EMDRC  High Altitude Balloon Initiative : 19 June 2022

Workshop

Introduction

The EMDRC High Altitude Balloon Initiative provides an opportunity for individuals of all ages to participate in the design, build, launch and retrieval of a High Altitude Balloon. The EMDRC High Altitude Balloon roadmap for 2022 – 2023 offers multiple launch opportunities with payloads of varying complexities. This document summarizes the approach, equipment required to track the EMDRC High Altitude Balloon payload.

Receiving Data from Re-Programmed RS41 Radiosondes (HAB Payload)

  1. The EMDRC High Altitude Balloon initiative will be using reprogrammed RS41 radiosondes to send telemetry back to the ground. These RS41 radiosondes have been flashed with the open-source RS41ng firmware and make use of the Horus Binary 4FSK mode written by David Rowe and Mark Jessop (VK5QI).
  2. The Horus Binary provides a robust telemetry mode designed specifically for high-altitude balloon tracking, and allows for reliable reception at many hundreds of km range with a modest receiver setup.
  3. If you’d like to be able to decode these signals first, you will need some kind of receiver for whatever frequency the telemetry is being transmitted on. Usually this is within the 434 MHz ISM/LIPD/70cm band, but could be different.
  4. You need a receiver capable of receiving Single-Sideband, in particular the ‘upper’ sideband (‘USB’ – no, not that USB). This could be a conventional amateur radio transceiver (think IC-7000, IC-706, FT-817, the list goes on and on…), or a scanner (Icom IC-R10, Yupiteru MVT-7100, etc…).
  5. If you don’t have a UHF SSB receiver lying around another option is use an SDR dongle like the RTL-SDR along with software such as Horus GUI on windows or the “horusdemodlib” if using the RTLSDR with the Raspberry Pi.
    1. Horus Gui on Windows : The easiest way to demodate telemetry is using the Horus-GUI software. A detailed guide for setting up the Horus-GUI can be found here – https://github.com/projecthorus/horusdemodlib/wiki/1.1-Horus-GUI-Reception-Guide-(Windows-Linux-OSX)#horus-binary-reception-using-horus-gui
    2. There’s other options including running it with a Raspberry Pi headless https://github.com/projecthorus/horusdemodlib/wiki/1.2–Raspberry-Pi-‘Headless’-RX-Guide
  6. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of setting up a Raspberry Pi from scratch the HAB team have created a ready-to-go Raspberry Pi image with all the necessary software setup and configured to decode telemetry.
  7. All you will need to do is download the image, flash it to an SD card, put it in a Raspberry Pi. Here is a link to download the prepared image – https://hab.rohbot.cc/hab-pi.zip

Receiving Data from BoM RS41 Radiosondes

  1. If you intend to track and chase RS41 Radiosondes launched twice a day by BoM please you’ll need to setup your RTLSDR and your Raspberry Pi with the following software –
    a. Auto_rx – https://github.com/projecthorus/radiosonde_auto_rx/wiki
    b. Chasemapper – https://github.com/projecthorus/chasemapper

EMDRC  High Altitude Balloon Initiative : June 2022

Roadmap

News : The EMDRC High Altitude Balloon Group have agreed on the roadmap of activities for 2022. We kick off our activities for 2022 with a HAB workshop and barbecue to be held at the EMDRC club. Date/time to be confirmed in the coming days. Please find below a summary of the roadmap for 2022. Specific dates/times will be confirmed 4-5 weeks in advance.

  • June 2022 – Workshop and barbecue with EMDRC
  • July 2022 – Workshop & Outdoor activity : Run through checklist, confirm equipment and resource preparedness, perform simulated launch
  • Aug 2022 – Perform Test launch
  • September 2022 – Outdoor activity : Run through checklist, confirm equipment and resource preparedness, perform simulated final launch
  • October 2022 – Perform our first complex payload with “Pi in the sky”
  • Dec 2022 – Test custom payload I outdoors
  • Jan 2023 – Outdoor activity : Run through checklist, confirm equipment and resource preparedness, perform simulated launch with complex payload I
  • March 2023 – Perform launch with complex payload I
  • May 2023 – Design & build complex payload II (TBD)
  • July 2023 – Design & build complex payload III (Video)

In the lead up to their inaugural launch the HAB team will be running a few workshops for those wishing to set up their own receiver station to decode the Horus Binary Packets that will be used for telemetry. A HAB telemetry payload transmitting Horus Binary format telemetry can provide position updates approximately every 3 seconds. Using just 10mW transmit power on the 70cm band, this modem can offer ~7dB improved demodulation performance compared to RTTY running at the same baud rate. There is some further information on the modem performance available here.

