FUNCube-1 & FUNCube-2 Decoding Update

In the film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” there is a scene where the lucky children (and parents) enter the “Land of Candy” where everything is edible and they run around grabbing a taste of everything. I am beginning to know how they felt.

Amateur radio has so many different things to try and over the last year I have found myself jumping around having a dabble at new things. Doing this and time being scarce has inevitably impacted the HAB payload and other Arduino projects. I have also neglected some of my previous satellite monitoring activities.

I had been regularly decoding the FUNCube-1 (AO-73) telemetry and uploading packets to the data warehouse (see earlier posts). To do this I had been using a discone in the loft and a FUNCube Dongle on the ageing main computer in the house.

This computer was on 24/7 but I couldn’t leave the FUNCube dashboard running continually as the processor load would cause the noisy fans to kick in, besides for most of the day there wasn’t a receivable pass. So I would just start up the dashboard when needed which meant remotely logging in from work. Due to an increasingly busy work load I would often forget or be unable to start it up and have got out of the habit. I therefore missed many opportunities to climb up the uploading ranking chart (it is really for the science honest!)

Of late there have been a large number of new satellites launched including the UKube-1 and the QB50 satellites which have modules and transponders as part of the FUNCube project.

Catching up with news after the holiday to Skye I noticed the announcement that an enhanced version of the FUNCube decoder dashboard has been released promising improved performance. The dashboard will also capture and upload (but not display) the FUNCube-2 telemetry transmitted from UKube-1

Looking at the FC1 upload ranking list I saw I had dropped down significantly and decided it wasn’t acceptable!

As part of my antenna upgrade I have put up the X-50 dual-band collinear on the top of the pole feed with nice low loss RG213. This is currently connected to the FUNCube Dongle Pro+ dongle on the shack laptop, with the latest dashboard software installed.

It has been running 24/7 for the majority of the last week and has captured close to 2000 telemetry packets from FC1 a significant performance increase compared to my earlier set up, and I have now surpassed the 10,000 packet milestone (currently 11,626). I have also uploaded over 500 telemetry messages received from the FUNCube-2 on UKube-1. I have actually received more but a fault in the warehouse meant a lot were rejected due to a incorrect data field.

The FC2 subsystem on UKUBE-1 may not be enabled on every pass while the satellite is commissioned and the FUNCube team will be releasing an updated dashboard shortly for when it is operating full time.

At present both satellites are passing one after the other, with UKube-1 gradually gaining. So as FC1 goes LOS (loss of signal) UKube-1 rises elsewhere for AOS (acquisition of signal)

On one pass yesterday I thought I would capture some screen shots and show how I’ve got the dashboard set up for both payloads.

As already mentioned the existing dashboard can be used to receive both FUNCube-1 and 2, if using the FUNCube Dongle Pro+ by setting the central frequency to 145.905MHz and adjusting the upper and lower filter curtains both payloads can be received.

On the Orbitron prediction software you can see FC1  is overhead, with UKube-1 over the North pole.

The reception window on the dashboard is limited by moving the curtains. I have the lower one set at 145.906MHz just enough to filter out the centre SDR spike,  the upper one is at 145.945MHz. The telemetry signal on FC1 is at 145.935MHz but due to the Doppler effect the received frequency will vary above and below this nominal value, 10kHz either size is sufficient to compensate.

If you were just interested in one satellite you would move the lower curtain to around 10kHz below the nominal download frequency. However since UKube-1 is on 145.918MHz the lower curtain is set to below this again to compensate for the Doppler shift.

The resulting receive window will allow both to be received. However this does risks problems should QRM occur in the pass band as the decoder can lock on to this, luckily the improved dashboard software discriminates between the signal and noise much better than previous versions.

The dashboard below is receiving the FUNCube-1 signal (click to enlarge)
 

The data is being uploaded and checking the real time display on the warehouse confirms this (my old callsign M6GTG) however you might not show up every single time and the FUNCube-1 Flight Model tab must be chosen as seen below.

As the pass finishes and UKube-1/FC2 comes overhead and due to the omni-directional X-50 I don’t need to change anything.

The dashboard soon detects the new signal at the lower frequency and begins decoding.


