Posts Tagged ‘Space’

Severe solar storm

We are currently experiencing the most severe solar storm in very many years with HF very badly disturbed. There are auroras expected far further south than normal. This is a result of a CME event on the Sun interacting with the magnetic field of our planet.

If the weather is clear, check for a visual aurora!

It is also worth keeping eyes and ears alert for auroral propagation on 10m, 6m, 4m and 2m. I have in the past worked stations via aurora using QRP SSB and CW with very simple wire antennas on 10m and 6m. As frequency goes down SSB becomes more possible. What may be a very rough hissy CW note on 2m maybe a fairly decent SSB signal on 10m. The 10m and 6m bands are very worth a try when there is an aurora about.

See .

KA9Q on Rebooting ISEE3

Phil Karn, KA9Q is an Internet pioneer with his name on at least six RFC‘s. Best known in the world of amateur radio for his KA9Q NOS as well as numerous AMSAT satellite communications projects.

Retired from Qualcomm, Karn seems to be staying busy with other interesting projects — like this one.

Phil Karn on the reboot of the 1978 International Sun/Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3)/ (International Cometary Explorer) from InterWorking Labs on Vimeo.

Filed under: Ham Radio Tagged: amsat, ka9q, satellite, space, video

An Amazing Moment in Space Weather – Massive Solar Eruption June 2011

While many are talking about how Solar Cycle 24 is the weakest since the Maunder Minimum (the period starting in about 1645 and continuing to about 1715 when sunspots became exceedingly rare, as noted by solar observers of the time — see this Wiki entry), there are moments when activity on the Sun strongly increases, providing brief moments of excitement.

Here is a case in point, witnessed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO; see SDO Mission) on June 7, 2011, when the Sun unleashed a magnitude M2 (a medium-sized) solar flare with a spectacular coronal mass ejection (CME). The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area almost half the solar surface.

SDO observed the flare’s peak at 1:41 AM ET. SDO recorded these images in extreme ultraviolet light that show a very large eruption of cool gas. It is somewhat unique because at many places in the eruption there seems to be even cooler material — at temperatures less than 80,000 K.

This video uses the full-resolution 4096 x 4096 pixel images at a one minute time cadence to provide the highest quality, finest detail version possible.  The color is artificial, as the actual images are capturing Extreme Ultraviolet light.

It is interesting to compare the event in different wavelengths because they each see different temperatures of plasma.

Credit: NASA SDO / Goddard Space Flight Center

Video: – Massive Solar Eruption Close-up (2011-06-07 – NASA SDO)



This Spewed Out of the Internet #23

Just catching up on a few things spewing forth from the internetz.

From the Great Minds Think Alike Department, Jeff KE9V suggests that the world needs a really good transceiver focused on 50 MHz and higher. I’ve always had this irrational attraction to VHF and higher and would love to have a solid radio in this category.

Don’t miss the Jamboree On The Air (JOTA) this weekend. Also, take a look at this ARRL article on Radio Scouting. Our local Scout troop will be on the air as KB0SA for JOTA.

Based on the blog posting by Jerry KD0BIK, I picked up a Kelty Redwing backpack, for SOTA and other hiking activities. The 20% off coupon for REI was a good incentive to pick up the pack.

I managed to miss the 2012 Pacificon hamfest. Early in the year, I figured out that I needed to be in the San Francisco area right around the Pacificon date, so it looked like a sure thing. Unfortunately, circumstances changed and I missed it again this year. I keep hearing great things about Pacificon so it may be the best hamfest in the USA, based on a quality venue and great programs. I will have to wait until next year to validate this theory.

The LA Times has a great time-lapse photography video of space shuttle Endeavor moving through the streets of LA. Check it out. has a neat video of a flagpole vertical antenna getting installed. There’s some really good content on that website. But I might be biased, since I’ve been contributing a few articles under the Shack Talk banner.

My buddy Ken WA6TTY has written a review of the new ARRL RFI Book. Ken is an EMC expert and does an excellent job of reviewing the book.