The current Horus Binary modem uses ~1kHz of bandwidth, so can be received using conventional single-sideband receivers, just like you would do with a RTTY payload. Software-Defined Radio receivers (RTL SDR, etc.) can also be used.

Getting some of the software installed and configured can be a bit of a pain. These workshops are being run to help you get familiar with the Raspberry Pi and deploy the relevant tracking tools on it.

Software & Hardware : Here are two applications you’ll need installed on the Raspberry Pi (with the RTL SDR, 1/4th Ground plane antenna) for tracking of the HORUS payload.

If you intend to use Windows to track the HORUS payload please check out the following application

But please keep in mind, you don’t want to have auto_rx (used to track radiosonde’s) and horusdemodlib (used to track HORUS payload) running at the same time. We highly recommend using the docker containers for installation of auto_rx, horusdemodlib, etc. since it makes upgrading software heaps easier.

HAB Fundamentals // Safety 101 

  • The key to High Altitude Ballooning is to try to be as safe as possible at all times. Like all things there are a number of situations that could cause harm or damage to either you or other people – it is very important to bear this in mind when planning, construction and flying High Altitude Balloon missions.
  • Secondly one needs to remember that HAB flights cross a number of ‘fields’ e.g transmitting in radio bands and travelling through airspace. There are other users of these ‘fields’ both professional and amateur – it is important to recognise that they have as much right and often even more right to do what they do – try to avoid interfering.
  • We are often asked whether launching balloons is a hazard to both planes in the air and also on landing to property, cars and people. There is certainly a risk however the risk is small and we try our hardest to minimise this risk.
  • For example a number of methods we use to reduce this risk:
    1. We strive to construct as light a payload as possible – this both makes it safer in flight and on landing but also allows us to optimise our flights as we require less helium and can achieve even higher altitudes.
    2. Payloads are also insulated with polystyrene and this helps to soften the landing.
  • We have permission from the CASA to launch payloads attached to meteorological balloons, a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) is issued and we contact the ATC (Air Traffic Control) just before we launch.
  • All payloads fly with a parachute attached, these are usually pre-deployed to reduce the risk of something going wrong and will slow the payloads descent after the balloon has burst.
  • Careful planning goes into a balloon launch and we have increasingly sophisticated prediction software (check out CUSF’s landing predictor).
  • We only launch when we know its safe, we avoid flight profiles that could land in towns and cities and also the sea – it helps to be able to get the payload back!

Please write to us at hab @ emdrc.com.au with any questions, comments or input you might have.

EMDRC  High Altitude Balloon Initiative : May 2022

Horus 57 Imagery Flight : Scheduled for 07/05/2022 [HAB Update]

G’day Team – Hope you’ve been well.

The HORUS imagery flight scheduled for last weekend has now been rescheduled for the 7th of May 2022 at 1000 Hrs.

Spoke with VK5QI/Mark and he suggests that if the team ends up using the 1600g Hwoyee balloon it’s likely that we’ll pick up a signal here in Vic.

See the following link for details –  https://www.areg.org.au/archives/210813

Here’s the two applications you’ll need installed on the Raspberry Pi for tracking of the HORUS payload –

  1. https://github.com/projecthorus/horusdemodlib and
  2. https://github.com/projecthorus/chasemapper

If you intend to use Windows to track the HORUS payload please check out the following application –

  1. https://github.com/projecthorus/horus-gui

Receiving the WENET images is a bit more complex. Check out the details here – https://github.com/projecthorus/wenet/wiki/Wenet-RX-Instructions-(Linux-using-Docker) or use the simpler approach and check out the images captured here – https://ssdv.habhub.org/

Unrelated to the weekend launch…..those who want to track and recover radiosondes need to have the following applications installed on their Raspberry Pi –

  1. https://github.com/projecthorus/radiosonde_auto_rx  and
  2. https://github.com/projecthorus/chasemapper

But please keep in mind, you don’t want to have auto_rx (used to track radiosonde’s) and horusdemodlib (used to track HORUS payload) running at the same time.

We intend to organize a session for interested members to get together and work on building their own tracking setup (using Windows, Pi, etc.).

Please write to me directly and let me know if you have any suggestions on what you would like to see included in the upcoming hands on sessions.

Take care and happy hacking!!!!!

