Pictures from Space, Part 2

You can read part 1 here.

It worked really well, and I got to hear Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka’s (props to John Brier for recognizing the voice) answer student’s questions on Internet access while on the Space Station, what it is like looking at Earth from space, having ice cream in space, the risks of fire on the station, what kinds of cuisine they have, and what happens if you get sick in space, before the contact faded out.

Over 3 minutes at an extremely low (20 degrees or less) elevation. It was quite the treat. Here is the complete audio I recorded:

The next morning there would be two passes and SSTV was planned. I was hoping they’d sort out the snafu that was causing the carrier only (no picture) problems on Saturday, and I was not disappointed.

The first pass had its closest approach to our home at 1429 UTC, and started at 1424 UTC. I was delighted to hear the chirping sounds of the image data as the space station rose above the horizon to the East. They stopped after less then a minute, and then I was in the “3 minute” no signal period. (Each SSTV image has 3 minutes of radio silence between them.) And, since a pass is only about 10-11 minutes long that was a good chunk of the time right there. This radio silence period in particular seemed to go on for longer.

But then, the chirping began again and I caught it all on the recording I was making. The pass eventually faded out to static, with the image still downloading. I replayed the recording into the SSTV app (SSTV Slow Scan TV) on my iPhone and was treated to my first image:


Neat fact: It turns out that that artifact you see where the image “jogs” was received by everyone listening.

The next pass began at 1601 UTC, but this time I managed to capture a complete image, and with few artifacts:


It was really a treat, and I can’t wait to try again when the station broadcasts SSTV again (as they do a few times each year.)

Curious what the SSTV signal sounds like?  Take a listen (in fact, if you want, you can decode this into an image using that app or a similar app yourself – the mode is called “PD 180″)

Pictures from Space, Part 1

With my recent success at getting a packet through the space station, and recognizing that my non-directional J-Pole antenna wasn’t going to result in enough downlink signal for spacecraft work (let alone enough for uplink), I ordered a 2m/70 cm dual Yagi from Arrow Antennas and a short run of coax to go with it.

I got the antenna and then learned about the ISS activity planned for last weekend.  Slow Scan Television was going to be broadcast from the Space Station on Saturday and Sunday in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Soyuz Apollo Docking mission in 1975.  That and the ISS crew would be doing a Q&A via amateur radio with students attending the Moon Day/Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas on Sunday.

I checked for passes on both days and found quite a few, including some with fairly high elevation.  I jotted them into my notebook, including the start and stop azimuth and the max Elevation angle and its azimuth.  I would need those to manually point the antenna, which I attached to an old camera tripod.

I also bought a SSTV app for my iPhone, so I could demodulate and view the images.

And, since my MacBook (like most) lacks a separate line-level input, I dug up my old M-Audio MobilePre USB from my old Podcasting days to connect between my radio (a Yaesu FT-7800) and the computer,

The last piece to the puzzle was learning that I could use OSX’s Quick Time App to record Audio AND listen to it at the same time, so I had everything I needed to both try and view SSTV images on the fly as well as, if needed, try decoding them from the recorded audio if necessary after the space station pass was long over.

Early Saturday morning I got everything set up and connected in our front yard and pointed the antenna toward the horizon, tuned the radio to 145.800 MHz (ordinarily the station transmits digital data at a different frequency, but I think this is coming from dedicated equipment in the Russian segment of the station) and turned off the squelch.  A wash of static erupted and I waited for the real time tracking display from to indicate the station was rising above the horizon.  I started recording.

Static, static and more static for what seemed like forever.  I carefully increased the antenna elevation angle and steered to the side approximating where said the station should be.

Still more static, and then all of a sudden silence.  At first I thought something had broken.  Then I noticed the RX level on the radio was pegged at full.  I remembered the scene from Contact where they budged the antenna off axis to confirm the other-worldliness of the signal and decided to do the same.  I swept the antenna a little to one side and static rose in the receiver.  I swept it back and the receiver was quiet again and still receiving an incredibly strong signal.

That was the 1346 UTC pass on July 18.

A little checking on Twitter confirmed I wasn’t the only one receiving strong unmodulated carrier.

The next pass, the 1523 UTC pass, had the same strong unmodulated carrier but then a voice! A voice! A very Russian voice.  I had heard my first Cosmonaut from space, and I was thrilled.  The recording is here.

The next pass was, at 1659 UTC, was going to be the one with the chat between the space station and the students, and although the elevation was going to be quite low for me, 20 degrees, I was. going to give it a shot.

It worked really well, and I got to hear… (to be continued)

Just Heard Space Station Cosmonauts for the First Time!

On a nearly overhead pass, while waiting for SSTV (Slow Scan Television) to commence in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo Soyuz docking mission, I was delighted to hear Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka (or possibly Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko) speaking from the International Space Station.

From my own front yard :)

Here’s the audio from the pass.  This was at about 8:25am PDT today.

I used a Yaesu FT-7800 receiver and an Arrow 146/437-10 antenna.  Incredibly strong and clear signal.  Hope to catch the crew on the next pass as well when they’ll be talking to students attending the Moon Day/Frontiers of Flight Museum event in Dallas, Texas.

Got My First Packet Through the Space Station

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 10.30.08 AM

I’m KF7APE.  At about 1726UTC on July 3.  Very excited!  Using a simple J-Pole antenna during a very close pass.  Can’t wait for new antenna to arrive to do even more :)

Call log courtesy

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 10.32.33 AM

Watching (and Listening to) the Leap Second Roll By

This movie is of the Serial Monitor output of an Arduino Uno running my GPSClock code with barely audible WWV (at 10.0 MHz) in the background.  You can actually see the time 23:59:59 as reported by the GPS receiver (an Adafruit GPS Breakout) repeat as the leap second rolls by :)