- 73, Bob K0NR

The pursuit of The Elser-Mathes Cup

The story of the Elser-Mathes Cup may be familiar to many of you. For those of you who are not in the know, you can get all the details from the article by Fred Johnson Elser, W6FB/W70X, in the November 1969 issue of QST. To summarize, the establishment of the Elser-Mathes Cup in 1929 was directly inspired by the leaps and bounds up to that point in radio technology combined with Hiram Percey Maxim’s fascination with the planet Mars. The cup is to be awarded in recognition of the first amateur radio two-way communication between Earth and Mars. I would bet that the cup’s initial establishment was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Although Fred Johnson Elser’s QST article, on the tail of the success of Apollo 11, gave the cups existence and purpose a good deal more veracity.

How close are we to finally awarding the Elser-Mathes Cup? Lets look at some recent milestones:

Earth-Moon-Earth Bounce
In January 1953, Ross Bateman, W4AO, and Bill Smith, W3GKP successfully bounced at 2M signal off the Moon.

Signal reception of Voyager 1

On March 31, 2006, German radio amateurs successfully received transmissions from Voyager 1 which was already well outside the Solar System (~7,436,464,581 miles away from Earth).

Earth-Venus-Earth Bounce

On March 25, 2009, German radio amateurs achieved another first by bouncing a 2.4 GHz CW signal off of Venus – which at its closest point to Earth is a mere 24,000,000 miles away and 162,000,000 miles at its furthest.

Earth-Mars-Earth Bounce?
Mike Brink, ZR6BRI, has definitely done his homework to show the feasibility of radio amateurs bouncing a signal off of Mars (which has a distance from Earth that varies from 36,000,000 miles to 250,000,000 miles).

However, bouncing a signal off of Mars will not win The Elser-Mathes Cup. The amateur contact must be two-way.

Could the Mars Science Labratory (Curiosity) fulfill the role as the second party of an amateur QSO?

Curisoity does have UHF communication capability. One of Curiosity’s antennas is nicknamed “Big Mouth” and is used to send large data sets to one of three orbiters around Mars: the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (which will probably do most of the work), Mars Odyssey Orbiter, or the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter. The orbiter then relays the data via the Deep Space Network (DSN) back on Earth using X-Band.

“Big Ear” is Curiosity’s high-gain, directional X-Band antenna that can be used to communicate directly with the DSN on Earth. “Little Ear” is an omni-directional, X-Band antenna that is designed to be used primarily to receive low data rate transmissions from the DSN.

Putting aside the fact that Curiosity’s X-Band frequencies are outside the authorized US amateur frequency allocation and given the German amateurs success with Voyager and Venus – amateur communication with Curiosity looks possible (but probably not with my Arrow II antenna).

So, if it is possible for Joe Amateur (along with a heap load of expensive gear) to have a QSO with Curiosity – what would prevent the actual hacking of Curiosity?

Damon Poeter’s August 9th article “How to Hack NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover” takes a look at this proposition. Mr. Poeter all but dismisses the possibility of a private citizen contacting Curoisty and instead focuses at actually hacking through NASA’s control system. Then on August 10th, Mr. Poeter submits “Unknown Actor Soliciting Partners for Mars Rover Hack”. Now, possibily, there are individuals who are actually trying to hack their way through NASA by soliciting help in determining what frequencies are used to communicate with the orbiters above Mars.

Here on an IT secuirty forum, a question is asked concerning the secuirty of Curiosity. One of the responses is from a former controller who is somewhat familiar with NASA’s general communications protocal with spacecraft and identifies the transmission of bogus communications to Curiosity as a possibility. Although the post’s author identifies that the capability to conduct such an act would have to be another country (…. and everyone loves pointing the finger at China).

It is easy to forget that radio amateurs have been intercepting space communications for sometime, with Sputnik’s signal on 20.007 MHz and Apollo 11 communications being primary examples.

All this being said, I think The Elser-Mathes Cup will continue to gather dust for a bit longer.

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

ARISSat–Successful Deployment (Sort of)

Like so many fellow hams I follow on Twitter, Facebook and Google+, yesterday I sat glued to a small 6 inch window which showed the events unfolding up at the ISS (International Space Station) during the launch attempt of the ARISSat-1, amateur radio satellite.  The 6 inch window was a browser window I had sized to fit in the upper corner of my screen so I could also still work. 

I had heard of the ARISSat-1 launch a few days before and to be honest at the time I wasn’t aware of just how the satellite would be launched.  The past few days have been busy for me at work and the assumption was it would blast into orbit on the back of  a Titan rocket along with other payload.  It really wasn’t until I began streaming the NASA channel (since Comcast doesn’t offer it) that I realized the event wasn’t going to be as “eventful” as I had first thought.