PN: If you do not want to be included on future HAB emails log into ‘Members Login’ and tick ‘High Altitude Balloon’

EMDRC  High Altitude Balloon Initiative : Vol 2, April 2022 

G’day Team – Hope you’ve been well

A very happy Easter to each of you and your loved ones. May you and your families be showered with good health, peace, happiness, joy and prosperity, this Easter. Here’s extending my best wishes to you and your family this Easter.

Project HORUS Launch 56 (AREG) 

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. This will be the 56th ‘full-size’ high-altitude balloon launch of Project Horus, though numerous small launches have also occurred in the interim. The AREG website suggests that the launch site will be decided closer towards the launch date, but will be from either the Auburn town oval, or from the Mt Barker High School. The payloads on this flight will be a ‘Horus Binary’ telemetry tracker, and a ‘Wenet’ imaging payload (Streaming content), which will transmit live pictures through the flight.

Telemetry for this flight will be available on 434.200 Mhz and will be transmitted using the HORUS binary 4FSK data mode. Imagery on this flight will be transmitted via the Wenet downlink system (443.500Mhz), 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).

Tracking these balloons is fun and setting up the tracker (using a radio or an RTLSDR with a Raspberry Pi) is pretty straightforward. Am working on putting together a series of articles that will guide setup and build of such a tracking setup for your QTH, car, etc.

For additional details please head over to the AREG website

The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group (AREG) is located in Adelaide, South Australia.  The AREG was formed in July 1998. The members of the AREG come from all walks of life but we all share a common interest in Electronics and Amateur Radio.

Help launch our next payload into the stratosphere, We need you –  As you all know we are looking to grow the HAB group here at EMDRC and are on the lookout for individuals who are able to assist with the following roles:

  1. Architects – RF engineers, electronics gurus who are able to review design, perform reviews and provide input, feedback
  2. Launch Manager : Launch Prep, Logistics, Checklists, etc.
  3. Payload Design & Integration
  4. Payload testing & Validation
  5. Chase coordinator
  6. Tracker – With tracking setup within their chase car
  7. Tracker –  With tracking setup at their QTH

If any of the above interests you please reach out to me at hab@emdrc.com.au.

Build your own tracking setup : We have plans to conduct a hands-on session to help you work through the build of a tracking setup. Such a tracking setup can be used to track High Altitude Balloons (AREG, EMDRC, etc.) including Radio Sondes (launched by the Bureau of Meteorology). Please reach out to us at hab@emdrc.com.au to register interest. The focus for these sessions includes –

  1. Building your own chase car setup [RTLSDR with a Raspberry Pi or  VHF/UHF rigi, ¼ Wave Ground plane, etc.]
  2. Building your tracking setup at home [RTLSDR with a Raspberry Pi or VHF/UHF rig, ¼ Wave Ground plane, etc.]

We are working on publishing a tentative timeline of HAB activities for the rest of 2022. Stay tuned

Here’s a bunch of interesting links for those who want to learn more about HAB.

  1. UK High Altitude Balloon Society
  2. Track & retrieve HAB’s (launched here in Melbourne)
  3. Engineering Recommendations & Design Decisions

EMDRC  High Altitude Balloon Initiative :  April 2022 

G’day Team – Hope you’ve been well.

Through the HAB column we hope to bring you regular updates on the High Altitude Balloon Initiative here at EMDRC. As you all know we are looking to grow the HAB group here at EMDRC and are on the lookout for individuals who are able to assist with the following roles:

  1. Architects – RF engineers, electronics gurus who are able to review design, perform reviews and provide input, feedback
  2. Launch Manager : Launch Prep, Logistics, Checklists, etc.
  3. Payload Design & Integration
  4. Payload testing & Validation
  5. Chase coordinator
  6. Tracker – With tracking setup within their chase car
  7. Tracker –  With tracking setup at their QTH

If any of the above interests you please reach out to me at hab@emdrc.com.au.

We are also going to be conducting a hands on session at the next months barbecue to help you work through the following –

  1. Building your own chase car setup [RTLSDR, Raspberry Pi, ¼ Wave Ground plane, etc.]
  2. Building your tracking setup at home [RTLSDR, Raspberry Pi, ¼ Wave Ground plane, etc.]

Please be on the lookout for further details. We are hoping to be able to launch in the coming months. Here’s a bunch of interesting links for those who want to learn more about HAB.

  1. UK High Altitude Balloon Society
  2. Track & retrieve HAB’s (launched here in Melbourne)
  3. Engineering Recommendations & Design Decisions