FUNcube Dongle used in new Prospero X-3 Satellite Tests

Prospero

Roger J A Duthie M0RJA and the team are carrying out further attempts to reactivate Prospero, the United Kingdom’s first satellite launched on a UK-built rocket, Black Arrow, on October 28, 1971.

The team now have an AMSAT-UK FUNcube Dongle (FCD) VHF/UHF Software Defined Radio to receive Prospero on 137.560 MHz and use an Icom IC-746 tranceiver on transmit commands to the satellite.

Because the frequency is now used by a number of Orbcomm satellites it can be difficult to identify the Prospero X-3 signal. The intention is to switch the satellite on and off by making commanding attempts and listening for a response in the RF carrier to indicate that Prospero is indeed still in some sort of working condition.

It is hoped Amateur Radio operators will be able to provide recordings of the signals on 137.560 MHz.

For further information check the Prospero X-3 blog and the AMSAT bulletin board.

Prospero 40th Anniversary has links to the real time tracking page and the history of the satellite

PE0SAT – Prospero

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Prospero X-3 Satellite Blog

An exciting spectrogram trace is revealed in the blog about the United Kingdom’s Prospero X-3 satellite that celebrated 40 years in orbit last month.

Prospero X-3 was the UK’s first satellite to be put into orbit by a UK-built rocket, Black Arrow. The launch took place from Launch Area 5B, Woomera on October 28, 1971 and the satellite operated successfully until 1973 after which it was contacted annually until being de-activated in 1996. In September 2011 a team from the  Mullard Space Science Laboratory announced their intention to try and re-activate the satellite.

In his blog Roger J A Duthie M0RJA notes the assistance the team has received from those in the Amateur Radio community including the AMSAT-BB mailing list, Roger reports that Tony Abbey G3OVH supplied a spectrogram, with a special Doppler shift correction added, of the radio transmission he received on 137.560 MHz . The team found that in this spectrogram, there was a signal from a source with a Doppler signature exactly matching the predicted signature of Prospero!

Read the Prospero X-3 blog at http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/prospero-satellite/

Prospero 40th Anniversary http://www.uk.amsat.org/2011/10/28/prospero-to-be-reactivated-on-137-560-mhz/

PE0SAT – Prospero http://www.pe0sat.vgnet.nl/satellite/sat-history/prospero/

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Prospero 40th Anniversary

Attempts are being made to reactivate Prospero, the United Kingdom’s first satellite launched on a UK-built rocket, Black Arrow, on October 28, 1971. It is hoped Amateur Radio operators will be able to provide recordings of the signals on 137.560 MHz.

On October 19, Roger M0RJA provided details of tests to be carried out over the following two weeks:

Some of you may have heard that a team in the UK are trying to re-contact an old British launched satellite for the anniversary of its launch (28th October 1971).

We’ve been given a licence to transmit [on the 148.25MHz command uplink] and will be testing our re-engineered ground-segment in the next fortnight.  The passes we are going to concentrate on will be as far out west as possible, as to minimise QRM from Europe.  Earth is a lot more EM noisy than it was in 1971.

If anyone wants to try and tune in to the downlink, you can help ID any response we get from the old bird. To avoid interference the downlink is only planned to be active when the satellite is in range of the United Kingdom. The passes [times UK local = GMT+1] are summarised here:

https://public.sheet.zoho.com/public/rjaduthie/prospero-passes-in-the-next-fortnight

There are other passes, though these are the ones which are out west.  We’ll see how we do.

Update Oct 23:   A recording would be grand.  We may have heard something on Friday [Oct 21], though we’re still piecing together what we can expect.  If recordings are made of the times when Prospero is to pass then we can get an idea of what everyone is hearing now.

On Friday we listened to a complete pass and definitely heard something different when Prospero was in our vicinity.  Whether this was coincidence with some QRM we don’t know.  As long as others aren’t transmitting at the same time as us on the Prospero frequencies, we have a reasonable chance to apply the scientific method to be certain of what we’re listening to.

We probably won’t make another attempt till Monday [Oct 24] – and we will probably try the passes at around 1800. [UK Local (GMT+1)]

There is information on this on the AMSAT-UK site front page:  this includes the passes we’ve marked out for definite attempts (we may try others) and there are some archived recordings of Prospero to compare to.

Roger J A Duthie M0RJA
Email: rjad at mssl.ucl.ac.uk

N2YO Prospero predictions http://www.n2yo.com/satellite/?s=5580
VK3UKF Prospero real-time oribtal tracking http://www.vk3ukf.com/Space/GadgetSatProspero.htm

ITN TV news video of Prospero http://www.itnsource.com/shotlist//ITN/1971/10/28/FS281071001/

Audio recordings of the 0.3 watt phase modulated signal with 2048 bit/s PCM from Prospero on 137.560 MHz can be heard on the Sounds from Space site of Matthias Bopp DD1US http://www.dd1us.de/spacesounds%204.html

Experiments on the Prospero satellite
http://www.uk.amsat.org/2011/09/08/experiments-on-the-prospero-satellite/

Plan to revive 1970s UK satellite on 137.560 MHz
http://www.uk.amsat.org/2011/09/05/1970s-uk-satellite-to-be-revived/

Wiki – Prospero http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prospero_%28satellite%29

John Wright G4DMF says the Prospero satellite was featured in a BBC show called “Coast” Series 2 Episode 1 Dover to Isle of White. The item titled ‘Isle of Wight – UK’s Space Race of the 60’s’ showed an attempt to receive the signals using what appeared to be an AR2000. The show also dealt with the research into the propellants, and the launch from Australia. http://www.bbc.co.uk/coast/programmes2/01-dover-wight.shm
Roger M0RJA says he thinks that what was received on Coast was almost certainly an Orbcomm transmission. Orbcomm was assigned the Prospero frequency.

OSCAR News is published quarterly by AMSAT-UK and posted to members.
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Experiments on the Prospero Satellite

October 28, 2011 will be the 40th anniversary of the historic launch of Prospero the UK’s first satellite to be launched on the Black Arrow rocket.

A description of the Prospero satellite and its experiments written in 1975 can be downloaded here

Pictures of the Prospero ground station can be downloaded here

Attempts are underway to reactivate Propero, beacon frequency 137.560 MHz see 1970s UK Satellite To Be Revived

Picture of Black Arrow Rocket on Display in Australia