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Thursday, February 10, 2011

From The Guys Who Found the Nano-Sail Satellite Signal

Howdy Bill, and all the SolderSmokers listening in on the PodCast.

We appreciate the shoutout in #130 about the NanoSail-D excitement .!. Stan - N4PMF and I have been working over the last year or so to re-activate the Amateur Radio Club at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. We both have day jobs in the Huntsville Operations Support Center (HOSC), and routinely interface with the scientists and developers involved with projects such as the International Space Station, Space Shuttle propulsion, and more recently the FastSat program.

The NanoSail project is actually a smaller satellite that was carried into orbit by the FastSat. This NanoSail vehicle is only about 18 inches long, and a few inches square. No room there for high powered S-Band telemetry transmitters, so it carried a ham licensed 1/2 watt FM transmitter in the 70cm band. Maybe later we can get into more detail about all that if you are interested.

The NanoSail
is the first successful deployment of a Solar Sail into earth orbit. The quicker story is that our club (WA4NZD) was started in the early-1970s, and operated Special Events commemmorating Apollo flights to the moon, Skylab missions, and early shuttle launches. Activity kinda dropped off in the mid-1990s, and the club is only now coming back to life. We still have VHF and UHF transcievers and beam antennas on a tower, that are ready to operate - and sometimes we listen in on ISS school contacts, or bounce APRS beacons thru the ARISS digipeater.

We of course got excited
back in December when FastSat launched, and the NASA scientists asked if we could help them by listening for the NanoSail when it ejected. Unfortunately, Murphy had snuck on-board, and somehow prevented the smaller satellite from completely ejecting, and it looked like a loss....

Then in January the FastSat telemetry indicated that NanoSail-D may have 'popped itself out', and the Principal Investigator Dean Alhorn found Stan and asked if we could take him to the station "NOW" to listen for it. Sure enough, we had the right equipment, ready to go, and he got to hear it for the first time. We even had the AX25 TNC hooked up and it decoded a telemetry burst which allowed them to better estimate when the SolarSail should deploy. Dean was very very excited, and we all enjoyed a bit of the spotlight as Dean made obvious reference in numerous press releases to the role of the MSFC Amateur Radio Club in helping get the word out. The power of 'crowd-sourced' science became obvious as they received reports from all around the world. We are lucky to have been ready, willing and able to decode that early telemetry - it sure will help to validate and justify the existence of our little club station at NASA. You can easily find more on the internet, searching for NANOSAIL and WA4NZD.

Again we appreciate the publicity from your Podcast, and look forward to tuning in more often, and possibly sending you more info for your show. Thanks /;^) Alan Sieg - WB5RMG (http://wb5rmg.wordpress.com) Stan Sims - N4PMF MSFC ARC - WA4NZD (http://wa4nzd.wordpress.com)

1 comment:

  1. FB, gentlemen. I only wish the battery would have lasted into the following weekend so I could have given a listen myself!



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