Friday, 26 April 2013

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

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Video showing the decoding of the SSTV images from the ISS

I have made a small video showing the decoding of the SSTV images from the ISS that I posted earlier, the decoding was done using the MMSSTV program

Two SSTV Images from the ISS

I love Twitter!

Several messages appeared on my news feed indicating that the Russian Cosmonauts were testing the SSTV system on board the International Space Station, activity was continuing to around 16:00UTC, as luck would have it this coincided with as pass over the UK, at around 15:30UTC.

Getting setup and monitoring the pass with the FUNCube Dongle got two absolutely clear images (and one partial) with a very very strong signal being received via the 2m yagi.


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

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

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

First Phonesat Image Piece

Before leaving for work this morning I set up the 70cm yagi on the tripod pointing due south at around 45 degrees inclination and my ancient laptop with the original FUNCube dongle, hoping to catch some more PhoneSat packets during this afternoons passes, the first at 12:30BST, the other around 14:05BST.

I was hoping to be home for the later one, but unfortunately I was held up and wasn't, luckily I was able to set both of them to record by logging in remotely. But due to the fixed antenna meant I only was able to get the optimum signal for part of the pass.

Still I grabbed the file for the first pass and was able to analyse the resulting IQ file during a coffee break and successful decoded a handful of packets.

I was especially eager to see the result as in my mailbox this morning was a message from the PhoneSat team
Let the puzzle begin
As scheduled, Graham and Bell have just started transmitting picture packets, so please stay tuned to your radio. Since the picture packets need to be stitched to restore the complete Earth picture, we will need as many packets as possible. Ultimately a new page will be created to display the current construction of the pictures. Let the puzzle begin!
Best regards,
The PhoneSat team
Indeed one of the packets was an image piece, however my excitement was quickly tempered when I discovered it was infact just 20 x 15 pixels in size!

fm KJ6KRW-2 to CQ-0 via TELEM-0 UI  PID=F0

Produced this image, which I have scaled up to 200 x 150 pixels! A hint of blue, cloud and land?

The picture packets are decoded as.webp pictures. These pictures can be converted into png pictures using Google’s webp converter.

Monday, 22 April 2013

All three Phonesats received and decoded

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

After downloading the TLE 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
15:35:45$ fm KJ6KRW-0 to CQ-0 via TELEM-0 UI  PID=F0
15:36:59$ fm KJ6KRW-1 to CQ-0 via TCPIP-0 UI  PID=F0

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.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

STRATODEAN - High Altitude Balloon

After yesterdays successful first attempt at receiving the telemetry from HABs (High Altitude Balloons) I spotted another was being launched this morning, the STRATODEAN Project.

The STRATODEAN team is made up of Mark Ireland and Cassie Phelps, two graduates from the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire who were launching their payload from their hometown.

The launch took place just after 10am, and I set the receiver going and was getting some faint signals but no successful decodes and took the dogs out for a morning walk, a few hours later I returned to find the signal had increased in strength and decodes were occuring.

I carried on receiving successful decodes after the balloon burst and it was making the decent, the final decode being received as it was around 700m from the ground, quite near the final landing spot.

I managed to get the tracker working (by turning off adblock plus) so was able to follow the track of the payload in real time as decodes were received.

Congratulations to the Stratodean project it was an enjoyable few hours.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

High Altitude Balloon - AURA Telemetry Decode

99 Red Balloons, well actually 3 High Altitude Balloons on 434MHz

In my news feed this morning was an innocuous article from the Southgate Amateur Radio News website (which is a must have subscription for anyone interested in amateur radio)

It simply said "Several 434 MHz balloons launch today" but it was enough to pique my interest, the first launch this morning was the NSE/CHEAPO balloon set to launch at 9am from Bicknacre, Chelmsford, Essex, UK.

I was vaguely aware of these balloons and the High Altitude enthusiasts but I had never received or made any attempt at receiving them, but shortly after nine I started up the FUNCube Dongle and tuned to 434.650MHz with the discone in the loft and got a pretty decent signal, which I recognised as being RTTY.

A quick visit to the UKHAS UK High Altitude Society website and I had downloaded the dl-fldigi application which decodes the signal from and uploads the data to a central website.

I didn't have any luck getting a decode from NSE but I was prepared for another attempt, so when I returned home this afternoon I managed to received the AURA balloon which launched from Great Malvern. I received quite a few success data packets which got uploaded.

I also received the last balloon this afternoon launched by the Queen Mary University from the Elsworth Site near Cambridge, around 4pm, but the signal was a little too scratchy for a successful decode.

I have since discovered that the transmitters in these balloons are only 10mW, but because of the line of sight they can manage several hundred miles, but even so the setup I was using wasn't the most efficient for reception.

A similar balloon being launched

Friday, 19 April 2013

ISS - Russian EVA-32 Comms Received

The International Space Station is currently giving some nice evening passes at the moment, with clear skies and passing close to the crescent moon.

