World Moon Bounce day collage

STEM/STEAM and Wotzup

Jason delivering 18 lectures in 3 days at AlburySTEM/STEAM Power at WotzUp

Good Facebook friend Peter Ellis from Canberra in Australia attended a Wireless Institute of Australia Conference in Canberra that was address STEM/STEAM and HAM radio. He posted on my Facebook page:

“ talked about Horus flights, etc. I mentioned your efforts”.

my response (below) sounds like I was criticising Peter a bit for singing my praises, but I was not. I just wanted a group that was there to tell their story to have a go as they have done a great job over the years pushing HAM radio and balloon flight. They were there before me and have had an exciting time with nearly 40 flights so far. The group has changed a lot, but that does not matter, the opportunity for STEM/STEAM goes

So What is STEM/STEAM Education?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. STEAM adds in the arts. I think that we need a balance and that comes from the arts – making the rest less sterile.

The AREG guys from South Australia where there to tell the story of their contribution to STEM and HAM radio. I guess that I should have been there to tell of the work that I was doing if I had had the time. I am the one at fault and the the AREG team do not want to hear about me doing stuff too in the same area at the end of their presentation. We all love and believe in STEM or STEAM.

What does WotzUp do for HAM Radio and STEM/STEAM

Peter’s  question at the end of their talk has prompted me to let others know what my son and I do to help in this area. I put it to you as a challenge to do better and to help kids all over the world grow and be inspired.

Well first and most obvious is this website. It is a place where we post what we are doing for others to learn and make their own dreams and bring them to reality. There are other websites too, like  We really try to communicate our efforts.

As for balloons payloads / flights to the Stratosphere, I am directly responsible for 1/3 of all balloon flights in Australia at the moment and altogether 1/2 of all flights due to mentoring so many teams. This figure comes from a source in the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia.

Here are a few highlights of what we are doing with STEM/STEAM. This would have been my contribution if I had had the time to attend the Canberra Conference:

In 2009 on the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11, I and another US guy put on World Moon bounce day where kids around the world spoke Jamboree of the air style via bouncing signals off the moon using 30-60m dishes. The Uni of Tas – with an old NASA dish that was in use at the time of the Apollo landing – Orroral Valley – broke world records for the smallest signal to every be bounced of the moon and decoded successful by another site on the earth. 3mW!

Echoes of Apollo? What is That? It was simply the website that preceded the WotzUp website. Because I did not own the domain name, all the stories and content are lost. None the less some of these videos survived. The World Moon Bounce Day remains one of the biggest successes of HAM Radio and STEM?STEAM The work to organise such an event was impossible to maintain, but the two years that we made it happen was amazing. 

The next year in 2010 we were given Arecibo for three days as we did it all again. World Moon Bounce day nearly became World Moon Bounce Week

World Moon Bounce day collage

gunghlin College student with the very light weight recovered payload - mainly foamJust last week Jason and I flew UpLift 29, supporting a very progressive Canberra School. It is a public high school – Gungahlin College. It was a mechatronics class and it was Australia’s first steerable parachute flight in the stratosphere. I placed 4 risk assessments to CASA for that and did it at cost for the physical stuff. The school felt I was undercharging and paid me a further $300 dollars that I pretty much donated to the Rankins Springs primary school – a regional primary school right opposite the field that we so often use. I like giving back to the community and forging a link to science and the public school seemed a good idea. We give the odd lecture at the school too.

Gunghlin College Mecgatronics Students about to recover their payload from 33Km altitude 100m away.

HAM Radio Repeaters in Central NSW

Jason and I almost got stuck on a slick and rutted road in Central NSW surveying radio towers.More STEM/STEAM directly for HAM purposes: We use so much radio that I am personally about to put a lot of radio repeaters in my balloon launch area to support the work that I do when amateur radio is appropriate. It is also to provide the local community a way of connecting to others that is not possible without the infrastructure being there. The repeaters will be solar powered and donated by me. I believe that the first will be on a small peak to the NE of Weethalie NSW and it will form a link that will cover the road between West Wyalong and Rankins Springs. It may be usable as far away as Griffith with a good yagi. The site will also support APRS contacts and transport them to the web. This will be a real asset in times of flood and fire. It will be able to support STEM activities if HAM radio support is there. I spoke to the President of the WIA about this only 4 weeks ago – Phil Wait. Phil is a friend and I worked with him some 40 years ago.

