

At this location I was also getting a lot of other WiFi Access Points that would have been de-sensing the receiver, and the poor front to back of the gridpack antenna would have also been an issue.

After roughly 15 minutes I got my first glimpse of the payload in Kismet as it was going through the 13 km mark somewhere above my head. When I saw VK5ARG come up on my screen, I definitely got excited, the theoretical is reality. But the two minutes I spent checking everything, I lost valuable time before attempting a connection. It was at the peak of its pass when I started (10:54 ACST), and my log shows I made several associations but near immediate drop out, like it was getting about a 0.5-2Hz spin, “:20 trying to associate”, “:20 associated”, “:21 disconnected” occurred 24 times in the log over roughly 70 seconds.

Off to site two, and the current prediction had it going over the site of the old Kulde train station, so that’s where I headed. Once set up, I found that I had enough phone reception to see where the balloon was, but I didn’t need it, Kismet was seeing the SSID already, time to attempt a connection. Height was about 7km, and it was flying about 4 km by ground west north west of me.

In and connected first try (12:09 ACST), but not getting a lot of data, then the connection dropped, likely still spinning, lets try again… Bam, I’m in! From here the connection stayed up and was strong until it started raining and I disconnected everything; but I was connected for around 3 minutes. At the time I disconnected the height was 4.6 km, and by ground the payload was around 3km north east. Remember that my antenna was pointed straight up in the opposite direction of gravity.

What was I doing with that couple of minutes? Solving the encrypted messages left on the homepage of the Pineapple.

The first was “SGFtIFJhZGlvIGlzIGdyZWF0Lg==”. Easy peasy, base64, answer: “Ham Radio is great.”

The second was a little more difficult, mainly because there wasn’t a command line linux application to do the job for me. The cipher text: “Cjmpn ovfzn Cvh Mvydj dioj ocz nft rdoc Kdizvkkgzn.” Immediately this looked like a rotation (Caesar) cipher maybe ROT13, so I started writing something in Python; and then the rain came, so cancel that! When I got home, I put a little more work into the second cipher, and the characters where shifted by 5, to reveal the answer “Horus takes Ham Radio into the sky with Pineapples.”

Great job Marcus! Derek is currently working on an upgraded version of this payload with a newer WiFi Pineapple model and better antennas, so it’s likely we’ll be trying this again in the future.

Telemetry Statistics

Once again, we had a great showing of amateur radio operators from around the state receiving telemetry form the balloon, including a few new callsigns decoding the Wenet imagery.

The statistics from the various payloads flown are shown in the tables below:

RTTY Payload

CallsignReceived PacketsPercentage of Flight ReceivedFirst-Received Altitude (m)Last-Received Altitude (m)
VK5APR73662.5%15834746
VK5EU43837.2%125491829
VK5EU-379767.7%77772173
VK5KX-0194480.1%17724598
VK5MHZ65855.9%14256152
VK5QI-984071.3%35324
VK5ST-283671.0%36942173
VK5TRM97782.9%29842780
VK5ZEA50.4%99539063
VK5ZRL-0182469.9%27045354
VK5ZRL-0286573.4%24616214

4FSK (Horus Binary) Payload

CallsignReceived PacketsPercentage of Flight ReceivedFirst-Received Altitude (m)Last-Received Altitude (m)
HWK23311.8%189804215
VK5HS115658.9%105002323
VK5KJP41521.2%67352147
VK5KX-2173888.6%11664157
VK5LJG-9122862.6%187765
VK5NEX161082.1%28804558
VK5QI-9153378.2%35165
VK5ST-1144473.6%32901512
VK5ST-2168786.0%30611911
VK5TRM-12174388.9%18141413
VK5WTF402.0%1263113389

Wenet Imagery Payload

CallsignPackets ReceivedTotal Data Received (MiB)
VK5APR20654650.43
VK5DSP239175.84
VK5EU65611.60
VK5EU-2291877.13
VK5FISH15157437.01
VK5QI (Mobile)11873028.99
VK5KX13366732.63

Thanks to all who participated in receiving the telemetry from this flight – all uploads are much appreciated, and help make the flight much more enjoyable for those spectating from home.

Conclusion

Thanks again to all involved with preparation, launch, tracking and chasing. With an influx of interest in this aspect of the amateur radio hobby, we’re hoping to ramp up the frequency of Project Horus launches, but to do this we need your payload ideas to launch! If you have a payload you would like to fly, take a look at the Project Horus Member Payload Launch Program page and let us know your ideas!

