AREG May Meeting: FT8 DXing Q&A – This Friday 7.30pm ACST

The May meeting of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group will again be held online this month due to the COVID-19 social distancing limitations. It will be held on Friday May 15th starting 7.30pm ACST using the Zoom video conferencing platform for AREG members. A YouTube Livestream via Hayden VK7HH’s HamRadio DX Channel will also be available.

The subject this month will be “FT8 DXing – How to get Started, Tips and Tricks” and will be presented by Grant VK5GR. The format will be based on a live look at FT8 on the air with interaction from members welcome. We will discuss the basics including getting the software installed, but will also explain how you read and position your signals on the band to maximize your chances of a successful QSO, showing you on air as we go.



Non Member Access Planned!

This month, we will be introducing an extra dimension however, with the Zoom meeting also being Live-Streamed to Hayden VK7HH’s Ham Radio DX Youtube channel: (CLICK HERE – Hayden’s YouTube Channel).

This way we hope to make the evening accessible to a wider audience, not just AREG members. So if you are interested in some hints and tips for getting the most out of FT8 when DXing on HF why not tune in at 7.30pm ACST (1000 UTC) on Friday May 15th.

 

AREG Nets: On Line and On Air!

To help keep our members connected during this time of social distancing and COVID-19, the club is moving to increase the amount of on air contact opportunities. We are planning on holding an alternating on air net one week and a Zoom round-table chat on the alternate weeks.

The next event will be held this coming Friday, 8th May. Starting at 7.30pm it will be held on the club’s VK5RSB repeater 439.900 which will be linked to the IRLP network via node 6214 to reflector 9558 (which is also linked to the EchoLink node *VK3JED*

This will help to keep our interstate members connected too!

VK5RSB 70cm Coverage Map

The following dates will also have an on air net:

  • May 22nd
  • June 5th

Visitor check-ins are most welcome on the on air nets. The net control station is VK5ARG.


In between the on air weeks, there will be a separate video round table using Zoom Meeting online for members only.

The club just held one of these which was hugely successful as everyone got to see, hear and participate in the free discussions that en-shewed. Members will be provided details of the Zoom logins for each of these on our internal mailing list.

Currently the next scheduled Zoom round table for members is May 29th, also starting at 7.30pm.

Details of our monthly meeting for this month are in a separate post.

We hope to see you all on the air!

Next AREG Meeting POSTPONED: Hello Solar Cycle 25! –

Due to the cancellation of our March meeting, we are now hoping we can bring this topic to members in April. Stay tuned for further details

Always of intense interest to Radio Amateurs is what is going to happen to the ionosphere. More recently, the big question on everyone’s lips has been, when is Solar Cycle 25 going to get underway and how strong (or weak) is it going to be.

AREG is pleased to announce that we have a preeminent expert in this field coming to speak at our Friday 20th of March general meeting. Dr David Neudegg (VK5FDAN) from the Defence Science & Technology Group will give us a radio amateur perspective on what is happening with Solar Cycle 25.

The meeting will be held at the Fulham Community Centre, off Phelps Court in Fulham. The meeting will start at 7.45pm. Doors open from 7.15pm. Visitors are most welcome to join us!

We hope to see you there!

Marathon Canoe Club: River Paddling Marathon 2020 – call for radio volunteers!

The River Paddling Marathon 200 event staged by the Marathon Canoe Club of SA will again be running over the June long weekend from Berri to Morgan in South Australia’s Riverland. Staged over 3 days from June 6-8, this event will see over 100 competitors brave the winter cold to paddle the mighty Murray River downstream for 200km.

Once again, the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group in conjunction with the Riverland Radio Club, is supporting this major community event with a safety communications radio network. Communications is provided via a combination of Amateur and Commercial VHF/UHF radio networks. The radio team operates 20 check points, including 3 locks, 9 starting lines, 3 finish lines, the event command post and provides VHF command and APRS tracking of 4 safety boats plus the event medics. This is all delivered via a 2m/70cm FM network using a combination of local and portable repeater systems deployed specifically for this event.

