Geometry for DSLWP-B Moonbounce

I have already spoken about the Moonbounce signal from DSLWP-B in several posts. To sum up, DSLWP-B is a Chinese satellite that is orbiting the Moon since May 25. The satellite has an Amateur payload that transmits GMSK and JT4G telemetry in the 70cm Amateur satellite band. This signal can be received by well equipped groundstations on Earth, including the 25m radiotelescope at Dwingeloo, in the Netherlands (and also by much smaller stations).

The people at Dwingeloo publish the recordings that they make of the RF signal. In two of these recordings, the signal from DSLWP-B is received not only via the direct path, but also through a reflection off the Moon’s surface. The reflected signal is around 25dB weaker, usually has a different Doppler shift, and has a Doppler spread of around 50 to 200Hz.

What I find most interesting about this is that of all the days that Dwingeloo has observed DSLWP-B, in only two of them (on 2018-10-07 and 2018-10-19) the Moonbounce signal has been visible. Mathematically, using a specular reflection on a sphere model, whenever the satellite is visible directly, there is also a ray from the spacecraft that reflects off the lunar surface and arrives at the groundstation (see the proof here). Therefore, I think that there must be something about the particular geometry of the days 7th and 19th that made the Moon reflections relatively stronger and hence detectable. Here I use GMAT to study the orbital geometry when the reflections were received.

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DSLWP-B JT4G decoded via Moonbounce

I have already spoken about the Moonbounce signal from DSLWP-B that was received in Dwingeloo on 2018-10-07. I have matched it against the Doppler predictions and cross-correlated it against the direct signal. Since the reflected signal presented a high Doppler spread, decoding the GMSK data from the reflected signal would be very difficult or impossible.

On the other hand, JT4G is a digital mode designed for Earth-Moon-Earth microwave communications, so it is tolerant to high Doppler spreads. However, the reflections of the B0 transmitter at 435.4MHz, which contained the JT4G transmissions, were very weak, so I had not attempted to decode the JT4G Moonbounce signal.

On 2018-10-19, the Moonbounce signal from DSLWP-B was again visible in Dwingeloo’s recordings. I have used the 2018-10-19T17:53:35 435.4MHz recording and managed to decode the Moonbounce signal of one out of the five JT4G transmissions that appear in the recording.

To extract the data from the recording to WAV files that can be read by WSJT-X, I have used the following Jupyter notebook. Then I have used WSJT-X version 2.0.0-rc3 to try to decode the Moonbounce signal. Since the JT4 decoder only decodes a single signal at the selected frequency, it is enough to select the frequency of the Moonbounce signal in WSJT-X. The direct signal will not be decoded, even though it is also present in the WAV file.

The only transmission that I have managed to decode was made at 18:11 UTC. The two screenshots below show WSJT-X decoding the WAV file extracted from the recording.

WSJT-X decoding the Moonbounce signal

Note the direct signal with a lowest tone at 1800Hz. The reflected signal is very faint, with a lowest tone at 700Hz. The Doppler spread of the reflected signal is large, approximately 200Hz, although it is difficult to judge from the spectrum.

When the WAV file is created, I also compensate for a linear frequency drift of 25Hz per minute due to Doppler, but this is not essential to obtain a valid decode.

WSJT-X decoding the Moonbounce signal

The WAV file that produces a decode can be downloaded here. This file can be opened directly by WSJT-X.

DSLWP-B Moonbounce cross-correlation analysis

In one of my latest posts I commented on the Moonbounce signal of the Chinese lunar satellite DSLWP-B, as received in Dwingeloo. In the observation made in 2018-10-07 Cees Bassa discovered a signal in the waterfall of the Dwingeloo recordings that seemed to be a reflection off the Moon of DSLWP-B’s 70cm signal. My analysis showed that the Doppler of this signal was compatible with a specular reflection on the lunar surface.

In this post I study the cross-correlation of the Moonbounce signal against the direct signal. This gives some information about how the radio signals behave when reflecting off the Moon. Essentially, we compute the Doppler spread and time delay of the Moonbounce channel.

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DSLWP-B Moonbounce

If you have been following my latest posts, you will know that a series of observations with the DSLWP-B Inory eye camera have been scheduled over the last few days to try to take and download images of the Moon and Earth (see my last post). In a future post I will do a chronicle of these observations.

On October 6 an image of the Moon was taken to calibrate the exposure of the camera. This image was downlinked on the UTC morning of October 7. The download was commanded by Reinhard Kuehn DK5LA and received by the Dwingeloo radiotelescope.

Cees Bassa observed that in the waterfalls of the recordings made in Dwingeloo a weak Doppler-shifted signal of the DSLWP-B GMSK signal could be seen. This signal was a reflection off the Moon.

As far as I know, this is the first reported case of satellite-Moon-Earth (or SME) propagation, at least in Amateur radio. Here I do a Doppler analysis confirming that the signal is indeed reflected on the Moon surface and do some general remarks about the possibility of receiving the SME signal from DSLWP-B. Further analysis will be done in future posts.

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