The received payload ID is shown in the bottom right of the dashboard

Again the upload can be confirmed by viewing the real time data page on the warehouse by selecting the UKube-1 FC2 Payload tab. It should be noted that it seems FC2 is sometime sending spurious data elements in the telemetry which the warehouse is rejecting so some uploads may not be displayed.

It is really that simple.

FUNCube-1 a thank you received from space!

I posted a few weeks ago about issues I and others were having decoding the telemetry from FUNCube-1. Initially this seemed to be related to a dashboard software update, but even downgrading to an earlier version has been giving variable results.

What seems to have been the issue is a reduced quality of received signal. Operators with higher gain, optimised antennas appear not to have seen problems. Why there has been such a fall off isn’t clear, the power output of FUNCube-1 hasn’t altered and appears not to be tumbling.

The FUNCube team have now released a new version of the Dashboard Software. Version 820 can be downloaded from http://funcube.org.uk/working-documents/funcube-telemetry-dashboard/ The major change in Version v820 centres on improved decoding routines which give better results, especially with weak signals at low elevations and simpler antennas.

I have been running this now for several days and can confirm it is much better, as promised low elevation passes now get successful decodes and night time passes when the telemetry is on low power get successful decodes something I wasn’t getting before.

Now I have the shack sorted I have set up a dedicated receiver using the original FUNCube Dongle using the X-30 white stick collinear and this has been pulling in decodes nicely.

This morning I had surpassed the 2000 telemetry decodes milestone, as can be seen on the rankings page.

Another nice result over the weekend was seeing my callsign in one of the FITTER messages

Rx’d my callsign in the ‘Thank You’ Fitter messages from FUNCube-1 over the weekend, nice touch! pic.twitter.com/MvJt8p6tVU
— Andrew Garratt M6GTG (@nerdsville) February 3, 2014

It is a nice touch that the FUNCube-1 have started acknowledging the receivers, hopefully with the improved software there will be more participants.

The next stage for me? Well must sort out trying to have a QSO via FUNCube-1 and the other satellites..

Some more HAB tracking

I have been tracking some more of the High Altitude Balloons (HAB) that have been released over the last few weekends.

Last weekend (18th May 2013) saw the release of STRATODEAN2 from the Stratodean team, which I received quite well as can be seen from the telemetry stats.

Mark and Cassie have posted an update of the flight on their blog including an entertaining video

This weekend, there have been three more flights which I have managed to decode, track and update telemetry to the habitat website,

MONDO-12 which flew on Saturday 25th May 2013

BABSHAB which flew early this morning 

and finally this afternoon Dave Akerman’s PIE6, which used a Raspberry PI to preform the radio tracking. Details of the payload can be found here. In addition to the GPS the payload also contained a camera and the captured images were also transmitted using the SSDV protocol.

Each image is broken into smaller packets, while a receiver may receive all packets for an image it is unlikely it would receive all so by using the distributed network of multiple receivers the images are reconstructed on the habitat server. http://ssdv.habhub.org/

The screen shot below shows my PC as it receives the packets and attempts to reconstruct the image, hopefully you can see some portions of the image are missing.

Dave used a very fast 600Baud RTTY so he could transmit the high quality images, so was impressed to receive anything as the combination of SDR# and DL-Fldigi can be hard work for my ageing PC.

However these are all the images I contributed to (from the habitat site)
 

One thing I didn’t receive much of were the interlaced telemetry packets.

High Altitude Balloon Telemetry Updates

Several weeks ago I discovered the excitement of decoding high altitude balloon (HAB) telemetry.

As I blogged I spent a enjoyable couple of hours receiving the STRATODEAN project telemetry and submitting the received data to HABHubs habitat which is a system created to allow uploading, processing, storing and displaying telemetry and related information transmitted from the various high altitude balloons.

Mark and Cassie (the Stratodean team) have since uploaded a video on their blog showing the preparations, launch, flight and recovery of the payload.

Over the bank holiday weekend there were two other balloons launches planned, Chris Stubb’s (M6EDF) CHEAPO (webpage) and Steve Randall’s (G8KHW) XABEN-49 flights due.

CHEAPO did indeed fly, but sadly I didn’t receive anything as the signal was apparently very weak. I was also suffering some strong interference around the chosen frequency. I did have more success with XABEN-49 receiving a strong signal and a lot of telemetry packets. Though I did have to tweak the RTTY decode parameters in Dl-Fldigi, principally widening the shift and the filter widths, since the auto-configure option was setting it too narrow.

