AMSAT NEWS SERVICE
The AMSAT News Service bulletins are a free, weekly news and infor-
mation service of AMSAT North America, The Radio Amateur Satellite
Corporation. ANS publishes news related to Amateur Radio in Space
including reports on the activities of a worldwide group of Amateur
Radio operators who share an active interest in designing, building,
launching and communicating through analog and digital Amateur Radio
The news feed on http://www.amsat.org
publishes news of Amateur
Radio in Space as soon as our volunteers can post it.
Please send any amateur satellite news or reports to:
ans-editor at amsat.org
In this edition:
* Weekly engineering report for Phase 4 radio project from AMSAT
* Write About Satellites, Space and Radio!
* UFO Researcher To Launch CubeSat To Search For E.T. Close To Home
* Pair of Satellites ejected from ISS for In-Space Navigation Exercise
* LilacSat-2 FM Transponder
* 6W8CK on Satellite
* IARU Paper: APRS Harmonization and removal of OSCAR sub-band
* ISS Orbit Boosted Ahead of March Crew Swap - Check Your Elements
* ARISS News
* Satellite Shorts From All Over
SB SAT @ AMSAT $ANS-031.01
ANS-031 AMSAT News Service Weekly Bulletins
AMSAT News Service Bulletin 031.01
From AMSAT HQ KENSINGTON, MD.
[MONTH DAY, YEAR]
To All RADIO AMATEURS
Weekly engineering report for Phase 4 radio project from AMSAT
The Phase 4 Ground weekly report focuses on the current modulation
schemes. We're looking at DVB-S2X to receive, and OQPSK to transmit.
Repository for documents and software can be found:
We have nearly 50 volunteers on the mailing list and activity across
the country. We're working hard to make a wonderful radio for AMSAT
and terrestrial microwave, and we appreciate your support, feedback,
comments, and critique.
DVB-S2 stands for Digital Video Broadcasting - Satellite - Second
Generation. There is a recent extension to this standard, called DVB-
S2X, that has very low SNR capabilities and a lot of other goodies.
The geo project, ascent, and eventually the high earth orbit project,
are expected to transmit using DVB-S2X. This is the foundation of our
common air interface.
DVB-S2X specifies the modulation and coding for our received signal.
There are five major landmarks.
One, an input stream adapter. Input streams can be packetized or
continuous, from single or multiple sources. This is helpful!
Two, forward error correction. Our type is low density parity check
codes concatenated with BCH codes. What does this mean?
A concatenated code is one that combines two different coding
schemes. In coding theory, there's a fundamental problem in that
finding a really great code that has very low probability of error
usually means that the block length has to go up, and the decoding is
more and more complex. When you use two codes together that each have
particular strengths, they balance each other out. You can get
exponentially decreasing error probabilities, but you only have to
pay a polynomially increasing cost in terms of code block length.
This may seem complicated, but just remember concatenation is codes
doing teamwork, and the standard that we're using is bad ass.
Our inner low density parity check code can achieve extremely low
error rates near channel capacity. This means, it's about as good as
you can get. The outer BCH codes are used to correct sporadic errors
made by the LDPC decoder, and to trick it out so that we don't have
enormous block lengths and stuff like that.
Three, we have a wide range of code rates. The code rate is
expressed as a fraction. The top number is how many uncoded bits go
in. The bottom number is how many coded bits come out. We have four
constellations. This is the the type of transformation from bits to
symbols. We have great choices here, and DVB-S2X provides additional
Four, there is a variety of spectral shaping available to us in DVB-
S2. This is a really neat thing. You can change the pulse shape of a
transmitted waveform in order to make it better suited for the radio
environment it's expecting to be traveling through. Usually this
means making it fit into a bandwidth better. You don't get something
for nothing, though, so being too aggressive with the pulse shaping
shows up in other aspects. Our particular shaping is different levels
of raised-cosign filtering. DVB-S2X provides additional levels of
Five, this standard lets us learn and develop with something very
much like cognitive radio. As you can see, there are a lot of choices
for coding and modulation. We can specify a fixed coding and
modulation. This is called CCM for constant coding and modulation. In
the past, people like us looked at a link, designed for the worst
case solution, and used coding and modulation that would cover almost
all the bases. DVB-S2 has CCM, but it also specifies something called
variable coding and modulation, or VCM. The coding and modulation can
be changed on a frame-by-frame basis in response to different station
types or changes in the channel. In addition to that, there is
something called adaptive coding and modulation, or ACM, where
modulation and coding automagically adapts. This can happen on a
frame by frame basis.
