Category Archives: ARISSat-1

TWiT Ham Nation 16 talks about ARISSat-1

The TWiT network has a new show that is dedicated to all things Ham Radio. The chief TWiT, Leo Laporte has earned his ticket and is now known to the Ham community as W6TWT. He has done a fantastic job promoting Ham radio as something cool and relevant for today.  I follow many of his tech podcasts and this one is among my favorites.

Bob Heil K9EID who is famous for his excellent microphones is the show organizer and primary host.  He also has a famous co-host which is Gordon West WB6NOA. He is known for his educational material that makes it a breeze to become a Ham.

Ham Nation #16’s main topic is ARISSat-1. Please take a look or listen to find out more about this little Sat that could from this week’s special guest Steve Bible, N7HPR. Enjoy!


TWiT Show Page



Today was a good day for SSTV images. I was trying to capture a stored image of hurricane Irene from ARISSat-1, no such luck. I did however capture some very nice images. I was able to grab two of them during the afternoon pass today. With the new image I performed a little analysis and concluded that the camera lens or mirror assembly was definitely contaminated by something, presumably the battery electrolyte.

I did an overlay image and outlined the concentration of the blurred image and the red/blue hue outline on the magenta images. The images are reversed by a mirror assembly located on the Y axis of the cube according to a design review fact sheet.   This means, from what I can tell, is that the RED and MAGENTA images share a mirror assembly. When you flip and reverse the images it becomes clear that the mirror assembly share the same artifacts in the images. Below are the images along with the original captured images by my station.

The red lines are from the original blurred RED image. The black outlines represent the red/blue hue from the MAGENTA capture image from today. The basic outline match when you flip and reverse the images as a mirror would. Very interesting…



First Image received today, the best to date. I used a hand-held 4 element Yagi

Proof! Electrolyte Leaked out of ARISSat-1 Batteries

Ok, this is just a theory. I do not know the exact construction so this is simply conjecture.

I have been following ARISSat-1 since the day it launched and probably too closely I might add.. I received a SSTV image on 13 August 2011 0036 UTC. I have been puzzled by it ever since receiving it. I thought it might just be a focus issue, but I looked up the specs on the cameras and they are fixed lenses. Being out of focus should not be an issue with these cameras.

I checked the estimated time of battery failure (12 August 2011) and the dates of other “Red RS01S” stamped images and the one I found looked similar around the time of failure.

Received by me on 13 August 2011 0036 UTC:

Received by VR2RC, VR2GY, VR2UIO, VR2UGP, VR2VBU on 12 August 2011 1206 UTC

I also looked at the specs on the batteries and supposedly they are leak proof.  The batteries use potassium hydroxide for the electrolyte and I am not sure if it was in a liquid state or not. Either way it looks like a leak should not of escaped the confines of the battery. However, lets imagine it did, is the liquid coating the camera lens at the time? Will it evaporate into space or damage other components? I  have looked at recent Red camera images and they look normal.

Say my theory is way off, that begs the question: what is the cause of the “blurriness” in these two images? Either way we are fortunate to have the cells open instead of short so it will continue to operate off the solar cells.

Any ideas? Please email me at jason [at]

See the ARRISSat-1 Power System page for more information on the power system.

Secret Word Certificate has arrived!

I received the ARISSat-1 certificate yesterday. I just want to say thanks to all that put in so much time and effort into this entire operation. Even though the batteries have failed prematurely, the designers put a lot of thought into keeping this bird alive as long as possible. So we should continue to enjoy it all the way up until re-entry. Kudos to the ARISSat-1 KEDR  team! It has been a ton of fun!!

ARISSat-1 Telemetry Decoding Demo

On the 16 August 2011 0034 UTC pass I wanted to try some telemetry decoding and create a video demonstration for those that would like to see how it works. The pass was a high elevation daylight pass so I figured my chances were pretty good to get some data. I was able to grab two frames of telemetry and two frames of the Kursk experiment. The audio was added later and I had some synchronization issues so you may notice the audio off slightly.


ARISSat-1’s predecessor: SuitSat-1

With all the attention given to ARISSat-1, I was surprised that not many are talking about what started it all. SuitSat-1 was launched off the ISS in the same manner as ARISSat-1 on Febuary 3, 2006.  SuitSat-1 was aptly named for a Russian Orlan spacesuit that was to be discarded because it was unserviceable and excess cargo on the ISS. The innovative and industrious  Ham community decided that it would be such a waste to simply discard it when it could be made into, you guessed it, at Amateur Radio satellite!

Mix one part transmitter, one part space suit, a dash of antenna, and a little power and poof, SuitSat-1 was born. Ok, I am over simplifying it a bit but this recipe sparked the imagination of thousands of people.  Amateurs around the world was on the hunt for the very weak and elusive signal. With a transmitter power of 1/2 watt and a rate of rotation of about 5.2 s the fade was deep and difficult to copy.  Hams with high gain antennas were about the only ones able to copy the telemetry and SSTV images. SuitSat-1 was not designed for long term operations like the new ARISSat-1. When SuiSat-1’s battery went dead, that was it. Just a lonely quiet ride around the Earth. SuitSat-1’s orbit lasted 7 months, 3 days or 215 Days. The suit had a large surface area and my hopes are that ARRISat-1 will stay in orbit much longer than that. I haven’t seen any real predictions about how long it will stay in an usable orbit but I am sure there are some rocket scientists crunching the numbers.

