Jason Delivers 18 Lectures in 3 Days

UpLift-16 AlburyScience Week at Albury, Australia 2013

I was delighted when the organisers of the Border Stargaze and Science Fair invited Jason and myself to deliver 18 x 30 minute talks over three days to both public school students and high school students. I threw Jason in the Deep end and told him, it was his job to deliver the talks. We were also asked to fly a small balloon with just a tracking payload. It was designated sequentially in our UpLift series as UpLift-16. We were not planning on recovering the tracker, but with our record of recovery, it seems that we were destined to even get this one returned to us. That was mentioned in an earlier post. See: Australians Applying to CASA for a HAB Flight More on that later.

Here is a bit about the event:

Border Stargaze and Science Fair

The event is open to all ages, the wider community, schools and amateur astronomers. The Border Stargaze has grown over the past 7 years and with it the annual Science Fair. It is event such as these that have inspired individuals, groups, schools, the community and universities in our region.

When: Monday, August 12 2013 till Sunday, September 8 2013. 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Where: Albury, NSW, 2640
What: Festival, Hands-on activity, Talk / Lecture
Theme: Energy and transport, Environment and nature, Health and medical, Space and astronomy, Innovation and technology
We drove down from Sydney – a solid 6 hour drive and of course we had to drive back after the event. They had offered to fly us there, but the amount of gear we needed even for the simplest balloon flight and props for the lectures was too much to fly to Albury. Jason Delivered 18 Lectures in 3 Days.
We left after School on Monday afternoon and got to Albury late Monday ready for the lectures the next morning. It was a great event and after a few talks with me assisting, Jason (11)  found his stride and he was delivering the talks like he had been doing them all his life. The subject was launching and recovering stratospheric balloons. We passed around the tools of the trade we use to get a high altitude balloon into the stratosphere. Balloons, parachutes, even the thin cord used to suspend the payload from the balloon and of course the GPS tracker.
On Thursday morning we got up before dawn on a very cold winters morning and headed out to the designated launch site. Although it was the required 5km from the airport we had to liaise with Albury airport because we were in the landing circuit. We had to release our balloon between landings. We were able to give the airport our tracking web page and they were able to monitor our balloons flight, ensuring adequate safety for those in the air. We successfully launched our small balloon and tracker – no parachute as it would fall slowly with its super-light weight bubble wrap cover. We only used the bubble wrap to insulate from the extreme cold of the jet stream. The winds would take the payload to the east and over inaccessible land. We did not expect to see the tracker again, but we did thanks to the host of Canberra Fuzzy Logic Science Show, Rod Taylor. We still have a 100% recovery record after 16 balloon flights. Rod’s trip to recover the payload will be in another post.

Jason and I have HAM radio licenses and we use a HAM radio compliant tracker for these flights. We are amateur radio operators, (nick named HAMs). Jason got his foundation license at age 9 because he wanted to help with the radio systems that we use to communicate. His license is not high enough to use the APRS (digital) systems, but I have a “full” license that allows me to use the systems. My call-sign is VK2URB and Jason’s is VK2FJAB. You can look up your local club on the Wireless Institute or Australia’s website and select “Radio Clubs” on their menu.

. Contact you local club for more information..
UpLift-16 Albury - before sunrise - it was cold
UpLift-16 Albury – before sunrise – it was cold
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UpLift-16 Albury - Preparations
UpLift-16 Albury – Preparations
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IMG_0076
UpLift-16 Albury – Preparations
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 UpLift-16 Albury - Preparation of the HAM Radio APRS Tracker
UpLift-16 Albury – Preparation of the HAM Radio APRS Tracker
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UpLift-16 Albury - Preparation of the HAM Radio APRS Tracker
UpLift-16 Albury – Preparation of the HAM Radio APRS Tracker
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Jason in Class with the balloon being tracked across country
Jason in class delivering a lecture with the balloon being tracked across country.
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  UpLift-16 Flight 01
UpLift-16 Flight over the lakes near Albury – Lake Hume on the right.
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UpLift-16 passing overt the old Honeysuckle Creek Dish Site.
 UpLift-16 passing overt the old Honeysuckle Creek Dish Site.
Note the harsh mountain forests and difficult terrain.
Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station brought the world
Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon  – Apollo 11

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UpLift-16 breaks our personal best altitude record.
UpLift-16 breaks our personal best altitude record.
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Jason Brand and Dr Barry Jones - past Science MinisterThe flight made it to well over 30km altitude and set down in a field near the Monaro Highway as the small village of Michelago. It was too easy to recover after avoiding so many impossible places. The classes that watched the tracking in class cheered every time we set a new record. Jason was also given the privilege of representing his school in Sydney and wore his school uniform – Leichhardt Public School (Y6)
Jason with Dr Barry Jones – Past Minister for Science and quiz show contestant extraordinaire. Now in his eighties, he is still a huge supporter of science and was a key note speaker at the Albury National Science Week event where Jason was a guess presenter. Jason was excited when Dr Jones mentioned that he had heard of Jason’s balloon flight that landed south of Canberra in the ACT. He said that it was lucky to land south as all the hot air would have kept it from landing in Canberra (full of politicians). — at Charles Sturt University.
Our return drive to Sydney on Thursday night was uneventful and Jason was back at school the next day. He did have to give the same talk to his Y6 students at his school.

USA – 2014 Dates for Your Diary

Spacefest VISpacefest VI and ISDC2014

Next year I have been asked to speak at Spacefest VI and I am hoping that I will also be speaking at ISDC2014, but no invitations yet. None the less here are some 2014 dates for your diary

Spacefest VI  May 8-11, 2014

This will be the third year in a row that I have been a speaker at Spacefest and I am, as usual, really looking forward to this coming year’s event. My talk this year will be very different and that is the wonder of working in the space sector. Always something new to tell the world. It will not be in Arizona this year, but instead it will be in Pasadena, California.  As an Australian, it is a long trip to the US and a short hop to Pasadena will be a relief compared to the long haul from Tucson, but I have come to love Tucson and all it has to offer. Still Pasadena has a whole of new space venues to visit.

So what is in store in Pasadena? Spacefest says:

This year, we are having a special ticketed event at the elegant Pasadena Civic Auditorium , the centerpiece of the Pasadena Center. Tickets are already part of Universal and Galactic ticket packages, or are available at the Civic’s box office, or through Ticketmaster (after 1/1/14.)

The show will begin with our most popular panel, the Apollo astronauts, whose anecdotes are insightful and often hilarious. The Standing Room Only crowd last year came away with some insider’s viewpoints delivered directly from the horses mouths. Prof. Brian Cox and Dr. Carolyn Porco will moderate. Questions will be fielded from the audience.

Afterward, Carolyn Porco will present the latest discoveries and stunning images from Saturn, including her Earth-imaging event “The Day The Earth Smiled”, and will finish with her views on the greatest legacy of 50+ years of planetary exploration.”

Then, professor Brian Cox, former rock star and UK heartthrob, will lecture on the nobility of science, as he’s currently a brilliant particle physicist at Europe’s Large Hadron Collider.

The closing segment will feature a stimulating exchange as Dr. Porco & Prof. Cox field questions from each other, and the audience. This was such a popular segment last year that this year, we’re taking it to the big stage!

The VIP reception (Universal & Galactic packages) usually in this time slot at past Spacefests, will be at 6PM Friday night, location TBD.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER for Spacefest

 

ISDC2014ISDC 2014 May 14-19, 2014

International Space Development Conference (ISDC) 2014  – “A Space Renaissance”

May 14 (Wednesday) to May 19 (Monday), 2014

in Los Angeles, California at Sheraton Gateway Hotel at LAX Airport

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Not much information yet on the ISDC2014, but it was a fully packed event and had some great speakers and great exhibits.

I hope to get a speaking spot here and look forward to attending both Spacefest and ISDC since they are almost back to back events.

