Horus 58 Flight Report

In January 2023, the Project Horus High-Altitude Ballooning group performed two launches, Horus 58 on the 15th of January, and the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program 2023 launch, on the 29th of January. This is the first of two flight reports, with the SHSSP 2023 report coming soon!

Horus 58 – Test Flight – 15th January 2023

The Horus 58 launch was intended as a flight test of the payloads to be used in the SHSSP 2023 launch, and included:

  • 2x Horus Binary telemetry payloads, one with a radiation sensor.
  • Outward-Facing Wenet Imagery
  • Nadir (Downward) Facing Wenet Imagery, with an IR filter
  • LoRaWAN Telemetry Beacon (not used in the SHSSP launch)

In particular, the radiation sensor payload (using a Geiger-Muller Tube) and the Nadir-Facing imagery payload were newly built and needed to be flight-proven to limit the chances of failure on the upcoming SHSSP 2023 launch. Also flown was a LoRaWAN payload built by Liam VK5ALG, which was received by TheThingsNetwork gateways.

Peter VK5KX’s Ground-Station, setup at the Auburn launch site.

This launch also provided a great opportunity for the local amateur radio community to get setup to receive the many telemetry signals which would be broadcast from both launches. We saw many stations receive both the low-rate Horus Binary telemetry, and the high-speed Wenet Imagery payloads.

Launch, Chase and Recovery

The launch day had excellent weather, with mild temperatures and calm winds at the launch site. Launch preparations took a little bit longer than expected due to less people around, but we were still able to get the launch in the air by 10:30 AM local time.

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With the balloon in the air, two chase teams (lead by Mark VK5QI, and Liam VK5ALG) then departed from the launch site to head off to the landing area. While making a lunch stop at the Eudunda Bakery, they were able to sight the balloon in the air, and even get a picture of the balloon before it burst at 33.359 km altitude.

Horus 58 at 33 km altitude, seen from the ground at Eudunda, SA

After burst, the chase teams headed south of Eudunda, where they met up with Steve VK5ST who was also out chasing. The payloads eventually landed a fair way into a property, but thanks to the landowner (Condor Laucke, of Laucke Mills), they were able to gain access and recover the payloads.

Payload Results

All payloads performed almost perfectly on this flight! The only small issue was seen on the Horizon-facing imagery payload, which was slightly out of focus (an easy fix once back on the ground). The Nadir (downward) facing payload took many high quality images of the ground underneath the launch site, which proved very useful to the SHSSP 2023 participants for reasons to be discussed later!

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The radiation sensor payload data clearly showed an increase in radiation levels as the payloads increased in altitude to ~20 km, and then a decrease in levels above that. This effect is known as the ‘Pfotzer-Regener Maximum’. All the sensor data from this flight can be seen on an interactive dashboard available here.

The LoRaWAN payload also performed well, being received as far away as Portland, Victoria:

Receiver Statistics – Horus Binary Telemetry

We saw a great turnout of receivers on this launch, with 30 unique callsigns receiving the Horus Binary telemetry. Thanks to all that helped receive telemetry from this flight!

Horus 58 - HORUS V2 Receiver Statistics

CallsignReceived PacketsPercentage of Flight ReceivedFirst-Received Altitude (m)Last-Received Altitude (m)
BARC-RRR146576.9%3441524
VK3BKQ-PORTARLINGTON10.1%3186031860
VK3JUG70.4%1653117237
VK3OF86245.3%1268111840
VK3TNU pi3-277240.5%2060010465
VK3TRO70.4%2502330667
VK5AKK173591.1%12133056
VK5APR162085.1%13441443
VK5ARG185597.4%7061130
VK5CLD159283.6%926524
VK5CV116761.3%34651964
VK5DMC56329.6%273662466
VK5DSP145976.6%37611934
VK5DSP-2144175.7%32254563
VK5FD175492.1%3594888
VK5GA159683.8%7921767
VK5GY177193.0%6831856
VK5IS186998.2%6641180
VK5KX-i5189099.3%312915
VK5LJG181995.5%6641443
VK5LJG-9167187.8%313400
VK5LN137772.3%47716499
VK5LO26413.9%8488135
VK5LO-5153380.5%82411520
VK5NEX177693.3%19331856
VK5NTM186898.1%848407
VK5QI-9183596.4%313524
VK5RK178393.6%2388972
VK5RR30.2%21962273
VK5RR-VK5FO131369.0%6597972
VK5ST-4173791.2%11681103
VK5ST-9115860.8%500426
VK5TRM185097.2%1144972
VK5ZM182896.0%3121180
vk5mhz123064.6%115972438