To find out more about SuitSat-1 check these out:

AMSAT’s SuitSat page (Pre-deployment)

AJ3U’s blog (submissions of audio, SSTV images and reception reports)

Wikipedia Page


Google Video:

ARISSat-1 BPSK Telemetry finally decoded!

Success! After a few failed attempts, I finally was able to decode the BPSK Telemetry. It was the 0832 CDT, 1332 UTC pass over my QTH in Panama City, FL. Max EL was only 15 degrees.


  • Rig – Kenwood TR-9000 All mode 2m transceiver
  • Antenna – Homebrew 4 element Yagi on a 7 foot PVC Mast
  • Dell Mini 9 netbook with a  1/8 Male-Male stereo cable
  • Droid X with HamSatDroid for Tracking

I tried a few times to record the file and then play it back through the ARISSATTLM program, but the decoding just didn’t happen. I finally decided to “go live” with the software and just adjust it on the fly.  That worked very well for me.

Here are a few hints if you decide to try it: Start by reading the Quick Start Guide, this a super handy thing to review first. You will also need the ARISSATTLM software. Get familiar with the operation of the software and do a test run with some CW audio, that will help you when the moment finally arrives when you hear ARISSat-1 poke it’s head above the horizon. I tested several antennas for this, a 1/4 wave ground plane, Discone, J-Pole and the homemade Yagi.  The Yagi was by far the best antenna and it was the closest to the ground at 7 feet, where as the others where between 20 and 45 ft high. I learned that the Yagi in the vertical orientation seemed to work best for my situation but others may have different results. The Yagi was also one of the cheapest, a few pieces of PVC, heavy gauge  wire and a SO-239 connector. Try this for a Homebrew Yagi.

As the Quick Start Guide states, start at 145.919 SSB USB and listen for the CW tone. Don’t stay there too long as the CW quickly shifts down the scale. Listen to the audio file below to get an idea what you will be listening for. Be quick and keep the CW “bump” to the right of the yellow line. There are blue and orange lines located at the top of the tuning indicator, it is best to locate the CW somewhere to the right of the yellow but within the blue limit line. If you can hold it there you will be rewarded with successful decoded telemetry as indicated on the bottom of the tuning indicator.

I have included a WAV file to give you an idea what it should sound like. You will hear me manually changing the frequency to keep the CW in tune, or above the yellow line on the tuning indicator. SSB BPSK Audio File: 08.06.2011-08.38.01 – Trimmed – Yagi SSB.

Screenshot of the decoded telemetry:


Here is SSTV from the  same pass as well as the FM Audio: 08.06.2011-08.38.01-ARISSat-1

Used to illustrate the ability of the telemetry to still get decoded even in weak signal conditions.

ARISSat-1 as heard from Panama City, Florida

ARISSat-1 was heard in Panama City, FL. Signal was strong but with deep fading due to the rotation of the satellite. I was able to get two rough copies of the SSTV transmission.If you visit AMSAT SSTV gallery you will find many more SSTV pictures submitted. The signal was recorded using a  J-Pole antenna and a Yaesu HT. I also have a portable Yagi and a 1/4 wave ground plane that I am going test. This might be a good time to make a circular polarized antenna such as the “eggbeater” or a helical. The fading just makes it more challenging to get a good copy, so experimentation is needed!

For those that want to try SSTV you can use the recordings below to try your own decoding. I tested the MP3 using MMSSTV and it was decoded almost like the original minus a few lines here and there due to the compression of the MP3 format. For those that use Linux, I tested MMSSTV using wine and it works great.


North America 08-04-2011 1221 UTC Pass

Audio recording

SSTV Image Capture


North America 08-04-2011 1400 UTC Pass

Audio Recording

SSTV Image Capture




ARISSat-1 finally deployed

I had the opportunity to watch the EVA live for the launch of ARISSat-1. Instead of a enjoyable thing to watch I was horrified at how the satellite was being handled. As soon as they came out of the hatch I thought for sure the solar panels would get busted the way they were letting it bounce around in micro-gravity. A lot of Amateur operators and students have been looking forward to the launch since SuitSat and the last thing I wanted to watch was this little sat get damaged before deployment.

Well my fears were realized as the “oh so careful” cosmonauts released the tether and was about to shove it off. The ground director radioed to hold, because they were concerned an antenna was missing. After a few minutes it was confirmed that one of the antennas was in fact missing. It was the UHF antenna that provides command and control inputs as well as the uplink to the transponder. They placed it near the airlock for safe keeping until they can make a decision whether or not to scrub the launch. A few hours later they decided to launch it in the degraded configuration.  I am thankful that it is now in orbit so we can listen in on the telemetry, SSTV and voice recordings. That should provide a lot of fun for anyone interested.

I am, however, very disappointed  with the reckless and unprofessional handling shown during the spacewalk for the deployment of ARISSat-1. A lot of time and money was spent on the development, manufacturing and coordination of this launch. The Cosmonauts handled it like it was a basketball rather than a fragile sophisticated piece of hardware. I am not surprised at all that one of the antennas got ripped off and a solar panel has a gouge in the side of it. It was a pathetic EVA  and this is what Americans have to depend on for the foreseeable future?  If I were AMSAT I would not have any more sats deployed in that manner, unless they knew it was going to be handled MUCH better than it was by these two “Cosmonauts”.

Final Launch

First hand launch attempt:

Possible damage to solar panel

Broken UHF Antenna

Pre-deployment UHF installation


The Russian way to handle satellite deployments.