Jason Brand and Dr Barry Jones - past Science Minister

Jason and and Dr Barry Jones – past Science Minister

Junior STEM/STEAM: I nearly forgot to mention that Jason gave 18 lectures in three days when he was 10 years old – for Science Week in Australia. We traveled a day by car to Albury (and a day back at the end of the lectures). We even launched a balloon on the last day and tracked with with HAM radio APRS as he gave the lectures to students from all over the region. Some in year 12. He was in year 6 – seriously. He had his HAM radio license earlier in the year when he was 9 years old. As you can see, we are a hugely STEM focused family binging HAM radio to the community and to kids especially.

Jason’s story about Albury and the event down there is on this link:

I do not begrudge Horus getting there time in the spotlight, they are a fantastic group giving back to the community and I sure as hell don’t need the pat on the back, but the true picture of STEM work in the HAM community is not known by those in the HAM community. Just because people were not able to attend does not mean that there are not other amazing stories that remain untold. This is just one example. There are many others working hard to bring STEM/STEAM HAM radio to students. As I said, Phil at the WIA knows about my proposed my HAM radio repeater work and he is looking at a band plan to cover off on a new type of repeater configuration that will cover more than one state in Multicast mode. The WIA are currently writing a story on the Mars mission that we are doing. Making HAM radio relevant is the big deal and STEM/STEAM connects with students. Students are the target of HAM radio to stay functional. Having enough users to ensure that the bands don’t get removed for other purposes is a real self interest aspect of all of this. Nothing wrong with that so long as we all realise the self interest of STEM/STEAM and the benefits that a self interested group can contribute to. It is wonderful, the linkages work so well and provide benefit both ways – that is when things really work well.

Thanks for the mention at the conference, but no one would have a clue about what Jason and I do…

Mars Quad Rotor Test Flight Murdoch University PlusComms HABworxSTEM/STEAM events for next year include flying a 4 rotor Mars flier at 34Km altitude in a bit of a partnership with Murdoch Uni (WA). HAM radio will be at the heart of this.

Sydney uni has a stratospheric blimp that also want to work with me to test at 34Km – a small version of our StratoDrone essentially. Again HAM radio.

As for the testing of the Mars Median mission, I have put it to the WIA that we may have a HF radio event to focus attention on the work Australia is doing in space. The site will be a salt lake where we are doing the drop testing. Plenty of scope for STEM/STEAM in all these events.

Like I said., Do better. I am always, always happy for others to do better than Jason and myself. We are not the high water mark, but we know that we do a lot. Tells us what you do to promote STEM/STEAM.

Apollo Heritage – A GLXP Hangout

Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Hangout - Apollo Heritage and the GLXPApollo 11 45th Anniversary Hangout – Apollo Heritage and the GLXP.

Well the Apollo Heritage Hangout event is over and I had a lot of fun with the interview or should I say “armchair chat”. It was a very comfortable discussion. I am excited to tell you that there is a video of the event. It was recorded and the link is below. I must say that I am very taken with Dr. Pamela L. Gay (the host) and her interview style. I was never left with a feeling of “what will happen next”.

I was on the Apollo Heritage Hangout with Derick Webber, one of the GLXP judges and an easy to get along with type of guy who was also around during the Apollo era. He is also Director, SpacePort Associates. Author of “The Wright Stuff: the Century of Effort Behind your Ticket to Space” and much more.

So without any more chatter, click on the link below and settle in with a drink and enjoy the fun.

Please connect with out team – Team Stellar:

About Robert Brand:

Works for; and shareholder in a Communications and Aerospace company called PlusComms:

Head of the Communications, Tracking and Data Division in Team Stellar.

Worked in Communications support for about 100 NASA and US military space mission and several ESA mission. Stationed at the Parkes Radio Telescope in comms support for the NASA Voyager flyby of Uranus and Neptune and ESA’s Giotto mission to Halleys Comet.

