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Ham Radio Operators Enlisted to Track University-Built Satellite to Venus

Many of the transmitter and RF engineers I know are hams. Amateur radio gives them an opportunity to learn about and experiment with bleeding edge RF technology without risking taking the broadcast station off the air. Therefore, I wasn't surprised when ham radio operators were being asked to monitor the UNITEC-1 satellite on its path to Venus. Unitec is an acronym for "UNIsec Technological Experiment Carrier-1." Several universities in Japan are involved with the satellite. It will be launched, along with the main payload "Planet-C", developed by JAXA Japan, on an H-11A launch vehicle on May 18.

Amateur radio operators should be able to track the satellite using converted C-band satellite dishes, a wide band feed, a 5.8 GHz low noise downconverter and appropriate equipment to receive and demodulate the slow speed CW and FSK transmissions from the satellite.

See About Unitec-1 for more information on the satellite. It is small – 30x35cm weighing 15 kg or less. The 5.8 GHz transmitter will have an output power of about 15 watts. Solar cells around the cube can generate about 25 W.

OZ9AEC is making plans to monitor the satellite. The amateur radio station is planning on assembling a system consisting of a 7-meter parabolic dish with wideband feed, a low noise downconverter, a Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRR) with an appropriate RF daughterboard and a GNU Radio-based software defined radio receiver.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.