My morning started off busy like most and the spacewalk had already begun by the time I settled in to watch.  The two Russian spacewalkers were already outside of the ISS with ARISSat-1 in hand.  I heard mention ARISSat-1 weighs in at 70 pounds and appeared to be about the size of a toaster oven.  At one point the satellite was un-tethered and  perhaps moments from being launched when it became clear something was missing from the satellite.  The missing item was the 70cm UHF uplink antenna.

This immediately caused a flurry of conversation on Twitter and Google+ regarding what happened to the 70cm antenna.  Really unsure just how the ARISSat-1 arrived to the ISS, I tweeted “I wonder if anyone found an extra antenna in the glove box of Atlantis STS-135”.  Others imagined it sitting behind some books or boxes on someone’s desk back on Earth.  Of course, it could have easily been floating around in the ISS.  We later heard an update which ruled out the missing antenna was on Atlantis as the ARISSat-1 arrived some time ago on board a Russian supply mission. 

The launch of ARISSat-1 was the first of several projects to be completed during the EVA.  The Russian spacewalkers eventually returned the satellite to the holding bay and started work on project number 2 which was to install a laser based communication system.  The comedy of errors continued.  At one point one of the two Russian spacewalkers either unscrewed a wing nut or was trying to attach a wing nut.  It went missing and was then discovered floating off into the deepest, darkest depths of space.  More space junk?

This little boo-boo spurred more chuckles on social media and the entire event sort of reminded many of us of a typical field day weekend.  It also reminded me of the time I had left my house on a Saturday morning for a DAREC training meeting.  We were meeting just a few miles away from my house and I was extremely early.  So early that I realized I had my hand-held, but no antenna.  I quickly returned home to grab the antenna and still made it to the meeting with time to spare.  Of course…returning to Earth to pickup the 70cm antenna was out of the question and this was well outside of the scope of “What can brown (UPS) do for you”?

My morning soon turned into lunchtime and I had a 12:30 dentist appt.  By the time I arrived back home it was a little after 2 PM.  I checked in with friends on Twitter to learn they had launched ARISSat-1 successfully without the 70cm antenna.  This left many of us on earth scratching our heads.  I saw this posted on Google+ “It appears that ARISSat-1 was deployed…without the UHF antenna. My brain keeps saying WTF?”


While I (and many) found humor and poked fun at the events unfolding some 240nm above Earth, the brave men and women (regardless of nationality) are true modern day pioneers.  The duties performed are as important as those performed hundreds of years ago by names like Columbus, Magellan, Lewis & Clark and two brothers named Wright.  These duties are performed in an environment which very few could or would even want to journey.  Thank you to all these modern day pioneers for what you contribute to the rest of us on Earth.

As I said, once I returned around 2:15 PM MT, ARISSat-1 was tumbling away from the ISS.  I guess the decision to launch without the 70cm antenna was weighed against the next scheduled EVA wasn’t until February 2012.  It was confirmed the missing antenna will have no impact to the satellites ability to transmit to stations on earth, and receiving capabilities will only be marginally impacted.  ARISSat-1 was given a gentle push by one of the two Russian spacewalkers and it began its 1-3 month journey.

Hams all around the world began pointing their antennas to the sky in hopes of receiving the signals from ARISSat-1.  Images like the one below slowly began making their way into social media streams.  This one received by Peter Goodhall, 2E0SQL in the United Kingdom.  This was a low elevation pass, but clearly shows the onboard cameras are active and audio was also received.  Similar images and audio have been received by many other hams and will continue to do so for many weeks to follow.


If you would like to learn more about the ARISSat-1 Satellite and working satellites in general, please check out the AMSAT website.  You might also find this document a helpful read.  In the US, hams holding at least a technician class license can operate most amateur radio satellites with nothing more than a dual-band hand-held transceiver and an external antenna.  There are many plans available on the internet (Google is your friend) on how to construct your own.  Also, the Arrow II satellite antenna is used by many hams (including myself).  Check out this link for this antenna and watch videos by Randy Hall, K7AGE.  Randy also produces many other helpful “how to” videos and makes them available on his Youtube channel.  Please check them out.

Until next time…

73 de KD0BIK

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