Robert regularly launches stratospheric balloons for both commercial work and scientific research. Some of the commercial flights are supporting space research for universities and private companies. The work is done through his company, PlusComms. He has launched 18 flights and recovered all 18 payloads. He will soon be building drones with supersonic capability (gravity assist).


Apollo 11, 45th Anniversary Memories

As mentioned in the last post, I was a 17 year old trainee technician when I had the opportunity to wire up some of the NASA Apollo 11 comms gear here in Sydney. I interviewed Richard Holl for the Apollo 11 40th anniversary. He was on of the NASA staff that manned the centre during the landing and moon walk. Below is a story that will surprise a few people, but it did happen and it almost crippled the Apollo 11 mission.

An Explosion in the Scan-converter.

by Robert Brand

A few weeks before the launch of Apollo 11, the scan-converter at OTC Paddington in Sydney exploded when it was switched on by NASA‘s Richard Holl following a test. The explosion occurred because the scan-converter was wrongly rewired one evening. Weeks of frantic work by Richard Holl and his team resulted in the scan-converter being completely rebuilt. It wasn’t until a few days into the mission that their work was completed in time for the historic broadcast. Richard Holl explains:

“The scan-converter used three phase power. It was the only piece of equipment in the room that did. All the other equipment was running on a 110 volt panel that was well labelled. Black is hot and green is ground in the USA, but in Australia black is neutral. It had originally been hooked up correctly to the US standard as we had just completed a full blown simulation the day before. The unit was fused for 240 volts as it had a three phase power supply, but it was the out of phase power that caused the massive current that did all the damage. Apparently an OTC technician working on other circuits thought the black wire was wrongly connected and changed it. When the scan-converter was switched on the next day it blew up. I got a meter out and checked the incoming power and found the mistake. “I repaired or replaced the slow scan monitor, NTSC monitor, camera, disc recorder, power supplies, and Grass Valley video equipment. The camera in the scan-converter was totally fried. The new camera did not have the inversion modification in it. I couldn’t take the hardware out of the bad one to modify the new one, so I had to buy all the components in Sydney. I couldn’t get the exact relays, so I had to specially design the one for Sydney. It was different to the others. Ted Knotts and Elmer Fredd came over from the USA to help with the repairs. Ted did all the logistics like getting Hewlett Packard in Sydney to fix the waveform monitor and Tektronix to fix the oscilloscope, and getting us the spare parts and tools we needed. Elmer and I would never have gotten it all done without Ted taking care of our needs. I had to perform a lot of magic, but nothing compared to the magic Elmer performed when he started working on the converter logic. I bet we replaced over a hundred transistors (all discrete components) and we were still replacing them while the boys were on their way to the Moon. We made it and so did they”.

I believe that it was around this time (minus 40 years) that the scan converter repairs were completed. Not mentioned in the text above (courtesy of my good associate John Sarkissian and CSIRO) was the fact that a motor/generator set was needed and was arranged and secured to a plank of wood in the basement of the Paddington terminal. It worked!

Photo by Richard Holl (L-R) Ted Knotts, Dick Holl and Elmer Fredd standing in front of the Parkes Scanconverter at OTC Paddington following the mission.

The Moon Landing and Educational Activities – Team Stellar

Educational Activities – Team Stellar

I was part of a Croatian press conference via Skype in December. It was an unusual feeling talking to an audience that you could not see or hear. The press conference was for Team Stellar and the upcoming balloon flight in Croatia. Jason and I are going to oversee the balloon flight and recovery of the payload.

This is from the Team Stellar blogsite. The original link is here:

You really need to read this and other stories on the Team Stellar Blog:

Press conference 

This was a great month for space exploration . We all witnessed the Chinese Chang 3 having landed softly on the Moon, and Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover is on its surface now. China has become the 3rd country in the world to put the robotic vehicle on the moon.

It is the first soft-landing on the moon by any spacecraft in 37 years. And it was especially interesting for us, all of the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams in the competition, because we are trying to do the same. There is only one small difference: we are doing it without the resources of the world economic superpower. Regardless, we strive to reduce the cost of the mission, we want to optimize each and every one of its segments, and that is our goal.

We want to get to the Moon as cheaply and as effectively as possible. We want to reduce all cost and make our technology commercially usable for the future.