Catch you all at the next flight! 73 VK5QI

Horus 53 - Flight Statistics

MetricResult
Flight Designation:Horus 53
Launch Date:2019-08-25 00:35:51Z
Landing Date:2019-08-25 02:53:17Z
Flight Duration:2 Hours 18 Minutes
Launch Site:-35.07668,138.85643
Landing Site:-35.12053,139.70958
Distance Traveled:78 km
Maximum Altitude:31,645 m

Project Horus #53 Launch Announcement – 10AM Sunday 25th August

UPDATE: Launch was a complete success! A full write-up will be coming in due course…

The next Project Horus launch is currently planned to fly on Sunday the 25th of August(weather permitting), with a planned launch time of 10AM. As usual, there’s always the chance the weather for the planned launch date may not be suitable, so if necessary, the backup launch date will be Sunday the 1st of September.

The launch site will be the usual Mt Barker High School Oval. Launch crews should be on-site around 9AM. If you haven’t attended one of our launches before, this is a great opportunity to come along and see what’s involved first-hand!

WiFi Pineapple Payload

WiFi Pineapple

This flight will be the first of hopefully many more payloads proposed and developed by AREG club members under the Project Horus Member Payload Launch Program. Derek VK5TCP’s payload is a WiFi Pineapple board – a WiFi penetration testing device developed by Hak5. The payload will be ‘war-ballooning‘ throughout the flight, recording the SSID of all WiFi access points it can receive signals from. It will also be broadcasting an open WiFi access point (‘VK5ARG’) on the 2.4 GHz band. The payload will be using a ~11 dBi patch antenna pointed directly downwards.

To encourage community participation in this launch, there are two challenges associated with this payload:

  1. Get your Access Point SSID observed by the payload! – Set up a WiFi Access point connected to a high gain antenna pointed at the payload. After the flight we will publish a list of all SSID’s that were observed, and at what altitude they were spotted. For your best chance at being observed, beacon using the lower-speed 802.11b mode.
  2. Recover the secret message! – Connect to the access point on the balloon while it is in flight and retrieve a secret message from a web server running on the payload. This will be a serious challenge to achieve, and will require the use of high-gain antennas on the ground. Our link budgeting suggests that the full 4W of allowable LIPD Class License EIRP will be required to connect to the payload. Amateur radio operators with an advanced license are permitted to use any power level up to the limits of their license conditions. The web server will be running on the IP address 172.16.42.1, and clients can either accept a DHCP lease, or use a static IP address between 172.16.42.150 and 172.16.42.200.

To have the highest chance of success, stations will need to be situated directly underneath the flight path, with antennas pointing upwards to the payload. A map of the predicted flight path will be posted closer to the launch date.

Wenet Imagery Payloads

Image received via the Wenet Payload

This flight will also fly a ‘Wenet’ high-speed imagery payload, as have been flown on many previous Horus launches. The centre frequencies for this transmission will be 441.200 MHz. This payload will be downlinking HD pictures throughout the flight, which will be available at this link:

http://ssdv.habhub.org/

Reception of the Wenet signal requires a RTLSDR and a Linux PC/Laptop. Instructions on how to set up the required software are available here.

 

Telemetry Payloads

As always, we’ll be flying the usual assortment of telemetry payloads, including:

  • Our usual 100 baud 7N2 RTTY telemetry on 434.650 MHz USB. This can be decoded using dl-fldigi, with a reception guide available here. Recent testing of dl-fldigi’s decode performance has found that the auto-configured RTTY receive bandwidth is too narrow, and can detrimentally impact decode performance (by up to 3dB!).To fix this, open dl-fldigi, and in the Configure menu, select Modems, and then go to the ‘RTTY’ tab. Drag the ‘Receive filter bandwidth’ slider to 200, then click ‘Save’. Note that this setting will be reset whenever you hit the ‘Auto-Configure’ button!
  • 4FSK Telemetry decoder

    The new 4FSK Binary telemetry will be transmitting on 434.660 MHz USB. This uses a separate decoder, with setup instructions for this available here. This telemetry payload will soon become the primary method of tracking the flight – the RTTY payload is expected to be retired in a few launches time.

 

Tracking of the flight will be available on the HabHub Tracker, available at this link. (Note that other balloon launches will also be visible on this page, including the Bureau of Meteorology launches from Adelaide Airport).
Follow the #horus53 hashtag on Twitter for updates from the launch and chase teams on the launch day.
Stay tuned for updates closer to the launch date…
73
Mark VK5QI

Automatic Radiosonde Reception – AREG Style!

Thanks to Mark VK5QI, AREG is pleased to announce a new service has been added to the VK5RWN Repeater site. Mark has been developing a RadioSonde automated receive system which allows all of the Bureau of Meteorology weather balloon data to be collected and be made available on the internet. The data is available via the SondeHub instance of the HabHub High Altitude Balloon Habitat platform. You can access it here:

What can you see? Where all the active weather balloons are right now!

If you’re located in South Australia and are considering going out to recover a sonde, or have recovered one, please use the Facebook Group or the mailing list to announce your intentions! This helps avoid disappointment if others are intending to recover the same sonde.

Want to learn more? Read on…..


