SSETI Express

SSETI stands for the Student Space Exploration and Technology Initiative, funded by the Education Department of the European Space Agency (ESA). This morning, at approximately 06:52 UTC SSETI Express was successfully launched from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia. So far it seems to be operating within mission parameters.

See here for a BBC news story and here for the project homepage.

Amateur Radio in the news

A short article extolling some of the virtues of Amateur Radio and also the difficulties it faces.

“A few months ago, NBC’s Tonight Show staged a race between a pair of ham-radio operators with Morse-code keys and a couple of kids with text-messaging cellphones to see who could communicate faster. The hams won hands down, proving, in the minds of some, that old technology could hold its own against new. In recent days, ham radio was put to the test again by Hurricane Katrina. This time, however, lives were at stake.”

eChallenges 2005

[aerial photo]

I’m just back from Ljubljana in Slovenia for the annual eChallenges 2005 conference. This year there are nearly 600 delegates from 46 countries. The conference looks at a broad range of topics, from eBusiness, through eGovernment to Broadband and Mobile technologies. There were a few TSSG personnel present but unfortunately we had very little time to look around. If you are looking for a place to have a few beers in slightly different surroundings, may I suggest visiting The Skeleton Pub quite a busy place, and the owner (who looks like/is a bouncer) was quite interested to hear where we all were from. In those unforgettable words of Arnold…. I’ll be back.

PCsat 2 in Shipmate Magazine

Mission accomplished for the Naval Academy’s Small Satellite program. As part of NASA’s recent Return to Flight mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery(STS-114),the Academy’s second student prototype communications satellite is now in orbit on the International Space Station (ISS).

The PCSAT2 project is conducted under the Academy’s Small Satellite program with the guidance of Lieutenant Colonel Billy Smith and Senior Research Engineer Bob Bruninga.Resembling a small suitcase,PCSAT2 includes USNA’s communications package,along with MISSE 5,a Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) experiment.Soichi Noguchi, STS-114 mission specialist representing Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency,installed the suitcase on the outside of the ISS,and the satellite is now transmitting data back to Earth.

Read the full article here.

Amateur Satellite history and JOTA

The first amateur satellite (OSCAR-1) was launched on December the 12th 1961. OSCAR while a nice name, does actually have a meaning, Orbital Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio, and there has been more than 70 to date. Next weekend (15th/16th) is JOTA weekend.

The Jamboree-On-The-Air (JOTA) is an annual event in which about 500,000 Scouts and Guides all over the world make contacts with each other by means of amateur radio. It is a real Jamboree during which Scouting experiences are exchanged and ideas are shared, thus contributing to the world brotherhood of Scouting.

Members of South Eastern Amateur Radio Group and Tipperary Amateur Radio Group will be helping out in Waterford helping scouts to get “On the Air”.

Especially for this event, AO-51 will be configured in the Dual FM repeater mode. This will provide two independent FM repeaters (separate uplink and downlink frequencies) for use over the weekend. Both repeaters will be for use by the JOTA activity. This mode will run Monday through Friday before the event to allow amateur satellite stations to familiarise and test this mode. It is planned to operate a portable satellite station on the 15th.

See you on the bird!

Amateur Satellites

We know that satellites are overhead as quite a lot of people now have a GPS receiver or have satellite TV. I myself have Sky at home, with its associated dish and receiver.

More recently I’ve become interested in APRS and satellite reception. I know now that is relatively simple to send a short burst of APRS data through the International Space Station (current list here), so I did a bit more reading and listening.

My antenna set-up at home isn’t adequate enough for reception of satellites, so I also tried listening in my car but I could only barely make out that there were stations there (a uhf pre-amp may help in both situations, but I’ve not got my hands on one yet).

While digging through my junk the other day looking for an old network card, I found an Arrow antenna which I lost quite a while back. Just what was required. So, last night, armed with the arrow, a Kenwood TH-D7, a headset, (required for full duplex operation) a blank piece of paper and a pen. I sat on the step at my back door and waited for Saudisat 1C to come over the horizon. (I knew when to listen as I had run a satellite tracking program earlier in the day.)

After a few minutes of what could be best described as ‘waving’ the antenna around, in the general direction of were I ‘thought’ the satellite was going to come up over the horizon, I finally heard some stations calling ‘cq satellite’. I pressed the ‘push to talk’ button and called ON5NY, to my absolute shock he replied to me. I forgot to write most of the details down, but he emailed me afterwards to confirm them (the time was 19:17 UTC) and he included some pictures of his ‘shack’. OZ1MY and PD5DJ called me immediately afterwards. It was quite a buzz. I also knew that AO-51 was scheduled to pass overhead later on so I listened out for that and managed to (briefly) speak to Graham, G7HEJ at 20:39 UTC. What a blast!

We are having a meeting of Tipperary Amateur Radio Group this evening that co-incides with a pass of AO-51, so I’ll hopefully be able to demonstrate to the other members how easy it is to use these satellites. I would recommend anyone to try it, its great fun (and when the neighbours see you waving an antenna about they WILL think you have lost it completely!).

In Moray Firth, East Scotland.

We’re in Moray Firth with about 40 miles to go to Inverness and the entrance to the Caledonian Canal. This canal cuts across Scotland through Loch Ness and The Great Glen, and will have us out on the Scottish west coast.

Continue reading here.