Andy VK5AKH visiting Ivan VK5HS and Peter VK5FLEX at one of the checkpoints

Would you like to get involved?

To cover all of the checkpoints and roles, the group needs a small army of volunteers. Members from both AREG and RRC have been the backbone of the event now for over 5 years. This year, we would love to broaden the engagement further. If you are a member of any of the local radio clubs, WICEN SA, WICEN VIC or just an individual with 2m/70cm mobile capabilities and you would like to get involved, please contact us via vk5arg@areg.org.au to express your interest. Registrations are open until the end of March 2020.

What do you need to participate?

We keep the check point requirements simple. Each checkpoint is open for ~3-4 hours and mostly operators are only rostered on for one checkpoint a day.

For most checkpoints a 2WD vehicle and a 25W or higher 2m mobile radio with a car mounted antenna is usually sufficient to reach the comms network. 70cm is used in a limited number of check points too. Minimum teams of 2 are preferred, one for spotting and one for manning the radio. If you wish to participate as an individual we can pair you up with one of the other operators for the day.

If you have never participated in the event before, there will be a briefing night held in Adelaide several weeks before the event. If you are new to the event, our event planners will stage you with one of the more experienced operators to show you the ropes the first year.

Paul VK5BX and Peter VK5KX running Net Control

Logistics Arrangements?

The Radio network participants are mostly based out of Kingston on Murray caravan park for the event and many come and stay for the three days. AREG provides financial assistance towards the cost of accommodation and one of the meals during the event. People usually arrive in the area Friday afternoon (and a small team gets to work that day installing the radios in the boats around 4.30pm at Waikerie). The event is over by 4pm on Monday afternoon leaving plenty of time to drive back to Adelaide.

If you cant come for the full three days, on the Monday in particular it has not been uncommon for people to come up just for the day from Adelaide. (Day 3 is centred near Morgan so is within easy reach).

So if a fun relaxing 3 days on the Murray River interests you please contact us via vk5arg@areg.org.au to express your interest! We would love to see more members of the Amateur Radio community getting involved and supporting this fantastic community event!

 

Project Horus – Horus Binary Test & Tune Launches

FURTHER UPDATE: The second launch (23rd Feb) was also a success, with even more new callsigns showing up. The following stations were seen to upload telemetry for this launch: VK5BGN, VK5EU, VK5FPKR, VK5KK, VK5KIK, VK5KX, VK5LJG, VK5LO, VK5NE, VK5NEX, VK5NTM, VK5PE, VK5PW, VK5QI, VK5QS, VK5ST, VK5TRM, VK5ZEA. The callsign ‘PLEASE_CHANGE_ME’ also made another appearance 🙂

Thanks to all that received telemetry from these launches, and we hope to see you on the tracker again during future Project Horus launches!

 

UPDATE: The first launch (16th Feb) was a success, with quite a few new stations uploading telemetry. The following stations were seen to upload telemetry this flight: CT1EGC/VK5, VK5APR, VK5CV, VK5FPKR, VK5HS, VK5KIK, VK5KX, VK5LJG, VK5NE, VK5NEX, VK5NTM, VK5PE, VK5PW, VK5QI, VK5ST, VK5TCP, VK5TRM. Also a special mention goes out to callsigns ‘PLEASE_CHANGE_ME’, and ‘DONT_CHANGE_ME’, who might need to go edit their configuration settings 🙂

The next launch will be this coming Sunday, the 23rd of Feb, also from Two Wells. Launch is expected to be around 10AM again. The payload will be a cut-down RS41 Radiosonde, and we will be launching as a ‘Small’ balloon (<= 50g payload).

If you’ve been following the last few Project Horus High-Altitude balloon launches, you may have noticed the new ‘Horus Binary‘ telemetry payload is making a regular showing. This payload uses a high performance 4-FSK modem specifically designed for High-Altitude Balloon flights by David Rowe (VK5DGR) and Mark Jessop (VK5QI).

