## Playing with LilacSat-1

Even though the cubesat LilacSat-1 was launched more than a year ago, I haven’t played with it much, since I’ve been busy with many other things. I tested it briefly after it was launched, using its Codec2 downlink, but I hadn’t done anything else since then.

LilacSat-1 has an FM/Codec2 transponder (uplink is analog FM in the 2m band and downlink is Codec2 digital voice in the 70cm band) and a camera that can be remotely commanded to take and downlink JPEG images (see the instructions here). Thus, it offers very interesting possibilities.

Since I have some free time this weekend, I had planned on playing again with LilacSat-1 by using the Codec2 transponder. Wei Mingchuan BG2BHC persuaded me to try the camera as well, so I teamed up with Mike Rupprecht DK3WN to try the camera this morning. Mike would command the camera, since he has a fixed station with more power, and we would collaborate to receive the image. This is important because a single bit error or lost chunk in a JPEG file ruins the image from the point where it happens, and LilacSat-1 doesn’t have much protection against these problems. By joining the data received by multiple stations, the chances of receiving the complete image correctly are higher.

## Report for today’s DSLWP-B SSDV session

Today an SSDV transmission session from DSLWP-B was programmed between 7:00 and 9:00 UTC. The main receiving groundstation was the Dwingeloo radiotelescope. Cees Bassa retransmitted the reception progress live on Twitter. Since the start of the recording, it seemed that some of the SSDV packets were being lost. As Dwingeloo gets a very high SNR and essentially no bit errors, any lost packets indicate a problem either with the transmitter at DSLWP-B or with the receiving software at Dwingeloo.

My analysis of last week’s SSDV transmissions spotted some problems in the transmitter. Namely, some packets were being cut short. Therefore, I have been closely watching out the live reports from Cees Bassa and Wei Mingchuan BG2BHC and then spent most of the day analysing in detail the recordings done at Dwingeloo, which have been already published here. This is my report.

## First SSDV transmission from DSLWP-B

As some of you may know, DSLWP-B, the Chinese lunar-orbiting Amateur satellite carries a camera which is able to take pictures of the Moon and stars. The pictures can be downlinked through the 70cm 250bps GMSK telemetry channel using the SSDV protocol. Since an r=1/2 turbo code is used, this gives a net rate of 125bps, without taking into account overhead due to headers. Thus, even small 640×480 images can take many minutes to transfer, but that is the price one must pay for sending pictures over a distance of 400000km.

On Saturday August 3, at 01:27 UTC, the first SSDV downlink in the history of DSLWP-B was attempted. According to Wei Mingchuan BG2BHC, the groundstation at Harbin managed to command the picture download at 436.400MHz a few minutes before the GMSK transmitter went off at 01:30 UTC. A few SSDV frames were received by the PI9CAM radiotelescope at Dwingeloo.

The partial image that was received was quickly shared on Twitter and on the DSLWP-B camera webpage. The PI9CAM team has now published the IQ recording of this event in their recording repository. Here I analyze that recording and perform my own decoding of the image.

## DSLWP-B and the lunar eclipse

As you may well know, last Friday 27th July there was a total lunar eclipse. This is an interesting event for lunar-orbiting spacecraft such as DSLWP-B. In fact, depending on the spacecraft’s orbit, it may also pass through the Earth’s umbra or penumbra. Here I look at the trajectory taken by DSLWP-B during the eclipse.

## DSLWP-B first JT4G test

Yesterday, between 9:00 and 11:00, DSLWP-B made its first JT4G 70cm transmissions from lunar orbit. Several stations such as Cees Bassa and the rest of the PI9CAM team at Dwingeloo, the Netherlands, Fer IW1DTU in Italy, Tetsu JA0CAW and Yasuo JA5BLZ in Japan, Mike DK3WN in Germany, Jiang Lei BG6LQV in China, Dave G4RGK in the UK, and others exchanged reception reports on Twitter. Some of them have also shared their recordings of the signals.

Last week I presented a JT4G detection algorithm intended to detect very weak signals from DSLWP-B, down to -25dB SNR in 2500Hz. I have now processed the recordings of yesterday’s transmissions with this algorithm and here I look at the results. I have also made a Python script with the algorithm so that people can process their recordings easily. Instructions are included in this post.

## First results of DSLWP-B Amateur VLBI

In March this year I spoke about the Amateur VLBI with LilacSat-2 experiment. This experiment consisted of a GPS-synchronized recording of LilacSat-2 at groundstations in Harbin and Chongqing, China, which are 2500km apart. The experiment was a preparation for the Amateur VLBI project with the DSLWP lunar orbiting satellites, and I contributed with some signal processing techniques for VLBI.

