Tag Archives: MARS

Radio Waves: Signals from Mars, Two More Hamstronauts, M17 Digital Voice Mode, and Climbing Trees for a Better Signal

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Troy Riedel, LG, Ron and the ARRL News for the following tips:


Radio Signals from Mars (Spaceweather.com)

How close is Mars? Close enough for radio reception. On Oct. 4th, amateur radio operator Scott Tilley picked up a carrier wave from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) circling the Red Planet. Turn up the volume and listen to the Martian Doppler shift:

Tilley is a leader in the field of satellite radio. Dead satellites, zombie satellites, spy satellites: He routinely finds and tracks them. “But this was a first for me,” he says. “A satellite around Mars!”

It’s not easy picking up radio signals from distant planets. NASA does it using the giant antennas of the Deep Space Network. Tilley uses a modest 60 cm dish in his backyard in Roberts Creek, BC. This week’s close encounter with Mars set the stage for his detection.

“MRO’s signal is weak, but it is one of the louder signals in Mars orbit,” says Tilley. “The spacecraft has a large dish antenna it uses as a relay for other Mars missions. With the proximity of Mars these days, it was the perfect time to try.”[]

Two More Astronauts Earn Amateur Radio Licenses (ARRL News)

Although the lockdown of Johnson Space Center (JSC) postponed amateur radio training and licensing over the past 7 months, NASA ISS Ham Project Coordinator Kenneth Ransom, N5VHO, was able to work with all of the new astronaut-class graduates, as well as offer some refresher courses with already-licensed astronauts. Licensed astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) may operate the on-station ham radio equipment without restrictions.

Astronauts often participate in Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contacts with schools and groups on Earth.

NASA Astronaut Kayla Barron, who completed her introductory course in June and received basic ham radio operations training in late September, recently tested and received the call sign KI5LAL.

European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer passed his amateur radio exam on July 30, and he got his basic ham operations training in July. He now is KI5KFH.

Astronauts Shane Kimbrough, KE5HOD, and Shannon Walker, KD5DXB, completed the refresher course earlier this year. Two other new astronauts are in the queue to take the Technician license exam. — Thanks to Rosalie White, K1STO[]

M17 Aims to replace proprietary ham radio protocols (Hackaday.io)

While M17 might sound like a new kind of automatic rifle (as actually, it is), we were referring to an open source project to create a ham radio transceiver. Instead of paraphrasing the project’s goals, we’ll simply quote them:

The goal here should be to kick the proprietary protocols off the airwaves, replace DMR, Fusion, D-Star, etc. To do that, it’s not just good enough to be open, it has to be legitimately competitive.

Like some other commercial protocols, M17 uses 4FSK along with error correction. The protocol allows for encryption, streaming, and the encoding of callsigns in messages. There are also provisions for framing IP packets to carry data. The protocol can handle voice and data in a point-to-point or broadcast topology.

On the hardware side, the TR-9 is a UHF handheld that can do FM voice or M17 with up to 3 watts out. The RF portion uses an ADF7021 chip which is specifically made to do 4FSK. There’s also an Arm CPU to handle the digital work.[]

Armed with a radio, Cambodian girl climbs tree to access education (SE Asia Globe)

When Cambodian schools closed due to Covid-19, poor internet access and a lack of minority language materials made distance learning in rural communities near impossible. But armed with a simple radio, children are rising above these obstacles to their education

Jumping down from the tree near her home, Srey Ka assumes her spot in the shade underneath as she adjusts the dials on her radio. Her pet piglet remains asleep at her feet, twitching his nose as he dreams, his belly full of leftover rice. Around her, cows meander by, their ringing bells competing with the sound of static from her radio.

While her school is still closed due to Covid-19 regulations, she still wears her Grade 3 uniform as she attempts to locate a signal. She’s listening out for distance learning programmes – six hours of educational radio broadcasts per week for children in Grades 1-3, some of which are in her ethnic minority language.

