Es’hailsat, otherwise known as QO-100 is the first geostationary satellite with an amateur radio payload on-board. The satellite contains both a Wide Band transponder for experimental modes and DVB-S Digital Television and a Narrow Band transponder used mostly for SSB voice and some digital mode contacts with other amateur operators. If you’re unfamiliar with this satellite we’ve covered it in previous articles, like in [Es’hail Transponder Now Active]
While many choose to use a transverter connected to a traditional amateur transceiver, others have turned to use Software Defined Radios to complete their satellite ground stations.
[Radio Innovation] posted a video back in March showing his contact on QO-100 using a LimeSDR Mini as the 2.4 GHz transmitter and a 10 GHz LNB for the downlink.
Calling cq on QO-100 with LIMESDR
The PlutoSDR has been frequently seen used for QO-100 satellite operation on the Wide Band transponder due to its ease of DVB-S transmission utilizing software such as [DATV Express] but more recently there have been more and more operators turning to SDR for their day to day satellite operation.
It will be interesting to see how these stations evolve, perhaps by the time North America has access to a similar satellite, we’ll be prepared to operate it.
Lucky-7 is a Czech cubesat that carries some interesting sensors including a low power GPS receiver, a gamma ray spectrometer and dosimeter and a photo camera. The creators also claim that it is "probably the lowest-cost scientific space mission in human history". It was recently successfully launched and orbited together with the Meteor M2-2 weather satellite and several other small satellites.
"We did not build just another satellite. It is a flying laboratory. The satellite is going to test something that nobody has ever done before. Thanks to our background in electronics, materials and space effects, we implemented commonly used electrical parts from automotive and IoT industry in totally new ways. Gallium Nitride power transistors used in modern electric cars do not contain insulation layer to control its conductivity. That makes them much less vulnerable against the space radiation. We fly the world's first MOSFET-free power supply ever built for small satellites. The LED lighting industry has been used to make composite aluminum radiation shields for us. It is very cheap, lightweight and it naturally increases the mission lifetime," says Jaroslav Laifr, the CEO and founder.
If all goes well, the team will be able to measure the in-situ radiation background by miniature onboard Dosimeter and monitor the health of key subsystems, such as communication or data storage by complete satellite telemetry. The experimental Gamma Spectrometer payload informing about the energy of incident radiation will be able to detect Gamma Ray Bursts from distant galaxies. The platform also contains the VGA camera to demonstrate the data transfer capability. It may capture the first colour images ever taken by Czech satellite, possibly detecting the aurora glow. Such pictures would be greatly utilized for the outreach and inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers.
Daniel Estesvev has recently added a Lucky-7 decoder to gr-satellites, and has uploaded a post explaining some technical details on how he created the decoder. With this decoder, anyone with an SDR and appropriate antenna should be able to receive and decode the telemetry (no word on camera images yet). He writes that "Lucky-7 transmits 4k8 GFSK telemetry in the 70cm band. It uses a SiLabs Si4463 transceiver with a PN9 scrambler and a CRC-16. You must use FM mode to receive this satellite (437.525MHz)."
CubeSat companies like Sky Fox Labs are also tracking the satellite, and are tweeting results.
Lucky-7 #CubeSat Gamma Ray Spectrometer (0.3-3 MeV) data from first 1 hour of operations were compiled. It shows the contiuum in energy spectra as expected, no line spectra detected (obviously, there is no flying Cesium nearby). It corresponds to Dosimetry measurements!
On this episode of SignalsEverywhere on YouTube Corrosive shows off several antennas that can be used for Inmarsat and Iridium satcom reception. His video shows off a commercial Inmarsat branded satlink antenna which is designed to be used on moving ships, a grid dish antenna, a custom QFH iridium antenna made from a repurposed Vaisala radiosonde, a commercial Iridium patch, an older Outernet/Othernet Iridium patch and a custom Iridium patch that Corrosive built himself.
Satcom Antennas for L-Band Reception via RTL SDR
A few days prior Corrosive also released a new episode of his podcast. In this episode he interviewed Derek a student from The University of Michigan who is working on the MiTee CubeSat. The MiTee cubesat is a small experimental satellite that will explore the use of miniaturized electrodynamic tethers for satellite propulsion.