As you may know, the DSLWP-B satellite is now orbiting the Moon since May 25 and the first Amateur VLBI session was performed last Sunday. The groundstations at Shahe in Beijing, China, and Dwingeloo in the Netherlands performed a GPS-synchronized recording of the 70cm signals from DSLWP-B from 04:20 to 5:40 UTC on 2018-06-10. I have adapted my VLBI correlation algorithms and processed these recordings. Here are my first results.

## DSLWP-B’s journey to the Moon: part III

This is a follow-up on the series about DSLWP-B’s orbital dynamics (see part I and part II). In part I we looked at the tracking files published by Wei Mingchuan BG2BHC, which list the position and velocity of the satellite in ECEF coordinates, and presented basic orbit propagation with GMAT. In part II we explored GMAT’s capabilities to plan and perform manoeuvres, making a tentative simulation of DSLWP-B’s mid-course correction and lunar orbit injection. Now we turn to the study of DSLWP-B’s elliptical lunar orbit.

In this post we will examine the Keplerian elements of the orbits described by each of the tracking files published so far. We will also use Scott Tilley VE7TIL’s Doppler measurements of the S-band beacon of DSLWP-B to validate and determine the orbit.

## DSLWP-B’s journey to the Moon: part II

This forms parts of a series of posts showing how to use GMAT to track the DSLWP-B Chinese lunar satellite. In part I we looked at how to examine and validate the tracking files published by BG2BHC using GMAT. It is an easy exercise to use GMAT to perform orbit propagation and produce new tracking files. However, note that the available tracking files come from orbit planning and simulation, not from actual measurements. It seems that the elliptical lunar orbit achieved by DSWLP-B is at least slightly different from the published data. We are already working on using Doppler measurements to perform orbit determination (stay tuned for more information).

Recall that there are three published tracking files that can be taken as a rough guideline of DSLWP-B’s actual trajectory. Each file covers 48 hours. The first file starts just after trans-lunar injection, and the second and third files already show the lunar orbit. Therefore, there is a gap in the story: how DSLWP-B reached the Moon.

There are at least two manoeuvres (or burns) needed to get from trans-lunar injection into lunar orbit. The first is a mid-course correction, whose goal is to correct slightly the path of the spacecraft to make it reach the desired point for lunar orbit injection, which is usually the lunar orbit periapsis (the periapsis is the lowest part of the elliptical orbit). The second is the lunar orbit injection, a braking manoeuvre to get the spacecraft into the desired lunar orbit and adjust the orbit apoapsis (the highest part of the orbit). Without a lunar orbit injection, the satellite simply swings by the Moon and doesn’t enter lunar orbit.

In this post we will see how to use GMAT to calculate and simulate these two burns, so as to obtain a full trajectory that is consistent with the published tracking files. The final trajectory can be seen in the figure below.

## DSLWP-B’s journey to the Moon: part I

As you may well know, on May 20 a CZ-4C rocket launched from Xichang, China, to deliver Queqiao, the Chang’e 4 relay satellite, to the Moon. Queqiao is a communications relay satellite designed to orbit the L2 point of the Earth-Moon system, supporting the future Chang’e 4 rover that will land on the far side of the Moon. From the L2 point, Queqiao has a good view of both the Earth and the far side of the Moon.

This launch was shared by the DSLWP-A and -B microsatellites, also called Longjiang 1 and 2. These two satellites are designed to be put on a 200 x 9000km lunar orbit and their main scientific mission is a proof of concept of the Discovering the Sky at Longest Wavelengths experiment, a radioastronomy HF interferometer that uses the Moon as a shield from Earth’s interferences.

The DSLWP satellites carry an Amateur radio payload which consists of a 250 baud (or 500 baud) GMSK transmitter which uses $$r=1/2$$ or $$r=1/4$$ turbo codes, a JT4G beacon, and a camera allowing open telecommand (such as the camera on BY70-1 and LilacSat-1). A year ago, while the radio system was being designed, I wrote a post about DSLWP’s SSDV downlink, which transmits the images taken by the camera.

Wei Mingchuan BG2BHC, who is part of the DSLWP team, has been posting updates on Twitter about the status of the mission. If you’ve been following these closely, you’ll already know that unfortunately radio contact with DSLWP-A was lost on the UTC afternoon of May 22. Since then, all tries to contact the spacecraft have failed (the team will publicly release more information about its fate soon). On the other hand, DSLWP-B has been successfully injected into lunar orbit and is now orbiting the Moon since the UTC afternoon of May 25.

More posts will follow about the radio communications of DSLWP, but this series of posts will deal with the orbital dynamics part of the mission. In this first post, I will look at the tracking files released so far by Wei, which can be used to compute the spacecraft’s position and Doppler.

## STARcon 2018 aftermath

Please read the title of this post in a light-hearted way: the STARcon 2018 Scientific and Technical Amateur Radio congress that took place last weekend in Murcia turned out to be a huge success. Personally, the weekend has been an intense but extremely rewarding experience.