Our COO Theo Valich giving interview for the television

Also, we held a press conference in Zagreb, Croatia to promote our educational outreach program, Balloon Stellar – Stratosphere. It was a great success. We want to spark interest of high school students in science and space exploration.  You can find out more on the subject on our webpage ,or on our social media pages and channels.

GLXP Terrestrial Milestone Prizes

Vilko Klein Team Stellar CTOTeam Stellar GLXP Update

Below is a page from the Team Stellar website. It is a story about teamwork and since I was very much involved, I have added the team story below. You can read this and more on the team blog at the GLXP site (Google Luna X Prize):

GLXP Terrestrial Milestone Prizes

This year is closing to its expiry date, and we have only two more years ahead of us to complete the Lunar mission. Google Lunar XPRIZE felt a kind of a deadlock in most of the teams progress, and assumed that this is mainly due to the inability of fundraising in the difficult years for the world economy, so they decided to help the teams with the Terrestrial Milestone Prize opportunity.

 What is good for the teams about Terrestrial Milestone Prizes? Many things, I would say.

First of all, there is a possibility to get a considerable amount of money. The Terrestrial Milestone Prize, as a proof of the value of the team and its project, as well as the prize money, can also help the team improve their chances to find sponsors for the entire mission.

All the teams have more or less developed plans and designs for the Lander, Rover and other systems, but it is not a bad thing to present your plans to the experts in the field (Judging Panel) for evaluations.

Vilko Klein Team Stellar CTO

Vilko Klein CTO at Team Stellar

Our team presented the Milestone Definition Data Package (MDDP) for two categories Mobility and Imaging. The Project Manager for the definition of the data package was our CTO Vilko Klein. Vilko organized a working group to produce MDDP. Designated members did their part depending on the their expertise field. The deadline was too short for us, but, with some extra efforts, lost nerves, lots of coffee and burning the midnight oil all around the globe, we managed to finish on time.

Last month, we parted with our important member and executive Brandon Arroyo. Although our paths diverged, we wish Brandon good luck and success in his career

Slingshot Effect

Robert brand 2013Also Free Return Trajectory

I mentioned in a recent post on another website (Facebook) about the real issues about “slingshot Effect” and what it really was all about.

The following is a short bit of discussion on that. It has relevance to my current work as Tim Blaxland and I are working on Stellar’s Google Lunar X Prize documentation. Tim (below) is Stellar’s navigator or to use a more colourful word, our “Astrogator”. He joined the discussion.

Tim BlaxlandThere was some small confusion as I was aware of the Apollo free return trajectory. Note that my comments refer to the fact that even with free return, there are rockets and thrusters to be fired / used for a number of different reasons such as speed and improving the target of the flight. Apollo 13 yhad added dificulty as the lunar module’s thrusters were not arond the centre of gravity of the mass and those steering the three joined vehicles were at the rear end of the vessel.

I will add more detail if there are more posts on the subject.

I was asked about “slingshot effect” and found the wiki article is reasonable for a beginner. It is hard to understand the finer points of the poorly named effect.

This gives the basic info. Obviously it is never as simple as the basic equation as you can pretty much never change direction 180 degrees. If you tried to do this with the moon to slingshot back to earth, the gravity and speed would be wrong. No matter what you would need engines to get the equation right for an earth return. The further away you are, the less the effect.

Gravity assist – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In orbital mechanics and aerospace engineering, a gravitational slingshot, gravity assist maneuver, or swing-by is the use of the relative movement (e.g. orbit around the sun) and gravity of a planet or other celestial body to alter the path and speed of a spacecraft, typically in order to save prop…
Cassini_interplanet_trajectoryThis from Wikipedia about the above diagram:The Cassini probe – multiple gravity assistsThe Cassini probe passed by Venus twice, then Earth, and finally Jupiter on the way to Saturn. The 6.7-year transit was slightly longer than the six years needed for a Hohmann transfer, but cut the extra velocity (delta-v) needed to about 2 km/s, so that the large and heavy Cassini probe was able to reach Saturn, which would not have been possible in a direct transfer even with the Titan IV, the largest launch vehicle available at the time. A Hohmann transfer to Saturn would require a total of 15.7 km/s delta-v (disregarding Earth’s and Saturn’s own gravity wells, and disregarding aerobraking), which is not within the capabilities of current launch vehicles and spacecraft propulsion systems.

