• Amateur Radio Operator Contacts Spacecraft

    From ARRL de WD1CKS@VERT/WLARB to QST on Fri Aug 18 19:50:43 2023
    08/18/2023 The headlines are sensational, although a bit exaggerated: "Ham Radio 'hacks' NASA Satellite". While the phrase is eye-catching for social media, the truth is just as exciting. Amateur radio astronomer Scott Tilley, VE7TIL, has made contact with NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft, which passed Earth for the first time in 17 years. The STEREO-A (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) spacecraft was launched on October 25, 2006, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with its twin sister ship, STEREO-B. Both spacecraft were on a mission to circle behind the and send images back to Earth so scientists could make 3D models of solar activity. In 2014, STEREO-B failed and was not heard from again. "I'm having fun with STEREO-A," Tilley reported to Spaceweather.com. "The spacecraft is close to Earth this summer, and I can now receive its signal using a small 26-inch dish in my backyard." Tilley began hearing rumors that other radio operators were picking up signals from STEREO-A on 8443.580 MHz. He decided to check it out. "The central carrier is very loud, almost 30 dB above the noise," he said. "I also noticed data sidebands, which are unusual to see on such a distant object for my small antenna." Tilley was able to decode and demodulate STEREO-A's signal using a special program written by Alan Antonie, F4LAU, known as SatDump, and now, he is monitoring almost all of STEREO-A's science instruments, including its Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUVI), two coronagraphs (COR1 and COR2), the heliospheric imager (HI), and a solar radio burst receiver (S/WAVES). STEREO-A's closest approach to Earth was scheduled to occur on August 17, 2023. Amateur radio operators who would like to monitor STEREO-A can check out Tilley's technical blog for more information. [Thanks to Spaceweather.com and NASA for updated information in this story]

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