ISEE3 Rebooted

This post is an honorable post to a group of  Citizen Scientists and Volunteers for their effort to reboot an cold world era (launched 1978) satellite which floated around the universe.

Source: http://www.planetary.org/ NASA International Sun-Earth Explorer (ISEE-3) The International Sun-Earth Explorer (ISEE-3) launched in 1978 on a mission to study Earth’s magnetosphere. In 1983, it became ICE, the International Cometary Explorer, and was sent on a new mission to study comets Giacobini-Zinner and Halley.

Mission control team used GNURadio (opensource SDR radio software) to wake up and control the runaway bird.

http://www.fsf.org/blogs/community/free-software-in-space-gnu-radio-and-the-isee-3-spacecraft

And they used the huge monster disk Arecibo because this is the only dish on the planet to reach that distance so far.

 

 

A nice , simple and clean mission control room. This is different from the war room we have ever seen.

 

isee3.team

ISEE-3 Reboot Project Mission Control Team

http://spacecollege.org/isee3/

https://twitter.com/ISEE3Reboot

It was 10 July 2014 early morning, I was waiting for World Cup, surfed the net and follow their twitter stream about TCM burn (the mission control team started and burned a series of thrusters). And they also feed the live telemetry data. I followed their tweet and live data stream.

DSCN7251

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This shows how a crowd funding and citizen scientists can go far. And this is the first collaboration project with public for space science.

Congratulation to all.

okelectronic.wordpress.com

 

RTL-SDR & FUNcube

While World Cup was continuing its exciting show, I made some my RTL-SDR and satellite research progress. My next target was FUNCube Sat (aka) FUNcube-1 (AO73) is a complete educational single CubeSat project with the goal of enthusing and educating young people about radio, space, physics etc.

http://funcube.org.uk/

http://amsat-uk.org/funcube/funcube-cubesat/

There is one thing that Funcube is magnificent than others, it’s data warehouse. The earth station can receive its telemetry data and can upload this data to data warehouse by online. There is also Dashboard Application for telemetry data decoding and uploading to data warehouse.

Here is the link for those who interested.

- Funcube Handbook 

- Data Warehouse

- Dsahboard Application

N4JTC wrote about RTL-SDR and Funcube  , I followed this.

http://n4jtc.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/rtl-sdr-sdr-radio-funcube-sat-fun/

This time SDR Radio V2 software was used because this software has some distinct features such as sat tracking and I liked to test it. I believe that any rtl-sdr app can do this.

- http://v2.sdr-radio.com/Download.aspx

 

OK, before world cup final match, I do this. I tuned 145.9xx MHz and saw waterfall data stream and audible beep. It is SSB data.

funcube_manualtuning

Then, piped audio data stream to Dashboard application. The telemetry data show up.

2014-07-11_113953

 

I already registered to Data-warehouse sites and Dashboard App automatically uploaded to warehouse site. Then, my uploaded data appeared in site. Seem I am the only one and first data provider earth station from Myanmar.

 

funcube_datawarehouse2

# Final thought

- Noticed some noises along with the whole spectrum and some recommend for shielding. I have to test it. Anyway, shielding an RF device is a best practice. Hree is the link for this. I will try this.

http://sdrformariners.blogspot.com/2013/09/reducing-electrical-noise.html

Anyway, it is happy research and hobby time.

okelectronic.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

RTL-SDR Second Attempt

After leaving my RTL-SDR for one year, last month, I had a chance to test it again. Yes, last month , World Cup 2014 began on June and ended on July. How World Cup was related to RTL-SDR testing? Due to the east and west time zone differences, local time for match schedule in my country (Myanmar) is beyond midnight. It was a chance to make, test something while waiting for the matches.

I remember an article about tracking hobby, educational satellites with rtl-sdr. Goggled and found out these articles, good to go.

Tracking NOAA Weather Satellite with RTL-SDR,

http://www.rtl-sdr.com/rtl-sdr-tutorial-receiving-noaa-weather-satellite-images/

Then, checked when NOAA sats will passed my location from these satellite tracking websites.

http://www.n2yo.com/

http://www.satview.org/

Checked that active sats regularly pass my location before midnight. Great, that is how I my rtl-sdr was related to world cup :D.