  • Hitesh ॐ Mohan “Although the lunar landing was aborted (Apollo 13), the crew continued toward the moon and circled it so its gravity could provide a slingshot effect for the return to Earth.”…/

    Apollo 13 Commander Remembers the Aborted Moon MissionApollo 13 crew arrive on the prime recovery ship U.S.S. Iwo Jima following the ocean landing and rescue in the South Pacific. Exiting the helicopter are (from left) Fred Haise, mission Commander James Lovell and John Swigert. Click to Enlarge. Cr…

  • Kurt Kammeyer Technically, it was called a “free return trajectory”.
  • Robert Brand you still have a lot of maneuvering and firing of rockets / thrusters to make that happen. Things have to be very precise.
  • Robert Brand “After circling the Moon once and creating a speedy free-lunar return trajectory, the LM descent engine was fired twice to establish an even faster return path. The descent engine was fired twice during the return flight to correct the spacecraft’s trajectory.”
  • Hitesh ॐ Mohan What was the escape velocity from the the moment the lunar module, escaped the lunar atmosphere and at what speed did the craft sail at to return home?
  • Robert Brand Firstly there is no lunar atmosphere (well, nothing to write home about). I do not know the speeds.Maybe someone can advise.
  • Royce Jones This effect could be used to help power a Starship.
  • Tim Blaxland Robert, you can do a free return, literally free. Apollo 8, 10 & 11 used this trajectory. I have simulated these trajectories to verify. Later missions didn’t use true free return trajectories because they were trying to squeeze more payload onboard and open up a wider range of landing sites. True free return trajectories we just too restrictive. The hybrid trajectories were similar but required some thrust to get back to Earth. The deviation of the hybrid trajectory from the free return trajectory was limited so that a return could be achieved using either the SPS, DPS or SM RCS (but not the LM RCS). There is a very good essay on the subject here:

    Launch Windows Essay
    Let’s go to the moon. When shall we go? Right away. Where shall we go? Copernicus, Gassendi, Marius Hills? Let choose along the way.
  • Robert Brand Great to know Tim. There must have been a very lucky relationship with the size of the moon, the orbital speed of the moon, etc. I understand that once the mass is big enough, it is all a matter of distance from the object to get the free return trajectory right, but I was unaware that the moon was right. None the less, as I said, if the free return was possible, it was going to take some firing of rockets / thrusters, etc to get her home because the trajectory would not have been accurate enough. I read that it was a free return, but there was no way they were escaping the need to burn the LEM descent engine – in this case – twice! The burn coming out of the moon was two fold – much of it was to give them more speed to hasten their return trip to get back to earth. The final one was to course correct or end up cinders. They still had to orient the capsule after jettisoning everything so that they did not skip off the earths atmosphere and into space. Plenty to go wrong. My point was that they had to use thrusters and engines to get home. It was not quite hybrid, but it was a real problem. With the thrusters gone on the service module and I believe the command module (could someone in the know verify), it is like driving a car from the trunk / boot. Very hard indeed. The thrusters would not have been in the centre of mass.
  • Tim Blaxland Yes, the CM RCS were disabled to keep enough energy in the CM batteries for reentry, along with everything else they could possibly turn off.
  • Robert Brand Yes, I believed that the thrusters were non operational on the CM.

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)

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)

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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.

Queensland Spaceport on Brisbane Radio

Spenser_Howson on ABC RadioRobert on Radio 2 re: Queensland Spaceport

The last couple of days have been spent talking to people about the possibility of a Queensland Spaceport. This has come from some someone outside my company and it is about space recreational activities. The media seems hopeful to discuss the possibility of a Queensland Spaceport. Previously Queensland was discussed as a possible launch site for more traditional rockets. I was contacted by Spencer Howson of Australia’s ABC radio network to talk about this. I try to keep my distance from the recreational side of space and concentrate on the benefits of having a spaceport in this country. Spencer broadcasts the breakfast show on Brisbane local Radio.