 

UpLift-1 in the Sydney Morning Herald (Archives)

Sydney’s very own space agency: Brand and son

*** Recovered from the Archives ***

This excerpt from the Sydney Morning Herald, January 16, 2012. UpLift-1 in the Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney’s Space Agency

Sydney space enthusiast Robert Brand, with the help of local school students has built and launched a weather balloon a quarter of the way to space.

Sydney space enthusiast Robert Brand and his 9-year-old son Jason recently launched a high-tech weather balloon a quarter of the way to space, retrieving images and flight data to help school children get a better understanding about space.

Mr Brand, of Dulwich Hill, has a history with space – at age 17 he wired up some of the Apollo 11 communications gear in Sydney during his term break from college. He was also stationed at the CSIRO Parkes Observatory in New South Wales at the request of the European Space Agency for spacecraft Giotto’s encounter with Halley’s comet in 1986 and Voyager’s encounter with Uranus and Neptune in 1986 and ’89. Also under his belt is an award from NASA for support of STS-1, the first orbital flight of the Space Shuttle program, presented personally by the commander and moon walker John Young.

So when it came time for Mr Brand to launch his own gear towards space he was well prepared, documenting his do-it-yourself journey on his personal blog wotzup.com for other space enthusiasts to watch and track.

Jason and his father Robert celebrate retrieving their weather balloon, which captured data and images on a mission a quarter of the way to space.

Jason and his father Robert celebrate with ginger beer (soda/soft drink) after retrieving their weather balloon, which captured data and images on a mission a quarter of the way to space. Photo: Supplied

“[The balloon launch] was being done to help science education in the Sydney area and anywhere else in fact because we were publishing [on the internet] all of the information and data that we got from the balloon launch,” said Mr Brand, 59.

Launch day was December 28, 2011 from Rankins Springs near Goolgowi in Central NSW. As the balloon got up to about 85,000 feet (25.9 kilometres) above Earth before it burst, Mr Brand and his son tracked it using amateur radio.

“During the flight we were actually relaying data back to the ground and off to a server and that allowed people from all over the world to actually participate with this flight and track it as it was going,” Mr Brand said. “We were getting back a lot of comments on some of the social media [services] such as Facebook just really helping us understand what they were sort of getting out of the whole project. People were sort of yelling loudly if you could put it that way, on the [wotzup] website claiming ‘Hey, they’ve reached this height and that height’, and so there was a lot of really great audience participation in this.”

Robert and his son pump the weather balloon with helium before launch.

Robert and his son pump the weather balloon with helium before launch. Photo: Supplied

The data being sent back from the balloon – which was later recovered about 50 kilometres away from where it was launched – tracked altitude, position, rate of climb, payload temperature, payload voltage and air pressure, Mr Brand said. The balloon also has a camera on board that captured still images. “We could actually see as [the balloon] hit different wind levels in the atmosphere and eventually we got up into a jet stream and actually found that we had two jet streams,” Mr Brand added.

When the balloon finally popped it came hurtling back towards Earth at about 40 metres per second, according to flight data.

“So this thing was falling a bit like a brick would fall at ground level but it slowed down and eventually the parachute dropped it on the ground at about six metres per second,” Mr Brand said.


The view from 10,666 metres, the height at which commerical jets will normally fly at.

Photos from Robert and Jason Brand’s weather balloon flight

The view from 10,666 metres, the height at which commercial jets will normally fly at. Photo: Robert and Jason Brand

  • The view from 10,666 metres, the height at which commerical jets will normally fly at.
  • The view from 21,977 metres.
  • The view from 22,222 metres.
  • The view from 22,470 metres.
  • The view from 22,969 metres.
  • The view from 24,305 metres.
  • The view from 26181 metres.
  • The view from 300 metres.
  • The view from 3235 metres
  • The view from 4153 metres.

The balloon (payload) was put together with the help of senior students at Sydney Secondary College at Blackwattle Bay, who Brand sought to get involved with the project and tasked them with doing a whole stack of materials testing. They tested the Styrofoam and how it reacted in zero atmosphere as well as the glue, ensuring it would hold throughout the flight. “The students were putting these materials in a bell jar and sucking the air out of it . . . and checking all of the materials held together – and to protect some of the electronics from the very cold temperatures of about minus 50 Celsius we simply used bubble wrap. … You’d be surprised to know that bubble wrap doesn’t explode when it gets into pretty much zero atmosphere.”

What's in the box? Jason shows the weather balloon's payload.

The photos that came back from maximum altitude look “pretty much like that taken from a space shuttle”, Mr Brand said.

“So very dark skies looking at this very thin blue line around the Earth which is our atmosphere and protective layer. It’s a bit scary when you see that photo and realise how thin the Earth’s atmosphere really is.”

Picture right: What’s in the box? Jason shows the weather balloon’s payload. Photo: Supplied

When it came time to recover the balloon it was tracked to landing on a field near the small town of Weethalle in NSW, Mr Brand said. “There was nothing growing on it. It seemed to have been abandoned.”

After knocking on a farm door to no avail, he and his son entered the field to locate the balloon. After driving “pretty much right on top of it” it was recovered, allowing for the father and son duo to publish the photos it captured that weren’t sent back live but stored on the camera attached to the balloon.

Mr Brand hopes to do more balloon launches and get schools involved.

“I’ll keep doing this each year and trying to get . . . more interest in the school year earlier in the year. I’m very keen to hear from people that might be interested in getting involved.”

End of article: UpLift-1 in the Sydney Morning Herald

13th Australian Space Science Conference Pt2

13th ASSC Uni NSWTriple Play in the Space Sector

by Robert Brand

As I mentioned in the last post, I was fortunate to present at the 13th Australian Space Science Conference at Sydney University a little over a week ago. The only unfortunate thing was a mix-up by yours truly and I ended up there on the wrong day. I was meant to be delivering a talk on “Triple Play in the Space Sector” and poor Alice Gorman, who was hosting the panel, was asking if I had turned up. My biggest apologies ever Alice!

I did however get a chance to present in the education stream and I am including this presentation here. My son Jason came along to help me as it was school holidays. Luckily every talk was about some of the work that he does with me, so it was pretty interesting most of the time.

Below is the PDF version of my PowerPoint presentation. It is interesting to note that we are doing so much that I can easily put together a complete presentation during a few other people’s talks. As you can see I gave my WotzUp website a plug!

You can download it here: Click to Download

Download (PDF, 1.4MB)

13th Australian Space Science Conference Pt1

13th ASSC Uni NSWSpace Education

by Robert Brand

I was fortunate to present at the 13th Australian Space Science Conference at Sydney University a little over a week ago. The only unfortunate thing was a mix-up by yours truly and I ended up there on the wrong day. I was meant to be delivering a talk on “Triple Play in the Space Sector” and poor Alice Gorman, who was hosting the panel, was asking if I had turned up. My biggest apologies ever Alice!

I did however get a chance to present in the education stream and I am including this presentation here. My son Jason came along to help me as it was school holidays. Luckily every talk was about some of the work that he does with me, so it was pretty interesting most of the time.

Below is the PDF version of my PowerPoint presentation. It is interesting to note that we are doing so much that I can easily put together a complete presentation during a few other people’s talks. As you can see I gave my WotzUp website a plug!

You can download it here:  Click to Download

Download (PDF, 3.5MB)

Collins Armstrong and Aldrin pass by waving

Apollo 11 visits Sydney

Collins Armstrong and Aldrin pass by wavingMy photos of the Apollo 11 Crew.

Nov 1st, 1969

by Robert Brand

If you read my post about my involvement in Apollo 11 communications in Sydney, then you’d know that I could not miss the opportunity to see the crew of Apollo 11 in the flesh.

The crew toured Sydney on November 1st 1969 – just 3.5 months after their flight. The streets of Sydney were crowded and all I had in my camera was black and white film.

The site of my pictures is close to St James train station in the heart of Sydney. They cruised up up Kings Street from the west with security and a police escort.

