Telemetry format of 3CAT-2

The team from the NanoSat Lab in Universidad Politècnica de Catalunya have published a telemetry analyser for 3CAT-2. This analyser is designed to connect to a TCP server and get the AX.25 frames in KISS format.

The telemetry format is rather simple, as one can see by looking at the PrintBeacon() function in 3cat2_telemetry.c. As I imagined, the contents of each beacon are just the numerical values of several telemetry channels written in ASCII. For example:

3 7781 0245 07 06	1 0 3.5e-01 2.5e-01 1.6e-01 6.8e-09 1.2e-09 1.8e-08

All the fields are separated by a space, except the 5th and 6th fields, which are separated by a tab. The content of the first 7 fields is as follows:

  1. Mode. Possible values: 1 survival mode, 2 sun-safe mode, 3 nominal mode, 4 TX communication incoming (data downlink), 5 RX communications (command uplink), 6 and 7 payload mode.
  2. Battery voltage in mV. In the example 7.781V.
  3. Current consumption in mA. In the example 245mA.
  4. EPS temperature (probably in ºC). In the example 7ºC.
  5. Antenna temperature (probably in ºC). In the example 6ºC.
  6. Status of the ADCS system. 0 means detumbling enabled. 1 means SS-nominal.
  7. Control flag of the ADCS routine. Possible values: 0 automatic, 1 manual

The next 3 fields are floating point numbers. If detumbling is enabled, they correspond to magnetomer values in nT for the axes X, Y and Z respectively. If detumbling is not enabled, they correspond to the sun vector, axes X, Y and Z.

The last 3 fields correspond to the control voltages for axes X, Y and Z, regardless of whether detumbling is enabled or not.

Of course, the telemetry format is so easy that it can even be parsed with a "one-line" awk script:

 strings sats/3cat2-20160824-pe0sat.kiss | awk '{if ($1==1) printf "Survival"; if ($1==2) printf "Sun-safe"; if ($1==3) printf "Nominal"; if ($1==4) printf "TX"; if ($1==5) printf "RX"; if ($1>=6) printf "Payload"; printf "  %.2fV  %dmA  EPS: %2dºC  Ant: %2dºC  ", $2*1e-3, $3, $4, $5; if ($7==0) {printf "ADCS auto  "} else {printf "ADCS manual  "}; if ($6==0) {printf "Detumbling  (%f,%f,$f) nT", $8, $9, $10} else {printf "SS-nominal  Sun: (%.2f,%.2f,%.2f)", $8, $9, $10}; printf "  Control (%.1e,%.1e,%.1e)V\n", $11, $12, $13}'

which shows the following output:

Nominal  8.26V  233mA  EPS:  4ºC  Ant:  8ºC  ADCS auto  SS-nominal  Sun: (0.49,0.42,1.00)  Control (6.9e-09,1.7e-09,1.7e-08)V
Nominal  8.28V  221mA  EPS:  5ºC  Ant:  8ºC  ADCS auto  SS-nominal  Sun: (0.16,0.87,0.57)  Control (6.7e-09,1.4e-09,1.7e-08)V
Nominal  8.29V  245mA  EPS:  5ºC  Ant:  8ºC  ADCS auto  SS-nominal  Sun: (0.26,0.96,0.46)  Control (6.7e-09,1.4e-09,1.7e-08)V
Nominal  8.30V  257mA  EPS:  5ºC  Ant:  8ºC  ADCS auto  SS-nominal  Sun: (0.62,0.78,0.42)  Control (6.7e-09,1.4e-09,1.7e-08)V
Nominal  8.30V  257mA  EPS:  5ºC  Ant:  9ºC  ADCS auto  SS-nominal  Sun: (0.64,0.72,0.49)  Control (6.7e-09,1.4e-09,1.7e-08)V
Nominal  8.30V  245mA  EPS:  5ºC  Ant:  9ºC  ADCS auto  SS-nominal  Sun: (0.64,0.66,0.59)  Control (6.8e-09,1.5e-09,1.7e-08)V
Nominal  8.30V  245mA  EPS:  5ºC  Ant:  9ºC  ADCS auto  SS-nominal  Sun: (0.60,0.60,0.71)  Control (6.8e-09,1.5e-09,1.7e-08)V
Nominal  8.30V  245mA  EPS:  5ºC  Ant:  9ºC  ADCS auto  SS-nominal  Sun: (0.54,0.54,0.86)  Control (6.8e-09,1.6e-09,1.7e-08)V
Nominal  8.29V  245mA  EPS:  5ºC  Ant: 10ºC  ADCS auto  SS-nominal  Sun: (0.45,0.49,1.00)  Control (6.9e-09,1.7e-09,1.7e-08)V
Nominal  8.28V  245mA  EPS:  5ºC  Ant: 10ºC  ADCS auto  SS-nominal  Sun: (0.32,0.44,1.00)  Control (6.9e-09,1.7e-09,1.7e-08)V