There is plenty of discussion about Team Stellar and what Australia is doing to land a private mission on the Moon.

P.S. I forgot to mention Team Stellar’s name! Please mentally insert into the broadcast.

The audio file (edited)  is here: Click here to play (PC users can “Right Click” to save)

You can also use our flash player below:

Fuzzy Logic Science Show

Jason and Robert Brand on Canberra Radio

In April 2013, Jason and Robert Brand joined with Rod Taylor, the host of Canberra’s science show, Fuzzy Logic, for an hour of chat about space and what we are doing here in Australia. Jason got to talk about his involvement with high altitude balloon flights. He even got to back announce one the musical interludes. He had just turned 11 a few days earlier.

I discussed everything from my early days supporting space missions like Apollo 11 and right through to my work with Team Stellar.

You can listen to the show by clicking here

You can also use our flash player below:

“Canberra 2013-4-14 Interview about Space on the Fuzzy Logic Science program”

From Radio Interview Fuzzy Logic 2XX. Posted by Robert Brand on 4/15/2013 (6 items)

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Team Stellar in Dubai (Archives)

Robert in DubaiTeam Stellar’s First Meeting

I was sent to Dubai to meet with the Team Stellar core group in December 2012. Here are a few photos from that trip. Yes, we had fun at a GoKart track with Stellar’s good friend Martina.

We had plenty of meetings and prepared for visits to potential funding groups / sponsors.

Dubai was a mix of very smart technology and very poor planning. Not much of a sewerage system, but the tallest building in the world.

We also traveled to Abu Dhabi across the desert. We visited EIAST Mission Control in Dubai as it had a pass of one of its satellites. Very timely.

“Our first meeting of the key players in the team – some could not make it.”

From Team Stellar first Meeting Dubai. Posted by Robert Brand on 1/01/2013 (29 items)

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Team Stellar Appointment (Archives)

PlusComms Square LogoRobert Brand Joins a Reformed Team Stellar

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Get the background on Team Stellar

Team Stellar is a Google Lunar X Prize contestant. This week I accepted the position of Director of Spacecraft Communications, Navigation and Data. My company PlusComms has accepted a partnering role in providing the communications for the Team Stellar moon mission. That is our new logo pictured above. PlusComms is involved in buying old Satellite Earth Stations and finding new roles for them. We expect that we will be doing this for Team Stellar.

PlusComms has a significant investment in new technology and it is fitting that the older technology also be used in the most modern of moon missions. Of course only the mechanics of the dish are suitable. The electronics, especially on the space communications side, all need to be upgraded. Many dishes are good for almost 100 years of operation if well kept.

MissionTrax CoverageMissionTrax is PlusComms Global Deep Space Network product and it should be providing 24 hour a day global coverage of the sky and space missions using both “S” band and “X” band communications with dishes that are approximately 30m in diameter.

We expect our US west coast site to be available for bookings in the next 6 months.

The diagram to the left is indicative only, but if well placed we will be even able to tack continuously in mid orbit out to Geostationary and past that to the planets.

Our US dish candidate can also track at 1 degree per second making communications with low earth orbit vehicles a reality.

Our US dish will have both Receive and Transmit capabilities. We expect it to support smaller dishes on site and a large data centre. Why am I talking about a company and its abilities in this page? Simply because it is a company built around my person push into the space sector. This website is about my personal interests and activities in space (and near space ballooning) and bringing you along for the ride. I love Do-It-Yourself space (DIY Space) and if I can do this, anyone can if they are motivated enough.

More on PlusComms here:

Team Stellar

Team Stellar was an old entrant for the Google Lunar X Prize and it has slowed in its efforts to reach the moon. Recently an offer was made and the new Team Stellar arose from the ashes. This only happened ion the last couple of months. With good management and funding, it was easy to accept their offer of being involved in what will be an exciting mission.

Below is their video announcement from July this year detailing an outline of the team structure.


A more recent video explains the team makeup in more detail, but it was made a week ago before I had accepted the position with them.

I am pretty excited by all the potential of this team and what it has already accomplished. I will be keeping you all updated with a mission scheduled for 2 years time.

A bit more detail here: