DF2MZ – Edgar J. Kaiser – Kiel – Germany
Welcome to df2mz.de!
This is my new web presence. It will be a little basic for some time, but I hope it will evolve into an attractive blog about my activities in physics, deep space monitoring, the cats and more. Times are UTC.
DF2MZ Geomagnetometer (Update 22.05.2022: The thing is up and running)
0031: 4. October 2022, 17:30, #Sun
Today I pointed the x-band antenna to the sun and did a long term recording of the noise level. I intended to find out if the sun’s x-ray activity as shown by GOES (https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/goes-x-ray-flux) correlates with its x-band noise level. Well it certainly does, but the big question is whether my station can detect that. And indeed the M1.6 flare around 13:20 correlates nicely with increased x-band noise at the same time.
It is interesting that the x-band signal exhibts a sharp peak, while it otherwise follows the profile of the GOES x-ray signal. So, this was a moderate M-class flare. X-class flares may show much higher noise outbursts.
X-band microwave signals and x-ray signals are extremely different animals. The x-band wavelength is about 3.5 cm while x-rays measured by GOES are in the nm-range. So there is a ratio in energies of some 1:30.000.000.000. The physical processes of microwave and x-ray generation are completely different.
Today’s GOES plot from https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/goes-x-ray-flux
0030: 02. October 2022, 17:12, #MOM
According to news in Indian media the Indian Mars orbiter MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission or Mangalyaan) is no longer operational. The news say that the batteries were drained during a long eclipse in April this year. This means that planet Mars threw its shadow on the spacecraft and the batteries got completely drained. It was likely not possible to recharge the batteries and realign the spacecraft after the eclipse. It is not uncommon that batteries fail ofter long lasting deep discharge.
MOM was launched on 5. November 2013 and entered Martian orbit on 24. September 2014.
I was observing the mission from launch to its end this year. The last time I observed and recorded the s-band signal on 2292.96 MHz was on 29. March 2022. It is probably one of the last emissions by the spacecraft before the orbital eclipse and battery failure. The spectrogram is shown below:
For a long period of time the spacecraft was emitting daily 10 minutes long beacon signals. This was taking place almost each day in the Indian afternoon. An example of the beacon beeps is shown below:
I observed ground station interactions with MOM in rare occasions. Here is the last observation of this kind on 8. March 2022:
MOM was designed for an initial lifetime of 6 months in Martian orbit. The total lifetime of more than 8 years is a really remarkable result and success. I will be missing this deep space s-band beacon. To my knowledge there is currently no other s-band source in interplanetary space.
All my observation were perfomed with my amateur deep space station using a 1 m parabolic dish.
ISRO is still to officially confirm the decommissioning and details.
0029: 05. August 2022, 10:11, #KPLO
KPLO was successfully launched last night and is now on the way on a long trajectory to the moon. The spacecraft is currently heading in direction of SEL1 and is expected to arrive in lunbar orbit in December.
I detected its s-band signal on 2260.8 MHz at a distance of roughly 110.000 km. It is a strong signal in my RHCP antenna, although there are rumours its signal might be LHCP. The plot shows the spectrogram with Doppler compensation based on published Horizons ephemerides at the left part. At 09:00 I switched to earth rotation compensation for my station to show the geocentric Doppler. There we see rising Doppler as is expected for a spacecaft climbing up in earth’s gravitational field and thus slowing down its upward movement.
It is not clear why the Horizon’s compensation shows a falling frequency. It is expected to be a horizontal line. NASA DSN 54 in Madrid is not showing a coherent lock so far, only downlink is indicated.
The signal exhibits some short term frequency jitter.
0028: 10. July 2022, 15:32, #CAPSTONE
CAPSTONE continues its cruise out in direction of SEL1. This recording is Doppler compensated for Earth rotation. The rising signal trace indicates that at the distance of roughly 681.000 km the pull of earth’s gravity still slows down the outbound movement. The little kinks on the left side rersults from swiching off the station related Doppler compensation and changing to earth rotation. The very small wobbles in the trace are a result of the piecewise uplink ramping for uplink Doppler compensation.
0027: 9. July 2022, 20:10, #CAPSTONE
I need to correct my statements on the CAPSTONE manoeuvre below: Obviously, the Doppler shift was to some degree a result of the JPL Horizons ephemeris data I was using for Doppler compensation. The ephemeris data contained the planned trajectory correction manoeuvre. What the plot shows is the inverse of the manoeuvre that didn’t occurr this way.
However, things remain a little mysterious. The initial, about 1 minute long rapid Doppler shift can not be explained by the JPL Horizons based Doppler compensation. I am using 10 minute steps in the ephemeris file. This means such a rapid shift is not resolved by the correction method. So far, I don’t have an explanation for this.
The initial 1 min long steep shift seems to be a real signal, while the rest is probably an artifact.