DVB-S2 has things called annexes. In annex M, there's a
specification for something we've already talked about wanting to do.
We want to map the transmitted services or station streams into time
slices and then recover information without having to demodulate the
DVB-S2 follows the usual flow of having input data coded up to
remove unnecessary redundancy, which is called source coding, and
then it is put into one of two different stream types. Because DVB-S2
is designed for MPEG streams, it has a lot of mechanisms for MPEG
data types, and I believe that this is the transport stream path in
the drawing. We aren't going to use MPEG, so we fall into the generic
The functional blocks of DVB-S2 include these things in trapezoids.
Mode adaptation, which starts to build up the data frames by
constructing the right header to go with the data. Stream adaptation,
which adds in the right amount of padding and scrambling. Forward
error correction, which produces coded frames that are of one of two
sizes. Mapping to constellations, which is the modulation. Finally,
there is physical layer framing. An open question is how minimal of a
station can be supported? Driving it down as low as possible is going
to be fun and challenging.
What we are anticipating is that the space teams will obtain an
implementation of a DVB-S2X transmitter. Talks are already underway
for this. Phase 4 ground is going to engineer the various DVB-S2X
receivers. Standards documents are already in the repository and work
is beginning. Get off the bench and hit the books!
So let's talk a bit about some changes in the uplink for phase 4
radios. We were MSK, or minimum shift keying, but we are now OQPSK,
or offset quadrature phase shift keying. That is what the payload
team is currently designing for.
Like MSK, Offset QPSK has no more than a 90 degree phase shift at a
time. This is good. In order to create this, you begin with a QPSK
signal, where you take two data bits at a time. These two binary data
bits make four distinct values. Each of these values are mapped onto
four transmit phase shifts.
For offset QPSK, the odd and even bits coming into the modulator
have a timing offset, of one bit period. Hence the name. That means
the in-phase and quadrature signals, the I and the Q, never change at
the same time.
The power spectral density of QPSK and Offset QPSK is the same. The
shift in time doesn't effect that.
Uplink experiments are beginning. We started putting together Team
HackRF, which will investigate the use of HackRF SDRs as one of the
phase 4 radio recipes. Lots of other experiments to work out other
recipes for amateurs to experiment need to happen too. If you have a
set of hardware and you want to work in parallel, then speak up. The
USRPs will get into the act ASAP, some people have BladeRFs, and so
Review the weekly report at
[ANS thanks Michelle W5NYV for the above information]
Write About Satellites, Space and Radio!
The AMSAT Journal is seeking interesting articles about amateur
radio satellites, space and radio – topics that feed the passion of
AMSAT members. Whether the focus is working the birds, new products,
building a new piece of equipment or an entire station, writing
software, training or doing demos, or anything else related to
amateur radio in space, please consider sharing your experience and
expertise with other AMSAT members by writing for the Journal.
Desired article length (rough guidelines):
Short articles – 800-1400 words
Longer articles – 2000-2500 words
Find out more about writer’s guidelines here. Photos, diagrams or
other images always help illustrate your points or projects.
If you are interested in seeing your byline in The AMSAT Journal and
sharing what you’ve learned with other members, email us at
[ANS thanks Joseph KB6IGK for the above information]
UFO Researcher To Launch CubeSat To Search For E.T. Close To Home
An engineer turned UFO researcher is hoping to launch a low-earth
orbit CubeSat to search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.
