ARISSAT-1

It has been nearly a year since I last posted, and what a year it has been.. but I digress.

Still tinkering with my radio scanners when I get the chance and over the last few days have been satellite hunting.

The ARISSat-1 amateur radio experiment was manually deployed on 3rd August 2011 from the International Space Station during EVA 29. Following on from the earlier SuitSat experiment ARISSat-1 was designed, developed and tested by AMSAT-NA and ARISS volunteers. It’s primary mission is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education around the world.

The idea of the satellite is students should be able to easily receive the 2m FM transmissions as it fly around the globe and use the information in classroom exercises. The transmissions consist of voice message, SSTV images, telemetry and CW beacons.

Certificates will also be issued for SSTV image reception, voice and telemetry reception, CW reception, full SSB telemetry packet reception and Kursk experiment reception. The satellite has four cameras on board that will constantly be taking pictures and sending them to earth using SSTV Robot-36 format in the 2m FM transmission.

The official Web site for the ARISSat-1 project is arissat1.org .

Well I decided I would have a go and using my Realistic PRO-2006 scanner and my homebrew wideband antenna up in the loft have spent the last few evenings trying to pick up the transmissions as it heads over the UK.

The best reception so far was on the 21st August during the second pass of the evening where I got a decent amount of voice transmission and was able to decode a frame of SSTV (pictured above). I put the audio up on to soundcloud.com as well as youtube.

ARISSAT-1 21 Aug 2011 by nerdsville

Unfortunately the satellite has suffered some problems with it’s on board battery and goes silent/resets when it enters the shadow of the earth, which is problematic for reception in Europe as the current passes are occurring late evening.

There are a couple of decent passes this week, so hopefully can get some more intercepts and maybe decode some telemetry using a borrowed Alinco DJ-X10 which has SSB mode. Pass details for your location can be found here

Hamfest 2010

Took the afternoon of work today and went to the Newark Showground for a few hours to experience the National Hamfest 2010 Despite the weather which was absolutely appauling I had an enjoyable time. I resisted the urge to purchase any new equipment, this was difficult as some very nice receivers, scanners and antennas were on sale.

Because of the rain the intended outdoor carboot section was almost none existant which was a pity as I fancied a rummage. Inside it was mostly new ‘expensive’ gear a few surplus stores and a few clubs and others with some used and ‘junk’ stuff for sale. It is quite noticable that the cheap chinese import transceivers that are flooding ebay were also much on offer and I suspect if I do take the exam and get my licence I will end up with one of those initially.

In the end I picked up some adapters, a few books and I did take advantage of the RSGB special offer and joined up. I also signed up for the Group for Earth Observation (GEO) the members on the stand were very helpful and this was particularly interesting as the members of the group use relatively inexpensive equipment to receive data from satellites to produce weather images and other earth observation. I dabbled many years ago with receiving data from the NOAA polar orbiting APT satellites which can be done to a limited extent using a normal scanner and a PC soundcard. It was only £20 to sign up and the welcome pack for GEO was extremely generous and consisted of the last four quarterly magazines packed full of information and pictures and a lovely book all about the EUMETSAT system.

Rebooting a lapsed hobby

My current equipment

Ever since I was old enough to handle a screwdriver and a soldering iron I have had an interest in radio communications and electronics. I spent many a hour in my childhood scanning the Medium and Short Wave bands with various receivers (usually scavenged from family, neighbours or saved from the dump!) I constructed numerous long-wire and other bizarre antennas. I even did a presentation on my hobby for my English Language O-Level exam – I really did confirm my status as a weirdo!

I played with borrowed CB radios and would have loved to progressed into owning one or becoming a proper radio amateur but unfortunately I simply didn’t have the money.

Then the home computer revolution started and my Dragon32 and Tatung Einstein took up most of my time. I left school and went off to University and when I came back home and got a job I spent some of my money on a new fangled radio scanner, a Realistic PRO2022 from Tandy.

A scanner is a radio that covers a wide frequency range, they are controlled my microprocessors and allowing you to listen in to a huge range of different communications including air traffic control, hobbyists (Citizens Band, Amateur radio), security guards, taxi’s and a lot more. Back in the late 80s, and early 90s they also allowed access to the emergency services and the old analogue cellular phones! Connecting it up a computer and using some software you even decode pager messages!

Gradually all the ‘fun’ stuff disappeared, the mobile phones became digital, so did the emergency services. This along with other commitments, such as moving across the country to a new job, getting married and other demands on my time meant the scanner ended up collecting dust in the attic.

Several years ago I briefly dusted it off and brought a couple of other second hand scanners including a Realistic PRO2006 and a brand new Alinco-DJ3X. I also played around with some PMR446 systems, but sadly again they all ended up collecting dust.

Well once again they are out of the boxes and I am having a fun time scanning around for interesting signals, well if you can count listening to the radio microphone at a local church interesting!

I am thinking of buying a CB as it seems to have evolved from the bad old days into something more grown up. Even becoming a DX amateur type system using something called freebanding not legal mind, but then technically using a scanner isn’t!

I am even contemplating taking the Radio Amateur exams and actually achieving a childhood dream, well I do now have access to money and did do an electronics degree!

This time I hope it doesn’t all fizzle out and it is looking more promising as plans are a foot for me to have my own shack and I won’t be spending as much time on my other hobbies next year.