Satellite UTC Clock Powered by Arduino and Adafruit GPS

It works!  I recently blogged about getting the Ultimate GPS Breakout up and running while doing some validation of my iOS app, and I was delighted when a four digit display module I ordered arrived in the mail this past week.

After a bit of soldering and tinkering with the example code, I was able to get the UTC time reported by the GPS Breakout to display on the LED display module (including blinking the colon on alternating seconds.)

Complete details on how to wire it up are included in the source code, which is available on GitHub.

Packet Radio Transmitter is Working

The mini DIN plug I needed arrived in the mail on Friday.  OMG such small pins to solder.  I really need to buy a proper magnifier.  Connected my Yaesu FT-7800 to the Pakratt.  Discovered that the USB interface is not (yet) recognizable by my MacBook.  Connected it instead to trusty old Trinity, an old PC of mine.  Also not recognized.  Downloaded drivers for USB serial port bridge.  Then it was recognized as COM9.

Hah!  Hyperterminal is no longer included with Windows.  So sad.  Found and downloaded it.  Installer looks like something out of 1992, but it worked.  Spent the next hour tinkering with the TNC settings, setting it to my call sign, adjusting the threshold so it actually received packets.

So. Much. Setup. Required.  No wonder most people don’t do this.  Such incredible barriers to entry.  That’s something I’d like to work to change.

Because it took so long to setup I missed an excellent space station pass, but managed to get my BEACON text set with my lat and long and was delighted to see my call sign (KF7APE) appear on as a result.


Now, I just need the Space Station to pass overhead again.  Patience required :)

Chrome, JavaScript, and a Spacecraft for All

Just stumbled across this on the web – looks like the Googles were busy last year with a cool interactive visualization of the recently “re-discovered” ISEE-3 spacecraft, with all sorts of Chrome, WebGL and JavaScript goodness.  Take a look at

For Want of a Mini DIN Plug

Picked up a packet modem today (an AEA Packratt 232 USB – thanks Rob!) – it will let me use the Mac to transmit to satellites and the space station – so I can do more than just listen.  But… I need a special connector for my radio, so I’m now patiently waiting for yet another small package to arrive in the mail.

When working with hardware, it seems there is a lot of waiting for small things to arrive in the mail. :)  I guess it’s the hardware equivalent of compiling :P

And yes, I scoured the house for an old PS/2 keyboard to cannibalize, to no avail.

And yes, I’m totally going to use this to integrate APRS geolocation into a MapKit app on OSX.

Catching Up with the AMSAT Foxes

I’ve put a lot of time into the Look iOS app over the holidays, and I was thrilled to get a membership in AMSAT (the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation) from Pammy as a Christmas present. And now I’m even more thrilled to learn about the AMSAT Fox Project.  (And, for bonus points, AMSAT’s website is powered by WordPress, which the little company I work for has a hand or two or three in.)

The Fox Project is designed to encourage and inspire STEM education through the launch of low-cost small satellites into low earth orbit which can be contacted using relatively simple equipment on the ground.  The first launch, Fox-1, is slated for later this year and I was happy to learn today that the payload of this tiny (10 cm cubed) spacecraft is being provided by my alma mater, Virginia Tech — it’s a small camera that will capture whatever the satellite can see and then transmit it back to earth via amateur radio.  This is being done under the auspices of the NASA Educational Launch of Nano satellite (ELaNa) program.  This is exactly the sort of thing we need to be doing to inspire students to literally “reach for the stars.”

I’m going to be following the Fox Project closely and will make sure that the Look iOS app makes it easy for educators and students to know when Fox Project spacecraft will be detectable from their location.  I’ll also be tinkering with my not-yet-on-GitHub “Listen” SDR project to receive and decode the images Fox-1 transmits.

If you’d like to support the Fox project, join AMSAT, donate, or just spread the word.  And… let’s go catch some foxes!

Photo credit

Picked up GOMX 1 / GATOSS (maybe?) downlink as it passed

Not entirely sure I picked up GOMX 1 / GATOSS , but my iOS Look app prediction suggests it was (and n2yo corroborates it as well) – in any case, I was picking up something on 437.250 MHz at the right time.  First time listening for satellites on 70cm.