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CASSIOPE Spacecraft Listens In on 2018 ARRL Field Day

07/06/2018

The Canadian CASSIOPE (CAScade, Smallsat, and Ionospheric Polar Explorer) spacecraft once again eavesdropped on ARRL Field Day activity. CASSIOPE’s Radio Receiver Instrument (RRI) was tuned to 7.005 MHz during six passes over the North American continent during Field Day 2018, although there was no advance publicity this year. The RRI is a component of the spacecraft’s Enhanced Polar Outflow Probe (e-POP), a suite of eight science instruments that study space weather.

“We’re really happy with our results this year,” remarked Gareth Perry, a physics and astronomy postdoctoral research associate at the University of Calgary in Canada, CASSIOPE’s home institution. “RRI recorded plenty of chatter between Field Day participants, especially during our passes over the eastern and central United States on the evening of [June 23].”

 

CASSIOPE also had turned a close ear to activity during Field Day 2015 and 2017, and its activities last year were heavily promoted. Perry described the 2017 response from the Amateur Radio community as “overwhelming,” and the RRI “inundated” with CW signals.

Perry is the lead author of the first publication to use data from the ARRL Field Day experiments, Citizen radio science: an analysis of Amateur Radio transmissions with e-POP RRI. The paper, which reports on CASSIOPE’s involvement in ARRL Field Day 2015, is set for publication in Radio Science.

“It’s been tough to sort out the 2017 data, so we decided to use a different tactic this year,” Perry said. He and members of the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) group coordinated with the Nashoba Valley Amateur Radio Club (N1NC) and with the Indianapolis Radio Club (W9JP) — which operated Field Day as N9NS with the Hoosier DX and Contest Club (N9NS) and a coalition of other Central Indiana radio clubs — to “direct traffic,” asking their members to stick to pre-selected frequencies during the passes, and to record their transmitting logs.

“We figured that it would be easier to assign frequencies ahead of time, so that we [would] know where to look in post-processing, which seems to have paid-off,” Perry added. He told ARRL that data from this year’s Field Day experiment presently is in HDF5 format, and preparations are under way to convert the RRI data into a more accessible format for the Amateur Radio community.

Perry and the HamSCI group have been using ARRL Field Day as an opportunity to study space weather and HF radio wave propagation. “Not only have the Field Day experiments been valuable scientifically, but they have also helped promote the relevancy of ham radio to the greater scientific community,” Perry said. Thanks to the efforts of Phil Erickson, W1PJE, CASSIOPE this year also had the support of the Millstone Hill Incoherent Scatter Radar, a large ionospheric radar with wide coverage over the US east coast. “[W]e were able to get some ionospheric diagnostics from Millstone Hill ionospheric measurements during the CASSIOPE east coast passes, which will add another layer of critical information to our observations,” Perry explained. He’s hoping that CASSIOPE will continue to participate in Field Day. “We’re looking forward to next year already!” he said.

The European Space Agency (ESA) funds CASSIOPE/e-POP operations under the Third Party Mission Program. A US National Science Foundation grant to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology supports radar observations and analysis at Millstone Hill.



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