The KISS file in question was obtained from the recording on 24/08/2016 at 10:54 by PE0SAT that I mentioned at the end of a previous post.

Many thanks to Juan Fran Muñoz and the rest of the NanoSat Lab team for publishing the telemetry analyser and sharing details about the satellite and the operations.

How hard is it to decode 3CAT-2?

In a previous post, I looked at the telemetry packets transmitted by the satellite 3CAT-2. This satellite transmits 9600bps AX.25 BPSK packets in the Amateur 2m band. As far as I know, it is the only satellite that transmits fast BPSK without any form of forward error correction. LilacSat-2 uses a concatenated code with a (7, 1/2) convolutional inner code and a (255, 223) Reed-Solomon outer code. The remaining BPSK satellites transmit at 1200bps, either using AX.25 without FEC (the QB50p satellites, for instance), or with strong FEC (Funcube, for example). Therefore, I remark that 3CAT-2's packets will be a bit difficult to decode without errors. But how difficult? Here I look at how to use the theory to calculate this, without resorting to simulations.

Continue reading "How hard is it to decode 3CAT-2?"

Decoding packets from 3CAT2

On 15th August, a Chinese CZ-2D rocket launched three satellites from Juiuquan (Mongolia). The main payload was the Chinese satellite QSS, designed to do some experiments in quantum communications and entanglement. As anything that has the word quantum on it, this satellite even made it to the mainstream news in Spain. The rocket also launched Lixing 1, another Chinese satellite which will research the upper atmosphere, and 3CAT2, from the Universidad Politècnica de Catalunya (Spain).

3CAT2's main payload is a GNSS reflectrometer designed to measure the altitude of the Earth and map the oceans. This means that it uses reflections of satellite navigation signals off the surface of the earth and sea to perform mapping. It will mainly use the L1 and L2 signals from GPS, but it can also work with Galileo, GLONASS and BeiDou signals. It also carries a prototype of a magnetometer designed for the eLISA project. This project consists in setting up a laser interferometer in space to observe gravity waves. It is roughly the same as the Earth-based LIGO, that recently confirmed the first detections of gravity waves. However, since eLISA will be in space, its laser arms will much longer than LIGO's. This permits to study much lower frequencies than it's possible Earth-based interferometers.

3CAT2 has a downlink in the Amateur 2m band, at 145.970MHz, and transmits 9600bps BPSK. It also has a faster BPSK downlink in the S-band, presumably at 2401MHz (inside the Amateur 13cm band). The days following 3CAT2's launch I tried to receive its VHF signal, without any luck. I have been in contact with other Amateurs who also listened and didn't hear anything.

This morning, I've received email from Scott K4KDR telling me that he has heard the satellite for the first time and he has managed to do a recording, but he is unable to decode the data.

We where unsure about which encoding that 3CAT2 is using. It could be AX.25, or some custom protocol using FEC. As far as I know, the only other satellite that transmits 9k6 BPSK in the Amateur bands is LilacSat-2, which uses strong FEC. Nevertheless, I've taken a good look at Scott's recording and I've been able to decode one packet. This is, as far as I'm aware, the first decoding of 3CAT2 by an Amateur operator.

Continue reading "Decoding packets from 3CAT2"