News items for tag amateursatellites - Koos van den Hout

2017-04-22 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 6 : First succes in reception 1 year ago
Today I had time for a reception test and when I started collecting the amateur satellite reception gear I saw two upcoming passes, one of the AO-73 Funcube and one of the AO-85 Fox-1a satellite.

The AO-73 Funcube is an 'inverting transponder' which converts an LSB uplink to an USB downlink with space for multiple contacts at the same time. By default gpredict selects the center frequency where I heard PA3HDG calling CQ but hearing no answer. Sorry, I did not have the rest of the setup to transmit that answer.

The AO-85 Fox-1a is like an FM repeater in space so it should be easier to receive it. But I heard nothing, which was most likely due to the satellite being in a part of the sky where the hedge is in the way. due to the fact my data about that satellite wasn't updated: it's not in the default sets. Updating from a trusted source of extra kepler data TLE | Amateur radio PE0SAT showed a shift in pass times of more than 60 minutes.

Anyway, first success in reception. Next steps: recording the received audio with audacity and adding the transmitter to the mix to be able to make actual contacts. At least the concept I imagined with the rtl-sdr stick as receiver so I can work full-duplex works.

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2017-04-14 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 5 : first test of the amplifier with RTL-SDR 1 year ago
For a first test I looked for the first reasonable pass of an amateur satellite and tried to recieve the morse beacon of HO-68. I have received signals from HO-68 before, but this pass I heard nothing.

I tried a stable regular local source on the 70cm band : the PI2NOS repeater and noticed after a while the frequency display in Gqrx was showing 430.100 MHz where the (GPS stablized) frequency is 430.125 MHz, so the RTL-SDR I use is somewhat off frequency. Maybe in a next test things work better.

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2017-04-14 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 4 : amplifier built into the case 1 year ago
Today I had some time to work on the metal case for the amplifier I bought for receiving amateur satellites. I've never been good at metalwork but I think I did ok. First I made sure the place I wanted to put the holes was chosen correctly, taking the size of connectors into account. Especially with metalwork it's "measure twice, cut once". Next I drilled holes with a drill for metalwork (HSS) and used a file for metalwork to make the holes bigger. I visited the local electronics shop to get a small switch for switching the battery power on and off and added a hole for the switch. In the end the amplifier and the cables are mounted inside the case and there is a bnc connector for the Arrow antenna on one side and an SMA connector for the cable to the RTL-SDR stick on the other side.

Battery added for amplifier in metal case - KvdHout on FlickrBattery added for amplifier in metal case

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2017-03-29 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 3 : metal cases 1 year ago
I was looking for a metal case to put the low(ish) noise amplifier in and maybe the RTL-SDR. The RTL-SDR should also be shielded from the amplifier and from the computer as both RTL-SDR and computer cause their own signals.

The first cheap source of metal cases I could think of was old cigar boxes. Altoid tins are not available here. So I asked someone who I know who smokes cigars who had a number of old metal cigar boxes. Next step, finding the way to get the right holes in the boxes for the SMA and BNC connectors, and for the USB connection to the computer. Ideal would be to lend / find a punch for those holes.

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2017-03-26 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 2 : Installing Gqrx SDR software and the first tests 1 year ago
With the hardware available it's now time to test the first part of the software setup: whether I can have running software defined radio.

To (re)install Gqrx I followed the instructions at Install Gqrx SDR on Ubuntu Linux. The first 'sudo apt-get purge --auto-remove' steps removed a lot of software and the latter 'sudo apt-get install' steps added newer (or maybe the same) versions. But I was glad to do a full reinstall, I have had weird problems with gqrx versions before. The laptop on which I am doing this has had an install of gqrx before, but was upgraded from Ubuntu 14.04 LTS to Ubuntu 16.04 LTS in the mean time, so a clean reinstall seemed a good idea.

I plugged in the RTL-SDR stick and checked whether no drivers were installed, which was indeed still correct. The kernel messages:
[156490.915435] usb 2-2: new high-speed USB device number 7 using xhci_hcd
[156491.111136] usb 2-2: New USB device found, idVendor=0bda, idProduct=2838
[156491.111141] usb 2-2: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=3
[156491.111143] usb 2-2: Product: RTL2838UHIDIR
[156491.111145] usb 2-2: Manufacturer: Realtek
[156491.111147] usb 2-2: SerialNumber: 00000001
To make sure the drivers aren't loaded, I have a /etc/modprobe.d/local-blacklist.conf with:
blacklist dvb_usb_rtl28xxu
blacklist rtl2830
blacklist rtl2832
blacklist lirc_dev
To test it with the 'minimal' setup I started with just the RTL-SDR and a simple antenna, and Gqrx. Enabled remote control in Gqrx and added a radio 'gqrx-sdr' in Gpredict with host 'localhost' and port '7356' (default for gqrx remote control) and Radio type 'RX only', PTT status 'none'.

Gqrx controlled by gpredict
Gqrx controlled by Gpredict, tracking a satellite
Now I can select this radio as '1. Device' in the 'Gpredict Radio Control' window, and select 'Engage' when the right satellite, transponder and 'Track' are selected, after which Gqrx nicely follows the frequency Gpredict has calculated.