Horus Binary Telemetry

After resolving some issues experienced on the first few flights, the Horus Binary payload has now proven itself to be well suited for high-altitude balloon tracking, with fast position updates and high robustness to weak signals and fading. It has considerable advantages over the ‘traditional’ RTTY payload in both reliability, reception range and speed.

RTTY (left) and Horus Binary (right) payloads.

As such, it’s time we start to say goodbye to the RTTY tracking payload we’ve been flying for the last 54 flights. It may still make an appearance on a few more flights, but it is long overdue to be phased out, and the weight budget used for more interesting things!

To help regular listeners make the transition, and help new listeners get set up to receive this new telemetry, Project Horus will be performing a series of small (not-so) high-altitude balloon launches over the next few weekends. These launches will each fly a single Horus Binary transmitter, which consists of a reprogrammed Vaisala RS41 radiosonde. It is expected that each flight will remain in the air for approximately 2 hours, giving ample time to test receiving setups.

How can I get involved?

Getting setup to receive the Horus Binary telemetry is no harder than receiving RTTY – if you have a 70cm SSB receiver, or even a Software-Defined-Radio like a RTLSDR dongle, you can get involved and help contribute to the tracking of Project Horus balloon launches, and the success of our future flights.

 

 

We have recently re-vamped the documentation for Horus Binary, and there are now reception guides available for both Windows, OSX and Linux available here: https://github.com/projecthorus/horusbinary/wiki#how-do-i-receive-it

Follow the linked instructions prior to the scheduled flights, then during the flight tune your SSB receiver to 434.660 MHz USB – our standard Horus Binary frequency. Listeners in the greater Adelaide region should be able to receive the signal from the payload shortly after launch, with those further afield following as the balloon and payload ascend to higher altitudes.

If you have issues with setting up the software, please contact Mark Jessop (VK5QI) at vk5qi (at) rfhead.net .

Scheduled Launch Times & Locations

The following launch times are planned:

  • Sunday 16th February, 10AM CDT, from the Two Wells Football Oval (across the road from the bakery!)
  • Sunday 23rd February, 10AM CDT, launch site TBD

All are welcome at the launches – though unlike most Project Horus launches, these launches are expected to be over with very quickly! Launch crews are expected to be on-site approximately 30 min before the launch time, and may depart to chase the payload depending on flight-path predictions.

Online Tracking

Tracking of the flights 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).

Horus 54 – SHSSP 2020 Flight Report

For the past 4 years, AREG has been involved in the International Space University’s Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program (SHSSP) through the launching of High-Altitude balloons – this year was no exception! The Stratospheric Balloon component of the SHSSP allows participants to get hands-on experience in planning and conducting a high-altitude balloon launch. Previous years flights have seen the launch of camera payloads, various sensors, and lots of mission patches!

This year, participants were split into three teams – Earth Observation, Sensor Payload, and Mission Planning. Their roles were as follows:

  • Earth Observation Team – Calculate the parameters (field of view, resolution) of the payload cameras, and determine the achievable imaging resolution (in metres) available at various points throughout the flight. After the flight, use the captured imagery to improve the resolution of freely available satellite imagery (‘pan sharpening‘). This team was lead by Professor David Bruce, from the University of South Australia.
  • Sensor Payload Team – Integrate a collection of sensors (IMU, Temperature, Humidity, Pressure) with an Arduino micro-controller, and log the collected data to a SD card. Package the sensor payload into a box suitable for launching on the flight, then once the payload has been recovered analyse the data. This team was lead by Dr. Justin Karl, from NASA.
  • Mission Planning Team – Using measured payload weights, determine the appropriate parachute/balloon sizes and the amount of lifting gas (helium) required to meet flight objectives, then perform predictions of the flight path in the lead-up to launch. On the launch day, assist with launch preparations, including payload assembly and balloon filling. This team was lead by Mark Jessop (VK5QI).