However today they were still undertaking an EVA to add some maintenance, so I programmed in a few frequencies I found on and had the FUNCube Dongle Pro+ connected to the discone in the loft and really wasn't expecting much, until a doppler shifting signal appeared around 143.625MHz

Chuffed is an understatement!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

CubeSats Galore!

No the Phonesats don't look like this!

It is an interesting time if you are into chasing satellites as there is a plethora of CubeSat launches imminent.

Last night I settled down and logged into NASA-TV to watch the Orbital Sciences Antares Test Flight (A-ONE Misson) Antares is a new medium-class space launch vehicle. Following this test launch and a further demonstration mission it will hopefully become a cargo deliverly system to the International Space Station (ISS)

As part of this initial test there were a number of CubeSats on board due for deployment unfortunately with just twelve minutes on the clock the launch was halted due to a premature separation of a launch pad umbilical connection to the Antares upper stage used for data communications. Orbital is currently analysing what happened. The next launch attempt is tentatively set for no earlier than Friday pending a successful resolution of the issue and acceptable weather conditions.

The CubeSats due for deployment were part of the NASA PhoneSat project. Three CubeSats called Alexandra, Graham and Bell are 1U sized and similar to the British STRaND-1 CubeSat utilise Commericial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) Electronics, namely a HTC Nexus One smartphone running the Android operating system for the Phonesat 1.0 satellites (Graham and Bell) and a Samsung Nexus S for the Phonesat 2.0 Beta satellite (Alexandra) The satellites also contain an external radio beacon, batteries and a circuit to reboot the phone if it stops transmitting, again all off the shelf commerical parts.

All three satellites are emitting packet transmission over the amateur radio band at 437.425 MHz, utilising the call sign KJ6KRW and will be spaced apart to allow reception of all three during a single pass. More details are available at

Also onboard Antares was the commericial DOVE-1 satellite, a technology development experiment. Originally intended to have a telemetry downlink on 145.825MHz this apparently is no longer the case.

More information about the Antares payload is at

If the Antares does launch on Friday, it will share the skys with Soyuz-2-1a which is due to be launched at 10:00UTC from Baikonur in Kazakhstan. Amongst its payload are four CubeSats with amateur radio payloads, OSSI-1, BEESAT-2, BEESAT-3 and SOMP. Again more details can be found at the AMSAT-UK website at

Also next week the launch of CZ-2D from the Jiuquan Space Centre is planned on April 26, carrying the Mode J (145/435) linear transponder satellite TURKSAT-3USAT along with the Argentine CubeBug-1 and Ecuadorian NEE-01 Pegasus TV Cubesat

CubeBug-1 -
NEE-01 Pegasus -

So it looks like being a busy time, once the orbits are known and the TLEs are published.

Sadly it seems STRaND-1, that got me so excited last month has fallen silent after its transmissions became intermittent over the Easter weekend. After failing to receive any radio transmissions the team are apparently asking the EME weak-signal community to listen for the STRaND-1 LO (Local Oscillator) at 312.5MHz to see if it is still alive.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Conet Project / 1111

Back when I first started listening to short wave radio I often come across no end of strange sounding stations, usually consisting of some form of repeating 'musical' fanfare and then an automated voice reading out seemingly random numbers. These were of course the now infamous 'number stations'

There function was a mystery but it is logical to assume they were some form of coded covert messaging system for the security and intelligence community of various countries, or for organised crime.

Some number stations sound more like experimental electronica music or performance art with strange tones and unearthly sounds and have gained a number of enthusiastic monitoring stations and Hundreds of stations have been identified by these numbers-hunters like those in ENIGMA (European Numbers Information Gathering and Monitoring Association), who publish a 'zine tracking the transmissions.

Sadly despite making many recordings of stations on my trusty cassette recorder they have long since become misplaced and lost, however all was not lost!

Back in 1997 Akin Fernandez and the Irdial-Discs recording label released a four-CD set of recordings of number stations, called The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations. The Conet Project has since become somewhat of a cult sensation and counts many musicians and filmmakers among its fans, often incorporating samples of it in their work.

The project's name comes from a mishearing of the Czech word konec, or "end," which marks the end of transmissions on the Czech numbers station.

The Irdial-Discs label has made the entire collection available for download in MP3 form on its web site completely free of charge.

Now Irdial-Dics have re-released The Conet Project in a special anniversary CD edition that includes the four original discs plus a fifth CD containing recordings of the very strange "noise stations." Called TCP/1111 (1111 being the binary representation of 15, or 16 years if you start counting from 0)

Also back in 2005 BBC Radio 4 broadcast a lovely documentary called "Tracking The Lincolnshire Poacher" all about number stations and The Conet Project, which can be downloaded from many sources (just do a google search) or is available on Youtube with a brilliant visualisation.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A few more Digital SSTV Pictures

Last weekend I was unfortunately working, but it didn't stop me setting up Easypal and leaving it running and got a few more amazing pictures courtesy of OE3AWA