The first thirty-six hours of AO-92’s life in orbit have seen a flurry of activity as the AMSAT Engineering and Operations teams walk through an extensive checklist of tests required to check the functionality of the satellite’s on-board systems.
The first crucial test came on the initial pass over AMSAT command stations hours after launch. Around 15:00 UTC on January 12, 2018, AMSAT command stations successfully issued the first command to the satellite, changing it from the initial Beacon Mode to Safe Mode. The switch to Safe Mode allowed the collection of min and max data for the various telemetry values.
As AMSAT Engineering continued to evaluate the data received, the decision was made to test the U/v FM transponder briefly on the evening passes over North America. At approximately 01:30 UTC on January 13, 2018, the satellite was commanded to Transponder Mode for the first time. Initial tests show the transponder functions very well. One testing station was able to access the satellite using 5 watts from an HT to a whip antenna from inside his house at approximately ten degrees of elevation. AMSAT Engineering reminds all amateur radio operators that, although the satellite may be found in Transponder Mode at times during the commissioning process, it is essential to not transmit to the satellite before it is opened for general use as you may interfere with various tests that need to be performed.
With the transponder successfully tested and telemetry values continuing to be nominal, attention turned to the Virginia Tech camera. At about 14:30 UTC, the camera was turned on and quickly returned it’s first image of Earth. On the next pass over North America, the camera was again turned on and several images flowed into AMSAT servers. Images captured and uploaded can be found at https://www.amsat.org/tlm/fox1d/images/
AMSAT plans further testing of the Virginia Tech camera during the early hours of January 14, 2018 (UTC). If not shut off by a command station, the camera remains active for a period of 40 minutes following activation, so the active period may vary depending on when the camera is activated.
January 14, 2018 Camera On Times (Approximate)
01:12 UTC – 01:52 UTC
02:42 UTC – 02:51 UTC
This should provide an opportunity for stations in areas including Russia, China, and Japan to receive pictures from the Virginia Tech camera. Please be sure that FoxTelem’s source is set to “Auto” so you will be able to receive either high-speed frames carrying camera payloads or data under voice (DUV) frames when the satellite is in Safe Mode or Transponder Mode. If using an external audio source for FoxTelem, be sure you are set for a minimum bandwidth of 20 kHz to receive the high-speed data.
Thank you to all stations who have uploaded telemetry data to AMSAT servers. As of 18:00 UTC on January 13, 2018, a total of 90 unique stations have contributed telemetry from AO-92. Continued collection of telemetry data is essential to the commissioning process. AMSAT greatly appreciates the participation of the amateur radio community in collecting telemetry for the Fox-1 satellites.
Right on schedule at 03:59 UTC on January 12, 2018, the solid-fueled first stage and ground-lit strap on boosters of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in its XL configuration (PSLV-XL) ignited and hurtled AMSAT’s Fox-1D CubeSat along with 30 other satellites onboard the PSLV-C40 mission towards a sun-synchronous orbit. The events along the path to orbit happened rapidly. 30 seconds into the flight, the air lit strap on boosters were lit. One minute into the flight, the ground lit strap on boosters separated. Two minutes into flight, first stage separation and second stage ignition were confirmed. Now came a crucial moment. On August 31, 2017, the PSLV-C39 mission was doomed when its payload fairing failed to separate leaving the payload trapped inside the fairing and in a lower than planned orbit. Two minutes and thirty seconds into the flight, the call was heard on the ISRO webstream of the launch: “Payload fairing separation!” The cheers in mission control were audible as the liquid-fueled second stage continued to propel the payloads to orbit. Four minutes into the flight, the second stage separated and the solid-fueled third stage was lit to perform its duty. Seven minutes in, the third stage burned out. After a short coast period, the third stage was discarded and the liquid-fueled fourth stage ignited eight minutes and thirty seconds into the flight. Sixteen minutes and thirty seconds into the flight, the fourth stage shut down, having placed the vehicle into its initial orbit. A minute later, the primary payload, a Cartosat-2 series imaging satellite for the Indian government separated followed by other satellites on the mission. Twenty-seven minutes into the flight, confirmation came that all of the nanosatellites had been deployed. Fox-1D was in orbit!
Just before 05:00 UTC, Fox-1D passed over western North America, but the onboard timer that ensures the satellite is clear of the launch vehicle and other satellites on the mission before deploying antennas and transmitting had not yet expired. The AMSAT Engineering team would have to wait a bit longer before confirming the health of the satellite. At about 05:17 UTC, the satellite came to life and its antennas deployed over the North Pole. The AMSAT Engineering team and amateur radio operators worldwide were watching various WebSDRs waiting for signs of life. Around 05:25 UTC, the characteristic “Fox tail” of the Fox-1 FM transmitter was seen on multiple WebSDRs. Fox-1D was alive! While the satellite was alive and transmitting, the reception of telemetry frames was crucial for AMSAT Engineering to determine whether or not the satellite was healthy. At 05:28 UTC, the first frame appeared on the AMSAT telemetry server, uploaded by Anatoly Alexsandrov, UA9UIZ, of Tyazhinskyi, Kemerovo Oblast, Russia. Initial telemetry values confirmed that the satellite was healthy.
