Amateur Deep Space Tracking

This is a copy of a message send by PA0DLO to the Amsat-BB mailing list with information on how to track Satellites carrying amateur radio payloads that will go into deep space.


Many radio amateurs are familiar with tracking amateur satellites that orbit the Earth in low orbits or high elliptical orbits. Several tracking programs and all required orbital parameters are available for tracking these satellites.

But soon spacecraft carrying an amateur radio payload will be launched towards the Moon and beyond. If amateurs want to track these spacecraft they will need suitable tracking software and orbital elements to be able to calculate the positions of these spacecraft.


Unfortunately none of the currently available tracking programs, used for satellite tracking by amateurs, is suitable for deep space tracking. But fortunately two free, open source software packages for Windows, Linux and Mac are available, that will enable deep space tracking:

General Mission Analysis Tool (GMAT)

SciLab, including CelestLab, CelestLabX and Aerospace Blockset

Probably most amateurs will prefer GMAT, because it is most user friendly, has a lot of documentation and help files, and contains many sample scripts. Scripts that are created by other amateurs can be used without having much knowledge or experience with GMAT.


It is not certain that orbital elements for all deep space spacecraft carrying amateur radio payloads will be made available to radio amateurs. Therefore amateurs may need to measure these orbital elements themselves through doppler and ranging measurements. So amateurs will need to set up their own Amateur Deep Space Network, similar to NASA’s DSN, ESA’s Estrack, etc. This will require some stations with large enough antennas and with equipment to carry out doppler and ranging measurements to determine direction and distance to the spacecraft. This new development is an interesting challenge for radio amateurs.

For further details see my Amateur Deep Space Tracking page:

You can find further information on space flight on this very informative set of pages:
Deep space navigation is covered in chapter 13:

Source: Nico PA0DLO

Some extra information by Daniel Estevez (EA4GPZ)

Student CubeSats Ready For Flight

Vega Artist ImpressionThe first student built amateur radio CubeSats to be sponsored by ESA’s Education Office have passed their Final Acceptance Review and have been declared ready for launch on board the maiden flight of Vega, the new ESA launcher.

The launch window for this historic lift-off opens on 26 January and ends in the first week of February 2012.

The seven university-built picosatellites, each weighing only 1 kilogram, were integrated with the devices that will carry them during launch – the P-PODs, or Poly-Picosatellite Orbital Deployers – between late October and mid November. Before they could be cleared for launch, they had to pass a detailed technical examination known as the Final Acceptance Review.

The single-unit CubeSats, whose development represented a highly valuable, if not unique hands-on learning experience for the university students that were involved – were developed by teams from 6 different European countries:

  • Xatcobeo (a collaboration of the University of Vigo and INTA, Spain)
  • Robusta (University of Montpellier 2, France)
  • E-St@r (Politecnico di Torino, Italy)
  • Goliat (University of Bucharest, Romania)
  • PW-Sat (Warsaw University of Technology, Poland)
  • MaSat-1 (Budapest University of Technology & Economics, Hungary)
  • UniCubeSat GG (Universitá di Roma ‘La Sapienza’, Italy)
  • As well as the CubeSats Vega will also carry the Amateur Radio microsatellite ALMASat-1

Frequencies and links for the satellites can be found in the following article from JE9PEL.

Read the article of the full ESA story.

André Kuipers ready for takeoff

The dutch astronaut André Kuipers is ready for takeoff.

Andre Kuipers in space

Another two days and then for the second time Andre Kuipers will leaves to the International Space Station. A historic journey, because Kuipers will break various records. Thus he becomes the first Dutch astronaut in space for a  long time, which is nearly six months. He is also the first Dutch astronaut who is launched for a second time. Other Dutch astronauts – Dr. Ockels and Louis van den Berg were “only” launched once.

As it looks now, the launch is on. The rocket is already on the launch pad and the sky over Baikonur space base is crystal clear. “Although it is very cold, so spectators should properly protect” warns Kuipers on his blog

In recent days there were many preparations for the voyage. Andre Kuipers and his colleagues had to inspect the Soyuzcapsule for the second time. This capsule brings Kuipers to the ISS. “We are very pleased. In a few days, this is will be our living room, bedroom, dining room, bathroom and attic for two days. Actually, it is also the hall – with the door – to our realhome for half year: the International Space Station. ”

The launch of André Kuipers can be seen live next Wednesday 21-dec-2011 on dutch television channel: Netherland 1 (13:20 pm to 14:45 o’clock CEST). You can follow Andre on any of his social media (Twitter or Facebook).

During his stay in the International Space Station, radio amateurs will have the opportunity to make a voice contact. Andre will be using the call PI9ISS and will use the following frequencies:


145.800 MHz (FM)


145.200 MHz (FM)

Homepage and other references:

Blog webpage
Twitter page ( astro_andre )

AO-51 not responding to commands

AO-51 Echo LaunchNovember 29, 2011 – AO-51 not responding to commands

It is with a heavy heart I report that AO-51 has ceased transmission and is not responding to commands. The last telemetry data indicated that the third of six batteries was approaching failure to short, and observations indicate the voltage from three cells is insufficient to power the UHF transmitters. The IHU may continue to be operative. Initial tests with the S band transmitter were also not positive, although more attempts are in order. We have tried leaving the satellite in an expected state where if voltages climb high enough, the 435.150 transmitter may possibly be heard.

AO-51 AssembledThe command team will regularly attempt communications with the satellite over the coming months (and years). There is always the possibility that a cell will open and we could once again talk to our friend while illuminated. Thanks to all who helped fund, design, build, launch, command, and operate AO-51. It’s 7 year mission has been extraordinary. Please support AMSAT’s Fox-1 project, and other AMSAT projects worldwide with your time and money.

For the AO-51 Command Team,

73, Drew KO4MA
AMSAT-NA VP Operations


Delta II Launch Successfully

Delta2 RocketDelta II rocket successfully lauched and has deployed his main carco, NPP climate and weather satellite. After that the following CubeSats where also successfully deployed with the P-POD containers.

Confirmed deployment of P-POD-3. This P-POD contains the two-satellite DICE CubeSats
Confirmed deployment of P-POD-2. This P-POD contains the RAX Cubesat
Confirmed deployment of P-POD-1. This P-POD contains AubieSat-1, Explorer-1 Prime, and M-Cubed/COVE

Around 12:30 UTC (14:30 CEST) European Amateur Radio Stations can hear the first transmissions if the CubeSats activate in the right way.