What I learn from this? I will only compensate for earth rotation in future. This is anyway the major component in such signals and it is based on a purely local calculation without unknowns.
0026: 9. July 2022, 16:22, #CAPSTONE
A very nice recording of CAPSTONE’s second trajectory correction manoeuvre (TCM2). This time the downlink signal remained active and it shows the dynamics of the manoeuvre very nicely. Indeed the best manoeuvre recording I achieved so far.
The burn starts exactly 15:30 as announced by Advance Space. It starts at high thrust and gets throttled to much lower thrust after 1 minute. The total frequency shift is +126 Hz at the end, which corresponds to decrease in range rate of 4.5 m/s for my station.
So, this time it was a braking manoeuvre. I think, this is the reason why the signal remained visible this time. It was not needed to turn the spacecraft around for braking, while this was required for speeding up two days ago.
0025: 7. July 2022, 16:33, #CAPSTONE
CAPSTONE performed its first trajectory manoeuvre this afternoon. The signal disappeared 15:15 and came back with a frequency shift of -559 Hz at 15:58. This corresponds to an increase in range rate from my station of 19.8 m/s. The absolute magnitude ∆v is larger but cannot be determined by a simple Doppler measurement.
Congratulations to the successful manoeuvre!
0024: 7. July 2022, 12:13, #CAPSTONE
Capstone shows a 10 dB weaker residual carrier for some 11 minutes. Whatever this may mean …?
0023: 7. July 2022, 08:51, #CAPSTONE
I observed the handover from a Canberra groundstation (left part) to Madrid’s DSS 53 (right part) this morning. In between roughly 15 minutes of unlocked operation, as indicated by the frequncy shift. JPL Horizons ephemerides are on spot and also provide excellent Doppler match. Advanced Space are planning a trajectory correction burn at 15:30 today. If I still see the signal I will provide a Youtube stream that could show the Doppler pattern during the burn.
The unlocked part of the signal trace with high frequency resolution. It is perfectly flat.
Downlink signal when locked first to Canberra and then to Madrid. We recognize small frequency wobbles with a period of roughly 10 minutes. Those result from the stepwise frequency ramping on the uplink of the groundstation. This is done in order to compensate for uplink Doppler and keep the uplink frequency constant for the spacecraft receiver and speak to the spacecraft at the sweet frequency spot of the coherent transponder. Downside of this procedure is, that it is no longer possible to determine the location of the groundstation in case it is unknown.
Only NASA DSN is applying this uplink compensation. Neither ESA’s Estrack nor China’s groundstations are doing that.
Also note that the wobbles reverse their second derivative after the handover. This results from the fact that the Doppler profile reverses the second derivative before and after culmination during a pass for a certain location.
0022: 6. July 2022, 20:15, #CAPSTONE
The station was tracking CAPSTONE in unattended mode using the freshly updated ephemerides on JPL Horizons. The spectrogram shows the signal coming up around 15:30. It may have been present earlier as well. It shows some intensity fluctuations and gets much weaker after 16:10. We see a flat line, which indicates a very good Doppler match. So the signal is very likely being emitted by Capstone.
Later I optimzed the antenna pointing and we see a strong and stable signal until the spacecraft sets behind the local forest.
0021: 4. July 2022, #CAPSTONE
CAPSTONE was separated from the stack with Photon and I detected the signal on 8465 MHz. It showed pronounced intensity fluctuations in the beginning but stabilized later. It was in contact with DSN Madrid to the DSS 54 and DSS 55 antennas.
Available TLE and the JPL Horizons ephemerides were completely off, so I used the directions the Madrid antennas were pointing to, to calculate my antenna pointing. It is now possible to track for a while using celestial coordinates. This will get even better as the spacecraft is going further out and the movement relative to the celestial background will slow down.
Nevertheless, the celestial coordinates will need to be updated each day at least to find the thing with even a small antenna. DSS antenna pointing can be used for that. The trajectory may also be available on JPL Horizons sooner or later.
Update: I have to add that the Doppler profile is not correct, because Doppler compensation was on with wrong TLE by accident. It definitly is the CAPSTONE signal though.
0020: 19. June 2022, #BepiColombo
We are getting closer to BepiColombo’s second Mercury flyby on Thursday, June 23rd, 09:44 UTC (https://twitter.com/ESA_Bepi/status/1537370692336898048).
The signal is coming from a distance of some 130 million km these days. It is weak but can be detected in my station. The flyby will be perfectly visible from Europe. The plot shows the signal unlocked for 20 minutes. The spacecraft then locked to Estrack Malargue groundstation thus showing falling uplink Doppler. ESA groundstations don’t compensate for uplink Doppler. The spacecraft will become very fast during the flyby and the then very fast Doppler may make the signal undetectable. I hope BepiColombo’s emission will be cranked up a little. We know from DDOR sessions that it can be at least 10 dB stronger than now. That would be very helpful.
