1KUNS-PF decoded

A few days ago, I spoke about my tries to decode telemetry from 1KUNS-PF. Since then, Mike Rupprecht DK3WN has managed to get in contact with Lorenzo Frezza, from the satellite team in La Sapienza, who has given us very valuable and detailed information regarding the telemetry. This has allowed me to include a fully working decoder for 1KUNS-PF in gr-satellites. Many thanks to Lorenzo for his collaboration.

Just after reading Lorenzo’s description of the coding, where he mentions Golay and Reed Solomon, I noticed that 1KUNS-PF was using the NanoCom AX100 transceiver in ASM+Golay mode. This is the same mode that the Chinese TY-2 and TY-6 satellites use, and I’ve already spoken about ASM+Golay mode in a post about TY-2. The only difference between these Chinese satellites and 1KUNS-PF is that 1KUNS-PF is currently using 1k2 (but perhaps might change to 9k6 in the future), whereas the Chinese satellites use 9k6. With this in mind, it is very easy to adapt the decoder for TY-2 to obtain a decoder for 1KUNS-PF.

Regarding my previous tries, note that I had tried to identify the syncword as 11011001111010010101110001000011, whereas the correct syncword is 10010011000010110101000111011110. My syncword candidate was inverted (this might be a problem with sideband inversion in the recording by Mike that I used) and off by one bit (due to the difficulty of deciding where the preamble ends).

After reading Lorenzo’s email, it has been a very easy and fast task to add a fully working decoder to gr-satellites, while before I wasn’t optimistic at all about the difficulty of decoding this satellite. This makes me think about two things:

  • We should really check the usual suspects (i.e., popular modems) when trying to reverse-engineer some new satellite. I could have found this out by myself just by trying the AX100 ASM+Golay decoder.
  • Some advice IARU Satcoord: if a satellite uses some popular hardware (for instance the U482C or the AX100) or some popular standard (CCSDS), please list that in the frequency coordination sheet. Lorenzo’s email could have been well summarised in the sentence “1KUNS-PF uses a NanoCom AX100 in the ASM+Golay mode”, and then we would have been able to decode this satellite without any effort.

Lorenzo has also sent us the telemetry format, which is rather simple. Using that, I’ve been able to add a telemetry decoder also. The new decoder for 1KUNS-PF can be found as sat_1kuns_pf.grc in gr-satellites. I have also added a sample recording to satellite-recordings. The telemetry in one of the packets in the sample recording is as follows:

CSP header:
        Priority:		2
        Source:			1
        Destination:		9
        Destination port:	10
        Source port:		37
        Reserved field:		0
        HMAC:			0
        XTEA:			0
        RDP:			0
        CRC:			0
    beacon_counter = 4274
    solar_panel_voltage = ListContainer: 
    eps_temp = ListContainer: 
    eps_boot_cause = 7
    eps_batt_mode = 3
    solar_panel_current = 0.0
    system_input_current = 80.0
    battery_voltage = 8262.0
    radio_PA_temp = 4.0
    tx_count = 45584
    rx_count = 0
    obc_temp = ListContainer: 
    ang_velocity_mag = 10
    magnetometer = ListContainer: 
    main_axis_of_rot = 89

P25 vocoder FEC

Following a discussion with Carlos Cabezas EB4FBZ over on the Spanish telegram group Radiofrikis about using Codec2 with DMR, I set out to study the error correction used in DMR, since it quickly caught my eye as something rather interesting. As some may know, I’m not a fan of using DMR for Amateur Radio, so I don’t know much about its technical details. On the other hand, Carlos knows a lot about DMR, so I’ve learned much with this discussion.

In principle, DMR is codec agnostic, but all the existing implementations use a 2450bps AMBE codec. The details of the encoding and FEC are taken directly from the P25 Half Rate Vocoder specification, which encodes a 2450bps MBE stream as a 3600bps stream. Here I look at some interesting details regarding the FEC in this specification.

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A first look at 1KUNS-PF telemetry

Last Friday, three Amateur cubesats were deployed from the ISS as part of the KiboCUBE program. These were Irazú, a 1U cubesat from Costa Rica which is the first satellite in orbit from a Central American country; UBAKUSAT, a 3U cubesat from Istanbul Technical University, Turkey; and 1KUNS-PF, a 1U cubesat from University of Nairobi, Kenya, developed jointly with University of Rome La Sapienza, Italy.

Irazú and UBAKUSAT both use standard 9k6 FSK packet radio (AX.25 with G3RUH scrambler), so they can be decoded with direwolf and many other packet radio decoders. However, no one has been able to decode 1KUNS-PF yet, due to the lack of information about the modulation and coding used. Mike Rupprecht DK3WN has some information about 1KUNS-PF, including a recording of some packets. I’ve taken a look at Mike’s recording and here are my findings.

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Using a Golay(24,12) decoder for Golay(23,12)

Yesterday I explained an algebraic decoding algorithm for Golay(24,12) and commented that it was not easy to adapt it to decode Golay(23,12). Today I’ve thought of a simple way to use any Golay(24,12) decoder to decode Golay(23,12).

