Tagged: ISS

Receiving Voice Communications From the Soyuz MS-12 Expedition to the ISS

On March 14 the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft mission was launched and this carried three astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Back on the ground, YouTube creator Tysonpower was able to receive the voice communications of Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin while the Soyuz spacecraft was approaching the ISS. To do this he used an Airspy SDR and home made QFH antenna, and he notes that reception could just have easily been achieved with an RTL-SDR.

Tysonpower has uploaded a video explaining what he received along with a subtitled and translated recording of the communication. More information also available on his blog post.

[EN subs] Empfang von Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin im Soyuz MS-12

Video Tutorial on Receiving ISS Astronaut Amateur Radio Conversations with RTL-SDR

Over on his YouTube channel Crazy Danish Hacker has posted a new video that shows how to pick up amateur radio voice signals from the International Space Station (ISS).

Often astronauts on the ISS will schedule times to chat with schools via amateur radio frequencies. This provides an opportunity to learn about radio whilst at the same time allowing kids to talk directly to an astronaut.

If you live in an area that can 'see' the ISS at the same time as the school then you can easily pick up the downlink (astronaut to ground) portion of the conversation while the ISS passes over. The downlink signal is fairly strong, so only a simple antenna is required. In his video Crazy Danish Hacker uses a telescopic whip attached directly to his RTL-SDR which is placed outside with a view of the sky.

International Space Station - Software Defined Radio Series #29

Thomas N1SPY Demonstrates Receiving SSTV Images from the ISS

Earlier in the month the International Space Station (ISS) was transmitting SSTV images down to the earth for anyone to receive an decode. The ISS does this several times a year to commemorate special space related events, such as the day Yuri Gagarin (first man in space) was launched.

In the video Thomas explains why the ISS does this, how to track the ISS, and then he demonstrates actually receiving and decoding the signal. Thomas uses an Airspy HF+ to receive the signal on 145.8 MHz, however an RTL-SDR could do the same job. For decoding he uses the MMSSTV software.

For new on when the ISS might transmit SSTV again, keep at eye on the ARISS Blog, and the ISS Ham Twitter page.

Thomas N1SPY receives SSTV signals from the ISS

Listening to Astronauts on the ISS with an RTL-SDR and V-Dipole (ARISS Contact with Astronaut Paolo Nespoli)

Manuel a.k.a ‘Tysonpower’ has been using his RTL-SDR (and his Baofeng) to listen in on ARISS contacts from the International Space Station (ISS). ARISS stands for Amateur Radio on the ISS, and is a program often used by schools to allow students to contact and ask questions to astronauts on the ISS with a ham radio. It is possible for anyone to listen in on the downlink (astronaut speech) if the ISS is over your location while transmitting. The uplink however may not be able to be heard as the signal is directed upwards towards the station.

For his first try he used a Baofeng (cheap Chinese handheld) and a DIY Carbon Yagi. For the second contact he used his RTL-SDR V3, an FM Trap and an LNA4ALL on a V-Dipole antenna placed on the roof of his car. With this set up he was able to receive the downlink transmissions from 1.6 degrees to 1.3 degrees elevation.

Paolo Nespoli ARISS Kontakt mit VCP-Bundeszeltplatz – 1. August 2017
Paolo Nespoli ARISS Kontakt mit FOFM / Moon Day – 5. August 2017

Receiving SSTV Images from the ISS with a V-Dipole and RTL-SDR

During July 20 – 24, 2017 the ISS (International Space Station) was transmitting SSTV (Slow Scan Television) images down to earth in celebration of the ARISS (Amateur Radio on the ISS) 20th Anniversary. The ISS transmits SSTV images on celebratory occasions several times a year. More information about upcoming ARISS events can be found on their website ariss.org.

Over on YouTube and his blog, user Tysonpower has created a video and writeup of his experiences with receiving the ISS SSTV images using an RTL-SDR, FM Trap filter and a V-Dipole antenna. The V-Dipole antenna is a super simple satellite antenna for NOAA/Meteor/ISS etc satellites that recently became popular due to Adam 9A4QV’s writeup on it.

Despite Laptop and PC troubles, he was able to capture several images. He also notes that he was able to use a Baofeng and Yagi antenna to receive the signal indoors.

Note that Tysonpower’s YouTube video is narrated in German, but there are English subtitles available if you turn on YouTube’s closed captions which should be on by default on this video.

