14 August 2011

Geeky fun with the SandCastle Son

Hi.  My name is danno and I am a geek.   Always have been, always will be, and proudly so.  Home video offered as evidence.   

Amateur radio satellite ARISS sat 1 was tossed off launched from the International Space Station last week.  Signals are receivable by anyone with a 2Meter band receiver on 145.95 MHz.

It transmits a recorded voice messages, station telemetry and still pictures from one of four on board cameras. 

It's been a learning experience.  First pass we used the radio (a 20 yr old Yaesu 2M HT) connected to the J pole antenna up in the attic.  The pass would occur at 6am-ish well before I'm done counting Z's.  So I connected the radio to the VCR and programmed the timer (Yes I still have a VCR and it still works! old school baby!).  It caught some good voice, but lots of phasing obscured a lot of the messages.

In search of a better antenna, internet to the rescue! Armed with a shopping list I hit up the local big box hardware store.  A 12' length of 1/2 x 3/4" wood cost about $2.50.  However they wanted about $5 for a 3' length of Aluminium rod - I passed.  Instead I visited the local metal euphorium.  A pair of 1/8" x 12' Al rods cost a little over $12*.  Last piece was some RG-58 coax.  Total cost ~$15 and about an hour to assemble.  I added a PVC "mast" to fit into the umbrella stand built into the pool.  Yes, We get to stand in the SandCastle pool while aiming the antenna to pick up the satellite!  Given daytime temps are in the 108F range, this is a big benefit.  Life doesn't get much better than this ;-)  Here's the SCSon on tracking duty:  (The blue horizontal pole is the pool pole and not part of the antenna).

The Yagi antenna completely solved the phasing problems and made for good reception.  Reading the audacity manual I learned it can be set to timer recording!  Woot, no more VCR for timer recording!

Even better is MMSSTV which decodes the images and also records.  I don't know if it can timer record, but since the antenna needs manual steering, it's pretty much a moot point.  Like I said, this has been a learning experience which is reason enough to make the effort.

We caught this on a pass Sunday evening:

What this post really needs though is audio.  Unfortunately while blogger can handle video, still photos and text, it does not handle audio.  So I'm working on editing some audio with the stills into a "video".  That will take some time.  Unfortunately the satellite battery is not performing as expected.  So if you want to hear it for yourself, time is a wasting! 

Best chance for a good pass is late in the afternoon/early evening.  While the satellite charges up during the sun lit pass, it resets every pass through the dark side.  So best reception is late afternoon/early evening at your location where the solar panels have had a long period to charge up the battery and before the battery has discharged during the darkness.

* A friend tells me I could probably have done better by checking the rem barrels.  Doh!  Wish I'd thought of that. 


Sean Caranna said...

This new contraption in my back yard is going to be all your fault!

danno said...

Thanks... I'll wear that "fault" as a badge of honor!