Anyway good luck to the team for the flyby. The thing will be whizzing across the surface at an altitude of only 200 km. Don’t take the wrong turn at that crossing!
If I can detect the signal on Thursday morning I will launch a Youtube stream showing my receiver signal. You can check the DF2MZ channel.
0019: 22. May 2022, 15:30, #BepiColombo
Some fun with BepiColombo. I observed the DDOR session with Cebreros and Malargue. The track starts with the spacecraft in an unlocked low power mode. At 10:53 the power increases by 10 dB. The trace with Earth rotation Doppler compensation only represents the geocentric motion of the spacecraft. The DDOR mode ends at 12:00 and the spacecraft returns to the unlocked low power mode. Later I observed a coherent lock to Malargue groundstation. This is detectable because Estrack groundstations do not compensate for uplink Doppler and the signal trace shows falling Doppler in the coherent mode.
0018: 16. May 2022, 08:13, #Chang’e-3
This morning’s total lunar eclipse couldn’t be observed completely at my location in northern Germany. Here is a picture from the antenna camera shortly before moonset. There are tons of much better pictures in the web, but I have a goodie. See below:
The x-band station was monitoring the usual Chang’e-3 frequency 8470 MHz and sometimes wishes come true. I was not exactly expecting but hoping for a signal from the lunar surface along with the eclipse. And Chang’e-3 did me the favour. She switched on the transmitter at 00:11, the signal drifted for 9 minutes and then locked to a groundstation. That is the usual pattern. The moon wasn’t visible over China at that time, so it was probably the Chinese groundstation in Zapala/Argentina. The fainter, slowly rising signal trace is a local interference.
The signal remained active until 02:39, that is much longer than usual. Typically I see the Chang’e-3 lander signal for some 50 – 60 minutes in the days after lunar sunrise in Mare Imbrium. The cutoff of the signal at 02:39 obviously happened when the eclipse umbra touched the Chang’e-3 location on the moon. The moon picture above was taken 10 minutes after loss of signal. The Chang’e-3 lander location is at the upper part of the umbral terminator in the picture.
Obviously the lander was activated to observe the lunar eclipse from the lunar surface. Of course this had to come to an end when the umbra touched the landing site. After 8.5 years the lander’s batteries are certainly dead and she has a nuclear heater but not a nuclear electric power supply.
A lunar eclipse observed from the lunar surface must be a spectacular view. I hope we will see pictures of that.
It would be interesting if the signal came back after the eclipse. Observers in the Americas would have had perfect conditions to observe the complete activity.
0017: 13. May 2022, 19:25, #Geomagnetometer
I am quite happy with the progress on the new software for the SAM III geomagnetometer. Data acquisition from the controller seems to be robust now. The GUI is improving, but still in debugging mode. Automatic FTP upload to the website has been proven to work. It is not active yet. I am planning to provide a 1 hour short term display and a 24 hour long term display. I find it amazing to observe the tiny fluctuations of this planet wide huge magnetic field that is surrounding us and that is affected by solar activity.
0016: 12. May 2022, 15:29, #Geomagnetometer
I decided to take the SAM III geomagnetometer to a presumably magnetically more quiet place in the house. The picture shows the styrofoam thermal insulation box. Thermal insulation is very important because the fluxgate sensors are very temperature sensitive and the daily temperature pattern would obscure weak to medium magnetic signals.
Here is the open box with some 20 kg of sand inside. While the box alone reduces the thermal signal by a factor 4, the sand load makes it practically disappear. The sand establishes a large heat capacity. So the remaining thermal leak of the box must warm/cool the sand.
The traditional way to thermally insulate a geomagnetometer is to bury it in the garden. This way there is a huge thermal load outside the box. In my approach I put the thermal load inside the box. Now to see to what degree magnetic disturbancies from inside the house will compromise the system. In case the interference is too high I am still considering to bury the box. Particularly for system testing it very convenient to have it in house.
The sensor platform with three mutually perpendicular fluxgate sensors. There is quite a load of sand under the platform.
North alignment of the geomagnetometer. I am aligning it to magnetic north instead of true north because any magnetic aberration inside the house is unknown. Now to pack the sand in, put the lid on and connect the controller.
I am also putting together custom software for the thing. It looks a little messy in the current debugging mode. When it is finished it will be looking cleaner (are projects like this ever finished?) and it will continuously record the geomagnetic field, archive data and upload a plot in 5 minute intervals to the website. Go ahead solar cycle 25!
0015: 09. May 2022, 14:00, #Equipment
My latest toy is a FLIR E60BX thermal camera. The bright dot on top is today’s half moon. The camera measures about +20 °C on the moon, but this is an average with a few pixels of cold sky around the moon. The cold sky is -33 °C in the crosshair. Pointing to zenith the temperature is below the camera’s lower limit of -40 °C.