Horus 58 - HORUSGEIGER Receiver Statistics

CallsignReceived PacketsPercentage of Flight ReceivedFirst-Received Altitude (m)Last-Received Altitude (m)
BARC-RRR172390.3%1623938
VK3OF1869.7%1432518409
VK3TNU pi3-267635.4%2063810493
VK3TNU pi3-391547.9%1265011374
VK5ARG185797.3%717550
VK5DSP-2137271.9%74232113
VK5GY251.3%56326096
VK5LJG182695.7%6921596
VK5LJG-9183896.3%313397
VK5QI-1173891.0%8061859
VK5QI-9181695.1%313423
VK5ST-4185997.4%671911
VK5ST-9117261.4%481397
VK5ZM182495.5%3121125

Receiver Statistics – Wenet Imagery

A special thanks goes to the 7 stations that received and uploaded imagery during the flight, with a few stations setting up to receive both imagery payloads at once. Being able to see live imagery from the flight on https://ssdv.habhub.org/ really adds something special to the experience!

Outward-Facing Imagery

VK5KX-2: 140407 packets (34.28 MB)
VK5QI-9: 127137 packets (31.04 MB)
VK5DSP: 80707 packets (19.70 MB)
VK3TNUpi4-2: 31072 packets (7.59 MB)
VK5CLD: 642 packets (0.16 MB)
VK5PW: 4969 packets (1.21 MB)

Nadir-Facing Imagery

VK5LO: 15495 packets (3.78 MB)
VK5QI-9: 182410 packets (44.53 MB)
VK5PW: 140122 packets (34.21 MB)
VK3TNUpi4-1: 31590 packets (7.71 MB)
VK5KX: 245956 packets (60.05 MB)
VK5DSP: 4614 packets (1.13 MB)

Conclusion

Horus 58 was another highly successful flight, and provided valuable testing for the SHSSP 2023 launch. Thanks again to all who participated in the flight, through helping out at the launch site, chasing, or receiving telemetry.

Stay tuned for a report on the SHSSP 2023 launch!

Horus 58 - Flight Statistics

MetricResult
Flight Designation:Horus 58
Launch Date:2023-01-15 00:03Z
Landing Date:2023-01-15 02:17Z
Flight Duration:~2 hours
Launch Site:-34.02945, 138.69169
Landing Site:-34.23788, 139.13095
Distance Traveled:46.6 km
Maximum Altitude:33,359 m

Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program 2023 – Balloon Launch NOW SUNDAY 29th January

UPDATE: Thanks to all that helped out with this launch, both at the launch site, and receiving telemetry! It was great to see such a large turnout of receivers on the tracker. Unfortunately the live SSDV imagery website failed just before the launch, but we’ll post some photos from the flight in an upcoming blog post.

AREG is pleased to once again be involved with the International Space University’s Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program (SHSSP) hosted by the University of South Australia. This year one balloon is being launched from the Auburn Community Oval as part of the program.

Launch is now planned to occur around 11:00-11:30 AM on Sunday the 29th of January. Launch crews will be on-site from approximately 10:00 AM.

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

Tracking of the flight will be via the SondeHub-Amateur tracker, available by clicking this link. There will also be live imagery transmitted throughout the flight (refer further below for decoding details), available here.

A live data dashboard showing telemetry from the various payloads will be available during the flight at this link.

Primary Telemetry – 434.200 MHz

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

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

Listeners that already have Horus-GUI installed are encouraged to update to the latest version, which is available at this link.

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

Radiation Sensor Payload – 434.210 MHz

A radiation sensor payload, using a Geiger-Muller Tube, will also be launched on this flight. This will be transmitting on 434.210 MHz, also using the Horus Binary 4FSK  data mode. The aim of this payload is to investigate the variation in radiation exposure throughout the flight.

This telemetry can be decoded using the same Horus-GUI software as the primary telemetry. Note that you will need to use a USB ‘dial’ frequency of 434.209 MHz for the 4FSK signal to be centred in your receiver passband and hence be decodable.

Tracking Details – Downward-Facing Imagery – 441.200 MHz

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

This flight will be flying a downward-facing camera. The imagery captured from this payload will be used by SHSSP participants to pan-sharpen lower resolution satellite imagery.