Recall that a systematic Golay(23,12) code is obtained from a systematic Golay(24,12) by omitting the last component of each codeword (i.e., the codeword \((c_1,\ldots,c_{24})\) from the Golay(24,12) code gives the codeword \((c_1,\ldots,c_{23})\) from the Golay(23,12) code). Conversely, one can obtain a systematic Golay(24,12) code from a systematic Golay(23,12) code by adding a parity bit at the end. This means that \(c_{24} = \sum_{j=1}^{23} c_j\), since \(\sum_{j=1}^{24} c_j = 0\) for all words in a Golay(24,12) code.

The idea to decode a Golay(23,12) code with a Golay(24,12) decoder is first to restore the parity bit \(c_{24}\) and then apply the Golay(24,12) decoder. However, if there are errors in the received codeword, the restored parity bit can also be in error, increasing the number of errors in one.

The key remark is that both Golay(23,12) and Golay(24,12) are able to correct up to 3 errors. Therefore, we only care about restoring the parity bit correctly in the case when there are exactly 3 errors. If there are 2 or less errors, adding another error still gives a word decodable by the Golay(24,12) decoder.

Now note that if there are exactly 3 errors in \((c_1,\ldots,c_{23})\), then \(\sum_{j=1}^{23} c_j\) gives the opposite from the parity of the original codeword. Therefore, we should restore \(c_{24}\) as\[c_{24} = 1 + \sum_{j=1}^{23} c_j\]and then apply the Golay(24,12) decoder.

Algebraic decoding of Golay(24,12)

A couple years ago, I implemented a Golay(24,12) decoder to be used in the GOMX-1 decoder in gr-satellites. The implementation can be seen here. I followed the algorithm in the book The Art of Error Correction Coding, Section 2.2.3, without taking much care to understand why the algorithm worked. Now I am doing some experiments with Golay(24,12) and Golay(23,12) codes, so I have needed to revisit that algorithm and understand it well to adapt it to my needs. Here I explain how this algebraic decoder works.

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S-NET telemetry parser

Recently I have added a telemetry parser to the S-NET decoder in gr-satellites. Recall that I have talked about S-NET and its decoder in a previous post. To implement this telemetry parser I have used the information in Mike Rupprecht DK3WN’s web, some additional information shared by the S-NET team, as well as some recordings done by Mike. Many thanks to Mike and the S-NET team for all their help. Here I describe a few details about the telemetry.

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Soft Viterbi decoder for AO-40 FEC

A year ago, I made a decoder for the AO-40 FEC. While AO-40 has been dead for many years, the same FEC system is used in AO-73 and the rest of the FUNcube satellites. This decoder was later included in gr-satellites and it is currently used in the decoders for AO-73, UKube-1 and Nayif-1.

When I implemented this FEC decoder, for simplicity I used a hard decision Viterbi decoder, since my main concern was to get all the system working. I always intended to replace this by a soft decision Viterbi decoder, but it seems that I forgot completely about it.

Now, while thinking about integrating gr-aausat (my AAUSAT-4 decoder OOT module) into gr-satellites and adding a soft Viterbi decoder for AAUSAT-4, I have remembered about this. While the decoder for AAUSAT-4 will have to wait, since I have found a bug in the GNU Radio Viterbi decoder that makes it segfault, I have already added a soft Viterbi AO-40 FEC decoder to the FUNcube decoders in gr-satellites.

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Decoder for PolyITAN-2-SAU

PolyITAN-2-SAU, or QB50 UA01, is a cubesat from National Technical University of Ukraine, that was launched on May 2017 as part of the QB50 proyect. When it was launched, I made a recording of several QB50 satellites, including PolyITAN-2-SAU. Presumably, the modulation and coding used by this satellite is 9k6 BPSK AX.25, with G3RUH scrambling. Back then, I commented that although the signal was strong and I could get a clean constellation plot, I was unable to get valid AX.25 packets.

I had completely forgotten this satellite, but the other day I saw that Andy UZ7HO had added support for PolyITAN-2-SAU to his SoundModem. I asked Andy for some help, since I suspected that the coding wasn’t exactly standard G3RUH AX.25.

The trick is that this satellite uses two “layers” of NRZI encoding. The relevant part of the decoder is shown below. The BPSK symbols come in from the left of the figure and the AX.25 packets exit by the right. A standard G3RUH AX.25 decoder wouldn’t have the extra NRZI decoder on the right.

PolyITAN-2-SAU decoder

Note that NRZI decoding and G3RUH descrambling commute, since the G3RUH polynomial has an odd number of terms. Therefore, the decoder can also be organized in a different way, with both NRZI decoders at one side (either the input or output) of the descrambler.

Having two NRZI decoders in chain is a really funny concept, so it almost seems as some kind of mistake from the satellite team (most QB50 satellites use standard BPSK or FSK AX.25 packet radio for compatibility). In fact, if we write an NRZI decoder as \(y_n = 1 + x_n + x_{n-1}\), where \(x_n\) is the input sequence, \(y_n\) is the output sequence and the operations are performed on the finite field \(GF(2)\), then the effect of two NRZI decoders in chain can be written as\[z_n = 1 + y_n + y_{n-1} = 1 + x_n + x_{n-2},\] which is a rather strange form of differential decoder.

Thanks to Andy for giving me the clue about the extra NRZI decoder, as I would have had a hard time in finding it by myself (although, in retrospective, it is not that difficult to guess it by looking at the descrambled stream and seeing how HDLC 0x7e flags can be obtained from it). I have now added a decoder for PolyITAN-2-SAU to gr-satellites.