Sentinel-3 for oceans

Covering 70% of the planet, the oceans are directly linked to our weather and climate. They are also essential for global transport and provide a wealth of resources. What happens far out to sea has a direct effect on societies all over the world. Sentinel-3 provides crucial observations of our oceans, helping us to understand the overall health of our planet.

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Norwich School Ground Control Day

International Space Station - Image Credit NASA

International Space Station – Image Credit NASA

Ahead of the amateur radio link up with ISS astronaut Tim Peake GB1SS, later this month, 120 pupils aged 10 to 18, from 21 schools across Norfolk and Suffolk, gathered at City of Norwich  (CNS) for a special Ground Control Day.

Tim Peake KG5BVI preparing for his spacewalk in January

Tim Peake KG5BVI preparing for his spacewalk in January

The Eastern Daily Press report:

As well as a keynote speech from Helen Mason, a reader in solar physics at Cambridge University, the event covered the technical side of the radio link itself, and issues to do with physics and space more generally.

Tim Hare M6HTJ, a Year 10 pupil at CNS who is himself a radio ham enthusiast, will lead the space linkup, said: “It’s going to be incredible. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that very few people will be able to have.”

Maddy Flett, a Year 8 pupil at CNS, said science is “not a subject I would jump to first”, but she really enjoyed Ground Control Day.

She is one of 10 pupils chosen to question Mr Peake, and will ask what astronauts do if they cut themselves.

Read the full EDP story and watch the video at

ARISS Principia site

UK ARISS scheduled schools

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AMSAT Phase 4B Ground Engineering Report

Michelle Thompson W5NYV

Michelle Thompson W5NYV

On February 13, Michelle Thompson W5NYV released her latest AMSAT Phase 4B Ground Engineering Report.

Michelle has nine years experience in embedded hardware and software design and is managing the digital ground station program in support of a digital payload for an AMSAT geosynchronous satellite opportunity called Phase 4.

Watch Phase 4B Weekly Report February 13, 2016

So what happened when I finally got to the lab? Well, we able to obtain an example flow graph, with some controversy between installations, for DVB. Here is a DVB S2 transmitter in GNUradio. After some troubleshooting to get it to work with the X310, we saw an output waveform using the built-in instruments in GNUradio. Here’s the list of blocks availabe in mainstream GNUradio for DVB. Isn’t this great? Note that there is already DVB-S2X, although it has not been completely tested due to the lack of receivers. Wouldn’t it be great if we could help out here?

Next, we transmitted a test signal. It looked a bit puny at first, but we found the settings for gain and improved performance a bit. In other advancements, the HackRF team submitted their first pull request in their documentation. Here’s an FM receiver implementation based on Michael Ossmann’s wonderful tutorials about using HackRF and GNUradio at

We tried to receive with DVB-T RTL-SDR dongles, but haven’t quite gotten this to work yet!

If you are anywhere in the ballpark about being interested in SDRs, then watch these videos. If it seems remotely interesting, then consider joining up our team and participating. It’s a lot of fun and we need you.

Here’s the instrumentation of the FM broadcast band experiment. The waterfall shows the stations clearly.

Next up is something I wanted to point out to those of you interested in microwave experimentation. Here’s the band plan for 10GHz. Note that our downlink is in the Space, Earth, and Telecommand sub band. Note that right next door is an analog and digital band, where bandwidths greater than 1Mhz are welcome. That would be us, wearing our terrestrial hats.

We’re looking at making the radio autonomously determine what it’s listening to, and act accordingly. This is a band plan that works to our advantage since we believe we can use the same IF of 700MHz for both modes.

We use Github for all our documentation and software. If you need to learn about github, there are many tutorials at github. You can get off the ground and to the point where you are forking and pulling like a pro. Check it out.

Next up, something totally different. We want the user interface for Phase 4 Ground to be really good. We are visual creatures. One of the projects for visualization of contact history is DynamicQSL. This project is focused on exploring, researching, developing, and publishing an open source application that takes your log of QSOs and produces a beautiful representation of your activity with other stations.

If you have only contacted a station once, then the resulting QSL card for you and them is simple. If you have had a lot of contacts, then it’s complex and rich. The inputs to the DynamicQSL are whatever you’ve chosen for your QSL card image, or perhaps your avatar on Phase 4 Ground. So far, it’s clear that automatically generating fractal images is not going to easily work. Choosing a good fractal image requires a human curator to make good art. Using tree diagrams means the card is predictable and boring. However, there’s another way. There’s a wonderful book about algorithmically produced art called Creating Symmetry: The Artful Mathematics of Wallpaper Patterns by Frank A. Farris. This seems to be a winner.

Here’s something I made in a few lines of code using SageMath online. Try out this open source alternative to MATLAB at All the code for the DynamicQSL experiments is in the visualizations directory of the documents repository at Phase 4 Ground’s github site.