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

Please note the transmit frequency of 441.2 MHz, which may require listeners to re-configure their Wenet setup. Listeners who are already setup to receive Wenet should consider updating their decoding software to the latest version (December 2022), with update instructions available here.

During the flight, the live imagery will be available at this link: http://ssdv.habhub.org/

Tracking Details – Outward-Facing Imagery – 443.500 MHz

There will be a second imagery payload running on 443.500 MHz. This is a re-flight of our usual imagery payload, with the cameras pointing towards the horizon.

If you have the capability of running 2 receivers, please consider receiving this payload as well, but please prioritise receiving the payload on 441.200 MHz.

Next Project Horus Launch – Horus 58 – NOW Sunday 15th January

UPDATE: Thanks to all that helped out with this launch! 30 stations helped receive the Horus Binary telemetry, and 7 received the Wenet imagery. A writeup of this flight will be finalised in due course.

The AREG’s High-Altitude Ballooning sub-group, Project Horus, is planning their next launch for Sunday the 15th of January, with a planned launch time of 10 AM ACDT.

This launch will most likely be performed from the Auburn Community Oval, with the launch team arriving on site from around 9:15 AM. Spectators are welcome!

This launch aims to flight-test some experimental payloads which will be utilised in the upcoming Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program. Further information on this program is available at the end of this article.

Tracking of the flight will be via the SondeHub-Amateur tracker, available by clicking this link. There will also be live imagery transmitted throughout the flight (refer further below for decoding details), available here.

A live data dashboard showing telemetry from the various payloads will be available during the flight at this link.

Primary Telemetry – 434.200 MHz

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

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

Listeners that already have Horus-GUI installed are encouraged to update to the latest version, which is available at this link.

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

Experimental Radiation Sensor Payload – 434.210 MHz

An experimental radiation sensor payload, using a Geiger-Muller Tube, will also be launched on this flight. This will be transmitting on 434.210 MHz, also using the Horus Binary 4FSK  data mode. The aim of this payload is to investigate the variation in radiation exposure throughout the flight.

This telemetry can be decoded using the same Horus-GUI software as the primary telemetry. Note that you will need to use a USB ‘dial’ frequency of 434.209 MHz for the 4FSK signal to be centred in your receiver passband and hence be decodable.

Tracking Details – Downward-Facing Imagery – 441.200 MHz

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

This flight will be testing a downward-facing camera with a 780nm long-pass Infra-Red filter, which will highlight areas of healthy vegetation.

Infra-Red Filtered Imagery from a previous flight, with white areas indicating vegetation. The parklands surrounding the Adelaide CBD are clearly visible.

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

Please note the transmit frequency of 441.2 MHz, which may require listeners to re-configure their Wenet setup. Listeners who are already setup to receive Wenet should consider updating their decoding software to the latest version (December 2022), with update instructions available here.

During the flight, the live imagery will be available at this link: http://ssdv.habhub.org/

Tracking Details – Outward-Facing Imagery – 443.500 MHz

As a late addition, there will be a second imagery payload running on 443.500 MHz. This is a re-flight of our usual imagery payload, with the cameras pointing towards the horizon. Hopefully we can capture some images of the Riverland from this payload.

If you have the capability of running 2 receivers, please consider receiving this payload as well, but please prioritise receiving the payload on 441.200 MHz.

Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program Launch – Late January 2023

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. AREG members will be running a High-Altitude Balloon project as part of this course, culminating in a High-Altitude Balloon launch, currently planned for the 28th of January 2023 from the Auburn area.

This launch will be flying multiple payloads, including:

  • 2x Horus Binary Telemetry Payloads, most likely on 434.200 MHz and 434.210 MHz (same as Horus 58)
  • A downward-looking Wenet imagery payload on 441.200 MHz.
  • A horizon-looking Wenet imagery payload on 443.500 MHz.

Given the many payloads on this flight we would greatly appreciate the assistance of the local amateur radio community in receiving telemetry! In particular, the more Wenet receiver stations we have running the higher the chance of downlinking complete images from the two imagery payloads.

 

Horus 57 Flight Report – 40km Altitude Achieved!

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

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

The Payloads: Wenet Imagery

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

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

The Payloads: Tracking & Flight Management

Reprogrammed RS41

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

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

The Payloads: LoRaWAN Beacon

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

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

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

Launch!