I was very proud to have been a small cog in the massive gears of the Apollo mission. I was still 17 years old and just a kid that could not even vote, but it was an amazing experience. Below are my photos on Facebook and a copy of one of the newspapers.

 

“I was 17 and although I wired up a lot of Apollo comms gear at OTC Paddington in Sydney, I had to take my place on a Sydney street to snap a few seconds on the Apollo Astronauts driving by.”

From Apollo 11 tour Sydney Nov 1 1969. Posted by Robert Brand on 12/21/2011 (8 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


NASA Canberra DSN road signs.

NASA Canberra Celebrations

NASA Canberra DSN road signs.NASA’s Canberra 70m Dish Celebrates 40 Years

NASA Canberra has a great celebration last April 13th 2013. Jason and I went down to help in the celebrations and it was a great opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the big dishes. We also got to meet a lot of great people and some of the NASA DSN’s top managers from the US.

We also meet with long time Facebook friend and now a full space friend Peter Aylward seen in the picture above right. It was a great weekend full of space fun and a special visit to the site that brought us Armstrong’s first steps on the moon – Honeysuckle Creek.

There is a great piece of moon rock in the visitors centre as well as lots of real objects from the early space missions. A real “must visit” for those interested in space and NASA.

The photos below are from my Facebook pages:


“My son Jason and I visited this complex on the 40th anniversary of the 70m Dish.”

From Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex 2013-04-13. Posted by Robert Brand on 4/15/2013 (32 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


Balon Stellar Stratosfera 30Km

Stellar Balloon flight to the stratosphere in CroatiaJason & Robert to Fly Balloons (HAB) in Croatia.

by Robert Brand

As many will know, I am the Director of Spacecraft Communications, Navigation and Data for Team Stellar and Jason is Stellar’s Australian Student Representative.

Jason and I also hold a world record for launching and recovering High Altitude Balloons (HABs). We have launched and recovered 16 so far and you can’t get better than 100% success. Mind you, much of that is attributed to us researching and finding a fantastic launch and recovery area with HAM radio APRS coverage (one of our tracking systems), flat and clear land with little water and good mobile telephone coverage and good access roads to farming and grazing land.

Croatia is a very different place. Our Team Stellar Croatian associates have told us that part of our recovery team will be Aplinists, capable of hiking in snow and ice to recover any balloon that lands high up on a mountain!

So why is Stellar launching these flights?

STEM EDUCATION:

Balon Stellar Stratosfera 30Km

Basically we will be carrying experiments from schools all over Croatia. They will go into the stratosphere and after recovery they will be returned to the schools for analysis and of course we expect them to publish the results.

More on this soon.

This is just one of several activities being undertaken by Team Stellar in the name of STEM Education – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Jason is 11 years old and will just turn 12 when we assist with this flight and will have just completed his first term in high school (year 7). He will be attending Sydney Secondary College – Balmain Campus just as his two older sisters did.

These will be larger balloons that will be needed to lift heavy payloads and to get them into the stratosphere before they explode and return to earth. We also expect to have cut-down ability to command the payload to release from the balloon and return to earth.

We will let you know more as we prepare for the flights in 6 months’ time. You can read more here later and more at:

http://teamstellar.org

That is Jason and I celebrating with a soft drink after the successful recovery of UpLift-1, our first balloon mission in December 2011. Jason does the tracking, radio systems and navigation – I just do the driving.
Jason and Robert Brand Recover UpLift-1

Robert Band at Spacefest IV 2012 (Archives)

Australia’s Space History at Spacefest IV

by Robert Brand.

As many of you know that I have recently moved into the Space sector, but I am not talking about just comms. I am talking about designing and engineering a space mission.

Because of this I was asked to speak at Spacefest IV. It was held at Tucson Arizona in the US. My talk was on a bit of the past and the future. In fact it was this talk detailing my experiments at 20-30km that got me the space mission job.

After 18 hours from waking to arriving at Las Angeles with no sleep, I drove the 10 hours to Tucson.Quite a trip and I did try to sleep and rest along the way, but managed to get there safely. It was an amazing resort (J. W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort) with a facilities you can only dream about like the massive circulation pool and water slide. This picture was taken close to my room.

I was in interesting territory. This all started just over 3 years ago when I was contacted to do an amateur radio moon bounce event to celebrate the Apollo 11 40th anniversary. Since then things have grown and I was drawn into amateur rocketry and amateur satellites. My balloon experiments at 20km and 30km got noticed as did my current attempt at purchasing the  Jamesburg Earth Station. I ended up on the speakers’ list at Spacefest IV and I was amongst some formidable speakers. I was amongst Apollo astronauts and moon-walkers, mission controllers and planetary geologists. I certainly had to given them their money’s worth (they were paying). Until my talk I was enjoying the visual feast of the area and the people. There were about 18 astronauts and mostly Apollo astronauts.

All the astronauts are pictured here – That’s Al Worden with his shoes off. He was getting annoyed at the long time it took to shoot the photos and got a little fidgety:

Above: There is a crew member from every manned Apollo flight represented in this photo. Apollo 7: Cunningham, Apollo 8: Gordon, Apollo 9: Scott, Apollo 10: Cernan, Apollo 11: Aldrin, Apollo 12: Bean, Apollo 13: Haise, Apollo 14: Mitchell, Apollo 15: Scott & Worden, Apollo 16: Duke, Apollo 17: Cernan, Skylab 2: Weitz, Skylab 3: Bean & Lousma, Skylab 4: Gibson, ASTP: Brand.

I even got to meet the elusive Buzz Above: Aldrin, but he does not let his guard down easily and unless you are signing a $400 autograph it is hard to speak with him..

My talk went over very well. I told the story of Carnavon, Paddington and Moree’s contribution to Apollo 11 and other missions such as ESA’s Giotto probe to Halleys Comet. It was a fantastic opportunity to remind the US that they did not do this all by themselves. Well they pretty much did, but I certainly reminded them that Australia was important in the actual mission as the earth turned!

Above: Even my namesake Vance Brand, command pilot of the Apollo Soyuz mission was on hand and we got along famously just because I had the same name as his brother! That is us below:

The talk covered the Paddington site, manned by NASA staff:

Above: In the lead up to talking about NASA and OTC’s Carnarvon site I mentioned this story that I published here a few months ago – in fact it is a cut and past from the exOTC website:

 

Above: I went on to talk about the current high altitude experiments and the future of Do-It-Yourself Space – experiments that I am doing with my 10 year old son Jason who has his amateur radio license

 

I am looking forward to next year’s Spacefest where I expect to be in late May 2013. Here is a video of a few parts of my talk. The photographer accidentally interprets the bit about  the Giotto mission as tracking rogue asteroids, but he only filmed fragments and put some words together. Thanks to my good friend John Sullivan for the video.

High Altitude Balloon Experiments

Here is a picture taken at 26km from a recent weather balloon flight from Rankin Springs in central NSW:

You can click and click again to enlarge the image. Use the “Back” button to return here.

Below is a little image to show how amazing the results are even at 26 km. my photos are unaltered and taken from the above image:

The Sydney Morning Herald did a story on one of the flights. Here is the video:

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/sydneys-very-own-space-agency-brand-and-son-20120116-1q26j.html

After Spacefest I traveled to Jamesburg and I have already written about that in an earlier post.

 

 

Australia Enters the Space Age – History

wresatAustralia’s WRESAT 1967 – History

Weapons Research Establishment Project: WRESAT

Not WotzUp, but a good bit of Australian History. Some Australian Space history for those interested.

On 29 November 1967, Australia became only the fourth country – after the USA, Soviet Union and France – to launch its own satellite from its own territory.

The battery-powered WRESAT weighed about 45 kilograms and was designed in the form of a cone. Three cones (two test and one actual) were constructed in the development phase, and a range of tests were carried out to ensure the satellite’s durability. As well as the durability tests, the final experiment tested the ejection of the protective plate covering the instrumentation during flight. In the early days of rocket and satellite work, countless experiments were lost due to the failure of covers to eject.

