Antenna Mast

My current antennas are mounted up in the loft, the coax being dropped down into an upstairs room and connected to the scanners and receivers. So while I have moved a great deal of my junk into the shack I am stuck to just doing satellite work there for lack of a decent antenna.

I have purchased a dual band X50 2m/70cm antenna of eBay and plans are under way for the erection of an antenna mast/pole to mount it on!

What I have decided to do is purchase some galvanised scaffold pole, I will sink one around 6ft into the ground, which will be concreted in, giving a 6ft tall post. Then using some swivel clamps I can then clamps another longer pole to that.

By using some swivel clamps it means I can lower/remove the pole, allowing for easier maintenance and protection during high winds. By easily removing it I can also hopefully claim it is temporary and only raised when being used…

This is the sort of thing I plan on doing.

FUNCube Dongle PRO+ in production!

Howard is busy assembling and shipping out the first units of the FUNCube Dongle Pro+

I registered my interest early on and am one of the few to have got a confirmation email.

Thank you very much for your interest in the FUNcube Dongle Pro+ that you made on 28 September 2012. This is confirmation that your request is on our waiting list and we will be notifying you by email when we have stock.

I apologise for any delay in receiving this confirmation: the ecommerce software were using doesnt seem to automatically send out responses, so far Ive had to come up with a semi-manual alternative. As I write, there are already a total of 1,233 unique emails on the waiting list, so it may take a few weeks to satisfy the demand.

This was the confirmation for my second attempt at registration, so probably missed out of getting one early. Not sure if it means I am 1233rd or one of the 1233… time will tell, but certainly am very eager to get my hands on one.

At the moment the new PRO+ version won’t work with SDR-Radio my SDR software of choice, but integration is apparently being worked on as we speak. But it seems it is supported by SDR# which I have briefly used.
I am very eager to see the filtering and performance improvements and being able to use on the HF bands, mind you tempted to get another of the RTL based receivers this time with a new tuner following the demise of the E4000. Apparently they work from around 25MHz and are much more sensitive.

Some NOAA APT Decodes

Listening to the scanner this morning I heard the distinctive APT ‘chiming’ sound as one of the NOAA polar orbiting weather satellites was making a pass. It has been a while since I have done any APT decoding, so decided to capture some of the passes of NOAA-18 and NOAA-19 this afternoon.

The first two passes of both satellites were North to South around 20-30 degrees elevation, this image was the best of the them, the UK is in the upper left. 

NOAA-19 11:32 UTC 21-OCT-2012

The following passes were much higher, almost overhead, there was some interference on this NOAA-18 pass due to pagers and I got disorientated whilst hand holding 2-meter YAGI, hence the lost of signal near the top of the image.

NOAA-18 14:02 UTC 21-OCT-2012

However the NOAA-19 pass before it was much better. What is noticable is the bands of darkening, caused by nearby buildings and some large trees shielding the satellite from my the line of sight position.

NOAA-19 11:12 UTC 21-OCT-2012

All images were decoded realtime using the SDR-Radio program, received by the FUNCube Dongle connected to the InnovAntennas Yagi.

Citizen Band – “The Super Bowl”

Not feeling too well at the moment, have a suspected inner ear infection which is causing dizziness and nausea, so taking it easy today.

I switched on my scanner this morning and decided to peruse the CB channels, it is something I haven’t done very often as usually there is nothing to receive and is problematic since my scanners cannot exactly tune to the UK frequencies accurately.

What I did find were a lot of suspected ‘Eastern European’ transmissions on the CEPT/EU band in FM and AM mode. I also came across lots of activity on the “Super Bowl” Channel 6 (27.025 MHz AM). Apparently the popular channel for “skip shooters” using high powered amplifiers and indeed copied a few 1kW transatlantic transmissions. There were also a lot of SSB transmissions about but the PRO2006 scanner I have doesn’t have side band capabilities.

