(If all you're after are the pictures, just click the link <grin>)

I just finished up the 20th Anniversary Celebration of ARISS on the ISS - an SSTV event which ran from December 24 at 16:40 UTC through December 31 ending at 18:15 UTC.  It's not the first time I have participated in such events, but this time actually motivated me to finally start up a web blog to chronicle some of what I'm up to.

This time around I tasked the Tram 1480 dual band collinear vertical that is normally on the 2 meter port on my BPQ Packet switch station for the event as it's up in the clear and has a bit of gain.  

I'm looking forward to receiving the duplexer I need to permanently mount the pair of 70 cm and 2 meter "double crossed dipoles"  W5TJL (Tom Lane) and I built to use for satellite work.  I've tested the two antennas individually and while I have yet to make a satellite contact with them because of the lack of a duplexer, they match very well across their respective bands and work equally well in contact with ground stations that are running either vertical or horizontal polarization.  Check back with me to see how well this setup works as an inexpensive way to get into satellite work - I'm very curious to find out myself!

The receiving software is the MMSSTV program.  It's easy to configure and use and is quite functional, and I highly recommend it even considering that it appears that it has been some time since it has been updated.  It is suitable for all levels of usage, from something as simple as holding the computer microphone up to an HT receiving the signal to a full blown satellite system.  Moreover, you should not have any trouble finding someone to assist you to get MMSSTV up and running in the rare event that you're having problems sorting it out.  If you're looking to get started with SSTV, starting with this program is a great way to go.

In addition, I run the GPredict software to research and track satellites, as well as control the radio's setting of frequency and to correct for doppler shift in the received signal.  In this case since the ISS downlink is in FM, the signal stays well enough within the passband of a typical Ham radio that correction for the shift isn't strictly necessary as it would be when the downlink (or uplink) is SSB.  Software like this is not at all necessary to start receiving images during these events! 

If you're just looking for a quick way to find out when the next time the ISS will pass overhead, I recommend using the Heaven's Above website.  Take a few minutes to give the site correct information about your location and it can very accurately report the times of any passes that go higher than 10° over the horizon.  This is because the site is really geared towards folks who want to observe satellites as the fly overhead after dark - in fact you'll need to be aware of this and tell the site to return all passes instead of just the visible ones, which is the default. Note that because of this focus on visible observation, you may miss some readable passes that don't quite get to the 10° threshold if your antenna has a relatively unobstructed view of the horizon, but if you are just getting started this may not be an issue for you anyway.  Give Heaven's Above a try.  

Note for future reference - on this event I have noticed that if you're using a typical vertical antenna up in the clear as much as possible, the clearest shots you will receive come from when the ISS is low in the sky close to the horizon... at least that was what I found.  Keep that in mind - if you want clearer shots of higher elevation passes, the antenna either needs to be circularly polarized with a 'dome shaped' coverage pattern (like the "double crossed dipoles" discussed earlier, or a directional antenna that can track the satellite), or - if you're using a handheld, you can angle your antenna manually during the pass for best reception.  This works whether you're just using the 'rubber duck' or a hand held yagi.  

But I promised you pictures... here's a quick dump of every capture I made during the event - the good, the bad and the ugly - and to be honest, there's a lot of ugly. 

The images are date and time stamped in UTC time and shown in order of reception.  Hope you enjoy looking through them as much as I enjoyed capturing them. 

 73 de N4NVD


(click on the image to load a pop-up with slideshow capability or navigate using the controls)