Satellites that achieve orbit and are successfully activated are commonly given an on-orbit name. Ever since the launch of OSCAR I in 1961, it has been traditional for amateur radio satellites to carry the name OSCAR, for “Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio.” Amateur radio satellites meeting certain criteria are renamed “OSCAR” with a prefix of the satellite owner’s preference and issued a sequential number after they successfully achieve orbit and are activated. After confirmation of signal reception, OSCAR Number Administrator Bill Tynan, W3XO, sent an email to the AMSAT Board of Directors designating the satellite AMSAT-OSCAR 92. Tynan’s email read:
Fox-1D was launched successfully at 03:59 UTC today, January 12, 2018, from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, and has been received by several amateur stations.
Fox-1D, a 1U CubeSat, is the third of AMSAT’s five Fox-1 CubeSats to reach orbit, being preceded by AO-85 (Fox-1A) and AO-91 (RadFxSat / Fox-1B). Fox-1D carries the Fox-1 U/v FM transponder, with an uplink of 435.350 MHz (67.0 Hz CTCSS) and a downlink of 145.880 MHz. In addition, Fox-1D carries several university experiments, including a MEMS gyro from Pennsylvania State University – Erie, a camera from Virginia Tech, and the University of Iowa’s HERCI (High Energy Radiation CubeSat Instrument) radiation mapping experiment. Fox-1D also carries the AMSAT L-Band Downshifter experiment which enables the FM transponder to be switched to utilize an uplink of 1267.350 MHz (67.0 Hz CTCSS).
Fox-1D was sent aloft as a secondary payload on the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s PSLV-XL rocket as part of the PSLV-C40 mission. Fox-1D was one of thirty-one satellites successfully deployed on this launch.
Since Fox-1D has met all of the qualifications necessary to receive an OSCAR number, I, by the authority vested in me by the AMSAT President, do hereby confer on this satellite the designation AMSAT-OSCAR 92 or AO-92. I join amateur radio operators in the U.S. and around the world in wishing AO-92 a long and successful life in both its amateur and scientific missions.
I, along with the rest of the amateur community, congratulate all of the volunteers who worked so diligently to construct, test and prepare for launch the newest amateur radio satellite.
William A. (Bill) Tynan, W3XO
AMSAT-NA OSCAR Number Administrator
AMSAT Engineering reminds stations that the satellite will not be available for general use until the on-orbit checkouts are complete. Please continue to submit telemetry to assist the Engineering team in completing the commissioning process. During commissioning, the transponder may be active at times, but please do not transmit as you may interfere with important tests that must be completed before the satellite is commissioned. The commissioning process is expected to take up to two weeks.
The countdown to the launch of PSLV-C40 carrying AMSAT’s Fox-1D satellite is underway! The 28 hour countdown began at 23:59 UTC on January 10, 2018. Fox-1D is scheduled for launch into a sun-synchronous orbit at 03:59 UTC on January 12, 2018 (10:59pm EST on Thursday, January 11th) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India. Further information about the PSLV-C40 mission, including a mission brochure and photo gallery can be found on the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s website at https://www.isro.gov.in/launcher/pslv-c40-cartosat-2-series-satellite-mission.
In addition to the Fox-1 U/v FM transponder, Fox-1D carries several university experiments, including a MEMS gyro from Pennsylvania State University – Erie, a camera from Virginia Tech, and the University of Iowa’s HERCI (High Energy Radiation CubeSat Instrument) radiation mapping experiment. Fox-1D also carries the AMSAT L-Band Downshifter experiment which allows the utilization of a 1.2 GHz uplink for the FM transponder. Telemetry, experiment data, and pictures from the Virginia Tech camera can be decoded using the FoxTelem software (https://www.amsat.org/foxtelem-software-for-windows-mac-linux/).
Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP)
Fox-1D is scheduled for launch into a sun-synchronous orbit at 03:59 UTC on January 12, 2018 (10:59pm EST on Thursday, January 11th) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India. Estimated pre-launch Keplerian elements are:
Updated pre-launch and post-launch Keplerian elements will be distributed when available on the AMSAT-BB and AMSAT website. Please refer to your tracking software documentation for instructions on manually entering Keplerian elements. As there are 31 satellites on this launch, determining the final object number and adding the satellite to the AMSAT Keplerian elements distribution may take several days. Fox-1D’s deployment should occur at at 04:21:12 UTC. “First Veronica,” the first transmission from Fox-1D, is expected at approximately 05:22:12 UTC.
Participation in telemetry collection by as many stations in as many parts of the world as possible is essential as AMSAT Engineering looks for successful startup and indications of the general health and function of the satellite as it begins to acclimate to space. AMSAT will send a commemorative 3D printed QSL card to the first station capturing telemetry from Fox-1D.
If you are capturing telemetry with FoxTelem please be sure that “Upload to Server” is checked in your settings, and that your “Ground Station Params” are filled in as well. In addition, be sure that the SOURCE button in the INPUT tab is set to AUTO . You can help AMSAT and everyone waiting to get on the air with Fox-1D tremendously by capturing Fox-1D telemetry.