I read article and follow instructions thoroughly. Installed required software,

  • SDR# for receiving Sats
  • VB-cable for audio piping from rtl-sdr to sound card
  • Orbiton  for tracking satellites
  •  WXtoImg for decoding the APT signal

Most of rtl dongles have more or less tuning freq error. After finished installation of all software, I calibrated freq ppm error with these instruction. It is sample, monitored local GSM freq band and  adjusted error.

http://rtl-sdr.sceners.org/?p=193

1# Antenna

What I need was an external antenna for 137~145 MHz reception. I built Ground Plane antenna in an evening because this is easy to build.

Each antenna element = 51 cm, used old N type RG213 male connectors for assembly.

DSCN7239

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finished and installed antenna.

DSCN7253

 

After tuning and trials, I track and tuned NOAA-15 satellite signal successfully.

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But the decoded image was noisy and not good.

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2# Second Antenna (QHF)

After several attempts, I realized that a good antenna was required for better reception. So, I tried to build second DIY antenna. After a few research, I chose Quadrifilar Helix (QFH) antenna type.

Design calculation can be done here.

http://jcoppens.com/ant/qfh/calc.en.php

And here is ready made design by G0HPO.

 

First , collected required copper wire (12 gauge, enamel), female RG213 connectors, coax-cable , wood rod etc. Then, tried to bend, loop copper wire for helical shape.

DSCN7241

 

Soldered feed point with the help of small PCB.

DSCN7242

 

Loop the balun and connector.

DSCN7243

 

Final assembly, also attached recycled  rain drop covers for feed and connector :D

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Hoisted the antenna, ready to go.

DSCN7252

 

As expected, second attempt results ware not so bad. The receiver show more stronger signal than first antenna.

2014-07-09_023511

 

There are still noises in receptions when sat is at lower azimuth.

Some results,

2014-07-11_175443

2014-07-11_175323

 

# Results

- QHF antenna is better reception than Ground plane

- BUT, QHF is a lot noisy than Ground plane

- Do I need parabolic or YaGi with tracking ?? for next

# Final thought

Sure, I need LNA for next and future test. Need to find out the list for DIYable LNA.

http://www.rtl-sdr.com/tag/low-noise-amplifier/

http://blog.kf7lze.net/2012/09/14/round-up-of-rtlsdr-upconverter-choices/

 

Fun midnight modern hamming while waiting for World Cup.

 

http://okelectronic.wordpress.com

 

 

RTL-SDR First Experience

Last year, I heard about cheap SDR using DVB-T USB stick. Like everybody else, I quickly found and bought one of these RTL chip base dongle from local supplier.  My dongle is this one. It is ezcap DVB-T stick, model EXTV668 ver 8.0. This stick work well with most RTL-SDR software. I tested it with SDR#, HDSDR, SDR-RADIO.COM V2.

After testing some program and tuning local FM stations, I leaved this dongle for year.

List of compatible software is here,

http://www.rtl-sdr.com/big-list-rtl-sdr-supported-software/

Most helpful resource and credited sites are;

http://www.rtl-sdr.com/

http://rtlsdr.org/

Quick start guide,

http://www.rtl-sdr.com/rtl-sdr-quick-start-guide/

 

DSCN6460

DSCN6463

 

Listening Mandalay FM 88.9 MHz…loud and clear, you’re 59 ….

88.9FM

GTP-USB-Lite Programmer re-flsahed as USBPICProg

I bought this programmer from local supplier a few years ago. This is a GTP-USB-lite programmer clone and beautifully build as sandwich  style.

USB-PIC_Prog (2)

 

USB-PIC_Prog (3)

Some drawbacks of this programmer are:

  • I noticed that this programmer don’t work with some PC/Laptop USB port for unknown reason.
  • Don’t support Windows 7
  • Not opensource,

 

Anyway, GTP-USB programmers are the best and DIY friendly at their age. Mostly, I used PicKit2, PICKit3 as main programmer. So, I leave this programmer in a corner of my desk for a while. Last week, I noticed a post in DP forum about hacking aka flashing this programmer.

http://dangerousprototypes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=56&t=6305

The original blog post here.

http://www.valpoder.com/?p=268

At the last weekend, I try to flash my GTP-USB-Lite programmer with new firmware and to use new software. The procedure is very simple.

- GTP-USB-Lite and USBPICProg are very identical hardwares, USB interface, PIC18F2550, the same charge pump, same programming header’s pin.

- The difference are;

  • GTB-USB lite used 8MHz crystal and USBPICProg uses 12 MHz crystal
  • LEDs are connected at PIC pins 11,12 and 13 in USBPICProg and pins 27,28 at GTP-USB-Lite.