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

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

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

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

Starting the Chase

Original Horus 57 Flight-Path Prediction

Original Horus 57 Flight-Path Prediction

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

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

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

Riverland Radio Club Portable HAB Receiving Station

Riverland Radio Club Portable Receiving Station

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

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Burst & Recovery

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

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

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

Wenet Imagery from 40205m altitude!

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

Horus 57 Flight Path

Horus 57 Flight Path

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

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

Wenet Imagery!

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

Wenet Reception Statistics

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

The following amount of data was contributed by each station:

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

Horus 57 Wenet Receiver Map

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

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

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Horus Binary (4FSK) Telemetry Reception Statistics

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

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

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

CallsignReceived PacketsPercentage of Flight ReceivedFirst-Received Altitude (m)Last-Received Altitude (m)
VK3BQ34614.0%2805622885
VK3DNS883.6%3410938312
VK3EEK451.8%3382236313
VK3ER50.2%3437434470
VK3GP1566.3%322985773
VK3IRV2249.1%3851635917
VK3KZM1536.2%3780235134
VK3MD49620.1%3003225910
VK3MTV196479.5%57401233
VK3TNU175571.1%78585469
VK3TOS1235.0%3341826680
VK5AKH1365.5%152935569
VK5AKK232794.2%3662674
VK5APR187976.1%10627080
VK5BRL55222.4%39251103
VK5CBM91036.9%1130534184
VK5DJ166867.6%59207698
VK5DMC116547.2%467829733
VK5EI162765.9%602522298
VK5FD218088.3%10747979
VK5FJGM207584.0%95110397
VK5GA203782.5%126816657
VK5GY198180.2%28388713
VK5HI218788.6%9786851
VK5IS208484.4%15685469
VK5KX241897.9%645369
VK5LA237496.2%7901011
VK5LJG217888.2%5238136
VK5LJG-9129252.3%8543455
VK5LN177071.7%440114119
VK5MAD56022.7%8549830
VK5MAS38815.7%1669440115
VK5NEX197279.9%30557659
VK5NTM236095.6%1189655
VK5PE163366.1%268539540
VK5PE-9152561.8%7485747
VK5QI-1193578.4%152910201
VK5QI-9207183.9%34458
VK5RK157663.8%96456597
VK5RR/VK5FO189176.6%2536369
VK5ST-0208484.4%25875348
VK5ST-991130652.9%325538937
VK5TRM235495.3%1402103
VK5TRM-12321.3%3682137624
VK5ZAI172269.7%88954908
VK5ZSH67827.5%554939972

The SondeHub-Amateur Tracker

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

The SondeHub-Amateur tracker in action during Horus 57.

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

Flight Summary

Horus 57 - Flight Statistics

MetricResult
Flight Designation:Horus 57
Launch Date:2022-05-07 00:40Z
Landing Date:2022-05-07 04:18Z
Flight Duration:~3.5 hours
Launch Site:-35.07611,138.85670
Landing Site:-34.39875,140.73167
Distance Traveled:285 km
Maximum Altitude:40,246 m

Future Launches

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

In the meantime, there are some initial plans for:

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

Stay tuned!

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

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

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

Updated Saturday 30th April

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

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

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

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

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

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

Primary Telemetry – 434.200 MHz

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

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

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

Tracking Details – Imagery – 443.500 MHz

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

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

Imagery received via the Wenet payload from a previous flight.

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

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

http://ssdv.habhub.org/

Project Horus High Altitude Balloons: Horus 55 Flight Report

Horus 55 was the culmination of something that had been discussed for many years within the Project Horus team – Live video from a high-altitude balloon. The technical challenges in doing this are many, from designing a transmitter system that provides enough signal without melting in the thin atmosphere at high altitudes, to building a high performance receive system that can capture that signal, and then upload it to the internet for everyone to enjoy. (After all, if it didn’t get live-streamed, did it really happen?)

At 10:30AM on the 7th of March 2021, all of this came to fruition with the first flight of the Project Horus DVB-S payload.

The Payloads: DVB-S Transmitter

The DVB-S payload was the primary experiment on this flight, and had been in development by Mark VK5QI and Peter VK5KX over the last 12 months. The payload utilised a Raspberry Pi Zero W to capture and compress video (using F5OEO‘s DVB-S encoder and natsfr’s LimeSDR Gatewarethis project would not have been possible without their work – thanks!), which was then modulated as a 70cm (445MHz)  DVB-S transmission using a LimeSDR Mini. The signal was amplified to ~800mW using a LDMOS-based power amplifier. The overall power dissipation in the payload was ~6 watts, so a heat-spreading and heat-sinking system was built by Peter, including custom-milled interface plates for the LimeSDR.

