Vega Launch Success – Satellite Signals Heard

Lift off of Vega

Lift off of Vega - Image Credit ESA

The first Vega, flight VV01, lifted off at 1000 UT Monday, February 13 from the ESA Spaceport at Kourou in the Caribbean carrying eight student built amateur radio satellites and the LARES Laser Relativity Satellite into orbit.

LARES was put into a 1435 by 1452 km 69.5 degree inclination orbit, while the orbit of the amateur radio satellites is 310 by 1441 km.

At 1153 UT Drew Glasbrenner KO4MA reported hearing signals from the satellites as they went past Florida. Signals were first heard in the United Kingdom at around 1207 UT.

In Germany Mike Repprecht DK3WN copied the satellites at an elevation of just 3 degress at 1209 UT, see http://www.dk3wn.info/p/?cat=83

A recording of PW-Sat made by Wouter Weggelaar PA3WEG at 1207 UT can be heard at http://www.pa3weg.nl/pa3weg/recordings/PW-SAT%20recording%20PA3WEG%2013-02-2012_1207UTC.mp3

In the Czech Republic Mirek Kasal OK2AQ received strong signals from Masat-1 http://www.urel.feec.vutbr.cz/esl/files/Othact/masat1_rev5.wav

Nittin Muttin VU3TYG received PW-Sat at 1246 UT as it travelled over India, his recording is at http://vu3tyg.addr.com/pwsat/pw_sat-%20Feb%2013th.mp3

In Sudan Nader ST2NH received signals from AlmaSat-1 and Masat-1.

KO4MA Screenshot of Vega CubeSats

KO4MA Screenshot of Vega CubeSats

As of Monday evening signals had been reported from AlmaSat-1, Goliat, Masat-1, PW-Sat, UniCubeSat and XaTcobeo.

All the Vega amateur radio satellite project teams used the IARU amateur satellite frequency coordination panel service. A benefit of IARU coordination was that all the different UHF satellite signals could be simultaneously captured within the typical 192 kHz bandwidth of a modern Software Defined Radio (SDR).

PW-Sat is the only satellite with a downlink in the 145 MHz band. Its 1200bps BPSK signal on 145.900 MHz is receiveable with an SSB radio and an omni-directional antenna.

When PW-Sat has finished its primary scientific mission it will be reconfigured as a 435/145 MHz FM to DSB transponder for general amateur radio communications. The FM to Double Sideband transponder was first pioneered by amateurs on the satellite AO-16.

PW-Sat carries a deployable drag augmentation device known as the tail. The main objective of this experiment is to test the concept of using atmospheric drag to deorbit the satellite. It is hoped to be able to remove the satellite from orbit at a predicted time, about one year after launch.

The other amateur radio satellites have downlinks in 437 MHz. A small 430 MHz  band Yagi antenna may be used to receive the signals. They are expected to have a lifetime of 3-4 years depending on the atmospheric drag which is higher at sunspot maximum.

Watch the launch of Vega VV01

The Masat-1 satellite team have made available software to decode their 437.345 MHz telemetry data via a PC sound card. The software can be downloaded from http://cubesat.bme.hu/en/foldi-allomas/kliens-szoftver/

This video shows the eliptical 310 by 1441 km orbit of the satellites.

The prelimary TLEs, used by tracking software to predict the orbits, were generated by a team lead by Paolo Tortora at the University of Bologna in Italy. They proved to be accurate with the satellites appearing at the expected time.

Student amateur radio satellite downlink frequencies:
(Worst case Doppler shift during pass +/-9 kHz at 437 MHz and +/- 3 kHz at 145 MHz)
+ AlmaSat-1   437.465 MHz 1200 bps FSK, 2407.850 MHz
+ E-St@r        437.445 MHz 1200 bps AFSK
+ Goliat          437.485 MHz 1200 bpx AFSK
+ Masat-1      437.345 MHz 625/1250 bps GFSK, CW
+ PW-Sat       145.900 MHz 1200 bps BPSK AX25, CW
+ Robusta      437.325 MHz? (website says now 437.350 MHz) 1200 bps FM telemetry – one data burst of 20 secs every 1 min
+ UniCubeSat 437.305 MHz 9600 bps FSK
+ XaTcobeo     437.365 MHz FFSK with AX.25

Satscape Free Satellite Tracking Software http://www.satscape.info/home/?q=node/2 

Preliminary Vega TLE’s for launch at 1000 UT here

Website URLs for the student satellite are at http://www.uk.amsat.org/4180

ESA report Student CubeSats start talking to Earth

IARU Amateur Satellite Frequency Coordination Panel hosted by AMSAT-UK http://www.amsat.org.uk/iaru/