GTP-USB-Lite hardware circuit

USBPICProg hardware , firmware, PC software (The best thing is  all are opensource :D)

- First, to take off and flash programmer’s PIC18F2550 with boot loader and to change 12MHz crystal in circuit

USB-PIC_Prog (4)

 

 

- Download and installed PC software and install it.

- Download last firmware and  attached programmer. The PC will detect bootloader and install bootloader USB interface driver. Launch the PC programmer software and  bootloader is activated and update firmware.

- USBPICProg-0.6.0-software –> Updated Firmware

- Then, remove programmer from USB port. Connect PGC pin (RB6 , Pin No 27 of PIC18F2550) to ground to de-activated the bootloader and activated USBPICProg programmer mode. The PC USB port will detect and installed new device (USBPICProg) driver.

Before final launch, I simply cut the trace between LEDs and  RB7,RB6 (pin 27,28) and connected LED’s resistors to Pin 11,12. LED shows signal now.

USB-PIC_Prog (1)

 

For now, I can use reborn USBPICProg as a backup programmer. I renamed it USBPICProg because it is no more GTP-USB Lite.

USB-PIC_Prog

Cheers!

 

http://okelectronic.wordpress.com/

 

Microchip Advanced Parts Selector and other handy tools (Online/Offline/Mobile vers)

I used PIC as my primary development platform for years. Selecting a right MCU and checking features while developing is a time consuming task sometimes. Last week, I noticed handy tools in Microchip website.

The first tool is Microchip Advanced Parts Selector (MAPS) tool. There is online and also offline version. I tested both quickly. Online and offline version are same interface. Great, can search, filter and compare various PIC easily.

The link : http://www.microchip.com/stellent/idcplg?IdcService=SS_GET_PAGE&nodeId=1924&dDocName=en544123

MAPS_1

There is also a mobile version for both Android and IOS platforms named Mobile Product Selector.  It is also handy to use with your tablet at workbench while testing something.

Android App Link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.microchip.andriod.mmps&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImNvbS5taWNyb2NoaXAuYW5kcmlvZC5tbXBzIl0

Mobile_Product_Selector

Wait, there are also some good tools for discrete components, Analog and Interface Products Presentation – (Offline Only). This is a power point file with good linking. You can click and find right info for interface , analog peripherals and  parts like transceiver, op-amps etc..

Microchip_Parts_infos

Last one is “Product Tables”, all PIC with required info and volume pricing can be downloaded as PDF or CVS format.

Visitor Hits Raise

It was a day of last month, waked up early morning, checked my blog. Usually, I don’t check my blog daily and sometimes once per week because there are not much visitors in my tiny blog. Also I cannot update my blog for a moment. But, my eyebrows raised. There was a site’s notification show that visitors status was more than usual. I checked status report. “More than 10000 visitors in a day”. What the hell is going on. Is wordpress domain under attacked?

Image

I checked the traffic’s source quickly. Its come from “HackADay” and also from “Lifehacker”. I noticed the source of traffics. I am a fan of these two sites. Last year, I posted about my old laptop to All in one desktop conversion. This post was appeared in these sites and also in some several sites around.

http://okelectronic.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/diy-old-laptop-to-all-in-one-pc/

ImageImage

Thanks “HackADay”, “Lifehacker” and all visitors for interesting this. Yes, recycling and reusing is good for all.

There is also another reason why I still use such old PIII laptop.

First reason, I don’t need much power for both hardware and software. Mostly, I used this for microcontroller and other circuits design development. So, I used MPLABX, Pickit2, Eagle etc. These software run well in old hardware with windows XP. And some of MCU and electronics tools work well in XP, not in windows 7.

Second reason is that this laptop is versatile. It has various IO ports, serial, lpt and usb. For serial COM port, using a hardware serial port is much convenience with some hardware like JDM programmer. And the LPT port, this is great for using CNC motor driver and handy for any hardware hacking liked JTAG and raw IO access from C++ program. Yes, it is the age of USB and LPT is not included in standard PC any more. For me, LPT is still handy interface for many case. It is fast, easy to access.

Third reason is cost effective for hardware testing. As you know, PC hardware interfacing with DUT is not a safe job. Your new model PC or laptop may blow up and consuming your pockets a lot at any time. Throwing old PC is not like this. I used this oldie for several years. It’s more than it’s price.