Tagged: cubesat

Decoding the Lucky-7 Cubesat

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.

SignalsEverywhere: Satcom Antennas for L-Band Reception via RTL-SDR + Podcast on the MiTee CubeSat Project

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.

MiTee CubeSat Project

An RTL-SDR and Pi 3 Based Ground Station for Simulated CubeSats

CubeSats are small and light satellites that can these days be built and launched into orbit by almost anyone with a small budget of roughly $40,000. They are a great way for schools and other organizations to get into a space based technology project. A "simulated" CubeSat is one that is not designed to be really launched into space, and is made from low cost hardware. The idea is that simulated CubeSats can be used as tools to help demystify the inner workings of satellites to the public and help CubeSat builders get experience and competence before building the real thing.

A Simulated CubeSat made from a Solar Panel board, Pi Zero, UPS and Tranceiver.
A Simulated CubeSat made from a Solar Panel board, Pi Zero, UPS and Transceiver.

A team from AMSAT have been working on creating open source CubeSat simulator hardware and software. In order to demonstrate the RF capabilities of the simulator a ground station simulator is also required. Recently the team have uploaded instructions on creating a Raspberry Pi and RTL-SDR based ground station.

If you're interested in the CubeSat simulator hardware itself, there was a presentation held back in 2018 that may be of interest to you. According to the presentation somewhere between 30% - 50% of CubeSats fail as soon as they're deployed, so building competence with simulated hardware is a good goal.

2018 AMSAT William A. Tynan W3XO Memorial Space Symposium - Saturday Sessions

Help Track Data from CubeSail with an RTL-SDR

On December 16 Rocket Lab launched 13 new cubesats into orbit via it's Electron rocket which was launched from New Zealand. One of those Cubesats is "CubeSail" which is a set of two satellites that aims to deploy a 260 m long solar sail between the two.

CubeSail is a technology demonstration by CU Aerospace which shows the viability of solar sail propulsion for deep space missions. It was built and is operated by students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign through the Satellite Development, or SatDev student organization.

Over on Reddit, one of the engineers working on the Cubesail project has put out a request to help receive and upload any telemetry that you receive from the Cubesail satellite. Currently they only have one ground station which makes monitoring the satellite difficult as they can only collect data when it is passing overhead.  By employing the help of radio enthusiasts from around the world they hope to gather more data. He writes:

Hello amateur radio enthusiasts! I'm part of the CubeSail mission, one of the 13 satellites deployed early this morning (2018/12/16) from RocketLab's Electron rocket.

The reason why I'm posting is that we need your help! We're trying to gather as much data as possible from the beacons, but only have one groundstation at the moment. I've put together a little Python script which can be used to decode the data, so if you're interested and willing to help out a bunch of eager fellow space enthusiasts to get some data, please try and get a packet or two!


Here's the information you need to know (let me know if I'm missing anything):

Frequency: 437305 kHz

Modulation: GFSK (GR3UH scrambling)

Bandwidth: 15kHz

Callsign: WI2XVF

Link Layer: AX.25/HDLC

Baud Rate: 9600

TLE:

cubesail_temp
1 99999U          18350.31100694  .00048519  00000-0  21968-2 0 00004
2 99999 085.0351 178.2861 0013006 291.7248 120.7146 15.20874873000012

Here's a link to the decoder, it runs in Python 3: https://github.com/ijustlovemath/cubesail-decoder

According to the information a 437 MHz antenna is required, and most likely it will need to be a directional antenna that is hand or motor tracked. Some SatNOGS ground stations are already receiving and recording Cubesail data too.

An artists rendition of the CubeSail solar sail deployment
An artists rendition of the CubeSail solar sail deployment

Chasing Cubesats on a $25 Budget with an RTL-SDR and Homemade Antenna

Cubesats are small shoebox sized satellites that are usually designed by universities or amateur radio organizations for basic space experiments or amateur radio communications. Typically they have an orbit lifespan of only 3-6 months.

Cubesats typically transmit signals at around 435 MHz, and they are powerful enough to be received with a simple home made antenna and an RTL-SDR. To help with this Thomas N1SPY has created a YouTube video where he shows exactly how to construct a cheap eggbeater antenna made out of a few pieces of copper wire and an SO-239 UHF connector. Later in the video he demonstrates some Cubesats being received with his antenna, an RTL-SDR and the SDR-Console V3 software.

Thomas N1SPY chases mini satellites on a budget

Receiving the Recently Launched BY70-1 Satellite

BY70-1 is a Chinese amateur Cubesat satellite which was recently launched on December 29, 2016. It is expected to stay in orbit for only 1 – 2 months due to a partial failure with the satellite releasing into an incorrect orbit. The purpose of the satellite is for education in schools and for amateur radio use. The receivable signals include an FM repeater and BPSK telemetry beacon both of which can be received at 436.2 MHz. The telemetry beacon is interesting because it also transmits images from an on board visible light camera. These signals can easily be received with an RTL-SDR or other SDR with an appropriate antenna.

Over on his blog Daneil Estevez has been posting about decoding these telemetry images. He’s been using telemetry data collected by other listeners, and the gr-satellites GNU Radio decoder which is capable of decoding the telemetry beacons on many amateur radio satellites. So far the decoded images haven’t been great, they’re just mostly black with nothing really discernible. Hopefully future decodes will show better images.

If you want to track the satellite and attempt a decode, the Satellite AR Android app has the satellite in its database.

Not many people seem to have gotten telemetry decodes or images yet, but below we show an image decoded by  on Twitter.

BY70-1 Image Decoded by @bg2bhc
BY70-1 Image Decoded by @bg2bhc

Using the RTL-SDR to listen to the Funcube Satellite

Recently, the FUNcube-1 satellite was successfully launched. The FUNcube is a CubeSat (a low cost miniature 10cm cube sized satellite) which is intended mainly for educating young people about radio, space, physics and electronics, but has also piqued the interest of amateur radio hobbyists.

Amateur radio hobbyist N4JTC’s has shared on his blog his experiences with receiving the FUNcube-1’s telemetry using his RTL-SDR dongle. By using the RTL-SDR to receive the telemetry beacon as the satellite passes overhead, he was able to use the FUNcube Dashboard software to record and decode and view the satellites telemetry data.

Receiving the FUNcube-1 Satellite
Receiving the FUNcube-1 Satellite

Cheap Satellite Receive Station with RTL-SDR

Blogger and Amateur Radio enthusiast N4JTC has posted a guide on setting up a satellite receiving station with the rtl-sdr. Originally the guide was intended for receiving the PhoneSat test satellites, but they have now gone offline after a week as planned. But, the guide is still useful for any current and future satellites.

The recent launch of the PhoneSats got my SDR and satellite juices flowing again. This time I decided to automate things because work seems to get in the way of my satellite listening fun. I found a combination that works great and incorporates FREE software and inexpensive hardware.

PhoneSatImg (http://www.n4jtc.com)