ARISSat-1 First Receive Attempt

Like many hams, I started trying to simply receive ARISSat-1.  My first opportunity was today around 7 AM MT (1300z).  ARISSat-1 was successfully launched (really tossed) from the ISS on Wednesday, 3 August.  I blogged about these events which you can read here.  While I have the Arrow satellite antenna from Arrow antennas, due to work commitments beginning also at 7 AM, I would be unable to go outside and receive the transmission properly.  This meant my only real chance of hearing anything would be via my Diamond 2m/70cm vertical I have attached to the side of my house.  While this solution is less than ideal, I should be able to copy some of the transmitted signals as the satellite passed overhead.


 The 7 AM pass would be my most ideal opportunity with the setup I had available to hear anything.  As you can see from the image to the right, the ARISSat-1 would pass just to the north of Denver metro area.  By the way, the image is a screen capture of the iPhone app titled GoSatWatch.  This app is available in the iTunes store for iOS devices (there is even an iPad version).  The price is $9.99 and is well worth it if you enjoy working the satellites and don’t want to have to lug around a laptop everywhere you go.  In my situation, I can’t easily work satellites from my QTH.  I don’t have a large enough yard and trees and other houses are in the way.  I drive up to a parking lot which overlooks Cherry Creek reservoir.  From this position I can very easily operate the birds without trees and buildings getting in my way. 

Again, I would not have time to drive up to this parking area and would only be able to hear what my vertical antenna was capable of receiving.  My expectation level was set very low and just simply hearing a faint signal would have been considered major success.  I had no expectation of actually being able to copy any audio or data/video.  I had heard reports of other hams being able to hear via an HT and stock rubber duck antenna, so the wait began.

Around 1150z I turned on the digital recorder and just simply set it next to my Yaesu VX-6 hand-held transceiver connected to the outside Diamond antenna.  I’ve used the VX-6 to listen to other birds before and have setup frequencies for some of the common amateur radio satellites.  My interest in satellite operations has sort of come and gone over the last 3-4 years.  I’ll admit I’ve yet to have an actual QSO via satellite.  But have my process for receiving down fairly well.  I do plan to try for QSO’s on AO-51 this weekend. 

Anyway, around 1157z I began hearing faint noises in the static.  I had the squelch open and from 1157z through 1204z I managed to hear both audio (female and male voice transmission) as well as SSTV tones.  Thankfully the conference call just required me to listen and I sort of did this at about 50%.  Most meetings never start on time and this one was no exception.  By the time the satellite had traveled further south, the signals dropped and I shut off the recorder and turned down the squelch. 

2011-08-05 134430 arssat

Once my meeting was finished, I listened to the audio recording and managed to pull out the “secret word” and I plugged the recorder into my Rigblaster and used Ham Radio Deluxe and DM780 to decode the SSTV data.  The image to the left is what I managed to copy.  I’m impressed, especially considering I wasn’t actually pointing an antenna in the exact direction of the satellite pass.  Just about anyone with an external antenna can do the same thing.  You just need to know when to expect the satellite and listen for it. 

If you want to try your hand at listening for ARISSat-1 just set your 2m transceiver on 145.950 and at the very least setup an external antenna.  At present time, ARISSat-1 is just slightly ahead of the ISS which can be tracked here.  You might also want to check out Orbitron.  Orbitron is PC software available to track just about any type of satellite orbiting the earth.  I would expect ARISSat-1 to be added very soon.  But just track the ISS and you should be OK for now.

Until next time…

73 de KD0BIK

Jerry Taylor, KD0BIK, is a regular contributor to and writes from Colorado, USA. He is the host of the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast. Contact him at [email protected].

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