For quite a while now I’ve been interested in tracking and recovering radiosondes. These are meteorological instruments regularly launched by weather balloon from many locations around the world. Here in South Australia the Bureau of Meteorology launches them from Adelaide Airport twice daily (2315 and 1115Z), along with a few other locations around the state.

A Vaisala RS41 radiosonde found with the help of the radiosonde_auto_rx tracking network!

Radiosondes transmit in the 400-403 MHz band (usually on either 400.5/401.5/402.5 MHz), and there is a range of software, both closed and open source available to decode their telemetry. Not being entirely happy with the existing offerings, I started work on my own software, which became radiosonde_auto_rx (or ‘auto_rx’ for short).

auto_rx runs on a Raspberry Pi (or any other Linux machine) and automatically scans for and decodes radiosonde signals. Telemetry is uploaded to APRS-IS and the Habhub tracker for mapping purposes, and can also be viewed locally via a web interface. Most of the common radiosonde models are supported, including the Vaisala RS41 which is launched here in Adelaide. There are currently 147 auto_rx stations in operation worldwide (16 here in VK5), and so far (as of 2019-05-25 10Z) 19415 individual radiosondes have been logged.

So why do I bother doing this? Many radiosondes are (in part..) highly recyclable! The Vaisala RS41 contains a good quality GPS receiver, a micro-controller, and a radio transmitter – perfect for re-programming for use as a high-altitude balloon payload, as we have been doing on many recent Project Horus flights. In fact, the RS41 is the ‘reference platform’ for the new high-performance balloon telemetry system developed by David Rowe and I.

Chasing and recovering radiosondes is also great practice for Project Horus launches, with a few of the new Horus regulars starting out tracking radiosondes, and many others around VK5 regularly out chasing the BOM’s radiosonde launches. We use the same mapping software for both radiosonde and Horus chases.

To help improve tracking coverage, I proposed to install an auto_rx receiver station at one of AREG’s premier repeater sites, overlooking the Adelaide plains. Thanks to the generosity of AREG members in approving this proposal, the receiver was installed over the easter break. A big thanks to Ben VK5BB for assistance in fabricating an antenna bracket, and helping with the installation!

Hardware Details

The auto_rx receiver station installed in a rack at the site.

The auto_rx receiver hardware consists of a Raspberry Pi 3, with two RTLSDR v3 dongles attached, allowing simultaneous reception of 2 sondes. The incoming RF from the antenna is filtered through an interdigital filter (passband 400-403 MHz, stop-band attenuation > 90 dB) before being going through a preamplifier and splitter to the two dongles. The estimated system noise figure is about 5dB, mostly from the insertion loss of the filter. Given this is a very RF-noisy site (co-located DSTAR repeaters, and many commercial services on a tower a few hundred metres away), the higher noise figure is an acceptable tradeoff – without the filter the receivers would immediately overload!

All the equipment is mounted within a 2RU rack-mount chassis, with all power and network inputs heavily filtered to avoid coupling in unwanted RF. The total power draw of the unit is ~10W.

View from the antenna!

The antenna is an AEA co-linear (kindly donated to the project by Ivan VK5HS) mounted to the side of the repeater hut. Being ~450m above sea level, the antenna has direct line-of-sight to the Adelaide airport, and essentially anywhere to the west of Adelaide.

Receiver Performance

Receiving a radiosonde on the ground at Adelaide Airport

With such excellent line-of-sight, the station regularly receives signals from the Adelaide Airport radiosondes before they launch, and often even during the ground-test and calibration activities performed on the radiosonde within the Bureau of Meteorology building at the airport.

Also often visible are radiosonde launches from the Ceduna and Woomera receiving stations, which typically rise above the horizon when they reach ~10km altitude. Coverage to the east is not quite as good, being blocked by the Adelaide Hills, however radiosondes are regularly tracked down to ~1 degree elevation.

Would you like to know more?

  • More information on the radiosonde reception software is available on github at https://github.com/projecthorus/radiosonde_auto_rx .
  • A conference presentation delivered by myself and Michael Wheeler (VK3FUR) where we discuss the re-use of the Vaisala RS41 radiosondes is also available (see below)
  • You can track radiosondes launched from Adelaide Airport (and many other launch sites around the globe!) by visiting the Habitat Tracker at this link.

Thanks again to all those who helped make this possible!

73 Mark VK5QI

 

Horus 52 – SHSSP 2019 Flight Report

This year AREG was once again involved with the International Space University’s Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program (SHSSP), hosted by the University of South Australia. As with previous years, AREG performed a high-altitude balloon launch, carrying a SHSSP-developed payload. AREG members also worked with the project participants, running tutorials on various aspects of the launch.

The planned launch date was the 2nd of February, but had to be delayed a week due to poor flight-path predictions. In the lead-up to the new launch date (9th of February) predictions were looking good, however as the date got closer the prediction moved further and further north with a predicted landing to the west of Morgan. To make things even more interesting, the chance of showers at the launch site increased from 10%, to 30%, then to 70% over the final 3 days before the launch, along with predictions of 30kph winds.

