EMDRC High Altitude Balloon Launch – Feb 19th 2023

The countdown has started : A big thanks to everyone within the EMDRC (Eastern & Mountain District Radio Club) & MRPMG (Melbourne Raspberry Pi Makers Group) High Altitude Balloon Initiative for their support, participation through 2022. It’s that time of the year when we buckle down, tally up whats in our inventory, check our equipment, procure the helium gas bottle, submit our NOTAM, kick off the daily launch forecasts and prep for our pre-launch Go/No-Go session. To the old timers, welcome back and let’s get ready to go balloon chasing. To all the newcomers…..If you are new here and haven’t been part of the High Altitude Balloon initiative and keen to learn more, please drop by the #High-Altitude-Balloon channel on discord (details for discord provided below)

Upcoming Launch : Our upcoming launch is scheduled for the 19th of February at 1000 Hrs (2300 Hrs UTC). The launch site is Centenary Park, Ararat and is an ~2.5 hours drive from Melbourne.

Centenary Park, Ararat (highlighted in red above)

We encourage everyone who is able to help with the tracking to get their gear out, test their setup in advance and help us track the payload post launch. Doesn’t matter how in-expensive your monitoring gear is, every packet counts. See below for details of the relevant frequencies –

  1. Wenet (SSTV image transmission) frequency : 441.200 Mhz
  2. HORUS (RS 41) frequency : 434.200 Mhz

We will provide updates on the launch prep, launch through our #High-Altitude-Balloon channel on discord. Check out the links at the end of this article for details of the software required and how you might go about getting the software installed, operational. Please join us at the #High-Altitude-Balloon channel on discord if you need assistance setting up your software, hardware.

Key launch variables include – Here’s a summary of the critical launch variables.

  1. Scientific balloon – Hwoyee 600
  2. Parachute – 24 inch spherachute
  3. Gas – Pure helium gas
  4. Weight of payload – ~500 gm (to be confirmed)
    1. Pi Zero W with camera, LoRA board and batteries – 250gm
    2. Reprogrammed RS 41 radio sonde with batteries – 95gm
    3. 36inch Spherachute – 55gm
    4. Data Logger1 (Pi Pico with PiicoDev BME280) – 225g
    5. Data Logger2 (Pi Pico with PiicoDev BME280) – 125g
  5. Ascent rate – 5.5 m/s
  6. Descent rate – 5.3 m/s
  7. Burst Altitude – ~30 Km
  8. Payload – Styrofoam box with the following :
    1. Primary Payload –
      • Raspberry Pi Zero with a camera, GPS
      • Lora board connected to the Pi Zero W for purposes of streaming images (over Wenet)
      • 1/4th Ground plane antenna
    2. Secondary Payload –
      • Re-flashed Bureau of Meteorology Radiosonde (RS41) with the HORUS binary
      • 1 x Data Logger Modules : Raspberry Pi Pico with PiicoDev BME280 sensors
  9. Frequencies in use –
    1. Wenet (SSTV image transmission) frequency : 441.200 Mhz
    2. HORUS (RS 41) frequency : 434.200 Mhz
    3. 2m Repeater Ararat for local comms (91.5Mhz CTCSS, +600 Offset)– 147.100 Mhz
  10. Frequencies for monitoring (NO TRANSMISSION ALLOWED)-
    1. YARA (Ararat Aerodrome) CTAF for monitoring prior to release of balloon – 126.7 Mhz
    2. YARA (Ararat Aerodrome) Melbourne FSS (Melbourne Center) for monitoring prior to release of balloon – 126.8 Mhz
Modelling of the Flight Path

Recap of our experiences, lessons learned during 2022 : The group has held its CASA instrument (permission to launch High Altitude Balloons) for ~2 years now. We’ve been able to launch, retrieve two High Altitude Balloons from Ararat. You can check out the launch reports for both the launches at the following links –

  1. Launch on the 4th of September using the Hwoyee 600 with a burst altitude of ~30Km
  2. Launch on the 6th of Nov 2022 using the Totex 100 with a burst altitude of ~16 Km

Chat with Discord – We keep in touch through discord (Chat Server).

  1. Join us at our “Make, Innovate, Create” Discord Server.
  2. Joining us on discord doesn’t cost you anything, it’s absolutely FREE to join.
  3. Please read the #rules channel to understand the guardrails we have put in place to make sure discord remains a safe place for everyone.
  4. And here is the URL for getting onto discord – https://discord.gg/4FkrKJeNt5

Be part of an exciting journey : Everyone is invited to join the MRPMG & EMDRC High Altitude Balloon group and participate in the upcoming High Altitude Balloon Launch activities. There’s a lot of interesting design, build, test activities to be performed before the launch. If you have the interest, keen to pick up skills in electronics, designing / testing / debugging, high altitude balloon launch and recovery, keen to learn more about Software Defined Radios, or gain hands on experience setting up and launching custom Raspberry Pi payloads into the stratosphere then join us on discord and drop us a line.

You also have an amazing opportunity so help shape the next generation High Altitude Balloon payload, test the payload to get it ready for the next launch, be part of the launch team helping launch the balloon and finally join everyone for the chase, payload recovery soon after. However, If you would rather stay home or rather grab a coffee and track the payload remotely then that’s great too. Here’s links to the software you need to track the High Altitude Balloon and payload we are launching.

  1. Project HORUS Chasemapper – Plot your position on a map relative to the balloon using a Raspberry Pi and GPS
  2. Project Horus horusdemodlib – Plot a reprogrammed radiosonde used as a payload for Amateur High Altitude Balloons
  3. Project HORUS Horusgui – Windows software to track a reprogrammed radiosonde used as a payload for Amateur High Altitude Balloons
  4. All of the images are broadcasted in real-time from the balloon (over WENET) – https://ssdv.habhub.org/
  5. Link to track the Horus payload in real time – Sondehub

Read more about High Altitude Ballooning and get started with your own High Altitude Balloon journey at https://hack2.live/high-altitude-ballooning/. Drop us a note at trevor at hack2 dot live if you have any questions, suggestions or comments.

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