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

 

FreeDV QSO Party a success despite trying conditions

This weekend just gone marked the second FreeDV QSO party (the first was 3 years ago). The aim of the event was to encourage people to come and take a look at FreeDV, load up the software and give it a try. It had the added benefit of stimulating a lot of FreeDV activity on the bands as well which was great to see.

Reports have come in from 4 continents of local activity in those regions. So far, however,  there havent been any reports of any inter-continental contacts with VK5ARG or other VK stations. Conditions were certainly difficult but at least regional activty was spawned across the globe! The key thing is that there are now more stations active and capable of FreeDV. It will only be a matter of time before we start seeing regular inter-continental FreeDV QSOs taking place!

Activity Around Australia

Australian activity was predominantly on the 40m band centered around 7177-7185kHz. At times on Saturday afternoon there were 5-6 stations on air simultaneously with lots of calls being swapped back and forth around the continent. Much of the activity used the FreeDV700D mode although at times FreeDV appeared more reliable. Selective fading was identified as a particular challenge during some of these QSOs (see above) even within 1kHz of bandwidth.

Stations were logged between VK1/2/3/4/5/6 either on 40m or 20m, VK FreeDV 20m activity was predominantly on 14130-14135kHz. More on this later.

From the VK5ARG logs it was noted that probably 1 in 2 stations contact was made with were trying FreeDV for the very first time. That alone made the event a roaring success in our eyes.

QSO Party report from the UK/Europe.

Mike G4ABP reported that European propagation has been poor in recent days, as was the case on the day of the QSO party. Consequently, he was not expecting to hear anyone from outside Europe.

Participation from Europe was not great, with about 10 European stations appearing on FreeDV QSO Finder, only one of which I knew previously. Mike monitored QSO Finder for about 16 hours, and had never seen it so busy, (particularly with US stations). Attempts were made via QSO finder to set up European QSO’s, but stations were out of range due to poor propagation. 

Activity around North America

Walter K5WH reports that with all the publicity of the event coming up there has been a great explosion of stations giving it a try, and we have worked with several dozens of stations helping them configure and test out their stations prior to the event.

“The FreeDV QSO finder has been really active with a great deal of interest in trying out the mode. There were a great deal of stations that were busy on the normal US frequency of 14.236 making contacts all day, even if they were not in the contest itself. So from my prospective, even though we did not have much success in the US with the contest, all of the enhanced activity on FreeDV leading up to the contest has really created some great attention and hopefully a lot of new stations to help us keep this mode very active. For that reason alone I would have to say this was an outstanding success for its 1st event.”

Mel K0PFX reported “Yes, the FreeDV QSO party created a lot of interest here in the US as reflected in the number of stations found on the QSO Finder throughout the time period.  I did work a few stations who were not on the Finder indicating there were more around and I am sure, many were just “listening” to see what they could decode.  W4BCX,

Ray in Florida I heard working a number of stations attributing to his great location and excellent signal.  From the NE US, WF1C was worked and heard calling other stations.   And, of course Gerry, N4DigitaVoice was in there working them on his Flex 5k which is an excellent radio for this mode.

From Mexico, XE2JC was there and I was able to decode him but never worked him.  However, I believe Ray worked him. 

Despite the low sun spot activity and the Florida QSO SSB party QRM, we all had fun in the party and good to see all the activity it stirred up.  Thanks to Grant, VK5GR and others for the organizing the event.  I look forward to the next one.”

Activity in South America

Not to be out done, we also had a lot of interest from South America with activity by a number of Argentinian stations. Logs have been received from Alex LW4DFA who worked a number of stations on 20 and 40m as well as Jose LU5DKI who worked ~8 stations again across 20 and 40m as well as several on 80m!

Thanks guys for your interest before and during the event. Please encourage those you worked to also submit logs!

Its not too late!

Now is the time, if you haven’t already done so already, to submit your FreeDV QSO party logs! We would love to see who was active and how they got on! You can send your logs to:

Log Submission:

You MUST submit your ADIF formatted log via email within 7 days after the event to:

FreeDV.QSOParty (at) areg.org.au


Finally, a huge thanks to David VK5DGR for creating this fascinating mode and to all of the operators that decided to give it a go this year during the FreeDV QSO party.

David VK5DGR – Creator of FreeDV

AREG April Meeting THIS FRIDAY – Introducing FreeDV!

Thanks to Easter this year, the AREG meeting is being held 1 week early on Friday April 12th, starting at 7.45pm. Doors open at 7.15pm.

This months presentation is by David VK5DGR, who will introduce FreeDV, talking about it’s capabilities and development as well as how you can try it yourself.

David will also discuss the latest developments in FreeDV and will hopefully give us a sneak peak of what is coming just around the corner.

We will also discuss the up-coming FreeDV QSO Party, the rules and what you need to do to be able to take part! The FreeDV QSO party is being held over the weekend of April 27th and 28th.