Still, launch planning continued, and on the morning of Saturday the 9th of February the Project Horus launch crew and the SHSSP participants assembled at the Mt Barker High School oval for one of our most challenging launches to date!

 

 

After finding a filling location mostly out of the wind, the launch crew were able to get the balloon filled quickly and get the payloads laid out ready for launch. SHSSP participants assembled and tested their payload, before sealing it up ready for the launch.

Just as the planned launch time of 11AM approached, the launch director was informed by Air Traffic Control that a 10 minute launch hold was required. This couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the wind started to immediately pick up. The balloon wranglers had a very challenging time stopping the balloon from blowing around in the wind, with the latex envelope coming dangerously close to bursting many times.

Finally the launch was given the all-clear from ATC, and the payloads were released during in a short lull in the wind, using the classic ‘running launch’ method. Unlike a previous launch in high winds, the payloads easily cleared the trees and were on their way to the stratosphere.

A big thanks to all the launch crew for helping out – it was great to see many members at the launch site, and it certainly made this challenging launch a lot easier!

The Chase!

The chase teams for this flight consisted of Mark’s team (Mark VK5QI, Andy VK5AKH and Will VK5AHV), and Liam VK5LJG flying solo. As the flight path was predicted to be a long one (landing near Morgan!), the teams set of immediately after launch, leaving pack-up to the rest of the ground crew (thanks guys!).

Meanwhile tracking stations across the state began collecting telemetry. Michael VK5ZEA in Port Lincoln had his station in full swing:

While the AREG ground station deployed and manned by Peter VK5KX collected as much of the telemetry as possible from the multiple transmitters on this flight.

As for the chase and recovery teams, they steadily drove north through Palmer and Sedan heading for an expected landing near Morgan. The teams were caught by surprise by the balloon’s early burst at 25km altitude (the expected burst was 35km), which shifted the resulting landing prediction very close to the River Murray north-west of Waikerie.

Mark’s team immediately diverted through Blanchetown and headed towards landing area, and were able to track the payloads down to 62m altitude from the highway. A route to the landing site (in a vineyard at Qualco) was determined, and the team continued on. Unfortunately Liam VK5LJG had a vehicle fault, and had to stop at the Blanchetown roadhouse to await repairs.

Horus 52 Flight Path

While Mark’s team was approaching Waikerie, Steve VK5ST also made an appearance – he had been waiting near Morgan for the balloon to land, and had made his way to the landing area. After a brief discussion with the Vineyard manager the teams were able to drive right to the payloads, which had landed across four rows of ripe grapevines.

The SHSSP payload, suspended between grapevines.

Mark’s team then headed on to Waikerie for a much needed Bakery visit!

Tracking & Telemetry

As usual, we had a good showing of Amateur Radio operators from around the state receiving telemetry from the balloon. It was good to see a few new callsigns tracking telemetry (Hi Liam!) as well as our regulars.

The flight had the usual RTTY and 4FSK payloads, the telemetry statistics of which are shown below:

RTTY Payload

CallsignReceived PacketsPercentage of Flight ReceivedFirst-Received Altitude (m)Last-Received Altitude (m)
VK5ALX28036.1%600722607
VK5EI45058.1%32179498
VK5EU69689.8%6791634
VK5FLPM70.9%28725823
VK5KIK65284.1%10892631
VK5KX38249.3%1622119
VK5PJ91.2%1890419707
VK5ST64783.5%30372151
VK5ZEA46560.0%60079373
VK5ZRL43355.9%105395554
VK5ZRL-0240452.1%105396068

4FSK (Binary) Payload

CallsignReceived PacketsPercentage of Flight ReceivedFirst-Received Altitude (m)Last-Received Altitude (m)
VK5APR146791.9%10912792
VK5FLPM61538.5%922712881
VK5KJP150494.2%10912003
VK5LJG1499.3%139710254
VK5LJG-946128.9%5401672
VK5NEX133383.5%28832882
VK5PJ64440.4%4841189
VK5QI-9148092.7%54025
VK5ST145090.9%16091844
VK5TRM129781.3%2389855

Thanks to all who participated!

Wenet Imagery Payloads

This flight featured two Wenet imagery payloads – one with a downward-facing camera, and one outward-facing (for nice horizon photos). For the most part, these were identical to the Wenet payloads flown in previous Horus launches. The downward-facing payload was also configured to to receive telemetry from a SHSSP-designed payload and relay it to the ground via the Wenet FSK downlink.

Even though it was quite cloudy, the two payloads were able to capture excellent imagery throughout the flight.

