DSLWP-B clock running late

This Wednesday, a DSLWP-B test was done between 04:00 and 06:00 UTC. During this test, a few stations reported on Twitter that they were able to receive the JT4G signal correctly (they saw the tones on the waterfall) but decoding failed.

It turns out that the cause of the decoding failures is that the DSLWP-B clock is running a few seconds late. Thus, the JT4G transmission starts several seconds after the start of the UTC minute and so the decoding fails, since WSJT-X only searchs for a time offset of a few seconds.

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Lunar orbit perturbations and DSLWP-B

Ever since simulating DSLWP-B’s long term orbit with GMAT, I wanted to understand the cause of the periodic perturbations that occur in some Keplerian elements such as the excentricity. As a reminder from that post, the excentricity of DSLWP-B’s orbit shows two periodic perturbations (see the figure below). One of them has a period of half a sidereal lunar month, so it should be possible to explain this effect from the rotation of the Moon around the Earth. The other has a period on the order of 8 or 9 months, so explaining this could be more difficult.

DSLWP-B eccentricity

In this post I look at how to model the perturbations of the orbit of a satellite in lunar orbit, explaining the behaviour of the long term orbit of DSLWP-B.

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Trying to make the DSLWP-B GMSK decoder more robust

If you’ve being following my latest posts, probably you’ve seen that I’m taking great care to decode as much as possible from the SSDV transmissions by DSLWP-B using the recordings made at the Dwingeloo radiotelescope. Since Dwingeloo sees a very high SNR, the reception should be error free, even without any bit error before Turbo decoding.

However, there are some occasional glitches that corrupt a packet, thus losing an SSDV frame. Some of these glitches have been attributed to a frequency jump in the DSLWP-B transmitter. This jump has to do with the onboard TCXO, which compensates frequency digitally, in discrete steps. When the frequency jump happens, the decoder’s PLL loses lock and this corrupts the packet that is being received (note that a carrier phase slip will render the packet undecodable unless it happens very near the end of the packet).

There are other glitches where the gr-dslwp decoder is at fault. The ones that I’ve identify deal in one way or another with the detection of the ASM (attached sync marker). Here I describe some of these problems and my proposed solutions.

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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.

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DSLWP-B corrupted SSDV frames

In my previous post I looked at the first SSDV transmission made by DSLWP-B from lunar orbit. There I used the recording made at the Dwingeloo radiotelescope and showed how to decode the SSDV frames and produce a JPEG image.

Only four SSDV frames where transmitted by DSLWP-B, and out of those four, only two could be decoded correctly. I wondered why the decoding of the other two frames failed, since the SNR of the signal as recorded at Dwingeloo was very good, yielding essentially no bit errors (even before FEC decoding).

Now I have looked at the signal more in detail and have found the cause of the corrupted SSDV frames. I have demodulated the signal in Python and have looked at the position where an ASM (attached sync marker) is transmitted. As explained in this post, the ASM marks the beginning of each Turbo codeword. The Turbo codewords are 3576 symbols long and contain a single SSDV frame.

A total of four ASMs are found in the GMSK transmission that contains the SSDV frames, which matches the four SSDV transmitted. However, the distance between some of the ASMs doesn’t agree with the expected length of the Turbo codeword. Two of the Turbo codewords where cut short and not transmitted completely. This explains why the decoding of the corresponding SSDV frames fails.

The detailed analysis can be seen in this Jupyter notebook.

This is rather interesting, as it seems that DSLWP-B had some problem when transmitting the SSDV frames. I have no idea about the cause of the problem, however. It would be convenient to monitor carefully future SSDV transmissions to see if any similar problem happens again.

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.

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DSLWP-B long-term orbit evolution

In my last post I commented that one of the motivations for the periapsis raise manoeuvre of DSLWP-B on July 20 was to prevent the satellite from crashing into the Moon in a few months. When Wei Mingchuan BG2BHC told me this, I found it a bit surprising, since I had the impression that the periapsis had been raising naturally since the satellite was injected in lunar orbit on May 25. Thus, I decided to propagate the orbit for a period of 2 years using GMAT and study the long-term effects in the Keplerian elements.

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Update on DSLWP-B eclipse manoeuvre

A few days ago I discussed the manoeuvre performed by DSLWP-B in preparation for the lunar eclipse. The manoueuvre raised the periapsis of DSLWP-B by around 385km. Wei Mingchuan BG2BHC has now informed me that the manoeuvre was performed on 20 Jul 2018 10:47:09.657. There were two motivations for this manoeuvre: first, to avoid eclipse, as I showed in the previous post; second, as Wei tells me, to prevent DSLWP-B from crashing into the Moon in a few months (more on this in a future post).

Wei doesn’t know the delta-v used for the manoeuvre, but estimating it is an easy exercise using GMAT, which is what I will do in this short post. In this simulation I am taking the orbital state for DSLWP-B from the first line of the 20180714 tracking file published in dslwp_dev. I will assume that the manoeuvre was a prograde burn performed at apoapsis that raised the periapsis by 385km. The GMAT script I have used is lunar_eclipse_manoeuvre.script.

First I propagte the orbit to the date mentioned by Wei. I note that the spacecraft is a little short of apoapsis, so I propagate to apoapsis, which happens at 20 Jul 2018 10:49:33.178 UTC. Then I propagate to periapsis and take note of the periapsis radius, which is 3030.91km. Finally, I use GMAT to estimate a burn that will achieve a periapsis radius of 3415.91km using a differential corrector.

The differential corrector finds a delta-v of 17.2m/s. The iterations of the differential corrector can be seen in the figure and text below. A more difficult exercise is to find a burn that stitches together the orbits described by the 20180714 and 20180727a tracking files. I will leave this as an exercise for the reader. Something very similar was done in DSLWP-B’s journey to the Moon: part II.

Differential corrector solving for the periapsis raise burn

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Comparison of DSLWP-B orbit determination with tracking files

In the last post I compared the results of my orbit determination for DSLWP-B using one lunar month of Doppler data with the observations in the VLBI experiment done on June 10. In this post I will compare my orbit determination with the tracking files published by Wei Mingchuan BG2BHC in gr-dslwp. These tracking files are produced from the orbit determination performed by the Chinese Deep Space Network using two-way S-band Doppler measurements.

The tracking files contain a listing of the position \(x\) and velocity \(v\) vectors for DSLWP-B in ECEF coordinates. The entries are given at intervals of one second. The tracking files can be used directly to compute Doppler as received in a groundstation. In fact, if the ECEF coordinates of the groundstation are \(x_0\), then \(R = \langle x – x_0, v\rangle/\|x-x_0\|\) is the range-rate, and so the Doppler can be computed as \(D=-fR/c\), where \(f\) is the downlink frequency and \(c\) is the speed of light in vacuum. Here I have used this method to compute the Doppler according to the tracking files.

All the tracking files published so far have been considered in this study, except for the first two, which contained an incorrect anomaly at epoch. The figure below shows the residuals between the Doppler measurements made by Scott Tilley VE7TIL and my orbit determination (called “new elements”) and each of the tracking files. It seems that the residuals are quite similar.

The figure below shows the difference between the Doppler according to each of the tracking files and the Doppler predicted by my orbit determination.

It seems that the match is quite good for the central days, but not so good towards the edges. My orbit determination is numerically propagated from a single set of elements at MJD 28264.5 for the whole period, while the tracking files probably use different sets of elements that are propagated numerically over a few days only. Therefore it might happen that my orbit determination is affected by some accumulative error due to numerical integration or an inaccuracy in the force model.