I have thought many times about getting hold of a cheap CB, or one of those popular 10m/11m amateur rigs just to get some practice in operating a transmitter before getting around to taking my foundation test. Especially as OFCOM have announced they intend to finally harmonise with the EU on the use of AM and SSB next year.

FITSAT-1 – Full telemetry decode achieved.

Had an excellent FITSAT-1 pass last night, successfully received nearly three full frames of CW telemetry.

The image above (from the prediction site) shows a similar pass and illustrates the reception window which is just less than 8 minutes. Each frame of telemetry takes around 2.5 minutes to receive, so I was extremely happy with the results.

Again I recorded the pass using SDR-Radio and played back the doppler corrected IQ file later decoding with the MRP40 program, hear is a small video demonstrating the decoding process.

and this was the resulting telemetry data when run through the analyser program (see previous post).

FITSAT-1 NIWAKA Downlink CW Code
Input Data------------------
S1 :f00501bb
S2 :88db0101
S3 :02000102
S4 :1e20201f
S5 :1a12aae7
S-mater of 437MHz RX :4.69[V]
Total Voltage of Solar cells :0.1[V]
Total Current of Solar Cells :0[mA]
Voltage of single cell battery :3.65[V]
Current of single cell battery :1054.69[mA]
Voltage of 3 series battery :12.83[V]
Current of 3 series battery :0[mA]
Voltage of 2.5V reference :0.02[V]
Voltage of Solar cell + X :0.07[V]
Voltage of Solar cell + Y :0[V]
Voltage of Solar cell - X :0.04[V]
Voltage of Solar cell - Y :0.07[V]
Temperature of 3 series battery   :2.73[℃]
Temperature of single cell battery  :6.25[℃]
Temperature of +Z side   :6.25[℃]
Temperature of –Z side   :4.49[℃]
S-meter of 1.2GHz RX :0.46[V]
14day 3hour 49min 59sec

I have also uploaded a better recording of the audio.

FITSAT-1 CW Telemetry by nerdsville

Well got 80% of a full FITSAT-1 Telemetry Frame

Earlier today I posted about my latest attempts at receiving the FITSAT-1 Cubesat, the reception hadn’t proved too difficult however actually decoding the morse code was proving difficult!

Having another go with the MRP40 decode software and replaying a recorded IQ wave file from yesterday I successfully decoded 80% of a full telemetry frame!

I also found this interesting pdf file detailing the construction of FITSAT-1 and discovered the 437MHz transmitter is only 100mW. So we have a flying metal cube measuring just 10cm x 10cm x 10cm travelling at approximately 4.5 miles/sec roughly 270 miles above the earth, transmitting with just a fifth of the power of one of those PMR446 hand held walkie talkies that in my experience struggle to maintain a contact over a few hundred meters! Isn’t technology wonderful?

FITSAT-1, TechEdSat and F-1 Cubesats after leaving the ISS

Anyhow this was the telemetry frame, as decoded using a PC program developed by one of the students on the FITSAT team.

FITSAT-1 NIWAKA Downlink CW Code

Input Data——————
S1 :f01601ba
S2 :8dbd8181
S3 :20001820
S4 :1e202020
S5 :*
S-mater of 437MHz RX :4.69[V]
Total Voltage of Solar cells :0.43[V]
Total Current of Solar Cells :0[mA]
Voltage of single cell battery :3.63[V]
Current of single cell battery :93.75[mA]
Voltage of 3 series battery :11.07[V]
Current of 3 series battery :0[mA]
Voltage of 2.5V reference :2.52[V]
Voltage of Solar cell + X :1.13[V]
Voltage of Solar cell + Y :0[V]
Voltage of Solar cell – X :0.84[V]
Voltage of Solar cell – Y :1.13[V]
Temperature of 3 series battery   :2.73[℃]
Temperature of single cell battery  :6.25[℃]
Temperature of +Z side   :6.25[℃]
Temperature of –Z side   :6.25[℃]
S-meter of 1.2GHz RX :No Data
Timestamp :No Data

Some FITSAT-1 Telemetry Decoded

It was dry and a lovely clear sky last night and I had several opportunities to receive the latest Cubesats.

