Measuring the gain of a dish

Here I want to show a technique for measuring the gain of a dish that I first learned from an article by Christian Monstein about the Moon’s temperature at a wavelength of 2.77cm. The technique only uses power measurements from an observation of a radio source, at different angles from the boresight. Ideally, the radio source should be strong and point-like. It is also important that the angles at which the power measurements are made are known with good accuracy. This can be achieved either with a good rotator or by letting an astronomical object drift by on a dish that is left stationary.

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Trying to find the DSLWP-B crash site

As you may well know, DSLWP-B, the Chinese lunar orbiting Amateur satellite crashed with the Moon on July 31 as a way to end its mission without leaving debris in orbit. I made a post with my prediction, which showed the impact point southeast of Mare Moscoviense, in the far side of the Moon. Phil Stooke was more precise and located the impact point near the Van Gent crater.

Our plan is to get in contact with the LRO team and try to find the crash site in future LRO images. We are confident that this can be done, since they were able to locate the Beresheet impact site a few months ago. However, to help in the search we need to compute the location of the impact point as accurately as possible, and also come up with some estimate of the error to define a search area where we are likely to find the crash. This post is a detailed account of my calculations.

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More DSLWP-B lunar surface images identified

In my last posts about DSLWP-B, I have been showing all the images of the lunar surface that were taken by the satellite during the last weeks of the mission, and tried to identify to which area of the Moon each image corresponded. For several of them, I was able to give a good identification using Google Moon, but for many of the latest images I was unable to find an identification, since they show few or none characteristic craters.

Thus, for these images I only gave a rough prediction of which area of the Moon was imaged by using GMAT and the published ephemeris from dslwp_dev. This doesn’t take into account camera pointing, orbit or shutter time errors.

Phil Stooke has become interested in this and he has managed to identify many of the images, even some containing very little detail, which I find impressive. No wonder, Phil is the author of several atlases of space exploration of the Moon and Mars, so he knows a lot of lunar geography.

Phil tells me that he has used Quickmap, which is a very nice tool that I didn’t know of. It is much more powerful than Google Moon. He recommends to switch to an equidistant cylindrical projection and set as a basemap layer the “WAC mosaic (no shadows) map”, which contains images with the sun directly overhead. This resembles the images taken by DSLWP-B better, since these are always taken with the sun at a high elevation, because the camera always points away from the sun. It is interesting to see how the appearance of the surface changes between the “no shadows” and “big shadows” maps.

In this post I show the locations of the images identified by Phil.

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Lucky-7 TLE matching using GPS data

SkyFox Labs is having some trouble identifying the TLE corresponding to their Lucky-7 cubesat. The satellite was launched on July 5 in launch 2019-038 and a good match among the TLEs assigned to that launch has not being found yet. Over on Twitter, Cees Bassa has analyzed some SatNOGS observations and he says that NORAD ID 44406 seems the best match. However, this TLE has already been identified by Spire as belonging to one of their LEMUR satellites.

Fortunately, Lucky-7 has an on-board GPS receiver, and the team has been collecting position data recently. This data can be used to match a TLE to the orbit of the satellite, and indeed is much more accurate than the Doppler curve, which is the usual method for TLE identification.

Jaroslav Laifr, from the Lucky-7 team, has sent me the data they have collected, so that I can study it to find a matching TLE. The study is pretty simple to do with Skyfield. I have obtained the most recent TLEs for launch 2019-038 from Space-Track and computed the RMS error between each of the TLEs and the GPS measurements. The results can be seen in this Jupyter notebook.

The best match is NORAD ID 44406, with an RMS error of 8.7km. The second best match is NORAD ID 44404 (which is what SatNOGS has been using to track Lucky-7), with an RMS error of 51.3km. Most other objects have an error larger than 100km.

Therefore, my conclusion is clear. It is very likely that Spire misidentified NORAD ID 44406 as belonging to LEMUR 2 DUSTINTHEWIND early after the launch, when the different objects hadn’t drifted apart much. NORAD ID 44406 is a good match for Lucky-7. It will be interesting to see what Spire says in view of this data.

Second Moon observation with my QO-100 station.

In May 25, the Moon passed through the beam of my QO-100 groundstation and I took the opportunity to measure the Moon noise and receive the Moonbounce 10GHz beacon DL0SHF. A few days ago, in July 22, the Moon passed again through the beam of the dish. This is interesting because, in contrast to the opportunity in May, where the Moon only got within 0.5º of the dish pointing, in July 22 the Moon passed almost through the nominal dish pointing. Also, incidentally this occasion has almost coincided with the 50th anniversary of the arrival to the Moon of Apollo 11, and all the activities organized worldwide to celebrate this event.

The figure below shows the noise measurement at 10366.5GHz with 1MHz and a 1.2m offset dish, compared with the angular separation between the Moon and the nominal pointing of the dish (defined as the direction from my station to Es’hail 2). The same recording settings as in the first observation were used here.

The first thing to note is that I made a mistake when programming the recording. I intended to make a 30 minute recording centred at the moment of closest approach, but instead I programmed the recording to start at the moment of closest approach. The LimeSDR used to make the recording was started to stream one hour before the recording, in order to achieve a stable temperature (this was one lesson I learned from my first observation).

The second comment is that the maximum noise doesn’t coincide with the moment when the Moon is closest to the nominal pointing. Luckily, this makes all the noise hump fit into the recording interval, but it means that my dish pointing is off. Indeed, the maximum happens when the Moon is 1.5º away from the nominal pointing, so my dish pointing error is at least 1.5º. I will try adjust the dish soon by peaking on the QO-100 beacon signal.