At the club business meeting we will also be discussing a working bee to recover the original attempted remote SDR site over the Easter/Anzac day break as well as the pending River Paddling Marathon 200 community event which is supported by AREG each year over the June long weekend.

So why dont you come along and find out what we are up to today in the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group Inc. The clubrooms are located at the Fulham Community Centre, Phelps Court, Fulham.

We hope to see you there!

FreeDV HF Digital Voice Mode: Global QSO Party April 27/28th

The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group is proud to announce a new event on the Amateur Radio Calendar. The FreeDV HF Digital Voice QSO Party!

The aim is to encourage as many Radio Amateurs as possible to learn about FreeDV and encourage as many FreeDV signals to be on the air as possible to help spread the word about this new mode.

If you can use WSJT-X for FT8 or any other digital modes software then, with the addition of Headphones and a microphone on your PC, you can switch to digital voice transmission in an instant! Its that easy! So why not give it a try? This is a great way to experiment with something new from the comfort of your own armchair. All it takes is a little bit of time to download, install and setup the software – nothing more!

What to know more? The QSO party rules are below, plus details of where to get FreeDV are included later in this bulletin. Read on!


The Rules

When: April 27th 0300z to April 28th 0300z 2019

Where: All HF Bands from 160m – 10m (excluding the WARC bands)

How: Work as many stations as possible using the FreeDV 700D or FreeDV 1600 modes in 24 hours. You can rework the same station once every 3 hours per band.

Centre Frequencies: 1870kHz, 3630kHz, 7180kHz, 14130kHz, 21180kHz, 28330kHz (chosen in accordance with IARU Bandplans)

Exchange: Signal Strength + Serial Number starting at 001

Points: Stations participating can earn points per QSO

  • 1 point per contact within a continent
  • 5 points per contact between continents
  • 50 points per contact with VK5ARG

(AREG’s club station is planned to be manned for the 24hrs looking particularly for inter-continental DX on 40/20 and 15m)

Multipliers:

  • 1 per call area in VK/VE/JA/ZL per band +
  • 1 per DXCC entity per band +
  • 1 per inter-continental contact

Final Score:

  • Sum all points x sum all multipliers

You can work a station once per band.

Stations earning 50 points or more will be entitled to an emailed PDF certificate indicating their successful participation in this inaugural event!

Categories:

There is one entry per station callsign only.

Log Submission:

You MUST submit your ADIF formatted log via email within 7 days after the event to:

FreeDV.QSOParty (at) areg.org.au


What is FreeDV?

FreeDV is an open source digital voice transmission mode developed for HF Amateur Radio by David VK5DGR. It is founded on open source principles with the Codec2 specification and code fully available to the Amateur Radio community at no charge.

The latest development, FreeDV 700D mode has performance equivalent or better than SSB on HF – a remarkable achievement in only 700 bps!

Why FreeDV?

FreeDV 700D outperforms SSB at low SNRs – you can get an easy copy of 700D when SSB is unusable.

Amateur Radio is transitioning from analog to digital, much as it transitioned from AM to SSB in the 1950’s and 1960’s. How would you feel if one or two companies owned the patents for SSB, then forced you to use their technology, made it illegal to experiment with or even understand the technology, and insisted you stay locked to it for the next 100 years? That’s exactly what washappening with digital voice. But now, hams are in control of their technology again!

FreeDV is unique as it uses 100% Open Source Software, including the speech codec. No secrets, nothing proprietary! FreeDV represents a path for 21st century Amateur Radio where Hams are free to experiment and innovate, rather than a future locked into a single manufacturers closed technology.

FreeDV can be used on multiple platforms including Windows, Mac and Linux systems.

Where can I get FreeDV?

FreeDV software and more information is available from the FreeDV Website!

FreeDV.org

Supporting Events?

If you live in Adelaide, South Australia, there are two events planned prior to the QSO party to help you get FreeDV operational. AREG will be holding a “Tech Night” on April 5th at the clubrooms in the Fulham Community Centre starting 7.00pm. In addition, David VK5DGR (FreeDV’s creator) will be our guest presenter at the April AREG meeting on Friday the 12th. Doors open at 7.15pm for that event.

AREG is also looking to re-launch the FreeDV WIA News Broadcast. New times and frequencies will be announced soon! This provides a perfect opportunity to experiment with FreeDV reception while the broadcast is running for 30 minutes, plus you can participate in the callbacks afterwards.

At the April meeting a new version of FreeDV is also going to be released that promises significantly improved audio fidelity over the communications grade 700D and 1600 modes. Why not put it in your diary and come along – visitors are most welcome!

Want to know more?

Who can I Talk To?

Login to the K7VE FreeDV QSO Finder to find other Hams using FreeDV.

Support

Please post your questions to the Digital Voice Google group

Developers please subscribe to the Codec 2 Mailing List.

IRC Chat

For casual chat there is a #freedv IRC channel on freenode.net

We hope to see you on FreeDV!

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!