The scientific instrumentation carried by WRESAT followed on from previous upper atmospheric research that had been conducted at Woomera using sounding rockets. Among other things, WRESAT’s sensors and detectors measured solar radiation and its effects on temperature and composition of the upper atmosphere. The satellite was able to collect atmospheric information covering the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere and the mid-latitudes of the southern hemisphere – areas where measurements hadn’t previously been taken.

wresatHaving arrived at Woomera from Orroral Valley, and after some final checking and testing of experiment instrumentation, the satellite was transported to its launch vehicle. Reportedly the American team was horrified at the sight of WRESAT bumping around in the back of an open truck. The Australians argued that if it couldn’t withstand the short ride, it was not likely to withstand a lift-off. By launch stage, the rocket had been painted white for ease of tracking.

This sequence of the film is actually a bit misleading. The launch was originally intended for 28 November 1967. The six-hour countdown commenced on time, but was aborted 30 seconds from zero due to the failure of a heating-cooler unit to eject. So although the launch, which took place successfully the following day, was historically very significant, very few dignitaries were there to witness it. During WRESAT’s orbiting life of 42 days, it went around the world 642 times and transmitted scientific data on 73 of them, until its batteries were exhausted.

Stellar Launch Rocket

WotzUp Update (Archives)

Stellar Launch RocketWotzUp Update

*** Retrieved from Archives ***

Published March 25th 2013

Team Stellar

It is full steam ahead with a range of activities. The biggest one of all is the risk assessment of the navigation systems and choosing the system that best fits the mission. As for that activity, usually a risk assessment is done of a mission plan, we are changing that to be the other way around – developing a mission plan after we chose the navigation systems. Having said that we would like to land somewhere historic to be able to visit some amazing leftover systems like Apollo sites or other landers.

We do have one favoured site where man walked on the moon, but we are yet to see if the navigation capability supports the mission. NASA have a “No Go” zone around some of these sites and also do not want rocket exhaust too close to their site so it will be a long haul for our little rover if we do visit.

As well as the everyday navigation available to anyone, I am looking at developing my own ideas about a novel system to give precise distance to our landing site and an exact speed. This will enable us to be very efficient with fuel. It will be interesting to see if we can construct a system to achieve this and thus need a very good secondary system. More later…

Some of my radio broadcast have focused on Team Stellar. Stay tuned.

kicksatKickSat

Seems that our KickSat will be launched later this year. Some good news on that front and I have a prototype of what will fly – lots of updates soon.

Better still I have been taking pictures from the ISS with EarthKAM – WOW. Lots of photos of Australia and if you students in high school can get your science teacher across this, you too can take your very own ISS photos. Read more below.

EarthKAM

ISS EarthKam Coopers CreekDid you know that there is a 12 MegaPixel camera on the ISS that students can control and snap photos from space? All you need to do is get your science teacher to sign up to the site and get an allocation of photos for students to take pictures of almost anywhere on Earth. More in a future article, but to get you going, here is a photo taken by my good friend David Galea (a Melbourne Science teacher) of the Exmouth area in Australia.

Note I have not checked whether these photos are north up or North down and sorry, but I don’t have the time.

and below another one of David’s photos of the Kakadu Area

Like around New Orleans in the US, you can see how sediment from this river has extended the river mouth out to sea.
In the News

Linda mottramLinda Mottram Sydney ABC 702 Mornings

It seems that Australia’s new space policy about to be tabled may not suit everyone and especially entrepreneurs like me. I personally want to see more funds for space and to make sure our brilliant minds graduating from university have somewhere in this country to actually work and not be lost to other countries.

Because of that I have engaged with several groups and I am hoping that we can develop a common narrative so that the general public and the media will know our desires and capabilities in the space sector.

I have been on many programs, but two in particular in Australia – One in Melbourne with a panel to discuss the issues and one on ABC radio in Sydney where I discuss the issues and also Team Stellar. Links to those broadcasts shortly.

http://www.abc.net.au/local/audio/2013/02/21/3695429.htm

On another note I made it into a Croatian TV show all about Team Stellar!! My piece was videoed in Abu Dhabi during the first Team get-together in December last year.

Public Speaking

I start professional Public Speaking gigs soon and it will be all about SPACE! For the moment I will be with Ovations exclusively, but they have been slow to kick off. I will still do free talks for universities and other deserving groups for free, but I am now in an interesting area.

I have a long history supporting space missions starting at the age of 17 when I wired up some of the Apollo 11 video and switching equipment in Sydney Australia back in June 1969. I supported most NASA missions from then to 1986 and that included communications support for NASA’s Apollo, Shuttle, Voyager and other missions. Also ESA’s Giotto Mission to Halleys Comet.

But the real interesting stuff is that I am involved in current space missions. Team Stellar’s lunar mission within the next 2 years and the UK’s Median experiment scheduled to touch down on Mars in 2020 (lots of green lights to get past) plus all the other great space stuff like EarthKAm and KickSat

If you want to get me to speak at your event go over here and you can book me:

http://www.ovations.com.au/speakers/robert-brand.html

I can promise you lots of great photos, the odd video and an amazing tale of being at the heart of so many incredible projects. I am also very animated. Don’t expect me to stay still when I get so excited about the subject. I also have a great tale about changing careers from Telecommunications to Aerospace!
UpLift Videos

I have completed a number of UpLift flights that were commercial. Since our first flight in December 2012, we completed 14 flights and 13 were commercial. We recovered all 14 payloads for 100% success rate. We are also available for commercial payloads with prices starting at $5,000.

Here is one video for a frozen Yoghurt company – we froze the yoghurt in the clouds!!

HAB / Weather Balloons

We sold the 20 x 350g weather balloons that I bought in November last year. They sold out within a month! I have tried to get more balloons, but no luck.

Andrea Guzmán

Just got a Skype message from Andrea Guzmán from Columbia. I encouraged her to not only follow here dreams but to take action. I interviewed her recently and she had done so well. Now she seems to have even done better and so fast. This interview from June 2011.

Andrea Guzmán: Hey Robert. Long time no talk to you. Hope you’re Okay. Let me tell you I’ve done very interesting stuff so lately. I earned an internship in Mexico, I was there a whole month working at the 1meter Telescope.
Robert Brand: Wow – great work!
Andrea Guzmán: Now, im working with the second colombian satellite and well, everything is going just great
Robert Brand: Living the dream !!!
Andrea Guzmán: just wanted to let you know, as you have been also my mentor 🙂
Robert Brand: It is one thing to Dream, it is another to make it happen! One day we will meet!
Andrea Guzmán: I was actually applying for a workshop in satellites in Australia. Let’s wait and I’m sure we will meet someday.
Robert Brand: That will be fun. Lots to see if you are here!
Andrea Guzmán: sooo… thanks a lot to have confidence in me, without even knowing who I was
Robert Brand: It is easy to see who will make and who will not!
Andrea Guzmán: Thanks Robert 🙂

Wow! Things seem to be going great for Andrea and I want to remind everyone that you HAVE TO TAKE ACTION and not just dream. I encouraged Andrea to follow her dreams with action and she would have done this without my help, I am sure! It is, none the less, a great example of success through hard work.

Team Stellar Business Card

Team Stellar (Archive)

Team Stellar Business CardTeam Stellar and The Google Lunar X Prize

*** Retrieved from Archives ***

Posted on by

by Robert Brand

Three years ago I had nothing to do with space other than Moon Bounce – using amateur radio to bounce signals off the moon and back to earth.

Today I just accepted the roll of manager for Communications, Navigation and Data (CND) for an attempt to land a probe on the moon and beam back video from a rover that has to travel 500m. The team is called Team Stellar and it is new. The team is in competition for the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP). What is the GLXP? From their website:

The Google Lunar X PRIZE is igniting a new era of lunar exploration by offering the largest international incentive prize of all time. A total of $30 million in prizes are available to the first privately funded teams to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, have that robot travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send video, images and data back to the Earth. Teams must be at least 90% privately funded, though commercially reasonable sales to government customers are allowed without limit.

