Thursday, September 11, 2014

Looking Up: Space and Satellite Roundup

Nothing exists except atoms and empty space;
everything else is opinion. - Democritus
Ham Balloons Circling the Globe: As of late August, three small balloons carrying tiny amateur radio beacon transmitters were circling the Earth and sending out signals on 70 centimeters. The ARRL Letter says the foil envelope balloons were all launched from the United Kingdom by Leo Bodnar, MØXER. They each carry solar powered 10-milliwatt transmitters operating on 434.500 MHz and alternating between APRS and Contestia 64/1000, both digital modes. The transmitters weigh only 11 grams (0.4 ounces) each.

Two ham satellites headed for deep space. A Japanese satellite carrying an amateur radio transponder and beacons is scheduled for launch in December to a deep-space orbit between Venus and Mars, while a Chinese satellite with a ham-band transmitter aboard is reportedly heading for a lunar flyby.The ARRL Letter reports that the payload on the Chinese satellite, currently named 4M-LXS, will transmit the JT65 digital mode on 145.990 MHz while the spacecraft travels to the moon, completes at least one orbit and then returns to Earth. Hams will be able to monitor the signals using free WSJT software. The launch, scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year, is part of China's plans to eventually send a lander to the moon to collect samples and return them to Earth.The Japanese satellite will be launched with a satellite headed for a rendezvous with an asteroid. Hayabusa-2 is scheduled to make a 6-year round trip to asteroid 1999 JU3, according to the ARRL. The satellite carrying the ham station - Shin'en 2 - will head for an elliptical orbit in deep space between Venus and Mars that is in line with the Earth's equatorial plane. The satellite will carry a Mode J amateur transponder (2 meters up, 70 centimeters down) as well as CW and WSJT beacons. It is anticipated that hams will need EME-capable stations to work the satellite when it is close to the Moon and "to test the limits of their communication capabilities." At greater distances, it is unlikely that two-way contacts by hams will be possible.

CubeSat Challenge - 50x50x5: In an effort "to promote a spacecraft nation and develop innovative technology partnerships," NASA has issued a challenge to universities and aerospace companies to build and launch 50 CubeSat satellites from all 50 states within 5 years. According to the AMSAT News Service, the program is part of the White House Maker Initiative and will initially focus on the 21 states that have not yet built satellites, along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Proposals must be submitted electronically by November 25 and payload selections will be announced next February 6. NASA notes that selection does not guarantee a launch opportunity and that it will not provide funding for developing these satellites. For more information, visit <>.

SSTV on the Air Again from ISS: The slow-scan television (SSTV) experiment aboard the International Space Station was activated in early September, with photos transmitted showing the life and work of space pioneer Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. The experiment is being coordinated by Russian crew members in honor of what would have been Gagrin's 80th birthday this year. The signal is downlinked on 145.800 MHz FM, according to Southgate Amateur Radio News.

South American Satellite News: Something old, something new… LUSAT-OSCAR-19, one of the oldest amateur satellites still in Earth orbit, seems to be holding a charge in its batteries again. The satellite, launched nearly a quarter-century ago, began transmitting again in daylight a couple of years ago, according to the AMSAT News Service. But in August, hams suddenly began hearing signals from the spacecraft even after it passed into darkness, indicating that its Ni-Cd batteries were once again holding a small charge. The satellite was launched in January 1990. Among active amateur satellites, only OSCARs 7 and 11 are older.

From the International Space Station: Peru's first satellite - Chasqui-1 - was hand-launched from the International Space Station during a spacewalk in mid-August. It carries an amateur radio beacon (437.025 MHz, transmitting 1200 BPS packet or 9600 BPS GMSK) as a secondary payload. As of the date of this posting, there had not been any reports of hearing the beacon.

Foxy Crowdfunding Effort: AMSAT is turning to crowdfunding to raise money for next year's anticipated launch of the Fox-1C satellite. The amateur satellite group is trying to raise $25,000 through the FundRazr site before October 9. For details, visit <>. AMSAT's overall fundraising goal for Fox-1C is $125,000.