Monitoring the temperature of the LDMOS device during testing.

The payload was powered from 8x Energizer Lithium AA primary cells, which are well-regarded for their low-temperature performance.

Much testing and tuning of the payload was performed in the lead-up to the launch, including monitoring of the temperatures within the payload when sitting in full-sun, to ensure it would not reach dangerous temperatures.

Mark VK5QI gave a presentation on the payload at the AREG February meeting, which is available here:

The final DVB-S parameters used on the flight were:

  • Frequency: 445.0 MHz
  • Mode: DVB-S
  • Modulation: QPSK, 1 Msps
  • Forward-Error-Correction: r=1/2
  • Video Resolution: 720 x 404

The Payloads: LoRaWAN Beacon

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

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

We expected that this would be received by TTN gateways all around the Adelaide area… it actually performed much better than expected!

The Payloads: Tracking & Flight Management

Reprogrammed RS41

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

The separate flight management payload was a LoRa-based payload operating in the 70cm (430.0MHz) amateur band. This payload allows remote termination of the flight if necessary (and it was actually used in anger this flight!).

Flight Preparation & Receiver Testing

VK5APR Receiving DVB-S SignalsOn the weekend prior to the launch, two test-and-tune events were conducted, where receiving stations around the Adelaide area had the opportunity to configure and test the software and hardware necessary to receive the DVB-S signals. Transmissions were conducted from Steve VK5SFA’s QTH on Saturday, and from Black-Top Hill on Sunday. Both sites provided excellent line-of-sight to the Adelaide metropolitan are, enabling eight stations to be able to receive the test  transmissions ready for the live balloon flight the following weekend.

Testing the Ground-Station AntennasFinally, a full systems check was conducted with Peter VK5KX. The test covered all of the equipment which would comprise the primary ground-station for the flight, receiving video from the payload and streaming it live to Youtube. This involved testing of the 2 x 18-element Yagi-Uda array, and all the receiver and streaming software. A big thanks to Hayden VK7HH for helping get the Youtube streaming working via his HamRadioDX channel.

Launch!

The ground station crew, chase teams, and spectators started to assemble at the Auburn Oval launch site around 9AM, to find that showers had set in.

It was decided to continue on with launch preparations and wait for the showers to pass.

By a bit after 10AM the showers had died away to a light sprinkling, and the balloon filling was started. Around this time the live-stream from the launch site was switched on, with many viewers from around the world tuning in to watch the proceedings.

 

The balloon used for this flight was a Totex 1000g, and an entire 3.5m^3 cylinder of helium (donated by the University of Adelaide) was used to fill it. Using the fast-fill rig the fill was completed in a few minutes (as opposed to the almost 1 hour of slow-filling that used to be required), and the balloon was tied off ready for launch.

After a final check that all payloads were working as expected, the (short) countdown began, and the balloon and payloads were released!

Ascent & Live Video!

After launch the ground-station system was switched into ‘auto tracking’ mode, and began pointing the high-gain Yagi antennas to follow the balloon and payloads. This ensured the best quality video reception, and it definitely worked!

DVB-S Received by Joe VK5EI after launchViewers at the launch site and all around the world via Youtube were treated to clear visuals relayed from the primary ground station as the balloon ascended up to cloud-base. Reports from other receiving stations around the region started trickling in, with Ian VK5ZD (near Kapunda) and Joe VK5EI (Adelaide) being the first to report in.

As the balloon reached the first cloud layer the views of the surrounding landscape was replaced with grey, and the chase teams took this as a sign that it was time to head off towards the expected landing area. Meanwhile the ground control team of Matt VK5ZM, Pete VK5KX and Grant VK5GR kept watch on the balloon state and the TV signal being relayed to YouTube and being broadcast around the globe.

The ground-station team continue to keep tracking the payload, uploading live video to over 200 viewers on Youtube. A big thanks to Hayden VK7HH for hosting the live stream on his Youtube channel, and helping answer the many questions that were asked by the viewers throughout the flight. Please make sure to Like and Subscribe his Youtube channel!