All of the preparation activities occurred over workshops in the week prior to launch, guided by the team leads. By the Thursday before the launch the mission planning team had decided on a flight profile targeting a burst altitude of 36km. The sensor payload was completed and tested the night before launch.

The following payloads were launched on this flight:

  • SHSSP Sensor Payload, containing various sensors including an Inertial Measurement Unit, temperature/pressure/humidity sensors, and a smoke particle detector.
  • Nadir-Facing Imagery – A Wenet imaging payload transmitting on 441.2 MHz, with a downward (nadir) facing camera. This payload also contained mission patches for the SHSSP participants, and a collection of seeds (corn and watercress), to see if they would still germinate after being exposed to intense cold throughout the flight. (Spoilers: Yes they did!)
  • Outward-Facing Imagery – A Wenet imaging payload transmitting on 443.5 MHz, with an outward-facing camera, to capture the classic black-sky horizon photographs throughout the flight.
  • Vaisala RS41 Radiosonde – A stock radiosonde, transmitting on 402.5 MHz (with permission from the Bureau of Meteorology), capturing calibrated temperature and humidity data for comparison with the SHSSP Sensor payload.
  • Horus Binary (4FSK) Telemetry – Our new standard telemetry payload, transmitting 100 baud 4FSK on 434.660 MHz. This was the primary tracking payload for the flight.
  • Backup RTTY Telemetry – A legacy 434.650 MHz 100 baud RTTY tracking payload, in what may be its final flight!
  • Flight Termination Payload – Remotely controllable payload, enabling manual termination of the flight if required.

This year saw the use of a new launch site at Taylors Winery, just outside of Auburn in the southern Clare Valley region. While being further away from Adelaide, this site offers advantages in that we have much greater flexibility in what flight profiles we can fly, unlike the Mt Barker launch site where we can essentially only launch to the east. As this area is within RAAF Edinburgh restricted airspace, a new agreement with CASA had to be obtained, requiring us to coordinate our activities with the Edinburgh Tower (453 Squadron). Thankfully there was very little activity in the area on our launch day, and launch approval was granted with no issues.

Getting ready to launch…

The AREG and SHSSP teams started to assemble at the launch site around 10:30AM, well ahead of the planned launch time of 12:45AM. The weather was perfect – a nice sunny day, not too hot, and with only light winds.

A few payload issues were encountered in the lead-up to launch:

  • A critical wire broke in the participant-built sensor payload, and could not be repaired on site. Thankfully there was a pre-built backup payload in the same box so data could still be gathered.
  • The downward-facing camera payload failed shortly before launch, and did not take any images during the flight. It did transmit a continuous carrier throughout the flight, which did cause confusion at a few receive stations!

Ground winds did increase somewhat just prior to launch, but not enough to cause issues, and the balloon and payloads were released slightly after the planned launch time, at 12:53 AM.

The balloon and payloads ascended to a higher-than-expected altitude of 37936 metres before bursting and landing to the east of Tarlee.

Horus 54 / SHSSP2020 - Flight Statistics

MetricResult
Flight Designation:Horus 54 / SHSSP 2020
Launch Date:2020-01-25 02:22Z
Landing Date:2020-01-25 05:21Z
Flight Duration:~3 hours
Launch Site:-34.00147,138.70074
Landing Site:-34.25362,138.85347
Distance Traveled:31 km
Maximum Altitude:37,936 m

Thanks to all those who assisted with the launch, in particular the SHSSP mission planning team who did a great job with balloon wrangling!

Live Wenet Imagery

Once again the Wenet payload (at least, the one that was working!) showed its worth by capturing some amazing images throughout the flight:

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A big thanks to those running receive stations for the Wenet imagery! If you would like to set up a receive station for the next launch, information on how to set up using a RTLSDR and a Linux computer is available here.

CallsignPackets ReceivedTotal Data Received (MiB)
VK5EI14293934.90
VK5LJG-9127403.11
VK5QI-928578569.77
VK5PW23267756.8
VK5KX29645072.38

Comms Bus Ground Station

To ensure we would have good reception of the imagery downlink, Peter VK5KX and Matt VK5ZM set up in Peter’s bus at a high spot to the west of Tarlee, with a high gain tracking antenna. Peter and Matt were able to receive telemetry from just after release, all the way down to landing.