I’m hoping to work with Zach Leffke KJ4QLP at Virgina Tech to find students with an artistic and programming background to join this project and create a wonderful aspect to our user interface on Phase 4. There is nothing stopping this from being an entirely standalone project that anyone with a QSO log can use. The goal is to feed in a log and have beautiful dynamic cards, possibly animated to show contacts over time, produced so that the operator can display or send them. So Zach, if you’re listening, I will be writing you as soon as I can with a lot more details.

None of this is possible without your support. Please join ARRL and AMSAT if you are not a member already. They make this project possible. If you want to help the project, then join at or contact me directly. You don’t have to be an expert, you just have to want to become one. I will meet you wherever you are, and help you out as best I can. Until next week!

Previous reports can be seen at

Geosynchronous Ham Radio Project Video

Michelle Thompson W5NYV

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ARISS contact planned for Oasis Academy Brightstowe

In 2014 the UK PM spoke to Oasis Academy Brightstowe students - Image Credit Oasis Academy

In 2014 the UK PM spoke to Oasis Academy Brightstowe students – Image Credit Oasis Academy

Friday, February 19, 2016, at approximately 14:23 UT, an ARISS contact is planned for Oasis Academy Brightstowe, Bristol. UK astronaut Tim Peake will be using the call sign GB1SS  while the Academy will use GB1OAB.

The ISS signal will be audible over Western Europe on 145.800 MHz FM. The contact will be webcast on the ARISS Principia website

UK astronaut Tim Peake KG5BVI / GB1SS

UK astronaut Tim Peake KG5BVI / GB1SS

School presentation:

Oasis Academy Brightstowe is an independent Academy for 11 – 16 year olds, located in Shirehampton, North Bristol. We opened in September 2008 in the state-of-the-art buildings of the former Portway School. Our facilities here are second to none, with an on-site restaurant, great sports facilities and a well-stocked Library.

Oasis Academy Brightstowe was given £1.8million to develop a 21st century ICT capability, so students here have access to the very latest technology; including a fully equipped Library, access to Wi-Fi throughout the school, and a Virtual Learning Environment, designed to give students access to online learning provision.

Oasis Academy Brightstowe LogoThe Academy has one of the highest computer-per-student ratios of any school in the area (better than one between two students) and we encourage students to be competent with the use of computers and the internet in their lessons.

The new technology is embraced by both staff and students and forms a key part of lesson planning and delivery. Interactive whiteboards are a feature of every classroom and teachers can instantly turn any workspace into an ICT suite using one of our eight portable laptop trolleys.

Principia Mission Patch

Principia Mission Patch

Students will ask as many of the following questions as time allows.

1. Emily (12): From my research, I have found out that you are taking part in 265 experiments. Which one is the most important for us here on Earth?

2. Luke (15): In your opinion, will unmanned missions ever be equal to manned ones?

3. Francesca (16): In a microgravity environment, can dust, debris and liquids cause a danger, and if so how do you deal with it?

4. Seema (15): My aim is to be the first female Afghan astronaut. What would be the one most important piece of advice that you have for me?

5. Jack (11): Were you told what experiments you had to do, or did you get to choose?

6. Ashleigh (16): How many days supplies do you have on board should a resupply mission not would you potentially be able to live for, and how would you survive the longest?

7. Lewis (16): How did you build the confidence to go into space?

8. Natalie (16): Why should we continue to fund expensive space missions when we have more pressing problems on Earth?

9. Nazain (18): If the world’s leaders could see the earth from your current perspective, do you think there would be a better consensus to sort out the problems of the world?

10. Kerys (10): Did anything in your previous career or experiences, prepare you for space?

11. Jacob (9): Why did you want to become an astronaut?

12. Emily (12): When you push on the wall of the space station behind you to move forward, does the space station move backwards due to the principle of conservation of momentum?

13. Luke (15): What do you think of NASA’s planned one way Mars mission, and would you go if given the opportunity?

14. Francesca (16): Can you feel the ISS shake or wobble?

15. Seema (15): Being in a microgravity environment causes a decrease in muscle mass and bone density. Other than exercise, what measures are you taking to protect your health?

16. Jack (11): Considering that in space you are weightless and time has a different value, do you age at a different rate?

17. Kerys (10): Astronauts go through such lengthy and intensive training for their journeys. Was there anything that you were not prepared for?

18. Jacob (9): How are your experiments helping to save our Earth?

19. Natalie (16): What do you miss about being on earth?

20. Nazain (18): Other than the earth, can you tweet a picture of your favourite sight in space?

ARISS offers an opportunity for students to experience the excitement of Amateur Radio by talking directly with crewmembers onboard the International Space Station. Teachers, parents and communities see, first hand, how Amateur Radio and crewmembers on ISS can energize youngsters’ interest in science, technology and learning.

73, Gaston Bertels, ON4WF
ARISS mentor

ARISS Principia site

What is Amateur Radio?

Find an amateur radio training course near you

A free booklet is available aimed at introducing newcomers to the hobby that can also be used as a handy reference while getting started, see


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Founded in 1975 AMSAT-UK is a voluntary organisation that supports the design and building of equipment for amateur radio satellites.