Canadian Dave Cote has assembled a seven-person team to design, fund,
build and launch the project that he hopes will provide some answers
about the origins of recent unidentified object sightings across the
“We have had astronauts, military personnel, police officers and the
former Defence Minister of Canada come forward stating that
extraterrestrial UFOs are real, and that we are being visited,” says
Cote. “How can this be ignored and brushed off as nonsense?”
Concerned that the public isn’t getting straight answers, the group
has turned to crowdsourcing the project on Kickstarter.
Measuring roughly the size of a shoebox, CubeSats can pack a lot of
science equipment into a small space. They have also made satellite
deployment much more affordable, in some cases costing less than the
price of a lower-end automobile. Sites like CubeSatShop.com
taken much of the complexity out of ordering needed components.
Cote says they’re a “go for launch” already but are looking for more
funding so they can pack it with as much science equipment as
possible. They aim to include image, infrared, electromagnetic, and
radiation sensors. This would give them the capability of not only
verifying visual data, but also correlating it with other events such
as electromagnetic and radioactive fluctuations.
The team plans to measure ionized radiation with a scintillation
counter and two cameras will capture a near 360-degree view around
the CubeSat. They plan to remove the infrared filters on the cameras
to cover more of the visual range.
Cote hopes to use amateur radio frequencies to transmit the data
back to earth and a worldwide network of ham volunteers to receive it.
“We are planning to use the ham frequencies to send data down from
the CubeSat to earth in hex or datafax protocol,” says Cote. “From
what we understand, we should be able to send a 100kB packet every
few minutes and this will enable us to send image thumbnails from
space, along with some basic EM data.”
While the details of the transmissions have yet to be determined,
Cote hopes to assemble a worldwide team of hams willing to receive
and log whatever data the satellite captures.
“We need help from the ham community, in capturing the data and
relaying it to our site,” he says. “There will be a 15-minute window
for download from the CubeSat, and then another volunteer would be
needed for the next 15-minute time window.”
Cote is cautiously optimistic that the satellite will provide
corroboration of UFO reports from eyewitnesses on Earth. But even if
the satellite doesn’t capture evidence of faraway visitors, he’s
hopeful that it will record interesting natural phenomenon like
meteors and solar flares.
“We can only hope that those who would like to know the truth will
step forward and help,” he says.
To learn more about the project or to volunteer, visit their
[ANS thanks Matt W1MST and AmateurRadio.com
for the above information]
Pair of Satellites ejected from ISS for In-Space Navigation Exercise
A package of two satellites was ejected from the International Space
Station on Friday to begin a mission dedicated to a demonstration of
autonomous navigation, rendezvous and docking technology. The second
LONESTAR mission is comprised of two satellites built by two American
Universities to undertake a demonstration of communication cross
links, data exchange, GPS-based navigation, relative navigation,
stationkeeping and data transmission to the ground.
LONESTAR stands for "Low Earth Orbiting Navigation Experiment for
Spacecraft Testing Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking" and includes
four missions flown over a period of years in a cost-effective
technology development program with the goal of mastering autonomous
rendezvous and docking. The second LONESTAR mission consists of the
AggieSat4 satellite built at Texas A&M and BEVO-2 built by students
at the University of Texas. The smaller BEVO-2 satellite is
facilitated within a deployer on the AggieSat4 spacecraft to be
released once the two have flown well clear of the International
The two satellites, already packaged, were sent to the Space Station
aboard the Cygnus OA-4 mission. Launching satellites to ISS for
deployment has the advantage of allowing the satellites to be
launched well-packaged to avoid damage and providing the opportunity
of an inspection in space to check for any damage encountered during
launch before committing them to flight.