No signal yet as I am testing this indoors with the small default antenna that came with the RTL-SDR stick. That will not pick up weak signals!

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2017-03-26 Going full-duplex with amateur satellites, part 1: introduction and I bought the hardware 1 year ago
I still want to get active on amateur satellites again, but the main reason is that the amount of work per contact is a lot more than for example in a digimode contest. But I still want to make those 'special' contacts, especially when the amount of local radio noise on HF is bothering me.

One of the most important improvements in making contacts on amateur satellites is working 'full duplex', meaning receiving signals while transmitting. The expensive way to reach that goal is buying a second amateur radio capable of receiving in FM and SSB modes in the 2 meter and 70 centimeter amateur bands and having computer aided tuning so gpredict can control the receiving frequency.

The less expensive way to reach that goal is using software defined radio. The good news is that Gqrx SDR can be controlled by other software which as the page shows is intended for remote control by Gpredict. All I needed now was reception hardware. Since the first RTL-SDR device I bought is always in use for receiving ADS-B signals from airplanes I decided to buy another cheap one to get me started. So it was on the shopping list for a recent visit to a hamfest.

At the hamfest I found a RTL-SDR stick with mcx connector and an mcx to bnc cable. But the same guy also sold cheap low(ish) noise amplifiers with SMA connectors and a 9V battery connector for power. So at one of the booths selling cable assemblies I found an mcx to male sma cable and a female sma to bnc cable, and a male to male sma cable.

The plan is to put this all together in some metal case to shield the lna from the outside world. Maybe also shield the amplifier from the RTL-SDR stick so it won't pick up any extra noise.

Should this work it would be possible to think of an upgrade with better SDR hardware and/or a pre-amplifier at the antenna side.
RTL-SDR stick and BNC cable - KvdHout on FlickrRTL-SDR stick and BNC cable
LNA and extra cables - KvdHout on FlickrLNA and extra cables
Read the rest of Going full-duplex with amateur satellites, part 1: introduction and I bought the hardware

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2016-06-10 ISS SSTV MAI-75 image received 2 years ago
ISS SSTV June 2016 MAI-75 image recieved by PE4KH at JO22NC 20160610 at 1900 UTC
ISS SSTV June 2016 MAI-75 image recieved by PE4KH at JO22NC 20160610 at 1900 UTC
I had no advance warning but suddenly mailing lists and other places I find my amateur radio satellite news lit up with news of another round of slow scan TV (SSTV) images. I thought at first things would be over Friday evening but then the reports started again and I put the radio, antenna and laptop outside to record another pass and decode it. Reasonable decode, especially for the pass starting in the noise.

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2016-04-23 Recorded a Tim Peake ARISS contact 2 years ago
This afternoon was a contact between Wellesley House School in Britain and Tim Peake on the International Space Station. So I decided to put the finished antenna rotor to good use since one of the triggers for building a rotor was getting my arms real tired on earlier ISS passes.

And indeed, I had no problem with holding the antenna. But it still took a while before I heard anything and the signal was not very good.
Listen to audio attachment:
MP3 media: ISS pass 20160423 at JO22NC recorded by PE4KH (rightclick, select save-as to download)

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2016-04-15 ISS SSTV MAI-75 image received 2 years ago
ISS SSTV April 2016 MAI-75 image received by PE4KH at JO22NC 20160415 1627Z
ISS SSTV April 2016 MAI-75 image received by PE4KH at JO22NC 20160415 1627Z
And a chance to receive an image from the Russian 'MAI-75' project. Originally I had a lot of trouble decoding the image with qsstv and the author of qsstv helped me find the ideal workflow. Upgrading qsstv and using a 48000 samples/second .wav file helped.

Earlier I played the audio in audacity and decoded in qsstv with pavucontrol setting the 'Monitor of builtin audio' as input for qsstv.

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2016-04-14 Tried an SO-50 pass this evening 2 years ago
And while I had the amateur satellite gear out I checked for upcoming interesting passes and saw that SO-50 would pass right after the ISS pass between SSTV experiments.

I tracked the pass and heard activity, mostly from IZ5TEP with F0DTV. I tried answering a few times, to IZ5TEP and in general but no contacts. The amount of interference was not as bad as I heard a few times last year but it was not perfect amateur satellite behaviour either.
Listen to audio attachment:
MP3 media: SO-50 pass recorded at JO22NC by PE4KH 2016-04-14 (rightclick, select save-as to download)

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2016-04-14 ISS pass between SSTV experiments, nothing heard 2 years ago
I saw people post more images which seemed to be from the MAI-75 SSTV program. I tried a pass at 18:27 UTC but heard nothing. Checking the article ISS Slow Scan TV in April - Amsat-UK shows that the ARISS commemorative SSTV event ended at 14 April 11:35 UTC and the first MAI-75 activity was 14:45 until 18:00 UTC. The next MAI-75 activity is Friday 15 April 14:10 until 19:00 UTC.