AMSAT-UK initially produced a short bulletin called OSCAR News to give members advice on amateur satellite communications. Since those early days OSCAR News has grown in size and the print quality has improved beyond recognition. Today, OSCAR News is produced as a high-quality quarterly colour A4 magazine consisting of up to 40 pages of news, information and comment about amateur radio space communications.

The new lower-cost E-membership provides OSCAR News as a downloadable PDF file giving members the freedom to read it on their Tablets or Smartphones anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

AMSAT-UK FUNcube Mission Patch Rev4 20100609

AMSAT-UK FUNcube Mission Patch

An additional advantage is that the PDF should be available for download up to 2 weeks before the paper copy is posted.

The Membership year lasts for 12 months starting on January 1 each year.

Take out an Electronic membership here

E-members can download their copies of OSCAR News from

A sample issue of OSCAR News can be downloaded here.

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History of HamTV on the ISS

Samantha Cristoforetti IZ0UDF with ISS HamTV Transmitter

Samantha Cristoforetti IZ0UDF with ISS HamTV Transmitter

Thursday, February 11, 2016, at 18:09 UTC, an educational ARISS radio contact took place at the Royal Masonic School for Girls, Rickmansworth,, United Kingdom. The school contact was operated by Tim Peake KG5BVI in the frame of the Principia mission.

It was a historic event: the radio contact was enhanced with video! Tim Peake activated the Ham Video transmitter on board Columbus.

HamTV Antennas at ARISS Telebridge Station IK1SLD in Casale Monferrato, Italy

HamTV Antennas at ARISS Telebridge Station IK1SLD in Casale Monferrato, Italy

As far back as the year 2000, a proposal for an ATV system on the International Space Station was submitted to the ARISS  Project Selection and Use Committee by Graham Shirville, G3VZV.

November 2002, a request for amateur radio facilities on the then under construction Columbus module was submitted by Gaston Bertels, ON4WF to Jörg Feustel-Büechl, Director of Manned Spaceflight and Microgravity Directorate of the European Space Agency (ESA). The request was to install wideband amateur radio antennas on the nadir of Columbus, facing the earth. With such antennas, the on board amateur radio facilities could be extended to amateur TV.

In 2003 the request was examined in detail and finally accepted. ARISS would pay for the development, manufacturing and qualification of the antennas. ESA would support the installation cost.

ARISS-Europe started a funding campaign, all donations being published on the website.

In 2004 coaxial feed throughs were installed on the port cone of Columbus. This was needed for accessing the antennas with feedlines from inside the module.

In 2005, the Royal Belgian Amateur Radio Society (UBA) signed a contract with the Wroclaw University of Technology, Poland for the development and manufacturing of the antennas. Whereas initial plans were for UHF, L-band and S-band antennas, only L- and S-band antennas could be ordered by lack of funding. The cost of the project was 47,000 Euro.

One of the Columbus Module 2.4 / 1.2 GHz Antennas

One of the Columbus Module 2.4 / 1.2 GHz Antennas

Early 2006 the antennas were delivered to ESA. Meanwhile main Columbus contractor EADS and subcontractor Alenia Spazio had reviewed mechanical and thermal constraints. Wroclaw University proceeded to qualifications tests (cost 3.000 Euro) and the antennas failed.

In 2007 an additional contract was signed with the Wroclaw University for the development of modified antennas. This amounted to 36.000 Euro. These antennas were accepted and installed on Columbus, October 2007.

The cost of the antennas finally amounted to 86.000 Euro and was covered by a wordwide funding campaign.

ESA supported the total installation cost of the antennas, including feed throughs and coaxial cables.

After the successful launch of Columbus and its integration into the International Space Station complex, an ARISS-Europe working group started a study for the development of an amateur television transmitter on Columbus, using one of the the S-band antennas. A debate started between the supporters of analog television (ATV) and the proponents of digital television (DATV). The working group, which met monthly per teleconference, made progress, but was stuck by the lack of funding.

Front panel of the HamTV transmitter

Front panel of the HamTV transmitter

As time went by, the debate on ATV versus DATV evolved at the advantage of the latter, but no funding was in sight… Then, suddenly, supported by the enthusiasm of Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli IZ0JPA, who had performed many ARISS school contacts during his 2010-2011 expedition aboard the Space Station, at the initiative of AMSAT Italia, an Italian manufacturer, Kayser Italia, presented a project for an amateur radio DATV transmitter to ESA’s educational services. In 2012, this proposal was accepted and ESA signed a contract with Kayser Italia for the development and the manufacturing of a DATV transmitter on S-band. This transmitter, dubbed “Ham Video, was installed on Columbus and ESA transferred the custodianship of this equipment to ARISS.

It was a long way, spanning sixteen years, from the initial proposal to the first ever HamTV school contact. A new era opens for ground station operators, interested in receiving digital amateur television from the International Space Station. A technical challenge already met by a few ground stations in Europe, USA and Australia. Long life to HamTV and success to the pioneering ground stations, world wide!


Gaston Bertels, ON4WF

Watch First HamTV ARISS contact as received direct on 2395 MHz by Colin Watts G4KLB in Bournemouth

HamTV on the ISS

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