Given the size of the AggieSat4 satellite, the deployment conducted
on Friday made use of the SSIKLOPS deployment mechanism, going by the
full name "Space Station Integrated Kinetic Launcher for Orbital
Payload Systems." SSIKLOPS can be used to deploy larger satellites of
different shapes up to a mass of 110 Kilograms. It is a flat
structure that includes grapple fixtures for the robotic arms of the
Space Station and a single grapple fixture for the satellite that is
to be deployed. The fixture includes clamps and springs for the
deployment of the satellite. Overall, the structure is 127 by 61 by
7.6 centimeters in size. It also includes interfaces for the slide
table of the JEM Airlock.
SSIKLOPS first saw action in 2014 when deploying the SpinSat
spacecraft and spent most of its time in storage aboard ISS, awaiting
the deployment of future satellites. Final preparations for Friday's
deployment were made on Wednesday when ISS Astronauts Scott Kelly and
Tim Peake installed the SSIKLOPS deployer on the Slide Table of the
Kibo module's airlock followed by the installation of the Small Fine
Arm (SFA) Plate on the deployer and the attachment of the LONESTAR
satellite package. The slide table was then retracted and the airlock
sealed off for depressurization on Thursday.
The outer hatch of the airlock was opened and a careful ground-
controlled operation started to retrieve the SSIKLOPS deployer and
hand it from the Small Fine Arm to the Japanese Robotic Arm that was
then positioned for the deployment to ensure the satellite departed
to the correct direction, ruling out any possibility of re-contact
with ISS on subsequent orbits. Release was triggered just before
16:00 UTC on Friday and the LONESTAR package slowly floated away from
ISS, embarking on its mission that will last as long as the
satellites can remain in orbit, typically between six and twelve
Drifting away from the Space Station, LONESTAR showed slight body
rates on all three axes as it slowly faded into the distance. The
Mission Team confirmed they were happy with the observed body rates
and declared the deployment a success. Congratulations were exchanged
between the different teams involved in the deployment - NASA's
Mission Control, the JAXA Control Center in Japan, Payload
Controllers in Huntsville and the payload's operators in Texas.
The spacecraft was programmed to power-up automatically ten minutes
after release, perform a health check and start transmitting
telemetry. Acquisition of signal was expected later on Friday to
begin a multi-day checkout campaign ahead of the satellite conducting
its de-tumble maneuver to enter a three-axis stabilized attitude
setting up for the deployment of BEVO-2.
The AggieSat4 satellite, developed and manufactured at Texas A&M
University, has a mass of approximately 55 Kilograms and measures 75
x 75 x 35 centimeters in size. The satellite hosts body-mounted solar
panels for power generation and is equipped with a three-axis
attitude determination and control system with an actuation accuracy
of two degrees, making use of reaction wheels and magnetic torquers.
The Electrical Power System hosts two battery packs delivering an
operational voltage of 34 V and a capacity of 95 Watt-hours.
AggieSat4 hosts two low-data-rate (LDR) radios, a high-data-rate
(HDR) radio, a crosslink radio for short-range communication with the
Bevo-2 satellite, and a DRAGON GPS Payload.
AggieSat4 will be tasked with completing a number of mission
objectives: demonstrating three-axis stabilization, the collection of
GPS data, recording video of the release of BEVO-2 with a 2MP camera,
computing and crosslinking relative navigation data based on relative
GPS measurements and tracking BEVO-2 based on these navigation
The 4.2-Kilogram BEVO-2 satellite uses the 3U CubeSat Form Factor,
10 x 10 x 34 centimeters, employing an ISIPOD for deployment from
AggieSat4. The satellite features 24 solar cells installed on its
external panels to deliver power to 6 batteries operating at a
voltage of 7.4 V.
BEVO-2 has four deployable radio antennas and GPS patch antennas.