One of the last shots received before the balloon was cut away so the payloads could land

Chase, Cutdown & Recovery

Chase cars stopped at EudundaThis flight had four chase teams:

  • Mark VK5QI  and Will VK5AHV
  • Darin VK5IX, along with Cameron and Dan
  • Liam VK5LJG
  • Gerard VK5ZQV

All the teams headed off in convoy towards Eudunda as their first stop, where the traditional bakery visit was made mid-flight instead of after recovery.

Receiving DVB-S from Mark's carMark and Will were receiving the video from the DVB-S payload in the car, which worked surprisingly well even with the fairly modest antenna setup on Mark’s car (an upward-fading turnstile).

Tracking the balloon flight-path in the chase car

After a quick lunch, the teams headed south towards the predicted landing area. As the flight processed and the balloon rose past the expected burst altitude of 30km, Mark made the call to terminate the flight to help land the payloads in an easily recoverable area. A few radio commands later, the payloads started falling, with the cut-down event observed via the video link (though the fast tumbling did result in a lot of broken video). The maximum altitude achieved was 32379m above sea level.

The teams headed towards the new predicted landing location, and after a bit of back-and-forth were able to be in position to watch the payloads land under parachute. Unfortunately the payloads were just a bit too far away for the teams to get imagery of the final descent.

After getting permission from the landowners (thanks!), the teams were able to enter the property and drive almost right up to where the payloads had landed.

Landed payloads While a bit bent and dented (and upside-down!), the DVB-S payload continued to transmit video after landing, with the receiver in Mark’s car capturing the team walking up and recovering the payload.

Bent payload

Analysis of log files from the payload showed that overheating was certainly not an issue – instead the heat-spreader plate within the payload reached a chilly -27˚C during the descent phase of the flight!

DVB-S Payload Temperatures

DVB-S Reception Reports

So far the following stations have reported being able to receive video from the DVB-S payload:

  • Bill VK5DSP – Middleton, SA
  • Iain VK5ZD – Kapunda, SA
  • Joe VK5EI – West Lakes, SA
  • Berndt VK5ABN – Nairne, SA
  • Andrew (N0CALL), Pt Noarlunga, SA
  • Steve VK5MSD – Whyalla, SA
  • Roger VK5YYY – Whyalla, SA
  • Gerard VK5ZQV – Mobile, during the chase.

If you received video from this flight, let us know!

The longest distance the payload was received from was by the stations in Whyalla, at almost 190 km range, followed by Bill in Middleton, at 145km range. The payload designers are absolutely ecstatic at how many stations were able to receive video during this flight – hopefully we can repeat this success on more flights in the future!

Horus Binary (4FSK) Telemetry Reception Statistics

With every Project Horus flight we like to thank all the receivers that helped receive telemetry from the flight. All the telemetry you receive and upload to the net helps keep the tracking map up-to-date throughout the flight, and serves as a backup in the case of ground-station or chase-car receiver failure. On this flight telemetry was recorded from as far away as Horsham, though there were reports of telemetry reception in Melbourne – however it appears these stations did not upload their telemetry to the internet.

Horus 55 Callsign Pie

CallsignReceived PacketsPercentage of Flight ReceivedFirst-Received Altitude (m)Last-Received Altitude (m)
VK5ABN39920.1%81381585
VK5BD174888.2%10702142
VK5EME187194.4%6791599
VK5FJGM1216.1%115923349
VK5GY177189.4%9272975
VK5HI191996.8%5491278
VK5HS165983.7%41421702
VK5HSE50725.6%28528987
VK5KJP187494.6%699658
VK5KX-i5187894.8%3061013
VK5LJG (Home)138169.7%29463156
VK5LJG-996548.7%3064916
VK5NEX179890.7%8011637
VK5NTM193097.4%886498
VK5QI-9179990.8%306498
VK5RK185393.5%1214825
VK5SFA131166.1%6312131
VK5ST-2182992.3%556670
VK5SWR33016.6%1130918461
VK3GP50925.7%1967213866
VK5IS189395.5%5791026
VK5IX-9191396.5%306498
VK5MHZ153377.3%45832741

LoRaWAN Experiment Results

As mentioned earlier, the LoRaWAN payload was transmitting telemetry packets to be received by The Things Network gateways. We expected the payload to be received by stations in the general Adelaide area, however it turned out that at the peak of the flight we were received by gateways as far away as Ballarat, Victoria! Full details on what gateways received each packet are available here.