About 60 minutes after deployment, the satellite will start up in Beacon Mode. In this initial mode, the transmitter is limited to 10 seconds on time and then will be off for two minutes. For those of you capturing telemetry, that means that you will only see Current frames and no High or Low frames. The High and Low frames are truncated as it takes just over the 10 second limit to send two frames. Veronica will announce “Fox-1 Delta, Safe Mode” in Beacon Mode.
If AMSAT Engineering is seeing nominal values from the telemetry you gather, the satellite will be commanded from Beacon Mode to Safe Mode on the first good pass over the United States. In Safe Mode, the satellite transmits a full two frames of telemetry (one Current frame followed by, and alternating each ID cycle, a High or a Low frame).
The on-orbit checkout procedure for Fox-1D is similar to the procedure for AO-91. However, the various experiments on board Fox-1D, including the HERCI, Virginia Tech camera, and L-Band Downshifter will require more extensive testing than the experiments on board AO-91 and could take up to two weeks but could be less if users cooperate. It is very important, and good amateur operating practice, to refrain from using the transponder uplink so the on-orbit tests can be performed, including when the satellite is switched into Transponder Mode for testing.
AMSAT will make it broadly known when the tests are complete and the transponder is available for all to use. If you hear someone on the transponder, please do not assume that it is open for general use – check AMSAT’s website, Facebook, and Twitter before transmitting to be sure you do not interfere with testing.
AMSAT asks all satellite operators to contribute just a little bit of your time by gathering telemetry, not using the transponder uplink, to help complete the progress of getting Fox-1D operating for the amateur radio community.
Lots of hams put thousands of volunteer hours of their time into making Fox-1D happen. Just like any ham radio project you might undertake, AMSAT builds satellites. AMSAT volunteers do it because they like to, and when they are done, AMSAT freely shares their project with hams everywhere as is the spirit of amateur radio.
Operating Schedule Notes
While the U/v FM transponders on AO-85 and AO-91 are generally available for amateur use continuously, Fox-1D carries several experimental payloads, including the Virginia Tech camera and the University of Iowa’s HERCI that require the use of the Fox-1 high speed telemetry downlink. The FM transponder is not available in this mode. In addition, times will be scheduled for the use of the L-band Downshifter. The 435 MHz uplink is not available in this mode. Following commissioning, AMSAT Operations will periodically publish an operating schedule via the AMSAT News Service, AMSAT-BB, and AMSAT social media accounts.
When enabled, the L-Band Downshifter will utilize an uplink of 1267.350 MHz. This device converts signals received at 1267.350 MHz and injects them into the satellite’s 435 MHz receiver. Since the 435 MHz uplink antenna is used to receive the 1267 MHz signals and may present a mismatch at that frequency, pre-launch estimates suggest that a power level of 100 watts ERP will be required for horizon-to-horizon access in Mode L/v. AMSAT Engineering will issue further guidance after in-orbit testing. Look for future articles on the AMSAT website and in The AMSAT Journal for equipment ideas and tutorials for accessing the L-band uplink.
Radio Programming Charts
These charts list recommended frequencies pre-launch and are subject to adjustment after in-orbit testing. Note that the satellite’s Automatic Frequency Correction (AFC) circuit may reduce the need for precise adjustment. This should help with Doppler correction for mobile or portable operation, especially in Mode L/v. For example, many 1.2 GHz mobile transceivers are limited to minimum 10 kHz steps. Adjust your radio’s programming accordingly. Although the AFC circuit allows for some error in Doppler correction, AMSAT Operations recommends utilizing the most precise Doppler corrections allowed by your equipment.
Fox-1D Doppler Shift Correction (Mode U/v)
Your Transmit Frequency
(With 67 Hz Tone)
Your Receive Frequency
Acquisition of Signal (AOS)
Time of Closest Approach (TCA)
Loss of Signal (LOS)
Fox-1D Doppler Shift Correction (Mode L/v)
Your Transmit Frequency
(With 67 Hz Tone)
Your Receive Frequency
Acquisition of Signal (AOS)
Time of Closest Approach (TCA)
Loss of Signal (LOS)
Special Membership Offer
As part of the preparations for the launch of Fox-1D, AMSAT is making the “Getting Started With Amateur Satellites” book available for a limited time as a download with any paid new or renewal membership purchased via the AMSAT Store. This offer is only available with purchases completed online, and for only a limited time. A perennial favorite, Getting Started is updated every year with the latest amateur satellite information, and is the premier primer of satellite operation. The 182 page book is presented in PDF format, in full color, and covers all aspects of making your first contacts on a ham radio satellite.
Please take advantage of this offer today by visiting the AMSAT store at https://www.amsat.org/shop/ and selecting any membership option. While there, check out AMSAT’s other items, including the M2 LEOpack antenna system, Arrow antennas, AMSAT shirts, and other swag. Be sure to view your cart before going to checkout. If you add a membership and then go directly to checkout, you’ll never see an option to add your free gift.