The main application of this camera is examining electronic circuitry for thermal issues.
The camera takes a visual image together with each thermal image. I find it quite remarkable that the moon shows a much higher contrast in the thermal picture above.
0014: 07. May 2022, 15:58, #Chang’e-5
Chang’e-5 must have been in a coherent groundstation link. Telemetry sidebands are visible +/- 8 kHz from the carrier. The signal showed slow intensity fluctuations after unlock. I hadn’t seen this in the current lunar orbit before. The other frequency is weakly detectable too.
The antenna is pointing to Chang’e-5 after she passed earth-moon Lagrange point 2 (EML2) and is moving further west.
0013: 03. May 2022, 20:27, #Chang’e-5
Chang’e-5 on her way to EML2 behind the moon.
The antenna is pointing to Chang’e-5 and a nice young crescent moon.
0012: 2. May 2022, 09:15, #Tianwen-1
A very nice plot of Tianwen-1 showing the Doppler maximum and minimum before and after the periapsis pass. The spacecraft was in a groundstation lock during the maximum. It unlocked around 08:20 and showed an unlocked minimum after periapsis.
From today’s and yesterday’s maxima, with 3 orbits in between, I calculate an orbital period of 7h 4min 49s, that is 11s longer than the period I calculated a few months ago. However, there is some uncertainty due to the coherent lock, which may add some phase shift to the Doppler curve. Orbit determination can be more accurate from unlocked signals, provided the spacecraft has a stable enough master oscillator. This seems to be the case in Tianwen-1.
0011: 1. May 2022, 15:09, #Chang’e-5
Chang’e-5 this afternoon. She is heading to the far side of the moon for an encounter with EML2. There is no groundstation activity and we note the notorious frequency jitter of this signal. Frequency was compensated for eart rotation Doppler of my station.
0010: 1. May 2022, 11:15, #Tianwen-1
I caught a Doppler maximum of Tianwen-1 while it was locked to a groundstation, probably Zapala in Argentina. Now to catch tomorrow’s maximum some 3 hours earlier in the day to calculate a new orbital period.
0009: 30. April 2022, 14:00, #Tianwen-1
Tianwen-1 shows a strong signal. First unlocked and at 08:48 it locks to a groundstation. Mars is not visible over China, so Zapala in Argentina must be at the helm.
0008: 28. April 2022, 19:45, #Cat
It was about time to introduce fabulous Space Cat to the new timeline.
0007: 28. April 2022, 14:44, #Chang’e-5
Chang’e-5 is passing the L1 libration point between Moon and Earth. The signal on 8486.28 MHz is strong, the other frequency 8471.23 MHz is no longer detectable for me. Earth rotation Doppler compensation was activated at 13:12.
0006: 28.April 2022, 12:00, #MOM
No signal from MOM received this morning.
0005: 27. April 2022, 12:40, #Osiris-Rex
I caught Osiris-Rex’ signal while it was still unlocked and showed some drift. It locked to Madrid’s DSS 54 at 11:04. Madrid is obviously emitting Doppler compensated uplink, otherwise we would see falling Doppler rate. At 12:35 the signal faded out for me. It came back for DSS 54, but some 35 dB weaker which is not detectable for me.
The NASA Eyes simulation shows the spacecraft between the solar orbits of Mars and Earth. The current range rate to Earth is some -10 km/s. The probe is expected to drop a material sample it collected from asteroid Bennu in September 2023. Still some way to the next Whiskey bar.
0004: 26. April 2022, 14:15, #BepiColombo
BepiColombo showed a strong x-band signal coherently locked to Estrack Cebreros groundstation when I started observing at 12:42. It unlocked at 13:28 and the signal faded out after 14:00. I am not sure why the signal faded away slowly. Typically spacecraft just switch off. Maybe it was realigning with the high gain antenna still transmitting.
The ESA simulation ( https://sci.esa.int/web/bepicolombo/-/48871-getting-to-mercury ) shows the spacecraft is currently quite close to Earth, only 48 million km away. It is heading for another close encounter with Mercury, I think it will be in July.
0003: 26. April 2022, 11:17, #Chang’e-5
Chang’e-5 on 8486.28 MHz. The other frequency is detectable, but much weaker. Earth rotation Doppler compensation was activated at 09:10. See Bill Gray’s https://projectpluto.com/sat_eph.htm for ephemerides. Use NORAD number 47097 for Chang’e-5.
0002: 26. April 2022, 08:50, #MOM
Again no signal from the Indian Mars orbiter MOM received this morning.
0001: 26. April 2022, 08:30
My antennas for deep space monitoring and the VHF/UHF amateur radio bands.