LoRaWAN Coverage

The longest path was 585km, which for a ~50mW transmitter at 923 MHz is quite an achievement! The world record distance for this system is 823km, and we’re interested to see if we can beat this on a future launch!

Flight Track

At the conclusion of the flight we were also able the telemetry into this flight profile, which gives an appreciation of the journey the balloon and the experimental TV transmitter under took.

Conclusion & Future Flights

Horus 55 - Flight Statistics

MetricResult
Flight Designation:Horus 55
Launch Date:2021-03-07 00:02Z
Landing Date:2021-03-07 02:37Z
Flight Duration:~2.5 hours
Launch Site:-34.02932,138.69124
Landing Site:-34.25959,139.11443
Distance Traveled:46 km
Maximum Altitude:32,379 m

With the huge success of this flight, the team plans to follow this up with more video flights in the future. There are many lessons to be learnt from this flight, and many improvements that can be made to both the payload, the ground-station, and the live-streaming systems. Viewers can look forward to higher quality video, more running commentary, and hopefully live video from the chase-cars as they recover the payloads.

The next few months will be getting busy for the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group, with the upcoming Riverland Paddling Marathon taking up a lot of club members time. Expect the next full-scale flight sometime in late June – weather permitting!

Horus 55 Balloon Flight: D-ATV Launch Tracking & Live-Stream Details


The DVB-S high-altitude balloon launch (hopefully the first of many!) has now been locked in for 10AM ACDT Sunday the 7th of March (2330z Saturday 6th), from the Auburn Oval. The launch team is expected to arrive on site starting 9AM, and spectators are welcome!

Tracking of the flight will be available on the Habhub tracker or should be visible here on our website!

For those without D-ATV receiving equipment, AREG is going to attempt to stream the received ATV pictures via Hayden VK7HH’s HamRadioDX YouTube channel at the same time. You will find the link to the YouTube broadcast here:

Tracking Details – Primary Telemetry – 434.200 MHz

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

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

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

Tracking Details – DVB-S Video – 445 MHz

If you want to get involved through receiving the D-ATV signal direct from the balloon on 445 MHz take a look at the How-To Guide being maintained by Mark VK5QI, available here: docs.google.com/D-ATV_Setup_Guide

The DVB-S transmission parameters are as follows:

  • Frequency: 445 MHz
  • Polarisation: Vertical
  • Mode: DVB-S
  • Symbol Rate: 1 Msps
  • FEC: 1/2

Project Horus: Live ATV Flight Path Prediction & YouTube Live-stream Link

UPDATE: The launch has been set for Sunday 10AM ACDST, from the Auburn Oval. 

The flight crew are starting to get flight-path predictions for this coming weekend, though the models are quite inaccurate this far ahead of the prediction time. Currently a launch on Sunday looks promising from Auburn. This would put the balloon within 80-90km of Adelaide for much of it’s flight, which should allow many stations to be within direct decoding range of the Digital-ATV transmission on 445MHz.

These predictions *will* change over the next few days so this is just a preliminary plan at this stage. We expect to be able to make a commitment on the launch date and time most likely Thursday or Friday this week.

As a reminder, the following launch dates/times are planned:

  • PRIMARY: Sunday 7th March, 10AM (ACDT) – (2330z 6th March UTC)
  • BACKUP #1: Monday 8th March, 10AM (Public Holiday!)
  • BACKUP #2: Sunday 14th March, 10AM

For those without D-ATV receiving equipment, AREG is going to attempt to stream the received ATV pictures via Hayden VK7HH’s HamRadioDX YouTube channel at the same time. You will find the link to the YouTube broadcast here:


Digital ATV Transmission – How to Receive?

If you want to get involved through receiving the D-ATV signal direct from the balloon on 445MHz take a look at the How-To Guide being maintained by Mark VK5QI:

The setup guide is available here: docs.google.com/D-ATV_Setup_Guide


433MHz Telemetry Tracking – How to Receive?

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

The telemetry beacon will operate on 434.200MHz

If you want to have a go receiving the telemetry from this flight, you’ll need a SSB-capable 70cm receiver (or a SDR), and the horus-GUI telemetry decoder software ( github.com/projecthorus/horus-gui ).

A brief guide on setting this up is available here: github.com/projecthorus/horusdemodlib/wiki/1.1-Horus-Rx