I made some sight modification to the tripod mounting of the small 70cm Yagi antenna I am using, repositioning the clamp allowed me to secure my Android smart phone behind it. Then by using the Satellite-AR app I was able to hopefully point and track more accurately.

As you can see from this close up, it is quite a useful tool. Selecting the Cubesat catagory in the application, shows the procession of the cluster one after the other. The Cubesats have now spaced sufficiently to allow reception of WE-WISH which is just dropping out of sight as FITSAT-1 is starting its pass.

One thing I hadn’t counted on last night was the very high elevation and I struggled to turn and tilt the tripod quickly enough whilst still viewing the screen on the phone, this will hopefully improve with practice!

Previously to the tripod I hand held the antennas but the drawback with that method was not being able to check and make adjustments on the computer, the tripod at least allows me to maintain reception.

I again received WE-WISH but the signal was too weak and short lived for any reasonable attempt at decoding the SSTV image. FITSAT-1 was however much better, getting relatively clear signals from the CW telemetry beacon, however I have been struggling to actually decode the messages, however after some research I tried the MRP40 Morse Code Decoder program, which appears to be excellent and as you can see from the screenshot below successfully decoded some of the telemetry messages. 

Definitely got the bit between my teeth now, will try to get a full telemetry frame this evening, weather permitting!

WE-WISH and FITSAT-1 Received

The recently released Cubesats were due to pass with high elevation late last evening, so the new antenna was mounted out in the garden on a tripod and the FUNCube Dongle connected to the trusty laptop in the shack.

The Cubesats FITSAT-1, WE-WISH and TechEdSat are now supported by the Satellite-AR application on my android phone allowing me a reasonable chance at tracking them.

According to the tracking data the WE-WISH Cubesat is ahead of FITSAT-1 on the orbit, so my first attempt was to capture some of the Infra-Red SSTV imagery it is sending back, I did managed to receive the signal as you can see on the waveform below, you will also see SDR-Radio was preforming doppler correction very well  indicated by the slanted central IQ spur and local ‘carrier’ in the middle of the transmission (was playing back a captured IQ wavefile) Sadly the WE-WISH signal wasn’t strong enough and didn’t last long enough for any meaningful decode, but I was able to confirm that instead of being at 437.505MHz it is nearer 437.514MHz as was reported on AMSAT-UK

WE-WISH Downlink Transmission, received in UK 16-OCT-2012 19:32UTC

I was very happy to have received this as the WE-WISH downlink transmitter is reported to be only 100mW! As the signal disappeared I quickly switched to the latter stages of the FITSAT-1 pass and got some nice clear bursts of the CW beacon.

FITSAT-1 Downlink Transmission, received in UK 16-OCT-2012

Tonight there are two other nice high elevation passes of the Cubesat cluster, so hopefully will get out to have another attempt.

It worked for three weeks

After seemingly fixing that broken laptop it has failed to boot up this morning!

I noted that it has been running hot again, the heat sink port on the side has been getting seriously warm so if I do attempt another re-flow of the GPU (if that is the fault) I will have to look at improving the cooling. I am thinking I might drill some holes through the bottom casing to allow more air in and might fit an override switch on the fan since it seems to only come on when very very warm.

What is doubly annoying is that over the weekend I managed to receive what I believe are the FITSAT-1 and TechEdSat Cubesats. My earlier attempts last week were only partially successful and the one time I did manage to get really good signals I forgot to set it to record the IQ file.

Over the weekend I was away from home, visiting the in-laws. I had taken a scanner, my FUNCube Dongle and laptop. I appropriated an indoor TV aerial and surprisingly managing to get some clearly audible signals, despite major issues with pager breakthrough and interference caused by the aerials wideband amplifier.

As soon I manage to get the laptop working, or recover the IQ files from its hard drive I will post the results.