This morning the Essex Ham website has posted a nice video on their website explaining a bit more how to go about HAB decoding.

While investigating the habitat system I found the stats page and flight pie charts, showing the top receivers for each flight, I was pleased to see I featured quite high in the chart for the XABEN-49 flight, and indeed for the STRATODEAN flight last month.

XABEN-49 Telemetry Stats

STRATODEAN Telemetry Stats

Phonesat – Pictures

The Nasa Phonesat team have now put up the partially completed jigsaw puzzle formed from the submitted picture packets received from Graham and Bell over the past week. They can be viewed here

Over the last few days I have been getting quite a decent number of packets, including pictures from all three phonesats however a number of the picture packets despite being verified and accepted when submitted to the website have returned seemingly invalid webp files.

It appears the images are being broadcast in three forms, a low resolution background, then a medium resolution followed by a high resolution, slowly building up the final images.

The picture from Graham
 
The picture from Bell

More PhoneSat pictures and other packets

Had chance to process the 14:05BST PhoneSat pass IQ file and have got some more image pieces (again I have scaled them up from the original 20 x 15 pixel size)

Also decode a few more data packets,  from Graham and Bell the PhoneSat 1.0 Satellites

Also got a sensor packet from Alexandra (the PhoneSat 2.0 Beta Satellite)

These packets not be encoded; and are plain ASCII characters. There are 5 types of packet:

Sensors from the phone

  • Time: unix time time in milli seconds.
  • Reboot: number of reboots of the phone.
  • Counter: number of packets sent since the beginning of the mission.
  • Packet type: for this packet will be sensors from the phone (1).
  • Phase: phase in which the satellite is (we have 3 phases).
  • Compass: magnetic field value for X, Y, Z axes from the phone sensor in nanoTesla.
  • Gyro: spin rate for X, Y, Z axes from the phone sensor in deg/sec.
  • Accel: accelerometer value of X, Y, Z axes from the phone sensor in m/sec2
  • Format: [Time, Reboot, Counter, Packet Type, Phase, CompassX, CompassY, CompassZ, GyroX, GyroY, GyroZ, AccelX, AccelY, AccelZ]

My packet was
[1262348062776;11;489;1;3;30.4;38.8;13.2;80.2;-5.7;-68.5;-0.5;0.1;-0.6]

So 1262348062776 milliseconds (this doesn’t look right, gives 01 January 2010 12:14:23!)
Reboot number 11
489 packets
Packet type 1
Phase 3
Compass X = 30.4, Y = 38.8, Z = 13.2
Gyro X = 80.2, Y = -5.7, Z = -68.5
Accel X =  -0.5, Y=  0.1, X= -0.6

All three Phonesats received and decoded

Yesterday the delayed Antares rocket launched and successfully deployed the three Phonesats

After downloading the TLE http://www.phonesat.org/phonesat.txt this morning and checking the orbital prediction I found as luck would have it that a decent pass would occur when I am home during my lunch break.

So it was out with the 70cm yagi on the tripod fixed pointing south at around 45 degrees elevation and my older FUNCube Dongle on the laptop running SDRSharp (SDR#). It was pleasant sitting on the bench at the top of the garden in the sunshine with the dogs eating my lunch waiting for the pass, and yes at around 14:17BST (13:17UTC) I started to get signals, which came in very strongly.

I recorded the IQ file for later analysis and decoding

I originally tried decoding using Multipsk which I have used extensively to decode APRS from the International Space Station but wasn’t having any luck so I downloaded the free and simple to use Qtmm AFSK1200 Decoder, I simply feed it the audio (using virtual audio cable) and it was soon decoding. However I did have to widen the bandwidth quite a lot to accommodate the full signal. 

