Amateur Satellites

By

Terry Douds, WB8CKI

 

 

Hello everyone -hope your summer is going well. At the time of this writing, we are still anxiously awaiting news concerning a ride for the Phase 3D Satellite. Negotiations are still ongoing with the European Space Agency, and everyone hopes that good news will be heard soon. However, there is still a great deal of activity continuing with other satellites both in the air and yet to go up. I'll take this month to cover some of these activities.

 

The Techsat team has just confirmed that the tentative launch date for the TechSat-1b is currently set to launch 23-24 June. The launch will take place in Kazakhstan. A telemetry decode program with more info will follow shortly.

 

For those who don't remember TechSat, it is a communication satellite being constructed by an academic group of scientists and students at the Technion University in Haifa, Israel, and it will feature a packet store-and-forward mailbox operating at 9600 baud. Visit the TechSat web page at www.technion.ac.il/pub/projects/techsat.

 

TechSat-1a was destroyed during launch in 1997. TechSat-1b is a replacement for it. Just as a reminder, the TechSat-1b will be very similar to the TechSat-1a in the communications modes. It will use 9600 Baud FSK (like UO-22/KO-23/KO-25) and have VHF/L-band up-links, with the down-links in the UHF band. So if you have a 9600 baud setup operational, you should have no problems working TechSat-1b.

 

If you have been looking for an "Elmer" to help you with a satellite project, or have questions about anything having to do with satellite operation, get yourself a copy of the March/April 98 issue of the AMSAT Journal. It gives a complete list of the AMSAT Area Coordinators throughout the U.S. and Canada, and for four countries outside of North America.

 

The list gives names, calls, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses for all of these volunteers. If you need a hand, please consider giving one of them a call.

 

How do you get a copy of the Journal? Join AMSAT. Drop a note to Martha@amsat.org, or call the office at 301/589-6062 (FAX 301/608-3410). She will give you the information you might want concerning membership. If you have no Internet access or a telephone, send her a letter at AMSAT, 850 Sligo Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910-4703.

 

John Melton, N6LYT/G&hibar;ORX, has announced the preliminary release of his Java Satellite Ground Station Software at www.qsl.net/n6lyt. This software implements a fully automated Digital Store and Forward Satellite Ground Station. It includes:

 

KISS Protocols
AX25 Protocols
Pacsat Broadcast and File Transfer Protocols Message Composer
Message Viewer
Orbit Propogation
Satellite Scheduling
Radio Control
Rotor Control

 

 

The software has been successfully run on Windows/95, Linux, and Solaris.

John has been successfully using the software over the last few months with minimal problems, but he states that there is still work that needs to be done. The documentation, for example, is not yet complete, but there should be enough there to allow you to get started. Further documentation for developers is under construction.

 

John is interested in receiving email messages from anyone who decides to download and run his software. John may be reached at: n6lyt@qsl.net. He is also interested in hearing from individuals who would like to aid in the development of his Java Satellite Ground Station Software.

 

For those of you with Internet access, a very interesting development has occurred thanks to Bob Bruninga, WB4APR. Many of you are aware of the fact that Bob is "Mr. APRS", and has been working tirelessly on new applications for the APRS (Amateur Packet Reporting System). He has worked with many different people to develop software which would run on most PC Systems currently available. He has been working on establishing a network of linked ground stations to show the activities on the digital Amateur satellites The following is the progress on the MIR sites:

 

Maryland USA on line full time
Madrid Spain on line full time
Mexico City in work
Texas USA in work
Chicago USA in work
Argentina in work
South Africa in work
Hawaii ?
Taiwan ?
California ?
Australia ?

 

He is still trying to find links from Japan and many other areas.

 

To see the live combined TNC data stream, TELNET to 199.227.86.221 port 10001, DURING any pass over Maryland or Madrid. To see the daily captured PASS files over Maryland BROWSE to: http://web.usna.navy.mil/~bruninga/mirex.html

 

The South Texas Balloon Team is working on launching BLT-13 on 18 August 1998. It will include a packet digipeater with 70cm up and downlinks, a Mode A transponder, and a 1.2 GHz TV transmitter with various sources available for video telemetry readings. They hope to place the balloon up approximately 100,000 feet, so those of you in the south will probably be able to receive something from this experiment.

 

For those of you considering applying for the W4AMI Achievement Award, the address for submission has changed again. You should now send the data to AMSAT at the address listed earlier in the article.

 

If you have Internet access, don't forget that the Houston AMSAT net is brought to you weekly via Real Audio now "live", as well as being online as a file for two weeks following the net date. The file is now downloadable as well, so that you can listen offline when you want to. In fact, I'm listening to last weeks net while I finish typing this column!

 

 

It's a wonderful way to keep up with the current happenings in the satellite world, and it is brought to you by Andy MacAllister, W5ACM, and Bruce Paige, KK5DO. Give it a listen - you'll get hooked!

 

The 13th AMSAT-UK Colloquium will be held at Surrey University, Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom, starting Friday, 31 July 1998, and ending on Sunday, 02 August.