Attitude determination is accomplished with gyroscopes,
magnetometers, a star tracker and sun sensor while attitude actuation
employs reaction wheels and magnetic torquers. To connect with
AggieSat4 for the exchange of navigation data, the spacecraft hosts a
crosslink radio unit while communications with the ground make use of
a UHF/VHF terminal for data downlink and command uplink.
The satellite is outfitted with a cold gas thruster module holding
90 grams of Dupont R-236fa refrigerant stored at pressure to be
released for maneuvers of the satellite for stationkeeping and
rendezvous exercises with AggieSat4.
As the second of four LONESTAR missions, AggieSat4 and BEVO-2 build
on the success of the previous mission in 2009 as part of a program
outlined to make successive progress towards the ultimate goal of
achieving an autonomous rendezvous and docking of two satellites. The
autonomy aspect of LONESTAR is of particular importance for future
missions to distant targets where communication delays require
spacecraft to act autonomously.
[ANS thanks spaceflight101.com
for the above information]
LilacSat-2 FM Transponder
Paul Stoetzer reports:
"I have noticed that LilacSat-2's FM transponder has been on nearly
continuously for the past four days They may be keeping it active
continuously during the holiday period in China.
It's worth checking out if you haven't worked it yet. It's got a
good signal and can be easier to track than SO-50 because the carrier
stays active for a period when not receiving signals. The downlink
antenna also uses circular polarization, so there is less fading when
using linear antennas than on SO-50.
Uplink: 144.350 MHz FM (No PL)
Downlink: 437.200 MHz FM
Keep in mind that this uplink frequency is not within the normal
145.800 - 146.000 MHz satellite subband on two meters, though this
frequency is within the 144.300 - 144.500 MHz "New OSCAR subband" in
the ARRL band plan and is allocated to the Amateur Satellite Service
(as is the entirety of 144 - 146 MHz). On passes over the United
States, quite a few packet signals can be heard through the
If you use LoTW, the satellite name to use when uploading QSOs is
[ANS thanks Paul N8HM for the above information]
6W8CK on Satellite
Conrad, 6W8CK, will be active on satellites from IK14 near Mbour,
Senegal until mid-February. He does not wish to publish his private
email, but is interested in skeds with North American stations who are
in range. If you are interested in setting up a sked, please look up
your mutual windows and email me. I will contact Conrad with a list of
operators and mutual windows.
He will try to be active on CW near 145.930 on AO-7 and 435.830 on
FO-29 during the afternoons, but may also be available on late night /
early morning passes for skeds.
Conrad is using a Yaesu FT-736R and an Elk antenna mounted up 5 meter
above ground. He does occasionally lose power, so keep this in mind if
you do not hear him on a particular pass.
QSL only via the DARC bureau to his home call, DF7OL. He may also
return to Senegal from November 2016 - February 2017.
[ANS thanks Paul, N8HM for the above information]
IARU Paper: APRS Harmonization and removal of OSCAR sub-band
IARU Region 1 has released the papers for the Interim Meeting to be
held in Vienna April 15-17, 2016.
Among the papers for the C5 VHF/UHF/Microwave Committee is one on
VIE16_C5_41_1.pdf – 144 /435 MHz APRS Harmonisation
The paper covers global band planning considerations and among the
Emphasise that spaceborne APRS must be confined to globally
coordinated amateur satellite sub bands. Therefore items that are
ambiguous and generate confusion in national band plans such as
‘Space communications’ and ‘New Oscar Sub band’ should be removed as
soon as possible in all Regions in accordance with IARU-AC and
Satellite Coordination guidance
It is believed that ‘New Oscar Sub band’ refers to the USA’s ARRL
144 MHz band plan and ‘Space communications’ to the Australian WIA
144 MHz band plan. These band plans, as well as those for some other
countries, show 144.300 – 144.500 MHz as being for Amateur Satellite
Direct link for C5 VHF/UHF/Microwave Papers
Links for all committee papers and email addresses of Committee
Chairs are at
ARRL 144 MHz Band Plan http://www.arrl.org/band-plan
WIA 144 MHz Band Plan http://tinyurl.com/ANS031-APRS
[ANS thanks AMSAT-UK for the above information]
ISS Orbit Boosted Ahead of March Crew Swap - Check Your Elements
The International Space Station raised its orbit Wednesday afternoon
before a pair of crews swap places and a cargo ship arrives in March.