It was August and Srey Ka had just received a radio from international nonprofit Aide et Action, two weeks before her school reopened as pandemic measures eased in Cambodia in early September.

From the Phnong ethnic minority group, Srey Ka struggled to find learning resources in her language during school closures. Eager to cram as much as she can before returning to school, Srey Ka tied the antenna of her radio to the highest point of a tree to get the best reception. Even a clear radio signal is hard to come by in the small fishing village of Pun Thachea, located along a remote stretch of the Mekong river in Cambodia’s northeast Kratié province.[]


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Sporadic E on the Red Planet

(Source: Inverse)

Thanks to NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission to Mars, you may soon never need to fiddle with the tuning dial on a car radio again.

When we listen to songs on the radio, the sound travels via radio waves that are given out by a transmitter and then received by a receiver — in the case of a car, the car’s antenna is the receiver.

Radio waves travel in the form of electromagnetic radiation from one antenna to the other. The journey, however, isn’t always perfect.

Sometimes, there is a sudden spike in the amount of hot gas in the upper layer of Earth’s atmosphere which causes interference in radio communications. If you are tuned into a favorite station, that could result in static, or for one radio station to be replaced by another.

This phenomenon, known as sporadic E layer, is difficult to study on Earth because that part of the planet’s atmosphere is hard to reach with satellites. As a result, scientists can’t predict when they will occur — leaving us to fiddle with dials.

But thanks to MAVEN, a spacecraft traveling 300 million miles away from our planet, we could finally have the solution.

MAVEN detected sporadic E layer in Mars’ upper atmosphere, and scientists are hoping to be able to use the Red Planet as an off-Earth laboratory to study the phenomenon up close. Already, the data have provided new insights into the cause of radio static, which also affects communications with aircrafts and military radars.[…]

Click here to read the full story.

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NIST Radio Stations: MARS COMEX asks for reception reports and suggestions in survey

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Skip Behnke (W2OZ), who notes that MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System) COMEX website is asking for your reception reports, notes, and suggestions regarding the NIST radio stations WWV, WWVH and WWVB.

This survey is being conducted while WWV and WWVH are announcing military communication exercises.

Click here to take the survey and submit your report at the DoD MARS COMEX website.

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Armed Forces Day Annual Cross-Band Test – May 11, 2019

(Source: USAmyMARS.org via Harald Kuhl)

(11 May 2019)

The Army Military Auxiliary Radio System will host this year’s Armed Forces Day (AFD) Crossband Test on Saturday May 11, 2019. This annual event is open to all licensed amateur radio operators, and will not impact any public or private communications. For more than 50 years, military and amateur stations have taken part in this event, which is only an exercise scenario, designed to include hobbyist and government radio operators alike.

The AFD Cross-band Test is a unique opportunity to test two-way communications between military communicators and radio stations in the Amateur Radio Service (ARS), as authorized in 47 CFR 97.111. These tests provide opportunities and challenges for radio operators to demonstrate individual technical skills in a tightly-controlled exercise scenario that does not impact any public or private communications.

Military stations will transmit on selected military frequencies and will announce the specific ARS frequencies monitored. All times are ZULU (Z), and all frequencies are Upper Side Band (USB) unless otherwise noted. The frequencies used for the test will not impact any public or private communications, and will not stray outside the confines of the exercise.

Additional Information is provided on the 20190424-AFDCT-final.pdf file available for download [by clicking here].

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HF military communication exercise announcements on WWV/WWVH

(Source: ARRL News via Eric WD8RIF)

The US Department of Defense (DOD) plans to start making use of a provisional time slot on WWV and WWVH to announce upcoming HF military communication exercises and how the Amateur Radio community can become involved in them. The announcements will occur at 10 minutes past on WWV and at 50 minutes past on WWVH. WWV and WWVH transmit on 2.5, 5, 10, 15, and 20 MHz.

