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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

 

Horus 54 / SHSSP 2020 Launch Announcement

Horus 54 – Saturday 25th January – 12:45PM 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 Taylor’s Winery in Auburn as part of the program. Launch is planned to occur around 12:45PM on Saturday the 25th of January. Launch crews will be on-site from approximately 10:30AM.

All amateurs across the state are invited to participate in the flight through collecting the 4FSK and RTTY telemetry. All you need is an SSB receiver on 70cm, and an interface to your computer. The rest is software!

 

Telemetry Payloads

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

  • 4FSK Telemetry decoder

    The new 4FSK Binary telemetry will be transmitting on 434.660 MHz USB. This uses a custom decoder, with setup instructions for this available here.

 

  • 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. 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!

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.

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.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Outward Facing Imagery

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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