Thanks to the following receiving stations who contributed to the Wenet reception effort:

Downward Facing Imagery

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CallsignPackets ReceivedTotal Data Received (MiB)
VK5APR7457218.21
VK5DSP6043514.75
VK5EI296287.23
VK5KX68721.68
VK5QI (Mobile)338708.27

Outward Facing Imagery

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CallsignPackets ReceivedTotal Data Received (MiB)
VK5KX18080544.14
VK5QI (Mobile)9776223.87

SHSSP Payload – Radiation Monitoring

This year, the SHSSP decided to develop a payload to measure ionising radiation throughout the balloon flight. The majority of ionising radiation observed in the troposphere and stratosphere are a result of cosmic rays interacting with particles of air, producing showers of secondary particles which can be observed using radiation sensors.

Two radiation sensor types were used: a geiger-muller tube, and a PIN-diode-based sensor. Radiation detection events were logged by a Raspberry Pi Zero W, and relayed to the downward-facing Wenet payload for transmission to the ground throughout the flight.

From the flight data, Bill Cowley (VK5DSP) was able to create plots of radiation count vs altitude:

These plots show the ‘Regener-Pfotzer Maximum’ at ~18km altitude the characteristic peak in the distribution of charged particles in the atmosphere. Above this point the radiation intensity drops due to there being less atmosphere for cosmic ray interactions to occur; below it, the intensity drops due to secondary particles being blocked by denser atmosphere.  A full writeup of the payload and results are over on Bill Cowley’s blog.

Conclusion

With the usual excellent imagery from the Wenet payloads, and the good data from the SHSSP payload, this flight can definitely be considered a success – even with the early burst. Thanks again to all who participated, and we look forward to more Project Horus flights in the future!

Horus 52 - Flight Statistics

MetricResult
Flight Designation:Horus 52 - SHSSP 2019
Launch Date:2019-02-09 00:40 UTC
Landing Date:2019-02-09 02:38 UTC
Flight Duration:1 Hour 58 Minutes
Launch Site:-35.07668,138.85643
Landing Site:34.12273,139.871
Distance Traveled:140 km
Maximum Altitude:25,497 m

Horus 52 / SHSSP 2019 – Frequency & Tracking Data

Horus 52 – Saturday 9th February 11.00am Liftoff!

AREG is pleased to once again be involved with the International Space University’s Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program hosted by the University of South Australia. This year one balloon is being launched from Mt Barker High School as part of the program. All amateurs across the state are invited to participate in the flight through collecting the RTTY telemetry. All you need is an SSB receiver on 70cm, and an interface to your computer. The rest is software!

You can find out more about the software you need to track the balloon via our software tracking page

Telemetry Payloads

As always, we’ll be flying the usual assortment of telemetry payloads, including:

  • Our usual 100 baud 7N2 RTTY telemetry on 434.650 MHz USB. This can be decoded using dl-fldigi, with a reception guide available hereNOTE: There is a known issue with dl-fldigi where it does not upload any received telemetry until about 10 minutes after the software is started. Any telemetry received in this time period will be queued and uploaded after the startup period has completed (i.e. no telemetry will be lost).Note: Recent testing of dl-fldigi’s decode performance has found that the auto-configured RTTY receive bandwidth is too narrow, and can detrimentally impact decode performance (by up to 3dB!).To fix this, open dl-fldigi, and in the Configure menu, select Modems, and then go to the ‘RTTY’ tab. Drag the ‘Receive filter bandwidth’ slider to 200, then click ‘Save’. Note that this setting will be reset whenever you hit the ‘Auto-Configure’ button!
  • 4FSK Telemetry decoder

    The new 4FSK Binary telemetry will be transmitting on 434.640 MHz USB. This uses a separate decoder, with setup instructions for this available here. We would love reports of how the 4FSK signal compares to standard RTTY!

 

Wenet Imagery Payloads

This flight will feature two ‘Wenet’ high-speed imagery payloads, as have been flown on many previous Horus launches. The centre frequencies for the transmissions are:

  • 441.200 MHz – Nadir-pointing (Downward) Imagery
  • 443.500 MHz – Horizon-pointing Imagery

These will be downlinking HD pictures throughout the flight, which will be available at this link:

http://ssdv.habhub.org/

Reception of the Wenet signal requires a RTLSDR and a Linux PC/Laptop. Instructions on how to set up the required software are available here.

Note that users running an ‘older’ version (Circa mid-2018) of the Wenet receiver software will need to apply a -220kHz offset to the above frequencies in their setup_rx.sh file (i.e. 440980000 or 443280000) – or just leave them at their defaults, which should already be correct.. Those running the latest version can just define the centre frequency as-is. Older versions of the Wenet software will show a lot of ‘Unknown Packet Type’ messages due to some new telemetry formats we are trialling on this flight.

Online Tracking

Tracking of the flight will be available on the HabHub Tracker, available at this link. (Note that other balloon launches will also be visible on this page, including the Bureau of Meteorology launches from Adelaide Airport).
Follow the #SHSSP hashtag on Twitter for updates from the launch and chase teams on the launch day.

