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Satellite rescue by CAMRAS

Submitter: Nico Ebbendorf
Description: Since its beginning, CAMRAS has booked impressive results with using the 25m Dwingeloo Telescope (DT) for ham-radio EME contacts. After the recent restoration, this "Grande Dame" of the radio astronomy community has shown the flexibility of operating in a wide range of applications. This has not been lost on other organisations, so ESA requested CAMRAS to assist them in communicating with a quirky satellite.

The satellite was a CubeSat (10x10x10 cm) for educational and ham-radio mission. It was developed for demonstrating the autonomous active attitude control capabilities based on magnetic actuation and was launched last April 26th, http://www.cubesatteam-polito.com . After the launch, the signals from the e-st@r-II satellite were not as expected, and too weak for reception by the ground station in Italy. So CAMRAS was asked to use the 25m DT to search for the telemetry signal. Useful signals were recorded on May 10th, which rekindled hope to regain control over the satellite.

On May 12th, with support from ESA, telemetry commands were sent to the CubeSat, but there was no response from the satellite. The whole DT system was checked again but the CAMRAS operators could not find any reason for this failure. Only after checking the telemetry code it was found that the code conversion to the AX.25 protocol was not correct.

A new attempt to send the commands by the DT was on 7th of July. This time the e-st@r-II satellite responded as expected and the control center in Italy confirmed the telemetry messages. Once more the DT has shown its strong capabilities as a useful instrument for space and astronomical tasks.

The picture shows DT operator Jan van Muijlwijk venting his happiness after the successful operation. The next period will be used to look for possible reasons for the low signal level of the CubeSat, and the DT is ready to swing back into action again if necessary.
Copyright: Erik Tiddens
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