Chase & Recovery

This flight had the most chase teams we’ve seen in a while, and it was great to see a few new faces out on the hunt. The teams consisted of:

  • Mark VK5QI, Adrian VK5QU and Tina
  • Andy VK5AKH, Grant VK5GR, Drew VK5XFG and Dennis VK5FDEN
  • Derek VK5RX, Derek VK5TCP and Steve (not yet licensed, but he’s working on it!)
  • Liam VK5LJG and Terry VK5ATF
  • Steve VK5ST

Most of the chase teams were at the launch site, and set off shortly after launch, with the exception of Steve VK5ST, who travelled up from the Barossa region. Derek and Liam’s teams headed out into the field to test out their chase car software and equipment, while Mark and Andy’s teams dropped in to see Peter & Matt at the bus while they waited for the balloon to burst.

As all of the chase teams were running the same software and using the same flight data, they naturally converged on the predicted landing area, where they were able to watch the payloads descend the last few hundred metres to a soft landing in a recently cut  paddock. Recovery followed shortly thereafter, with all payloads in good condition.

Horus 54 Chase Crew (Not Pictured: Adrian VK5QU)

Tracking & Telemetry Statistics

We had a good showing of telemetry receivers this flight, with the usual suspects, along with a few new callsigns – including some from interstate! Thanks to all listeners who upload telemetry – your contributions ensure we have live tracking for all those following the flight online.

RTTY Statistics

CallsignReceived PacketsPercentage of Flight ReceivedFirst-Received Altitude (m)Last-Received Altitude (m)
VK3OF71254.0%1289116568
VK5AKH-9120291.2%344389
VK5APR122793.1%18431183
VK5EU124494.4%507565
VK5EU-370853.7%23780505
VK5FD53640.7%26529565
VK5HS60846.1%126076024
VK5KIK101777.2%50191384
VK5KX-02129598.3%406505
VK5QI-9103278.3%344389
VK5ST-8115387.5%3826505
VK5TRM-12103878.8%24282147

Horus Binary Statistics

CallsignReceived PacketsPercentage of Flight ReceivedFirst-Received Altitude (m)Last-Received Altitude (m)
VK5AKH-9346598.7%328395
VK5GR317990.5%328395
VK5HS270777.1%57402396
VK5KJP342897.6%1016516
VK5KX-01341197.1%338408
VK5LJG326893.1%15581273
VK5QI-9271277.2%328395
VK5ST-1330894.2%598431
VK5ST-8324392.3%787431
VK5ST-983223.7%2169408
VK5TRM302086.0%18941901
VK5TRM-12280880.0%20912396
vk5tcp237667.7%1292395

As the Horus Binary payload has been performing so well, we are hoping to retire the RTTY payload sometime this year. To assist with this, we will be launching a few small Horus Binary-only flights so that listeners can test out their tracking systems. Information on how to decode the new telemetry is available here.

Conclusion

Even with the payload failures this flight is still definitely considered to be a success! The SHSSP participants enjoyed the experience, and were able to obtain the necessary data for their post-processing activities.

2019 was a bit of a slow year for Project Horus, with only 2 launches. We are always looking for new payloads to launch, so if you have an idea, consider submitting it for the member payload launch program!

Reminder Horus 54 Flies today!

Update: The launch has now been conducted successfully, with all payloads recovered. A full writeup will be coming soon…

REMINDER: High altitude balloon flight Horus 54 will take to the skies around 12:45pm today from Auburn in the Clare Valley. This flight is carrying sensors aloft as part of the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program run through the International Space University in cooperation with the University of South Australia.

RTTY, 4FSK and Wenet Imagery payloads will be flying. If you would like to get involved in tracking the balloon and feeding telemetry into the network visit this (post).

You can track the flight live via habhub.org