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2016-04-13 Two partial ISS SSTV April 2016 images received 2 years ago
ISS SSTV April 2016 image 06/12 received by PE4KH at JO22NC 20160412 1920Z
ISS SSTV April 2016 image 06/12 received by PE4KH at JO22NC 20160412 1920Z
In a later pass I received two partial images.

ISS SSTV April 2016 image received by PE4KH at JO22NC 20160412 1920Z
ISS SSTV April 2016 imagereceived by PE4KH at JO22NC 20160412 1920Z
The good news is that standing outside holding my Arrow antenna I did some serious thinking how the Arrow is going to fit on the antenna rotor. And I tested how reception is when I fix the elevation at around 20-25 degrees: fine.

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2016-04-13 ISS SSTV April 2016 image received 2 years ago
ISS SSTV April 2016 image 12/12 received by PE4KH at JO22NC 20160412 1606Z
ISS SSTV April 2016 image 12/12 received by PE4KH at JO22NC 20160412 1606Z
Today a nice pass which fit between two stages of cooking our dinner so I recorded the audio. Again I heard no signal but then I heard the starting tones of a slowscan TV image and saw the signal meter pegged to S9++ (the maximum).

One image was received in full.
Read the rest of ISS SSTV April 2016 image received

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2016-04-11 First ISS pass with chance of SSTV, nothing heard 2 years ago
In one of the articles about the current ISS SSTV event was a starting time of 19:25 18:25 UTC, and the pass over my QTH JO22NC started at 19:28 UTC. So I was out with the whole setup and a strong arm to aim the antenna at the ISS in the hope of receiving something.

But nothing was received. The fun part is that an ISS pass shortly after sundown gives a visual aid to aim the antenna at, but no signal received.

Also noticed by Mike Rupprecht DK3WN: ISS – no SSTV active - DK3WN Satblog with a very nice image.

Update: Corrected starting time after rereading ARISS commemorative event (April 11-14) - ARISS SSTV Images which has been updated with:
*** Update (April 11, 2016)
Looks like the start will be delayed. Seems the hardware is having issues and not transmitting. Troubleshooting is in work.

Update 2016-04-12: First images received now in Asia and available from the ARISS SSTV Gallery

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2016-04-10 First turns on antenna rotor 2 years ago
antenna rotor The antenna rotor made its first turns. I mounted it to a very old stepladder which has an almost vertical part at the top.

The fun part is that with the upcoming ARISS SSTV event from ISS I could use a good rotor in the upcoming week.

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2016-03-05 Listened to the ARISS contact with Tim Peake this morning 3 years ago
I listened to the ARISS contact with England (Wales, to be precise) this morning. I followed the preparations via the principia live stream but I went outside with my arrow antenna for the contact itself.

Elevation at my location was not too high (maximum of 46 degrees) which was a bit of a problem between the houses. I held up my arrow above my head for maximum reception but that got tiring real quick.

So I heard the answers to about 3 or 4 questions. But it is still quite special to hear an astronaut talk live.

On the principia live stream I followed the rest of the event. It's good to see the contact is much, much more than just 10 minutes of Q and A. There was a lot of explanation about the ISS, the work Tim Peake does, the influence of space on the human body. Including bits where the scientists say "we don't know why this happens, we're still researching it".

The ARISS program and the Tim Peake mission must be a boost for STEM (Science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education and amateur radio.

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2016-02-10 First QSL card for a satellite contact 3 years ago
I picked up new QSL cards at my radio club Veron A08 Centrum and it had a very special one: the confirmation of my first radio contact via amateur satellite with GS3PYE/P. QSL card from GS3PYE/P

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2016-01-08 ARISS contact with Tim Peake heard 3 years ago
I brought the handheld radio this morning to listen to the school contact with Tim Peake GB1SS - amsat UK

I had good reception of the school contact. It did sound to me like there were a few starting problems: I heard the astronaut trying to call the school when the ISS was already rising in my location and I only heard answers to about 4 or 5 questions. On a west-to-east pass that went over the UK first this means the contact started a bit late.

Comparing the list of prepared questions in ARISS contact planned for school in St. Albans - amsat UK with the report in Pupils make radio call to Tim Peake - BBC News shows indeed the fifth question was the last question answered.

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2015-11-18 I received some signals from the FOX-1A (AO-85) amateur satellite 3 years ago
Earlier today I had an opportunity to listen to the FOX-1A amateur satellite. Due to the pass not being very high (a maximum of 61 degrees elevation) and not much time to 'play' I took the Wouxun radio and the arrow antenna out so I would not be busy with unmounting and mounting the FT-857 radio in the 'home shack'. The upside of the downlink signals (from the satellite to the earth) being in the 2 meter amateur band is that the absolute dopplershift isn't as high, so my radio tuned to 145.975 MHz was able to receive some signals.

I mainly heard OM3WAN active, calling CQ for new contacts and making a few. Reception was spotty, so to try anything I will concentrate on higher passes (which have to match my schedule) and use the FT-857 radio.

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2015-11-07 Recording of a (failed) satellite QSO 3 years ago
Searching for my own callsign I found this video:

At 4:42 you will hear me attempt answering someone. Since it's not clear who I am answering it failed as a radio contact (QSO). But it's nice to find a recording of my satellite QSO attempt!

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