The Software Defined Radio Academy YouTube channel recently uploaded an interesting talk by Alex Csete (creator of the popular GQRX and GPredict applications), and Sheila Christiansen. Their presentation discusses their work with the European Space Agency (ESA), Libre Space Foundation and how they are running SDR Makerspace's that are helping students create and track cubesats. During the talk Alex and Sheila also describe various SDR hardware, and how they test them for their purposes.
SDR Makerspace (https://sdrmaker.space) is a collaboration between the European Space Agency and Libre Space Foundation, with the objective of bringing innovative open-source SDR technologies to space communications.
Space is a complex environment. Attempting to incorporate SDRs into complex subsystems of space missions without sufficient understanding of the technology can add unnecessary risks and uncertainties to the mission. SDR Makerspace aims to bring open-source SDR technology to the space industry, focusing on the practical aspects of satellite communications, so as to reduce such risks.
Makers, open-source hackers, SDR enthusiasts, and researchers are collaborating on SDR hardware and software activities, focusing on rapid prototyping and development of reusable, open-source SDR components for future CubeSat missions.
The collaboration consists of many activities, which are organized into three main elements: development of reusable GNU Radio components, research and development in cutting edge technologies like AI/ML, and testing of SDR hardware and software.
Current activities are presented with a focus on the testing of the hardware and software. An overview of the investigation into the characteristics, such as, performance under realistic conditions, damage by radiation to essential parts, functionality of FPGA toolchains, the SDR-system’s complexity, and accessibility to the open-source community will also be covered.
Alex Csete, OZ9AEC: SDR-Makerspace: Evaluation of SDR boards and toolchains
Back in April 2018 we posted how the NOAA-15 APT weather satellite that many RTL-SDR users enjoy receiving images from was having problems with it's scan motor resulting in image errors. The satellite recovered from that problem, but today the problem appears to be back and in a much worse way now.
NASA have put out a statement indicating that yet again it is a problem with the scan motor, and the problem could be permanent.
The NOAA-15 AVHRR Scan Motor current began showing signs of instability at approximately 0400Z on July 23, 2019. At about 0435Z the current rose sharply to about 302mA where it has remained. Scan motor temperature began rising about the same time and is currently steady at ~26M-0C. Black body temperatures dropped sharply at about the same time. The instrument appears to no longer be producing data. This behavior is consistent with a scan motor stall, but requires further investigation. Options for recovery are limited.
Having been launched in 1998 with a minimum spec of 2 years operation, NOAA-15 has already well outlived it's time and may finally be failing for real. We hope it will recover, but if not we should be thankful that Russian weather satellite Meteor M2-2 is now fully operational and transmitting beautiful high resolution images.
Fifty years ago Neil Armstrong became the first man to step foot on the moon. This weekend on June 20th and 21st 2019 Amateur Radio operators at the [PI9CAM] team have been transmitting Slow-Scan Television images in commemoration of this historic event at the Dwingeloo radio astronomy station in the Netherlands. This station is the oldest rotatable 25-meter radio telescope in the world.
Slow-Scan Television is a method often employed by ham radio operators to send photos over radio waves. You may be familiar with this from some of our previous articles on the SSTV event held by ARISS for the International Space Station.
Station [S1NDP] has previously sent slow-scan EME images between the PI9CAM team and himself. These images can potentially be heard by anyone within line-of-site with the moon during the operation of this event.
The team transmit in the 23cm band at a frequency of 1296.11 MHz, according to the ARRL even a 2.5 to 3meter dish should be enough for reception assuming you have a 23cm feed for your dish. It will be interesting to see what photos are heard by the end of this event.
Reports from Reddit and Twitter are in that the recently launched Meteor M2-2 weather satellite is now functional and broadcasting images at 137.9 MHz. A few people have noted that the reception quality appears to be better than the older satellite.
Thank you to Happysat whose also provided the following information that can be used to receive the images. It appears that a slightly modified version of LRPTDecoder is required:
This version of LRPTDecoder was used to test/debug OQPSK with Meteor M-N2-1 in 2014, it will work on Meteor M-N2-2. The ini file attached in the archive is processed manually from s files. Buttons 72K and 80K respectively for the modes “without interleaving” and “with interleaving”. Also in the archive there are examples for other modes.
Transmissions on LRPT with a OQPSK Modulation are expected tomorrow on most probably 137.900MHz.