Team registration for the competition closed on December 31, 2010. There are currently 26 teams located around the world who are fundraising, mission planning, and building robots in a new race to the Moon — what we like to call, “Moon 2.0″. The teams have until the end of 2015 to get to the Moon, meet the prize objectives, and win the prize purses.

You can look at their website here: http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/

Team Stellar

As you may have noticed, registration had closed and that meant that the new players had to buy an old team to make this a reality. So who or what is the new Team Stellar?

You can look here: http://teamstellar.org

I am not on the site yet, but this will happen soon. This is the mission:

Apollo Landing Sites

Team Stellar is one of 25 teams competing for the Google Lunar X Prize and plans to send a robotic spacecraft to the Moon. The Google Lunar X prize is an international moon exploration challenge organized by the X Prize Foundation, and sponsored by Google, to land a robotic craft on the lunar surface, to travel at least 1,650 feet (500 meters) and send data and high definition images back to Earth. The first privately funded team to do this by Dec. 31, 2015, will receive the $20 million grand prize.

Team Stellar’s spacecraft and rover plan to navigate to the Moon, execute a soft landing on the surface, and conduct and extended exploration of the lunar surface all while streaming live 3D Stereoscopic High Definition video back to Earth.

KGo Aerospace and i7 Engineering are sponsoring Team Stellar and are driving the development of the spacecraft through strategic partnerships with other aerospace and technology companies around the United States. Team Stellar has partnered with i7 Engineering to development the rover vehicle and all supporting systems.

My company PlusComms, is also involved. It will be a partner. More on that later. It is early days and there is a lot to learn. I will be traveling around the world a lot with this role and I need to get lots of support for the navigation side of this!!!

Jamesburg Old Photos

Jamesburg - Counter weight in place 1967Jamesburg Historic Photos

I am have some background photos of Jamesburg Earth Station. My company, PlusComms, is still trying to but the site. We are working hard on financing at the moment so that we can build our deep space network.

These are some historic photos from the web showing Jamesburg’s past glory. The photos include one of the NASA racks used in support of the Apollo missions.

If you have some more that would be of interest, please let me know.

“Built just in time for Apollo 11 mission. It brought video, voice and data from the Honeysuckle Creek and Parkes stations back to the US via Moree in NSW Australia.”

From Jamesburg Earth Station – Comsat. Posted by Robert Brand on 10/15/2009 (18 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


UpLift-2

Weather Balloon Success (Archives)

UpLift-2 Payload Recovered

*** Retrieved from Archives ***

by Robert Brand

As I mentioned previously I was flying a weather balloon on Sept 25th. I cannot tell you too much about the helium filled weather balloon flight other than it was a success, because of a “Non Disclosure Agreement” (NDA). I can tell you that all objectives were met. It carried an amateur radio APRS tracker that sent back GPS details every 20 seconds.

Why the NDA,? A company actually paid me to be a consultant on an earlier launch that day. Although this payload was not fully commercial, they do not want too much said about the flight at all for the moment. I will post a comment for those interested to see the flight information in about 2 weeks.

It flew on schedule and reached the required altitude.

We had hoped to broadcast preparations for the flight, but unfortunately the local Telstra 3G base station was off the air! We had no mobile coverage and thus live TV showing the launch was not possible, nor was it possible to warn people that the tracking call sign had changed. I managed to get it onto my Facebook page briefly, but coverage was so poor that I could not warn anyone else.

Why the change?

We had 2 trackers fail! Luckily there was a third, thanks to fellow HAB enthusiast, Todd Hamson, but by flight time, we had to run with an adjusted call sign.

The payload capsule landed within 1/2 a metre of a farmers dam! Very close indeed.

Max altitude was 68,466 ft or 20868 m. The jetstream was running at 213kph (132mph) max. We had a lot of trouble catching up with the payload.

 

Below: High Cloud being streaked by the Jet Stream in the Troposphere. The yellow fields are conola:

UpLift-2 clouds with wind sheer

Below: Max Height

UpLift-2 Maximum Altitude

Below: They say it is not all over until the “fat lady sings”. We spotted this lake (normally dry) and my son Jason said it looks like a fat lady! Since the balloon had popped and it was descending on parachute, I guess she was singing! She also looks like she has burst a gasket singing the highs.

Below: Todd (L) amd Mark (R) Hamson – 2 fellow High Altitude Balloon enthusiasts and part of our recovery team. The Parachute was 1/2 a metre from the water of the farmers dam. The payload was under an NDA and thus I have had to blur it out. The cameras had been knocked off the capsule on impact. We will be adding a lanyard in future.

UpLift-2

Below: The “Stills” camera snapped this shot of my son Jason (10), VK2FJAB  recovering the cameras that were torn from the payload capsule after a hard landing. That is me in the background, VK2URB

UpLift-2

Below: The flight path:

Jamesburg For Sale (Archives)

Jamesburg Earth Station For Sale

Robert Brand and Jamesburg Earth Station.

It was about when I was 17 years old that I (Robert Brand) first heard of Jamesburg Earth Station. I was a second year trainee at the Dept of Civil Aviation Regional Training School at Waverton and assigned to the International Maintenance Centre (IMC) at Paddington for field training. I was asked to wiring up some Apollo 11 jumpering for Wayne Ozarko and I learned of this site as the received dish for the transmissions from Moree for the Apollo 11 moon landing.

I ended up doing most of the TV broadcasts each morning when I was on duty and was talking with Jamesburg staff each and every day. The location and history of the site was of little interest in those days and the Internet was not invented for the public so data, photos and everything else we take for granted was just not there to be able to find anything out at all. That has changed and I now know Jamesburg inside out.

The site was basically abandoned by ATT in 2002 and sold as a farm with a unique set of buildings. It has sort of been a holiday home in a valley mainly producing wine and way of the beaten track.

So what is different? “Jamesburg for sale” is now on a sign at the front gate.  Today, my small company, PlusComms, is considering buying the Earth Station!

Whether this eventuates or not is still in the hands of the owner. He may have other offers or waiting for a better offer. Although I would like to buy a dish in the US, this one is no where near perfect for the job I would like it to do and to that end I am actually only after the 2,000 square metre building that is part of the site. Simply it will make a great boutique Data Centre.

Much of the old building will need clearing of all the old office partitions and such, but the data centre is a valuable commodity. It is worth far more than the very badly damaged dish. The feed window was broken at some stage and the whole assembly was filled with water for many years. When the dish was moved from stow a few years ago, it was evidently like waterfall.

If any exOTC people are interested in this project and feel that they can contribute, please contact me ASAP on 02 9559 6879 or robert.brand@pluscomms.com

I will post more on Jamesburg in the next few weeks after I return from a site inspection. In the meantime here are a few historic videos:

Above: Jamesburg Earth Station Part 1 of 3 (no audio – slideshow only)

Above: Jamesburg Earth Station Part 2 of 3 (no audio – slideshow only)

Above: Jamesburg Earth Station Part 3 of 3 (no audio – slideshow only)

Jamesburg Visit (Archives)

Visiting Jamesburg Earth Station (USA)

*** Retrieved from Archives ***

AT&T’s Jamesburg Dish Visit – by Robert Brand

Jamesburg Visit

In early June 2012 I visited the Jamesburg site with the intention of surveying the site and turning it into a data centre. The site was abandoned by AT&T in 2002 following the attacks on the NY World Trade Center buildings. It was thought by AT&T that Jamesburg was too vulnerable to aircraft attack of a similar nature. I recently set up a company that is now looking to buy the site. The 2 day Jamesburg visit was like a trip back in time as many of the site’s offices and systems were still fully intact.

The picture above shows that the dish is still able to move as it was taken out of stow for a movie being made on site at the time of my visit. The large vertical appendage on the left of the structure is a covered stairway giving access to the upper rooms. Although the tracking system is still installed, the owner was using a manual controller. The tracking system is shown below (Note you can click on the images to enlarge them):

The halls are still filled with pictures of the Intelsat family that was worked by Jamesburg and the battery room still filled with batteries:

The power switchboard is also 100% active and capable of switching half a megawatt.

Below is the current owner (Jeff Bullis – r) with his nephew (Scotty – l) in the lunchroom as it was when it was vacated – fully operational and well appointed. I am in the picture on the right with the rather interesting map with 2 Australias. One showing the pacific Intelsat coverage and the other showing the Indian Ocean Intelsat coverage.

The site had a room filled with filling cabinets with every bit of AT&T correspondence. A Jamesburg fax cover sheet is seen below (left). The waveguide below the dish is able to swivel and transition from the vertical to the horizontal in the photo to the right.

I certainly remember working with Jamesburg regularly on day shift as the morning US TV news feed was sent to Paddington from Moree. It is amazing to think that this site was so completely abandoned 10 years ago. It is like using a time machine to go back to when it was operational. An amazing experience   More on Jamesburg in a future post.

World Moon Bounce – Part 2 (Archives)

Robert Brand - Parkes

World Moon Bounce – 2009

Posted on by

The Wireless Institute of Australia Magazine Article WMBD

Below is some of the article on the Echoes of Apollo World Moon Bounce Day (WMBD). Much of it was written by the University of Tasmania (UTAS) staff members Rex Moncur VK7MO and Justin Giles-Clark VK7TW for the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA):

27 June 2009 was designated World Moon Bounce Day as an amateur radio contribution to the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of man’s first landing on the moon. The event was organized by Echoes of Apollo – a joint project between Pat Bathelow (US) and Robert Brand (Australia). Key to the success of the event was the contribution of the Overseas Telecommunications Veterans Association. (OTVA) A key objective was to involve and interest school children in science and amateur radio by allowing children to hear voices from the moon. The event was supplemented by amateur Earth Moon Earth (EME) stations all around the world and particularly those with SSB capability on 23 cm.

Within Australia the University of Tasmania agreed to take part using their 26 metre dish which was originally used by NASA in the Orroral Valley near Canberra between 1964-1985 after which it was gifted to the University and transported to Mt Pleasant, near Richmond in southern Tasmania. Our involvement was to provide amateur EME equipment, help set up and test the system and operate the station on the day. As it eventuated the availability of large dishes provided the opportunity to explore QRP EME at as low a level as possible and we are pleased to report completion of a JT65 EME contact between the University of Tasmania’s 26 metre dish and a Dutch 25 metre dish, PI9CAM, with the Tasmanian end running only three milliwatts.

Mount Pleasant Radio Telescope UTAS

Setting up the University of Tasmania dish

While Dr Jim Lovell of the University of Tasmania willingly offered their dish and the support of the site technician Eric Baynes (VK7BB) it was first necessary to consider what was practical. At our first meeting it became clear that transmitting any sort of high power as required for SSB would be out of the question as the dish is fitted with five extremely sensitive liquid helium cooled receivers working from 4 to 22 GHz. There is no protection for RF and we could not risk damage to these receivers which are involved in ongoing international research programs. Accordingly, the Echoes of Apollo team where advised that we would contribute to the event but as a receive station only.

40 Year Anniversary Apollo 11The feeds and receivers for the 26 metre dish are mounted in a small feed cabin (a cube approximately two metres per side) behind a Teflon window approximately one metre in diameter. Within the cabin there is a remotely controlled three axis focus frame that allows the feeds and receivers to be moved into the correct focal position depending on which feed is in use. There is space for a two GHz non-cooled feed and receiver which fortunately was not required around the time of the Echoes of Apollo event and the University agreed that this could be removed and replaced with a 23 cm antenna. Because of space limitations it was decided to use a small three turn helical. There is over 100 metres of LDF-4-50 coax between the dish and the control building where we could operate and for this reason we decided to down-convert at the feed and receive on 144 MHz. Eric constructed a down-converter and the VK7MO EME station provided pre-amplifiers, 144 MHz receiver, GPS frequency reference, computer running WSJT and bandpass filters at 1296 MHz and 144 MHz to limit interference from microwave systems at the nearby Hobart airport.

A few weeks prior to the event tests were conducted with Dave VK2JDS, with JT65c signal levels much worse than expected at -9 dB and no prospect of copying SSB. A sun noise test gave around 18 dB compared to 27 to 28 dB determined with the VK3UM EME calculator. The time for testing was limited as this is an operational radio astronomy research facility but the system was gradually refined with additional pre-amps and filters and through adjusting levels at all stages – as well as resolving the occasional “Murphy” problem. Finally we decided that the helical feed must be the remaining limitation and did some estimates to see if a Septum feed and choke ring could be physically mounted. Initially it fouled other equipment but after a redesign of the mount is was successfully installed. In the end we achieved a sun noise of 25 dB which was within a few dB of what could be expected. Every time the system needed adjustment Eric had to don a safety harness and go up in a cherry picker .

The story above is part of the article in the Amateur Radio magazine, a publication of the Wireless Institute of Australia.

World Moon Bounce – Part 1 (Archives)

World Moon Bounce 2009 & 2010 – Part 1

*** Retrieved from Archives ***

Robert BrandJust before the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2009, I got contacted by a gentleman wanting to do a commemorative HAM radio event between the Jamesburg Earth Station and the Parkes Radio telescope. His name was Pat Barthelow. Moon Bounce is basically bouncing signals off the moon and back to earth and using big dishes to do the work. In the week before the Apollo 11 40th Anniversary (July 2009) dishes from all over the world took part in World Moon Bounce Day (WMBD) and it was a great success. Notably Jamesburg and Parkes never took part!

We had support locally from the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) and financial support from the OTVA to make this happen. Kids from all over the world took part in WMBD. We broke records with a 3mW transmission from the old NASA Orroral Valley dish (now in Tasmania with UTAS) and a dish in the Netherlands – both 30m dishes. The data was successfully decoded and a new record set. The gain in these dishes is massive – about 60dB each for the technical. It is great to think that the gains of dirt on the surface of the moon where shaking ever so slightly and reflecting back the voices of children for a global hookup.

The story of World Moon Bounce Day and the 2010 World Moon Bounce event is below and taken from the Echoes of Apollo Website. The 2010 event turned more into a week long event as my partner in crime in the US – Pat Barthelow – managed to secure the Aricebo Dish for a week or so! This was written before the 2010 event:

World Moon Bounce Events:

World Moon Bounce Day Logo 2010

EOA April 17th 2010

This major event will add a new word to most people’s vocabulary – Moon Bounce. Moon Bounce has been happening for almost as long as the oldest of us can remember. From the early days when it was thought to be a  means of communications that the military could exploit right through to today’s more peaceful use by amateur radio hobbyists. So what is moon bounce? Also known technically as Earth-Moon-Earth transmissions (EME), it is simply bouncing radio waves off the moon’s surface and back to earth. Every day hundreds of people enjoy doing just that and they do it as everyday people using mainly homemade dishes and antennas and  a mix of “do it yourself” systems, electronics and “off the shelf” equipment.

So why hold World Moon Bounce Day? At Echoes of Apollo we are both interested in space (especially the moon) and amateur radio. We created an event to highlight both of these amazing areas of interest. We are also looking to the commercial world to take part soon and make this an event for the whole world to enjoy

On Saturday, April 17th, many of the world’s large parabolic antennas (sometimes called dishes) along with hundreds of amateur radio operators and their gear will stop their normal work and swing around to track the moon when it rises. Volunteers will then use the EME or Moon Bounce transmissions to link up with other dishes and antennas worldwide via the moon. Signals are literally being bounced off the moon’s surface and back to other stations on earth where they are received some 2.5 seconds later. Yes, at an atomic level we are actually shaking each atom on the moon’s surface every so slightly and they then radiate the signal back into space and to earth where we again use our high gain antennas and dishes to receive them

moon_bounce

The sites will be run by volunteers from the amateur radio community and they will be helping local youth talk to other youth from around the world in a “Jamboree of the Air” style event. This type of activity has happened before but never on this scale. One  fantastic demonstration was a small Moon Bounce occurred in 2007  to celebrate the UK’s Jodrell Bank Telescope’s 50th anniversary generated press and TV coverage. Children read and listened to their poetry being bounced of the moon. Jodrell Bank held another event in 2009, but it was a small event with a local transmitter.