[EN subs] ISS SSTV Event Juli 2017 – Empfang von drinnen und V-Dipole

SSTV From the ISS Scheduled for Dec 8 – 9

The International Space Station periodically schedules radio events where they transmit Slow Scan Television (SSTV) images down to earth for listeners to receive and collect. This time they have scheduled SSTV images for Dec 8 1235 – 1800 UTC, and December 9 1240-1740 UTC. The ARRL announcement reads:

Slow-scan television (SSTV) transmissions from the International Space Station (ISS) are scheduled for December 8-9. The SSTV images will be transmitted from RS0ISS on 145.800 MHz FM as part of the Moscow Aviation Institute MAI-75 Experiment, using the Kenwood TM-D710 transceiver in the ISS Service Module.

MAI-75 activities have been scheduled on December 8, 1235-1800 UTC, and December 9, 1240-1740 UTC. These times correspond to passes over Moscow, Russia. ISS transmissions on 145.800 MHz FM use 5-kHz deviation, and SSTV transmissions have used the PD120 and PD180 formats.

The ISS Fan Club website can show when the space station is within range of your station. On Windows PCs the free application MMSSTV can decode the signal. On Apple iOS devices, use the SSTV app.

These SSTV broadcasts can usually be easily heard with an RTL-SDR and appropriate satellite antenna such as a QFH, Turnstile or a hand held Yagi. Many listeners have reported in the past as being able to receive them even with non-satellite antennas such as discones, ground plane, rubber duck and long wire antennas, so try your luck even if you don’t have the right antenna.

We recommend using the Orbitron software to track the ISS, but you can also use the web tracker on issfanclub.com as recommended by the ARRL.

An SSTV image from the ISS sent last April
An SSTV image from the ISS sent last April from http://www.issfanclub.com/node/40913

 

Listening to an Astronaut Transmitting from the International Space Station

Over on YouTube user surfrockuk shows a fun and educational use of the RTL-SDR. Every now and then astronauts will arrange a ham radio session where they will communicate with a school. An RTL-SDR can be used to listen in on at least the downlink (astronaut talking) portion of these transmissions. 

The following video shows astronaut Tim Peake transmitting from the international space station (ISS) on Feburary 19th 2016. He was speaking to Oasis Academy in the UK. To receive the signal surfrockuk used an RTL-SDR with a QFH antenna. Many people have reported that other simple antennas such as discones, quartwave ground planes and even long wire antennas have been good enough to receive transmissions from the ISS too.

Other transmissions that can be received from the ISS include SSTV, space walk communications, and in the future DATV.

Tim Peake Transmitting from the International Space Station – 19th February 2016

Receiving Digital Amateur TV from the ISS with an RTL-SDR

The international space station (ISS) is currently testing transmission of a DVB-S digital video signal. At the moment only a blank test pattern is transmitted, but one day they hope to be able to transmit live video properly for the purposes of making live contact with astronauts, and possibly to stream video of scientific experiments, extravehicular activities, docking operations, or simply live views of the Earth from space.

Over at www.pabr.org the author Pabr has been experimenting with using an RTL-SDR dongle for the reception of these digital amateur TV (DATV) signals. Over on Reddit he also posted some extra information about his work:

I have been able to receive DVB-S broadcasts from the ISS (known as HamVideo or HamTV) with a high-gain 2.4 GHz WiFi antenna ($50), a custom downconverter ($65), a R820T2 dongle, and a software demodulator (Edmund Tse’s gr-dvb). I used to think this could only be done with much more expensive SDR hardware.

It is commonly known that rtl-sdr dongles do not have enough bandwidth to capture mainstream satellite TV broadcasts, but the ISS happens to transmit DVB-S at only 2Msymbols/s in QPSK with FEC=1/2, which translates to 2 MHz of RF bandwidth (2.7 MHz including roll-off).

Before anyone gets too excited I should mention that:

  • This was done during a favourable pass of the ISS (elevation 85°)
  • With a fixed antenna, only a few seconds worth of signal can be captured
  • Demodulation is not real-time (on my low-end PC)
  • Currently the ISS only transmits a blank test pattern.

I now believe the BoM will be less than $50 by the time the ISS begins broadcasting interesting stuff on that channel.

Pabr uses a 2.4 GHz parabolic WiFi antenna to receive the signal. He writes that ideally a motorized antenna tracker would be used with this antenna to track the ISS through the sky. Also since the DATV signal is transmitted at around 2.4 GHz, a downconverter is required to convert the received frequency into one that is receivable with the RTL-SDR. The DATV decoder is available on Linux and requires GNU Radio.

Receiving DATV from the ISS
Receiving DATV from the ISS with an RTL-SDR