Flight Prediction

The following will give you an idea of the expected flight track for Saturday. It is going to be a LONG chase this time! See you all on Saturday!

Project Horus – Telemetry Test Flight #2 (Horus 51) Flight Report

Today’s telemetry test flight (now designated as Horus 51) was performed with (mostly) good results! This launch was an experiment to investigate solutions to the ‘Horus Binary’ payload PLL-loss-of-lock issue that has been observed on previous launches. Three payloads were launched, with variations on insulation and transmit power, all using reprogrammed Vaisala RS41 radiosonde PCBs. As a result, there was a lot of telemetry to receive on this flight!

Getting ready to launch the payloads

The launch was a fairly relaxed affair, with only a small launch crew on-site. Launch occurred right on time at 11AM. It was quickly discovered that a bit too much helium was used (dodgy gas flow-rate meter!), and so the ascent rate was higher than expected resulting in the small balloon used bursting at 16.2km altitude.

Horus 51 Flight Path

As the pre-launch flight path prediction had the landing area somewhere south-west of Loxton, none of the launch crew attempted to chase this launch. Instead, Ivan (VK5HS) from the Riverland Radio Club lead a small team (Ivan, David and Peter) out from Renmark to recover the payload. As it turns out, the higher ascent rate and lower burst altitude resulted in the landing location being further away from Loxton than expected, but the Riverland boys were able to track payloads down to the ground and easily recover them not long after landing.

David (left) and Peter (right) with the recovered payloads.

Many thanks to Ivan & Co for making the effort to get out and chase, it is much appreciated!

Horus 51 - Flight Statistics

MetricResult
Flight Designation:Horus 51 - Telemetry Test Flight #2
Launch Date:2018-11-25 00:30 UTC
Landing Date:2018-11-25 01:40 UTC
Flight Duration:1 Hour 10 Minutes
Launch Site:-35.07568, 138.85701
Landing Site:-34.68642,139.92380
Distance Traveled:106 km
Maximum Altitude:16,201 m

Telemetry Statistics

Thanks to all who participated in the launch by receiving telemetry from one (or more!) of the three payloads. Statistics on how much telemetry was contributed by each receiver callsign is below:

Horus 51 - HORUSBINARY (434.640 MHz) Receiver Statistics

CallsignReceived PacketsPercentage of Flight ReceivedFirst-Received Altitude (m)Last-Received Altitude (m)
VK5FAAP403.7%49152951
VK5HS29226.9%1283660
VK5KX-3100892.7%632125
VK5NEX33530.8%148634601
VK5QI-951647.5%340142
VK5ST-489382.2%23741301
VK5WTF20.2%39593969
YOUR_CALL_HERE47844.0%2339296

Horus 51 - HORUSBINARY2 (434.650 MHz) Receiver Statistics

CallsignReceived PacketsPercentage of Flight ReceivedFirst-Received Altitude (m)Last-Received Altitude (m)
VK5APR11717.7%9053849
VK5FJGM26740.3%339410661
VK5KJP54682.5%20541313
VK5KX-264196.8%763103
VK5LJG46670.4%12754751
VK5LJG-940861.6%3641809
VK5NEX39659.8%290714293
VK5QI-964497.3%378103
VK5ST-253681.0%2248893
YOUR_CALL_HERE31447.4%298114293
vk5mad38558.2%146414293

Horus 51 - 4FSKTEST (434.660 MHz) Receiver Statistics

CallsignReceived PacketsPercentage of Flight ReceivedFirst-Received Altitude (m)Last-Received Altitude (m)
VK5APR78475.0%40513538
VK5DSP11611.1%926512591
VK5KX-2121.1%1515115449
VK5QI-961658.9%340144
VK5ST-188184.3%24041246
VK5WTF80877.3%601395

Please make sure you follow the configuration instructions when using the Horus Binary decoder, to avoid the ‘YOUR_CALL_HERE’ entries seen in the above tables!

Payload Testing Results

Previous Horus launches have seen the repurposed Vaisala RS41 payloads lose PLL-lock mid-flight, with the transmit frequency drifting up the 70cm band as temperature decreases. Testing on the ground indicated this may be due to the Radio IC (a Silicon Laboratories Si4032 FSK transmitter) failing with the low temperatures experienced during flight. The fact that the the RS41 sondes do not usually fail during their intended application pointed at the lower transmit power (25mW vs 50mW) used on Horus flights being a possible factor.

On previous flights the following results were seen:

  • Horus 49 (Anstey 2.0) – RS41 Foam Only, 25mW – No issues Encountered.
  • Telemetry Test Flight #1 – RS41 Foam Only, 25mw – Failed on Ascent at 9km altitude, recovered on descent at 1km altitude.
  • Horus 50 – Stock RS41, 25mW – Failed on descent for ~6 minutes between 13km and 9km altitude.