This year's event will include technical and operational matters as well as an International Amateur Radio Union forum.

 

If you have the opportunity to attend and would like more information, please contact R. W. Limebear G3RWL, 60 Willow Road, Enfield EN1 3NQ, United Kingdom, or contact him electronically via the following routes: Internet e-mail - g3rwl@amsat.org ; Packet Radio - G3RWL@GB7HSN.#32.GBR.EU; Satellite AO16/19/22/23/25.

 

ICOM is currently touring around the country in a motorhome promoting their new radio gear, which includes their satellite radios. They will be at Dayton in the parking lot (where I will be next week at the time of this writing), and are traveling around the U.S. to various stores and hamfests. If you would like information concerning their schedule, or are involved with a hamfest and would like them to stop by if possible, contact Pat or Ronnie at ICOM at (425) 454-8155.

My space is quickly running out for this month. Stay tuned to the AMSAT News Service bulletins on the AMSAT Web Site (www.amsat.org) for current information concerning any upcoming launches. Keep your fingers crossed for some good news concerning a flight for Phase 3D! Keep working the LEO's and AO-10 (when it's available), and I'll look forward to working you soon on the birds!

 

KN

 

Reprinted from WorldRadio

 

 

 

 

 

Enhancing portable SSTV

By

Del Radant, N6JZE

 

 

With the advent of the Kenwood VC H1, Visual Communicator unit, there's been much interest in Slow Scan TV. It is now possible to show the NCS of a Public Service event existing conditions at a portion of an activity where additional assistance may be needed.

 

There was recent discussion in the San Diego section about the possibility of supporting the American Red Cross and the California Department of Forestry with some visual records of the extent of any destruction during any emergency.

 

To prepare for this evolution, several local Amateur Radio operators purchased the Kenwood VC H1 SlowScan Visual Communicator and the Kenwood THG71A Dual Band Transceiver.

 

We demonstrated the capability of these units by showing the various members of our local clubs what was possible using this combination. Some of the pictures were not as clearly defined as we would have liked. So a project was instituted to enhance the picture quality by adding a digital source separate from the reproduction device furnished on the VC H1. By adding a digital source with high pixel capability, we did achieve the desired detail in the pictures. Here's how we accomplished our

 

Goal of enhancing the video picture.

 

The digital source

The major restriction in the choice of a digital camera or camcorder is that the camera must have a video output jack. This is necessary for the transfer of the picture to the VC H1, to store it there and, at a later time, send it to the distant receiving office. Most of the later model camcorders, have a "video out" capability, so one may view the picture from the camera on a TV screen.

Again, the choice of the digital camera, is of one that has a "VIDEO OUT" port. Most of the better models are so equipped. Digital cameras hold numerous pictures, while a camcorder normally has only one still frame available from the recorded tape (a DVD camcorder can provide a number of pictures from the special DVD tape).

Mount construction

The combination of these devices required a supporting device that was able to accommodate all three items and still be portable and could be mounted on a tripod. This was accomplished by constructing an aluminum and copper mount to hold each unit, provide convenient access to the controls, and also offer application of power from an outside source. I constructed several mounts for various sizes of cameras and camcorders.

 

Copper was chosen for the construction of supports for the Kenwood units because it's easy to bend and shape for each item. The base support was made from heat-treated aluminum.

 

The copper mounts are made from 22 gauge material. Ordinary tin snips will cut this material quite easily. (I suggest that a trial form be made of heavy card stock, fit it around your units and see if it satisfies the needs, then transfer these dimensions to the copper stock.) The basic dimensions are 5 1/4 X 2 1/4" for the transceiver and 5 1/2 X 2 1/4" for the VC H1 unit.

 

All the bending and forming was done using a bench vise with a 3" jaw. A hand-operated electric drill was used to drill the small mounting holes. A floor-mounted drill press was used to drill the larger holes for the VC H1 plug hole in the flat aluminum stock.

 

The base material used is heat-treated aluminum, specifically chosen for its rigidity. It can be flat or angle shaped, whichever is most readily available.

 

 

The dimensions are 2 1/2 X 12". The opening for the cable plug can be made by drilling four adjacent 1/2" holes in the chosen position and filing away the excess material. An electric scroll saw with the proper fine tooth blade may also be used to make this hole.

 

Some care must be taken when drilling the hole for the power plug for each unit. A very small drill be used to place the hole directly over the pin in the unit (you can see this pin through the small drill hole). Then enlarge it 3/8" for the power plug.

 

Adjustments can be made to accommodate the available camera and transceiver. The mount for the VC H1 is standard and the hole in the base is required. Sizes of the support can be adjusted. A single slot to admit the plug to enter from the bottom causes the transceiver to be raised upward, hence a modification would be needed in the copper mount construction. The hole for the insertion of the external power cable must be made for the chosen mounting location of the unit.

 

The dimensions furnished for the copper stock are for a Kenwood THG71A unit, and the Kenwood VC H1. Use a file to remove the small molding nibs, on each side of the Ni-Cad battery case of the Kenwood TH G71A. They prevent the unit from sliding smoothly into the support.

