A new Goal: Rocket Bodies and other Space Debris

February 22nd, 2015

Since QSOs via ISS Bounce are quite easy to perform, Jan, PA3FXB, and I evaluated the possibilities, to use other objects in orbits around the Earth. The table below shows a selection of objects in earth orbits. There are some quite big ones in geostationary orbits, but the distance is the most limiting factor, not the size, as can be seen in the predicted maximum reception level provided by the radar equation. So I had an intense survey on the objects in low orbits and determined the maximum linkbudgets, to filter the most promising ones. My PC had to work a couple of hours to perform that.  On the end it has been a little surprise, that COSMOS 1823, an old soviet geodetic satellite, wasn´t among them. We used it for previous tests and were able to detect faint reflections.

Potential ObjectsAt our meeting on the Dorsten GHz Convention last Saturday, we discussed latest details. On Sunday, Jan and the crew of PI9CAM activated the Dwingeloo Telescope for the 23 cm EME SSB contest, but they had some spare time for other experiments. Just to warm up we had a nice SSB QSO via the moon first, right after their first QSO PA/JW:  Congratulations!


H-2A (39771)

39771 2015-02-22-13-31 DJ5AR PI9CAM H-2AF24Stage2 (39771) ElevationSome of the top objects would pass on suitable elevations and we decided to start with  NORAD 39771 which is the second stage of a japanese H2A202 rocket, launched on May, 24th 2014 with a radar cross section of 20.7 m². DJ5AR was to transmit CW continously, while PI9CAM checked for reflections. After some trouble with the tracking they caught it shortly before set.

The used power at DJ5AR was 150 W into a 3 m dish (28 dBi) and the PI9CAM team used their 25 m dish (48 dBi) for reception.

The predicted signal level was about -158 dBm, but, as can be heard, it´s clearly audible.

2015-02-23 21_02_20-Microsoft Excel - 39771 2015-02-22-13-31 DJ5AR PI9CAM.xlsx


Titan 4B (26474)

Next one on the list was NORAD 26474, the 2nd stage of an american Titan 4B rocket, launched on August 17th, 2000. With a radar cross section of 15.4 m² it is a little smaller than H-2B. But the predicted reception level for Dwingeloo looked very promising anyway:

26474 2015-02-22-16-15 DJ5AR PI9CAM Titan4B-28Stage2 (26474) Power received

My signal could be picked up by PI9CAM when the rocket body rised up to 5 degrees over the horizon and they tracked it for about 4 minutes until I lost the object near the culmination point, when the angle velocity became too fast for my tracking system.

2015-02-23 20_21_19-U__Amateurfunk_ISS_Sat-Test 2015-02-22_26474_2015-02-23 20_19_41-U__Amateurfunk_

DJ5AR as received by PI9CAM. Picture is upside down for better matching to the table.

The signal has been detected at an predicted signal level of -160 dBm and became clearly audible soon for serveral minutes. So we can think of trying a CW QSO next time. The drift, which can be seen, has it´s cause in my transmitter,  running for the duration of the whole pass without any pause. I will try to reduce the growing spread of the signal by using shorter intervals in the doppler correction.


Marten, PA3EKM, documented this (historical) moment on video:


Many thanks to the team of PI9CAM / CAMRAS:
Cor, PE0SHF,
Eene, PA3CEG,
Marten, PA3EKM,
Gert-Jan, PE1GJV,
and Jan, PA3FXB