With 2 failures and one success, it was decided that more data needed to be gathered.

Foam-Only (Left), ‘Stock’ RS41 (Middle), Custom Enclosure (Right)

On this launch, two payloads were operated at 50mW transmit power, one with a ‘stock’ enclosure (‘HORUSBINARY’) and one with only the inner foam insulation (‘HORUSBINARY2’). Using only the inner foam insulation provides a significant weight reduction, cutting the payload weight almost in half (~120g to ~60g).

A third payload (‘4FSKTEST’), using a custom-built foam enclosure was also tested, transmitting at 25mW. This had a similar overall weight (66g) to the foam-only RS41 enclosure, and re-flew the RS41 board that failed on Horus 50.

A bug in the firmware, discovered after the Horus 50 flight, was also fixed for this launch. This fix allowed gathering of measurements from a temperature sensor on the silicon die of the radio transmitter IC – unfortunately the temperature measurements captured on previous launches are invalidated as a result of this bug.

Horus 51 Payload Temperatures

Sadly, the foam-only payload (‘HORUSBINARY2’) was observed to fail at 14.3km altitude during ascent, and recover at 4.8km on descent, failing with a radio IC temperature of 0 ˚C.

Failure of the HORUSBINARY2 payload, as observed by Joe VK5EI

Both the stock RS41 and custom enclosure payload remained operational throughout the flight. The overall higher temperatures reported by the Stock RS41 payload may be a result of a bias in the temperature sensor, or may be a result of the better insulation – Further investigation will be performed once the payloads make their way back to Adelaide.

Curiously, the two other payloads reported radio IC temperatures lower than the failure point of the foam-only payload (0˚C), indicating that perhaps it is not the radio IC at fault, but another component on the PCB. Further investigation will be performed on RS41 PCBs using selective cooling of components, prior to the next Horus launch sometime in January 2019.

However, based on the results from this flight, it appears that the safest option for the moment is the Stock RS41 enclosure, transmitting at 50mW. As always, Horus flights use  redundant telemetry transmitters, so that a failure of a single transmitter does not compromise our ability to track and recover!

Project Horus – Telemetry Test Flight #2 – Sunday 25th November 11AM CDST

UPDATE: Predictions look good, so this flight will be going ahead as planned. The launch team will not be chasing this flight – others are welcome to chase/recover the payloads if they wish.

Current planned flight parameters (for prediction purposes) are a 4m/s ascent rate, 20km burst altitude, and a ~7m/s descent rate.

 

On Sunday, the 25th of November, Project Horus will be performing a small balloon launch from Mt Barker High School Oval, at approximately 11AM CDST. Live flight tracking will be available on the HabHub online tracker as usual. A guide on how to decode the new Horus binary telemetry mode is available here.

This launch is another test flight of the new ‘Horus Binary’ telemetry payload, which uses a new modulation mode developed by David Rowe VK5DGR and Mark Jessop VK5QI with 6dB better performance than the usual RTTY telemetry. This telemetry mode has been flown on a few recent Project Horus flights, with mixed success – The modem has performed flawlessly, the payloads themselves not so much! These flights have flown reprogrammed Vaisala RS41 radiosondes, which while working perfectly on Bureau of Meteorology launches, have proven troublesome on Horus launches!

Drifty Horus Binary Payload – Hopefully not on this this flight!

The last telemetry test flight suffered a loss of PLL lock on ascent, believed to be due to temperature issues, causing the payload to drift right up the 70cm band. On Horus 50, a similar fault occurred on descent, though the payload recovered within a few minutes. Further investigations confirmed a temperature issue, likely due to the lower transmit powers used on Horus flights (25mW) compared with the stock transmit power of 50mW.

This flight aims to test a few different variations on the payload flown on Horus 50, to determine if transmitting at a higher power keeps the payload alive. A few different modifications to the payload insulation will also be tested.

Currently we plan to fly 3 telemetry payloads (all on USB, +/- temperature drift):

  • 434.640 MHz – Callsign ‘HORUSBINARY’ – Unmodified RS41, 50mW TX power.
  • 434.650 MHz – Callsign ‘HORUSBINARY2’ – RS41 without outer plastic shell, 50mW TX power. Prioritise reception of this payload.
  • 434.660 MHz – Callsign ‘4FSKTEST’ – RS41 PCB in custom enclosure, 25mW TX power.

The Horus Binary uploader script will automatically determine the payload callsign as long as you are running a recent version. Please make sure you have updated to the latest version (2018-11-15) of the Horus Binary uploader before this flight, otherwise the HORUSBINARY2 payload will not be recognised, and data for the other payloads may be corrupted. Those who were set up for Horus 50 can simply download the latest payload ID list, and place it in their horusbinary directory.

Launch will be from the usual Mt Barker High School Oval site, and launch teams will be on-site around 10:15AM, for a 11AM launch. All are welcome!