One-year crew members Scott Kelly of NASA and Mikhail Kornienko of
Roscosmos are set to return home March 1 along with Russian cosmonaut
Sergey Volkov. Then, Expedition 47 will begin and three new crew
members will arrive March 19. New supplies are scheduled to be
delivered to the crew March 31 aboard a Progress 63 cargo craft.
The orbiting Expedition 46 crew was back at work Tuesday on a series
of life science and physics experiments to benefit life on Earth and
crews living in space. Commander Scott Kelly explored maximizing the
effects of exercise in space while British astronaut Tim Peake
studied how living in space affects using touch-based technologies,
repairing sensitive equipment and a variety of other tasks. NASA
astronaut Tim Kopra researched how materials burn in space.
Two cosmonauts resized their Russian Orlan spacesuits today, checked
them for leaks and set up hardware before next week’s maintenance
spacewalk. Flight Engineers Sergey Volkov and Yuri Malenchenko will
work outside Feb. 3 in their Orlan suits to install hardware and
science experiments on the orbital lab’s Russian segment.
[ANS thanks blogs.nasa,gov for the above information]
+ A Successful contact was made between Brihaspati Vidyasadan,
Kathmandu, Nepal and Astronaut Timothy Peake KG5BVI using Callsign
NA1SS. The contact began 2016-01-20 08:37 UTC and lasted about nine
and a half minutes. Contact was telebridge via VK5ZAI. ARISS Mentor
was 7M3TJZ. This event represents the 984th ARISS contact. A YouTube
video of the evnt can be seen here
Upcoming ARISS Contact Schedule as of 2016-01-27
Christ The King School, Rutland, Vermont, telebridge via VK4KHZ)
The ISS callsign is presently scheduled to be NA1SS. The scheduled
astronaut is Tim Kopra KE5UDN
Contact is a go for: Thu 2016-02-04 18:28:16 UTC
"Gesmundo Moro Fiore" Secondary School, Terlizzi, Italy, telebridge
via LU1CGB. The ISS callsign is presently scheduled to be NA1SS. The
scheduled astronaut is Timothy Peake KG5BVI.
Contact is a go for: Sat 2016-02-06 09:09:01 UTC
[ANS thanks ARISS, Charlie AJ9N and David AA4KN for the above
Satellite Shorts From All Over
+ Congrats to Steve Kristoff, AI9IN, for having worked 5 hams in the
To earn 5 in EM55 award #59, please check out
for the awards offered.
[ANS thanks Damon Runion, WA4HFN, for the above information]
+ The Colorado Amateur Satellite Net is held 7PM mountain time on
Thursdays 6PM Pacific. 7PM Mountain, 8PM Central, 9PM Eastern
For more information visit http://www.amsatnet.info/
[ANS thanks Skyler KD0WHB for the above information]
+ The Jan/Feb issue of The AMSAT Journal is off to the printer.
[ANS thanks Joseph KB6IGK for the above information]
In addition to regular membership, AMSAT offers membership in the
President's Club. Members of the President's Club, as sustaining
donors to AMSAT Project Funds, will be eligible to receive addi-
tional benefits. Application forms are available from the AMSAT
Primary and secondary school students are eligible for membership
at one-half the standard yearly rate. Post-secondary school students
enrolled in at least half time status shall be eligible for the stu-
dent rate for a maximum of 6 post-secondary years in this status.
Contact Martha at the AMSAT Office for additional student membership
This week's ANS Editor,
EMike McCardel, AA8EM (former KC8YLD)
kc8yld at amsat dot org