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Co-Launched CubeSats Settling Into Orbits, Missions


Commissioning and testing continue of the L-Band Downshifter and the University of Iowa’s High-Energy CubeSat Radiation Instrument (HERCI) on the new Fox-1D (AO-92) CubeSat. AO-92 could be available for general use by week’s end, AMSAT said. The co-launched French PicSat CubeSat is seeking telemetry reports. Both were carried into space from India on January 12.

AMSAT-NA reports the University of Iowa tested the HERCI, while AMSAT put the L-Band Downshifter through its paces in the past week. The L-Band Downshifter converts signals received on 1267.350 MHz and injects them into the satellite’s 435 MHz receiver. Due to the increased path loss on 1267 MHz and use of the satellite’s 435-MHz receive antenna on 1267 MHz, pre-launch estimates suggested that it might take around 100 W ERP for horizon-to-horizon access in this mode. “As always, pre-launch estimates are subject to change after real-world testing in-orbit,” AMSAT-NA Executive Vice President Paul Stoetzer, N8HM, qualified.

Testing was promising, as the L-Band Downshifter was turned on for its initial outing on January 20. Stoetzer reports being able to access the transponder with a hand-held transceiver running 1 W into a 16-element Yagi.

“Telemetry analysis showed that the Downshifter was functioning normally, and AMSAT announced open testing,” Stoetzer said. “Reports flowed in of QSOs occurring over Europe and Japan. Many reported QSOs made with 10 W or less to modest Yagi antennas.” The results were similar when AO-92 passed over North America.

The HERCI experiment was activated for the first time on January 18. “HERCI is intended to provide a mapping of radiation in a low-Earth orbit,” explained Don Kirchner, KD0L, Research Engineer at the University of Iowa. “This is of scientific interest for planning CubeSat test flights for low-energy X-Ray detectors.”

“The L-Band Downshifter operates on a 24-hour timer. Stoetzer said. “Tests of the various modes and experiments continue. AO-92 is on track to be commissioned and handed over to AMSAT Operations on Friday, January 26.”

Meanwhile, the FrenchPicSat CubeSat, which launched on the same flight as AO-92, is aimed at observing the transit of the young exoplanet Beta Pictoris b in front of its bright and equally young star Beta Pictoris — both some 63 light years away — and at demonstrating an innovative technological concept to use optical fiber for astronomical observations from space.

The CubeSat’s embedded Amateur Radio FM transponder will be available when possible during the mission. The uplink is 145.910 MHz (1750 Hz tone in amateur mode), and the downlink is 435.525 MHz, 9.6 kb BPSK AX.25, data and FM voice when in amateur mode. The PicSat website includes a description of the telemetry and related information.

The PicSat team has requested Amateur Radio assistance to capture and upload telemetry packets from the satellite. “Beacons received from all over the world are especially useful to monitor the status of satellite along its orbit,” the PicSat team said.

PicSat shares a similar orbit with AO-92, since they were deployed at approximately the same time.