AREG’s 20th Anniversary Event – Horus 50 Balloon Launch – 4th November 2018

2018 marks 20 years since the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group was formed. To celebrate this milestone, the club is planning to fly a special Amateur Radio focused high altitude balloon in what will be the 50th Project Horus Mission.

The Project Horus team itself is also celebrating 8 years in the air! Project Horus was founded by Terry Baume and continues to perform regular high-altitude balloon launches from locations around South Australia under the auspices of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group.

When will this be happening? Currently it is planned to fly on Sunday the 4th of November (weather permitting). Liftoff is planned for 10AM ACDT. We are going for altitude so coverage will hopefully extend as far as Melbourne at the peak of the flight.

The goal is to engage with amateur radio in as many ways as possible. We want you to talk through the balloon, see the world from the balloon’s perspective and know where the balloon is during the flight! How can you do all this you might ask? The Project Horus team have specifically tailored this flight to include:

  • a 2m (down) / 70cm (up) Cross-band FM repeater. Amateurs within the repeater footprint will be able to make live QSOs with the club station VK5ARG and each other via the FM repeater using relatively modest stations.
  • a 2m SSTV beacon transmitting images from the balloon live during the flight. You will be able to see the world from the balloon’s perspective using a 2m receiver and simple software (you can even use an app on your phone).
  • Track the balloon via a 2m APRS beacon during the flight!

The launch site will be the usual Mt Barker High School Oval. Launch crews should be on-site around 8:30-9AM. If you haven’t attended one of our launches before, this is a great opportunity to come along and see what’s involved first-hand!

As usual, there’s always the chance the weather for the planned launch date may not be suitable, so a backup launch date of Sunday the 18th of November has been tentatively penciled in (the 11th being the AHARS buy & sell weekend).

Cross-band FM Repeater

Likely suspects operating the cross-band repeater on Horus 23

The cross-band repeater will be using the following frequencies:

  • Uplink: 438.900 MHz, with a 123 Hz CTCSS tone required for activation.
  • Downlink: 147.500 MHz  (~1.4W output power).

To transmit to the balloon at the maximum range of 700km (once the balloon reaches >30km) you will need approximately 10-30W and an 10dBi gain antenna and a clear takeoff towards the balloon. Those stations closer to the launch site will be able to get away with much less.

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU can hear the repeater before transmitting
and remember to make sure you SET YOUR CTCSS TO 123Hz
or you will not access the repeater.

As with previous flights, the repeater will be run as a controlled net. Listen for VK5ARG acting as net control and please follow their instructions so that as many people as possible can share the repeater.

FM-SSTV Imagery Payload

Instead of the usual Wenet imagery payload this launch will have a new SSTV transmitter operating on 145.100 MHz FM. It will run approximately 250mW transmit power. The transmitter will have 30 second gaps between image transmissions to avoid overheating the transmitter.

Scottie 2 SSTV Imagery Example

The payload will be transmitting images using the Scottie 2 SSTV mode throughout the flight, and can be decoded using any SSTV software capable of decoding this mode (pretty much all of them!). This is a mode that typically is used on HF but is equally adapted to VHF FM work. (Note it is not the same as the PD120 transmissions from ISS).

Examples of suitable software you can use to decode the SSTV pictures include:

Any FM receiver (including handhelds) should be capable of receiving this payload, though as with the cross-band repeater, a Yagi antenna may be necessary for reliable reception at the edges of the transmitter footprint.

If you do receive images, please post them to Social Media and on Twitter include the #horus50 hashtag so everyone can see them!

Telemetry Payloads

As always, we’ll be flying the usual assortment of telemetry payloads, including:

  • Our usual 100 baud 7N2 RTTY telemetry on 434.650 MHz USB. This can be decoded using dl-fldigi, with a reception guide available hereNOTE: There is a known issue with dl-fldigi where it does not upload any received telemetry until about 10 minutes after the software is started. Any telemetry received in this time period will be queued and uploaded after the startup period has completed (i.e. no telemetry will be lost).
  • 4FSK Telemetry decoder

    The new 4FSK Binary telemetry will be transmitting on 434.640 MHz USB. This uses a separate decoder, with setup instructions for this available here. (Previous listeners note that there have been updates to the software – please re-download the latest version!). We would love reports of how the 4FSK signal compares to standard RTTY!

  • If weight permits, there will be an APRS beacon operating on 145.175 MHz with the callsign VK5ARG-12. This will be received automatically by the APRS network.
Tracking of the flight will be available on the HabHub Tracker, available at this link. (Note that other balloon launches will also be visible on this page, including the Bureau of Meteorology launches from Adelaide Airport).
Follow the #horus50 hashtag on Twitter for updates from the launch and chase teams on the launch day.
Stay tuned for updates closer to the launch date…
73
Mark VK5QI