The noise hump is approximately 0.085dB, which is much better than the 0.05dB hump that I obtained in the first observation. It may not seem like much, but assuming the same noise in both observations, this is a difference of 2.32dB in the signal. This difference can be explained by the dish pointing error.

The recording I have made also covers the 10GHz Amateur EME band, but I have not been able to detect the signal of the DL0SHF beacon. Perhaps it was not transmitting when the recording was made. I have also arrived to the conclusion that the recording for my first observation had severe sample loss, as it was made on a mechanical hard drive. This explains the odd timing I detected in the DL0SHF signal.

The next observation is planned for October 11, but before this there is the Sun outage season between September 6 and 11, in which the Sun passes through the beam of the dish, so that Sun noise measurements can be performed.

DSLWP-B activities for the third week of July

During this week, the Amateur payload of DSLWP-B was active during the following slots:

  • 14 Jul 19:00 to 21:00
  • 15 Jul 12:00 to 14:00
  • 17 Jul 04:40 to 06:50
  • 18 Jul 20:50 to 22:50
  • 20 Jul 14:20 to 16:20
  • 21 Jul 05:30 to 07:30

Among these, the Moon was visible from Europe only on July 14, 18 and 21, so Dwingeloo only observed these days, which were mainly devoted to the download of SSDV images of the lunar surface. As usual, the payload took an image automatically at the start of each slot, so some of the slots were used for autonomous lunar imaging, even though no tracking was made from Dwingeloo.

This post is a detailed account of the activities done with DSLWP-B during the third week of July.

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Galileo operational again

In my previous post I wrote about the outage of the Galileo EU satellite navigation constellation that started on 2019-07-12 01:50 GST. For several days, all the Galileo satellites kept transmitting the same batch of ephemeris, which corresponded to 2019-07-11 21:50 GST, rather than sending updated batches of ephemeris.

This situation continued until around 2019-07-16 19:00, when several people reported that they were receiving updated ephemeris from some Galileo satellites. These ephemeris could be used for navigation correctly. The NAVSAS group from University of Torino has published a post where they show, for each satellite, when the updated ephemeris were first received by their equipment in Torino, Italy.

The restoration of the system was publicly announced with NAGU 2019027, published on 2019-07-18 08:20. This NAGU stated that starting from 2019-07-17 20:52 the service was restored, but users might experience some instability.

It is interesting to look at the MGEX broadcast ephemeris to see what happened between 2019-07-16 19:00, when users started to see updated ephemeris, and 2019-07-18, when the system was considered to be fully restored. In this post, I do a detailed analysis of the broadcast ephemeris.

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DSLWP-B activities for the second week of July

During this week, the Amateur payload of DSLWP-B has been active on the following slots:

  • 2019-07-09 12:30 to 14:30 UTC
  • 2019-07-10 13:50 to 15:50 UTC
  • 2019-07-12 02:00 to 04:00 UTC
  • 2019-07-12 16:30 to 18:30 UTC

In these activations, the last remaining image of the eclipse was downloaded. Also, images of the lunar surface as well as stars have been taken and downloaded. This post is a summary of the activities made with DSLWP-B over the week.

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Lunar features in DSLWP-B eclipse images

Now that the DSLWP-B eclipse images have become widespread, appearing even in some newspapers, I have taken the time to identify the features of the lunar surface that can be seen in two of the images. As with any Earth and Moon pictures of DSLWP-B, the part of the Moon that can be seen in these images belongs to the far side, with longitudes of approximately 100º E and 100º W (the division between the near side and the far side happens at 90º E and 90º W, and 0º is the middle of the near side).

I have compared the images with a simulation of the camera view done in GMAT. Using this simulation as a reference and these lunar surface maps as well as Google Moon, I have labelled the features that are visible in the images. The 4K lunar surface map from Celestia Motherlode has been used in GMAT, instead of the default, lower resolution map.

Occultation entry

The figure below shows the GMAT camera view simulation for one of the images taken as DSLWP-B was hiding behind the Moon. The field of view in this figure is much larger than the field of view of the DSLWP-B Inory eye camera. The up direction is the normal to DSLWP-B’s orbit around the Sun (defined as the plane containing the position and velocity vectors with DLSWP-B with respect to the Sun). Therefore, it points approximately towards the north pole. DSWLP-B is moving towards the upper right corner of this image.

GMAT camera view simulation for image 0xE2

The figure belows shows the ground track view. The satellite has crossed the near side and is now starting to orbit over the far side, soon becoming hidden behind the Moon.

GMAT ground track view for image 0xE2

Image 0xE2, taken on 2019-07-02 18:57:20 is shown below. The image has been rotated to match the orientation of the GMAT camera view simulation.

Image 0xE2, rotated

The craters that are visible in this image are labeled in the figure below. These belong to the Mare Australe region, and several well known craters such as Jenner and Lamb can be seen.

Image 0xE2, rotated and labelled

Tammo Jan Dijkema has done a similar exercise with image 0xE3, which was taken a minute after the image shown above. DSLWP-B has moved towards the upper right corner of the image, so that a larger portion of the lunar surface is visible.

Occultation exit

The figure below shows the GMAT camera view simulation corresponding to image 0xE5, which was taken shortly after DSLWP-B exited the occultation, so that the Earth was visible again.

GMAT camera view simulation for image 0xE5

Below we see the ground track corresponding to this image. The satellite has crossed the far side of the Moon in a south to north direction and soon will cross over to the near side.

GMAT ground track view for image OxE5

The figure below is image 0xE5, which was taken on 2019-07-02 19:33:05. It has been rotated to match the orientation of the GMAT simulation.

Image 0xE5, rotated

The craters are labelled in the figure below. Important craters in the Coulomb-Sarton basin such as Stefan and Bragg are visible. An image of this region with the craters labelled can be seen here.

Image 0xE5, rotated and labelled