The first World Moon Bounce Day held in June 2009 was huge by comparison with much high voice quality in comparison given the sizes of the big dishes at both ends that were involved. The bigger they are, the more effective power they will radiate and also the more power they gather and concentrate for reception.

Web video of World Moon Bounce Day on June 27th will be available on this website with feeds from multiple sites, so you can see all the action taking place. We have invited some of the world’s biggest dishes an a wealth of important people. We already have several large antennas taking part and we will provide a list shortly.

Why April 17th 2010?

At Echoes of Apollo we celebrate the amazing achievements of the Apollo astronauts and their vast numbers of support staff, whether part of the rocket design team, mission control or NASA‘s global communications network. We simply have the most incredible team ever assembled with a single goal that was beyond anyones expertise at the time of its announcement 10 years earlier. We celebrated the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 with out first annual World Moon Bounce Day and this year we will be honoring Apollo 13′s return to earth 40 years earlier. Echoes of Apollo still believe that this mission was one of the most amazing and riveting stories of the space age. It is the only Hollywood movie made of any of he Apollo missions.

Arecibo Puerto Rico

This year, April 16,17,18, Echoes of Apollo Moon Bounce, a fun, educational, science outreach activity, will conduct 2 way Voice communications by bouncing radio signals off the Moon.  One day of the event, Saturday, the 17th, has been assigned the Moniker, “World Moon Bounce Day”.  Commonly known among the specialist amateur radio operators (hams) that do this,  as EME, for Earth-Moon- Earth,  this time, the Echoes of Apollo Moon Bounce event is quite special, and opens a big door of opportunity for Science outreach.The Arecibo Observatory amateur radio club has built an amateur radio EME station at the Arecibo 1000 ft dish.  Angel Vazquez, club president, is working with his team of radio amateurs and have produced a 500 watt station that will operate in the 70cm band, on 432.045 mhz.  The 500 watts at the feed of 58 dbi gain dish will produce a very loud signal that will be bounced from the moon, and can be heard, using very modest antennas.

On March 19, and 22, Arecibo conducted a test of their station on the air, establishing 2 way Moon Bounce contact with many ham radio operators all over the world.  The test, established that the very strong return signals from the moon, can be picked up, using radio communications receivers capable receiving 432.045 MHz  SSB and/or CW signals, and equipped with small, yagi antennas.

As a science/Education  outreach activity,  EOA  co founder, Pat Barthelow, has arranged for amateur radio mentors, and teachers, to supervise the construction of very simple, cheap yagi antennas that can be used to hear the moon bounced signals, returned to earth.  The yagi antennas are easy and cheap to build, according to published designs, and made from wooden  1 x 2 sticks, about 3-6 feet long, and welding rod,copper or aluminum wire.

 

Pat Barthelow: http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1535563951&ref=ts

Robert Brand: http://www.facebook.com/Echoes.Of.Apollo?ref=profile

So far we have moon bounce-capable stations in the US, Europe,  and,  of course Arecibo in Puerto Rico. (Look up on Google Earth, latitude 18.33 degrees north, and Longitude 66.75 degrees West

Some other stations in Europe planning on participating,  are:

Dwingeloo dish run by the CAMRAS group in Holland, http://www.camras.nl

HB9MOON 10 meter Dish, in Chur Switzerland,  run by Christoph, HB9HAL:

http://www.radiosky.ch/home.php?nav=amateurfunk&page=eoa

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Dishes at their Haystack facility. MIT based  Radio Amateurs are anticipated to be active with MIT station setup and operating.

The world wide event,  will have different stations around the world communicating whenever the moon is visible between them, and in the case of Arecibo, there will be two hour windows of operations, each of the three scheduled days. Arecibo only has limited time viewing the moon due the limited “steering” of about 20 degrees

On this weekend, this translates to operating times from Arecibo of:

Apr 16 1645 – 1930 UTC

Apr 17 1740 – 2020 UTC

Apr 18 1840 – 2125 UTC

FFI:   Pat Barthelow AA6EG (Founder of Echoes of Apollo)

Echoes of Apollo

apolloeme@live.com

Here is a video of the event from UTAS in 2009:

The large antenna, pictured below, at Mt Pleasant in Tasmania, Australia (University of Tasmania) is typical of the antennas that will be involved in Moon Bounce and it took part inthe 2009  World Moon Bounce Day. Photo by Jim Lovell of UTAS.

mount_pleasant_observatory

Another big dish was the SRI – Stanford 150ft Dish (45m). The reports from the site were amazing and the excitement high. Pat Barthelow reports via phone during the final 5 hours of the 2009 event as they were working Europe and Australia was coming back into view. You can hear Pat’s report below.

http://www.echoesofapollo.com/audio/World_Moon_Bounce_Day_20090627.mp3

Christop Joos from Switzerland reports on our 2009 Event

http://www.radiosky.ch/images/spaceparty/EoA_Kids_hb9moon.jpgClick the link below to hear Swiss greetings via the moon

Greetings from Switzerland via the moon

Kids talking via the moon for World Moon Bounce Day.

“First of all many Thanks to all who helped us talking to our non Radio Amateurs, Visitors and Children of course. Special Thanks to Dough VK3UM how had to answer many questions about his “Crocodile” in his shack :-)

More than 300 Visitors, many Families, Swiss Television, News Journalists, joined our outstanding Party.

We also had ON4BCB, Walter on board and many Swiss Radio Amateurs and youngest YL too. 45 Children took this chance to send a short Message to the Moon. And a few did a great job and learned very quickly how we communicate. Who knows maybe one of them will become Hamsone day  too… Swiss Television will report from EoA HB9MOON on Monday evening during Prime-time! It was an unforgettable event for us!

Christoph, HB9HAL / HB9MOON

The following is Swiss TV coverage of the Echoes of apollo event on World Moon Bounce Day 2009:

Our June 2009 event featured Apollo astronaut Bill Anders who reportedly had a great time talking to the world via the moon. We are hoping to have an even bigger lineup of guests and they will be featured in interviews with the Echoes team after the event. You will be able to listen to the broadcast via the moon on the Internet. We have some large dishes taking part and that announcement will be coming soon so please stand by for more information. Echoes of Apollo salutes all the amateur radio operators that make this event possible.

Is There any Science Being Done?

Yes, plenty. Even setting this gear up is a major challenge to get it right. Not only do many of the scientist that take part find the effort rewarding, they all find that they learn a lot from working with amateur radio operators. The staff at the Mt Pleasant dish (above) also broke world records during our 2009 event sending data to the moon and having received as viable data in the Netherlands and their transmitter was only 3 milliwatts – about 1/1000th the power of a bright incandescent flashlight. The gain and accuracy of big dishes can achieve some amazing results.

What Frequencies will be used?

Any frequency that operators can legally utilise. Most amateur radio operators will be using frequencies of about 1.3GHz which is almost half that used in microwave ovens and Wireless computer networks. This frequency is the best for bouncing signals off the Moon’s surface. Some possible commercial operator may use frequencies as high as 12GHz.

———————————————————————————-

World Moon Bounce Day 2009

Below is some of the article on the Echoes of Apollo World Moon Bounce Day. Much of the article was written by the University of Tasmania (UTAS) staff members Rex Moncur VK7MO and Justin Giles-Clark VK7TW for the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA):

27 June 2009 was designated World Moon Bounce Day as an amateur radio contribution to the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of man’s first landing on the moon. The event was organized by Echoes of Apollo – a joint project between Pat Bathelow (US) and Robert Brand (Australia). Key to the success of the event was the contribution of the Overseas Telecommunications Veterans Association. (OTVA) A key objective was to involve and interest school children in science and amateur radio by allowing children to hear voices from the moon. The event was supplemented by amateur Earth Moon Earth (EME) stations all around the world and particularly those with SSB capability on 23 cm.