 

Other handy-talkies work as well, but you must make an adapter to plug into your chosen transceiver to feed the audio and keying circuits. The cable for the THG71A is furnished in the package of the VC H1, and plugs into the Kenwood transceiver (it's much easier to use the Kenwood unit).

 

 

The short cable from the video output jack of the camera, to the socket of the VC H1 is also a home-brew cable. When using the digital camera, the viewing head piece on the VC H1 is removed, and the cable plug, takes its place. The plugs and angle adapters are available from RadioShack. Follow the detailed instructions when constructing this cable. The plugs and adapter are tipringsleeve (TRS) devices. (Note plug size and type, on plugin lens unit.) Ordinary audio plugs WILL NOT work, as one uses the tip and the opposite end uses the ring. The "video out" plug for the camera is also a tipringsleeve unit.

 

We also substituted nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries for the furnished alkaline batteries. RadioShack has these batteries and a spare set is now kept for the VC H1. When battery operated, it consumes considerable current. The furnished AC Power pack is rated at 2500 MA @ 6 volts. Charger devices for NiMH are available.

 

My Olympus C3030 Zoom camera uses NiMH batteries also and it too operates on 6 volts. A home brew cable is required for each 6 volt unit, that brings the current from a double 6 volt gel cell battery. It is charged as a 12 volt unit but it provides power, as two separate 6 volt power sources. One cable for the camera, and one for the VC H1.

 

The THG71A transceiver has a Ni-Cad battery, and a additional fully charged unit is on hand. A Kenwood PG 3J power cable may be used if operating near an automobile, or from a deep cycle battery. With 12 volt power, they transceiver develops 5+ watts output. (DO NOT use a Kenwood PG 3J cigarette lighter cable, as a power source for the VC H1, as it requires 6 volt DC power.)

 

One of the members uses this setup with a Sony camcorder and an Alinco Dual Band Transceiver. The picture definition with a high pixel count camera, produces a much better photo.

 

Enhance from page 7

 

Another member also uses an Olympus C3030 Zoom camera, but chose to keep his camera in hand, so an appropriate cable was constructed, to reach the tripod mounted VC H1 and Kenwood transceiver. You can take many pictures, and then transfer up to ten pictures to the storage in the VC H1 unit for later transmission. This action frees space for other exposures on the camera's memory chip.

 

The cable for the video from the camera to the VC H1 is made from microphone cable. (Follow the drawing for the correct length and connections, using extreme care not to fill the internal lugs with excess solder). If the system does not function correctly try reversing the cable. The end for the VC H1 is using the RING, and my camera uses the TIP. I color code the VC H1 end with red shrink tubing.

 

Follow the instructions in the booklets that come with each unit. Set up an operation with your friends and practice in the operation of all the controls. Be ready for any emergency within your area. You can also take pictures with the digital camera and, at a later date, display the information at a club or public event.

 

Software considerations

There is a Kenwood program, KCT24S, that permits a remote unit to receive and transfer your pictures to a computer for processing and printing. Windows 98 is required to use it.

 

Additional accessories are available for many cameras, that permit the transfer of the snapshots into your own computer for printing out the photographs in color. Adobe PhotoShop 5.0 LE was furnished with the Olympus Camera. Other photo processing programs are included within Windows 98, and some programs are furnished with Hewlett Packard products.

 

A cable is furnished with the Olympus C3030 camera package to view the pictures on the Smart Card in the camera on a color TV. This feature allows you see your work and allows you to experiment with exposures and additional features to improve your skills.

 

It has been a real pleasure to send photos on any VHF/UHF repeater operation or any amateur frequency using Slow Scan TV. Join in and share the fun!.

 

KN

 

Reprinted from WorldRadio

 

 

 

 

 

 

GRUMMAN AMATEUR RADIO CLUB

MINUTES OF GENERAL MEETING – 9/17/03

by Pete, N2PYV

 

 

 

The meeting was called to order by Pat at 5:43 p.m.

All present introduced themselves.

 

TREASURER'S REPORT –

Finances continue to be in good shape.

 

REPEATER REPORT –

Pat, KE2LJ

Gordon was absent. Pat stated that he had talked to the NG Facilities Department about the roof on Plant 14. We had to remove our repeater antenna while contractors were repairing the roof. The contractor can not work on the roof when there are cars in the parking lot, so he is limited to working on weekends only. The weather has not been good enough to work, so the job has been delayed. Gordon took the duplexers out to be checked in a NG lab.

 

NET REPORT –

Zack, WB2PUE

There were not very many checkins on the Thursday evening 2-Meter Net. Zack stated that if conditions are not good enough to hear other stations on the Sunday morning 40-Meter Net, Long Island hams will get together on the 2-Meter Repeater.

 

 

 

                                                            VE REPORT –

Bob, W2ILP

There were three applicants and three VE’s present. Two applicants passed the Technician exam and one passed the General exams.

 

WAG REPORT –

Bob, W2FPF

No Activity

 

PROGRAM

A video about the Grumman Memorial Park at Calverton was shown.