The resulting decodes were saved into a text file, here is a selection

15:35:11$ fm KJ6KRW-2 to CQ-0 via TELEM-0 UI  PID=F0
          .5l^lb!<<*”#ljr1N;rq`/H>bN!#!j*83h7os$Ma_0ggo;0tp”AjZcJL_`j`(W^1Y*!(!(S!(&Gkzzzzzzzz!,,q[Ci:G.Ec5e;FD,5.@<Q.%.
15:35:45$ fm KJ6KRW-0 to CQ-0 via TELEM-0 UI  PID=F0
          charging809,0,0,0
15:36:59$ fm KJ6KRW-1 to CQ-0 via TCPIP-0 UI  PID=F0
          .63$uc!<<*”$NL/4)ZTjAR/d3e!#!lB1I-%V’17sg=$r.DW4f*7ks$0O$GWe[Gec]I!5W.F!5a59zzzzzzzz!,,q[Ci:G.Ec5e;FD,5.@<Q.%.

Note due to quite large doppler shift I had to keep replaying the IQ file to adjust for it and the time shown is the time I decoded it, not the time it was received.

Going to the Phonesat website, you can register and submit the packet data which checks and displays the decoded information, which I did.

I had to discard the first and last decimal point in the data to successfully submit it the website

I also managed some good signals using the discone in the loft.

First FCD experiments

I was feeling shattered after a hectic Christmas and being back at work, so it was nice with the New Year break to have a chance to recover. I have spent the weekend around the house and so had a good chance to try out my FUNCube Dongle (FCD) to do some proper satellite reception!

First off I spent a while calibrated my dongle using the excellent user guides available on the yahoo group, and getting to grips with the excellent but somewhat daunting SDR-Radio application. 

I fired up another of my ancient laptops a Sony Vaio, with XP and a pitiful 512MB of RAM. It is a nice machine, with an excellent large display but is a little underpowered. However undeterred with the prospect of some timely satellite passes I installed the necessary software and set off to the summerhouse at the top of the garden with my YAGI and a warm coat.

NOAA Weather Satellites

As I posted about back in October I was hoping if I did get an SDR radio to capture some of the APT images broadcast by the NOAA polar orbiting weather satellites. (Noaa 15, 18 and 19 are currently active)

The SDR-Radio application has the facility to decode the noaa images directly and along with it’s built in satellite prediction and doppler correction features it was fairly easy to get some decent images. The huge advantage of the SDR system is being able to alter the bandwidth to accommodate the 34KHz deviation required (as you can see in the image above)

The image above was captured on 31st December at 13:26 GMT from NOAA-19 on 137.100MHz, the left image is the IR, the right being the visible image. If you click to enlarge you can clearly see Spain and the Balearic Islands at the bottom, the UK and most of Northern Europe is covered in dense cloud and is rapidly going into shadow. There is some noise, caused in part by pager transmissions and some course manual doppler correction.

ARISSat-1

As I posted before Christmas this little satellite is still going strong but it’s time is very short as reaches the atmosphere. I have been able to receive four afternoon passes in the last two days

As you can see from the image shows, the FCD makes the entire ARISSat-1 2 meter downlink band plan available. The slight slope shows the doppler effect.

On the left you can clearly see the Morse code beacon and the BPSK telemetry segment and the right the FM voice and SSTV transmission. I am really really pleased to have successfully managed to decode some telemetry frames before she meets her fiery death. The decode was done after the passes by processing the recorded IQ wav file. I probably have just one more day to have a chance to try to decode some live telemetry and hopefully forward it via the internet to ARISS.
It goes without saying I have some excellent audio and decoded a couple of SSTV images too.

I love my new toy!

ARISSat-1 Morse beacon

This weekend there are a couple of excellent daytime flybys of ARISSat-1 predicted, passing very high in the sky.  Up till now I have been concentrating on the FM transmission on 145.950MHz which carries the voice messages, voice telemetry and the SSTV. The other signals from the satellite use SSB and CW modulation.

So this morning I left the loft discone and my Realistic PRO2006 with MMSSTV in the spare bedroom waiting for the pass while I took the borrowed Alinco DJ-X10, which has SSB capability, outside and using the Yagi antenna I built up last weekend had a go at getting some of the CW beacon on 145.919MHz

I got a decent signal as you can hear below, and using CWGet managed to decode some of the telemetry and the identification, but the high noise and doppler effect did cause some problems.

Arissat1 cw beacon by nerdsville

While I was doing this the SSTV system caught a lovely image

Can not wait till tomorrow for two almost overhead passes in the morning and then time to watch the Grand Prix!