Within Australia the University of Tasmania agreed to take part using their 26 metre dish which was originally used by NASA in the Orroral Valley near Canberra between 1964-1985 after which it was gifted to the University and transported to Mt Pleasant, near Richmond in southern Tasmania. Our involvement was to provide amateur EME equipment, help set up and test the system and operate the station on the day. As it eventuated the availability of large dishes provided the opportunity to explore QRP EME at as low a level as possible and we are pleased to report completion of a JT65 EME contact between the University of Tasmania’s 26 metre dish and a Dutch 25 metre dish, PI9CAM, with the Tasmanian end running only three milliwatts.

Setting up the University of Tasmania dish

While Dr Jim Lovell of the University of Tasmania willingly offered their dish and the support of the site technician Eric Baynes (VK7BB) it was first necessary to consider what was practical. At our first meeting it became clear that transmitting any sort of high power as required for SSB would be out of the question as the dish is fitted with five extremely sensitive liquid helium cooled receivers working from 4 to 22 GHz. There is no protection for RF and we could not risk damage to these receivers which are involved in ongoing international research programs. Accordingly, the Echoes of Apollo team where advised that we would contribute to the event but as a receive station only.

The feeds and receivers for the 26 metre dish are mounted in a small feed cabin (a cube approximately two metres per side) behind a Teflon window approximately one metre in diameter. Within the cabin there is a remotely controlled three axis focus frame that allows the feeds and receivers to be moved into the correct focal position depending on which feed is in use. There is space for a two GHz non-cooled feed and receiver which fortunately was not required around the time of the Echoes of Apollo event and the University agreed that this could be removed and replaced with a 23 cm antenna. Because of space limitations it was decided to use a small three turn helical. There is over 100 metres of LDF-4-50 coax between the dish and the control building where we could operate and for this reason we decided to down-convert at the feed and receive on 144 MHz. Eric constructed a down-converter and the VK7MO EME station provided pre-amplifiers, 144 MHz receiver, GPS frequency reference, computer running WSJT and bandpass filters at 1296 MHz and 144 MHz to limit interference from microwave systems at the nearby Hobart airport.

A few weeks prior to the event tests were conducted with Dave VK2JDS, with JT65c signal levels much worse than expected at -9 dB and no prospect of copying SSB. A sun noise test gave around 18 dB compared to 27 to 28 dB determined with the VK3UM EME calculator. The time for testing was limited as this is an operational radio astronomy research facility but the system was gradually refined with additional pre-amps and filters and through adjusting levels at all stages – as well as resolving the occasional “Murphy” problem. Finally we decided that the helical feed must be the remaining limitation and did some estimates to see if a Septum feed and choke ring could be physically mounted. Initially it fouled other equipment but after a redesign of the mount is was successfully installed. In the end we achieved a sun noise of 25 dB which was within a few dB of what could be expected. Every time the system needed adjustment Eric had to don a safety harness and go up in a cherry picker .

The story above is part of the article in the Amateur Radio magazine, a publication of the Wireless Institute of Australia.

Much of the credit for the 2009 World Moon Bounce Day success can be directly attributed to the efforts of the OTVA and other exOTC staff. This has been a fantastic experience and we are looking to grow the 2010 World Moon Bounce Day to even great success. Yes, a world first for OTC staff involvement and a world record! Plenty of Australian amateur radio people got involved and were active bouncing their signals off the moon. I am Now organising the 2010 World Moon Bounce Day for early April. If you wish to help, feel free to raise your hand.

Jamesburg in a Movie (Archived)

Battleship (2012) uses Jamesburg Earth Station (graphically).

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My company is currently looking to buy Jamesburg Earth Station with a view of using it as part of a deep space network. Sure Jamesburg Earth Station is not the only dish with this design, there are two others. One still in use in South America and another somewhere in the US – possibly Alaska from memory. The identical AT&T sister dish on the east coast was demolished many years ago. Jamesburg, however is the most well photographed and documented of the remaining dishes and thus attracts attention.

Jamesburg in a Movie

I was watching a movie set in current times in Hawaii (Battleship) on the weekend and was surprised to see this very early dish design from 50 years ago being used to contact aliens from a distant star system. It was hard to concentrate on the movie each time the dish came into view on the screen. In fact there were three of these dishes on the island mountain top and all equipped with a very modern system to beam signals somehow to a relay satellite. Yes, the movie was technically unbelievable anyway, but this made it worse. It was also heart wrenching to see the three dishes explode at the end of the movie. Of course the dishes were graphically reproduced as were the explosions.

So how close was the reproduction. Well, extremely close. They added a box to the top of the subreflector quadropod and the base was a bit slimmer, but that was it. The staining was also identical, but emphasised in the movie. I doubt that we will ever see Ceduna, Moree or Carnarvon dishes in this way, but if one relic from the past can manage a resurrection, then who knows?

While I was visiting the Jamesburg site, a film crew was actually filming the dish for an iPad interactive game to be called “200 seconds” so we can expect to see it emerge again from the archives!

Here is a comparison and some shots from the movie:

Note that the structure on the right of the movie dish is on the original also, but obscured due to the angles

Occasionally, s

A Visit to Honeysuckle Creek

hsk_1971_tnMy Return to Honeysuckle Creek

It had been 42 years since I visited Honeysuckle Creek. I was still a teenager at the time – 19 years old. I had just been working on comms for Apollo missions and had completed a lot of work wiring up comms for Apollo 11 gear at OTC Paddington. I had been on a pilgrimage to know ground zero zero for the reception of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon – Honeysuckle Creek. Many may have been mislead by the movie “The Dish” that indicated that Parkes had been the site that brought us those first steps. It was Honeysuckle Creek. Parkes did bring us the majority of the moonwalk, just not Armstrong’s first steps. The dish was about 30m and now resides at the NASA Deep Space Centre in Tidbinbilla near Canberra.

I had come to Canberra with my son Jason who had just turned 11. It was a massive space weekend. We came down for the 40th anniversary of NASA’s 70m dish at Tidbinbilla. We visited Mt Stromlo, Had dinner with the Honeysuckle Creek staff and wives, we were live on Canberra’s Fuzzy Logic science show with Robert Brand, Jennie and Len Limpus at Honeysuckle Creek in 1971Rod Taylor (2XX) for a whole hour and then we went to visit the Honeysuckle Creek site. Only foundations and storyboards are left at the site, but we had our own tour guides and what guides they were! Some of the original staff that brought those moon pictures back to earth. This picture (above) is of a young Colin Mackellar who has created a fabulous history of the Honeysuckle Creek site and even the role that my government department (I worked for OTC(A)) played in the the Apollo missions.

I too have a photo from my visit in 1971. I went there with some friends and my new bright red Toyota Corolla. Honeysuckle Creek was out on Apollo Road in the mountains south west of Canberra and south of Tharwa.

Our trip to the site was very pleasant and easy to drive since the entire road was sealed when the NASA site was established in the 60s. It is a campground now and an absolutely beautiful place to visit. The open areas are still grass. John Saxon (Honeysuckle Creek staff) and Hamish Lindsay (Honeysuckle Creek staff) gave us a really great tour of the site, explaining the operations and what the staff had to do. Jason loved rubbing shoulders with those history makers and enjoyed the drive, tour and the entire weekend.

John Saxon and Hamish Lindsay ex Honeysuckle Creek staff

John Saxon and Hamish Lindsay – ex Honeysuckle Creek staff

To visit the Honeysuckle Creek site website: CLICK HERE

Below are some photos from our visit.


“This was the site of the dish that brought the world Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon..”

From Honeysuckle Creek ACT. Moon Central. Posted by Robert Brand on 4/15/2013 (12 items)

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