“DOD’s use of the broadcast time slot on WWV/WWVH will benefit the MARS program’s mission of outreach to the Amateur Radio community,” said US Army Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY. “The actual messages to be broadcast are coordinated by the DOD Headquarters that the MARS program supports.”

The initial announcements are set for the period April 20 – May 3, which coincides with the “Vital Connection” interoperability exercise to be held in Wisconsin. Future time slots will coincide with the Vital Connection exercise Ohio in June; DOD COMEX 19-3 in August, and the DOD COMEX 19-4 in October. Following the proof of concept this year, DOD anticipates making use of the WWV/WWVH broadcast time slot full time, year-round.[…]

Click here to read the full article via the ARRL News.

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A history of listening to Mars

(Source: Atlas Obscura via William McFadden)

When the red planet comes close to Earth, some people have tried to tune in to see if it has anything to say.

ON RECENT EVENINGS, AS JULY has melted into August, Earth’s rocky red companion has dropped by for a visit. Earth and Mars, when they’re on opposite sides of the Sun, can be as many as 250 million miles apart. This week, however, Mars has been just shy of 36 million miles from Earth, the snuggest our planets have been since 2003. Looming bright and orange in the night sky, it has been easily visible to the naked eye. The close-up comes courtesy of opposition—the point at which Mars, Earth, and the Sun align, with us sandwiched in the middle.

When the planets approached a similarly cozy distance 94 years ago, in August 1924, some people, including Curtis D. Wilbur, the Secretary of the U.S. Navy, thought it might be possible to actually hear messages from our neighbor. If Martians were ever going to drop us a line, they suspected, that’d be the time.

From an office in Washington, D.C., Wilbur’s department sent orders to every naval station clear across the country. An outpost in Seattle received a telegram asking operators to keep their ears tuned to anything unusual or, maybe, otherworldly.

“Navy desires [sic] cooperate [sic] astronomers who believe [sic] possible that Mars may attempt communication by radio waves with this planet while they are near together,” it read. “All shore radio stations will especially note and report any electrical phenomenon [sic] unusual character …” The orders asked for operators to keep the lines open and carefully manned between August 21 and August 24, just in case.

NATIONAL ARCHIVES/596070

This request didn’t come out of nowhere. There was a long buildup to the idea that Mars might be trying to tell us something, with technologies that were then new to us.[…]

Click here to read this article at Atlas Obscura.

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Skov notes possible role of amateur radio tech with Mars OTH communications

(Source: Southgate ARC)

Over-the-horizon communication on Mars

ARRL highlights a post by The Space Weather Woman, Dr. Tamitha Skov, that notes the role amateur radio technology could play in over-the-horizon radio communications on Mars

I am still smiling at the huge response I got to a post I put up on Twitter this week. A newbie to our Space Weather community dared to talk about Amateur Radio as if it were an outdated hobby– whoops, bad idea. I gently educated him.
In doing so, I roused many radio amateurs and emergency communicators, who added their own comments and talked about their own personal experiences in the field. It was very gratifying.

What I hadn’t expected, however, was the strong interest in the concept that amateur radio will be critical to establishing over-the-horizon radio communications on planets like Mars in the near future.

This idea brings me back to how we managed to communicate over long distances many decades before we had satellites, internet or cellular networks. In terms of wireless communications on Earth, we were very much in the same place back in the early 1900s that we find ourselves in now when we think about colonizing Mars.
Yet few people realize that despite all our advanced technology, we can’t bring a cell phone to Mars. We will need to fall back on our ‘old ways’ of doing things when it comes to communicating on other planets. Isn’t it funny how ‘old’ things become ‘new’ again?

Source ARRL
http://www.arrl.org/news/the-k7ra-solar-update-527

Space Weather Woman
http://www.spaceweatherwoman.com/
https://twitter.com/TamithaSkov

Dr. Tamitha Skov’s latest video report:

Click here to view on YouTube.

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