SpaceX Rideshare Mission Carries Multiple Amateur Satellites
The following news items is courtesy of the AMSAT News Service and SpaceNews:
A SpaceX Falcon 9 placed more than 100 SmallSats into orbit on January 13 as the company accelerates the pace of its dedicated Rideshare missions. The mission, dubbed Transporter-3, or TR-3, carried a number of Amateur Radio satellites to orbit.
The Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 15:25 UTC. The upper stage reached orbit eight and a half minutes later and, after a second burn 55 minutes after liftoff, deployed its payloads into a 525-kilometre sun-synchronous orbit over the following half-hour.
The Falcon 9 first stage landed at the company’s Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral, the first land landing of a Falcon 9 booster since the Transporter-2 rideshare mission in June 2021. The booster was on its tenth flight, having first launched in May 2020 on the Demo-2 commercial crew mission for NASA. It subsequently launched the ANASIS-2 satellite, CRS-21 cargo mission, Transporter-1 and five Starlink missions before Transporter-3. SpaceX is planning up to three more dedicated rideshare launches this year.
SpaceX said that the TR-3 launch carried 105 spacecraft. Among them were the long-delayed EASAT-2 and Hades satellites from Spanish satellite organization AMSAT-EA, and the Tevel mission consisting of 8 satellites developed by the Herzliya Science Center in Israel. All ten of these satellites carry FM repeaters, among other function, and are detailed in the following stories.
[ANS thanks SpaceNews.com for the above information]
EASAT-2 and Hades Satellites with FM Repeaters Are Launched
January 20 update: AMSAT-EA Mission Manager Felix EA4GQS provided the following update on the status of the EASAT-2 and HADES satellites:
“We confirm the reception of both EASAT-2 and HADES, as well as the decoding of telemetry and the FM recorded voice beacon with the callsign AM5SAT of the first one. EASAT-2 appears to be working well except for the deployment of the antennas, something that apparently has not yet occurred and causes weak signals. However, the AMSAT-EA team confirms that, based on the reception of FSK, CW, the FM voice beacon and the telemetry data that has been decoded, it can be said that the satellite is working perfectly. In the event of low battery or system malfunction, the on-board computer would not transmit CW messages or the voice beacon-callsign, as it would be in a ‘safe’ state with only fast and slow telemetry transmissions.
These signals that have been able to confirm the operation of both satellites were received by Dr. Daniel Estévez EA4GPZ at 18:07 UTC on Saturday, January 15, using two antennas from the Allen Telescope Array. The TLEs used were obtained from the radio amateur community, with Doppler observations from the Delfi-PQ satellite, deployed together with EASAT-2 and Hades.”
January 13, 2022: the Scottish space broker Alba Orbital confirmed the launch of the EASAT-2 and Hades satellites in the Falcon-9 vehicle, using the company’s AlbaPOD ejector for this purpose.
The launch took place as schedule on January 13 at 15:25 UTC (16:25 Spanish peninsular time). Both satellites should have been launched a year ago, but the problems of the Momentus integrator, on whose Vigoride vehicle Alba Orbital’s AlbaPod ejectors were to be integrated with the American administration, caused this delay. Momentus was replaced by Exolaunch for the flight.
Both satellites offer FM voice communications and data retransmission in FSK or AFSK up to 2400 bps, such as AX.25 or APRS frames. They also emit FM voice beacons with the callsigns AM5SAT and AM6SAT, as well as CW.
The EASAT-2 satellite, designed and built jointly by AMSAT-EA and students of the European University of the Degrees in Aerospace Engineering in Aircraft and in Telecommunications Systems Engineering, with contributions from ICAI in the communications part, incorporates as an experimental load Basaltic material from Lanzarote, similar to lunar basalts, provided by the CSIC’s research group on meteorites and planetary geosciences at the Institute of Geosciences, IGEO (CSIC-UCM) and which could be used as a construction material on the Moon. This project was promoted and has the collaboration of the ETSICCP (UPM).
As for Hades, its payload consists of a miniature camera module that sends the captured images as an audio signal in SSTV mode. The SSTV formats it uses are compatible with Robot36, Robot72, MP73 and MP115.
The design is based on the one used in the successful mission of the PSAT2 satellite, an amateur radio satellite of the United States Naval Academy and the Brno University of Technology. This camera has been operational since June 25, 2019: (http://www.aprs.org/psat2.html).
The camera chip is the Omnivision OV2640, which provides a resolution of up to 2M pixels and compressed JPEG output. Resolution is limited by the internal memory of the CPU (MCU) that controls the camera to 320×240 (typical) or 640×480 maximum. The MCU selected for control is the STM32F446RET6, which has the smallest footprint possible with connection to DCMI peripheral, necessary for connection to the camera.
Images can be stored in 2 MB serial flash memory. The complete SSTV encoder has managed to be implemented on a 4-layer PCB with dimensions of just 38x38mm.
The MCU can be fully controlled from ground stations. The firmware allows the sending of live camera images, images previously saved in flash memory or images encoded in ROM. It also provides advance PSK telemetry and imaging schedule with current status (event counters, temperature, voltage, light conditions, etc.) and a brief summary.
The described module has been developed and manufactured in the Radioelectronics Department of the Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic. Both hardware and firmware designs with source codes will be available on Github under the MIT license (https://github.com/alpov/SatCam).
Initially, only the EASAT-2 repeater is active. The Hades one will be activated by telecommand a few days after launch.
The frequencies coordinated with IARU for both satellites are as follows:
- 145.875 MHz uplink, Modes: FM voice (no subtone) and FSK 50 bps, AFSK, AX.25, APRS 1200 / 2400 bps
- 436.666 MHz downlink, Modes: FM voice, CW, FSK 50 bps, FM voice beacon with AM5SAT call sign
- 145.925 MHz uplink, Modes: FM voice (no subtone) and FSK 50 bps, AFSK, AX.25, APRS 1200 / 2400 bps
- 436.888 MHz downlink, Modes: FM voice, CW FSK 50 bps, SSTV Robot 36, FM voice beacon with AM6SAT call sign
The description of the transmissions in English can be found in the .pdf document at: https://bit.ly/31VmA6W
AMSAT-EA appreciates the reception of telemetry, voice beacons and SSTV images. A paper QSL is sent to those who send their transmissions. It can be done through the following link: http://data.amsat-ea.org
[ANS thanks Felix Paez, EA4GQS, and AMSAT-EA for the above information]