TV Broadcasts from Outer Space

According to ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station), the ISS will be sending us images using slow-scan TV on April 11th in honor of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s birthday. Tune in and you’ll get to see 12 different commemorative images from space, and of course bragging rights that you directly received them with your radio setup.

For those who aren’t Ham radio types, slow-scan TV (SSTV) is a radio mode where the pixels in an image are sent by encoding the brightness and/or color as a tone, a lot like a modem, fax machine, or the data cassette tapes of yore.

The ISS uses PD-180 which is a color mode where each pixel’s red, green, and blue values are encoded in a pitch between 1500 and 2300 Hz. Each image takes just over three minutes to transmit, meaning you’ll have to track the ISS pretty well as it travels across the sky. But don’t fret, they send each message for around an hour, so you have a good chance to receive it. (We’ll be the first to admit that a frame rate of one frame in 187 seconds isn’t really “TV”, but that’s what they call it.)

SSTV’s use in the space program goes back even before the moon landing, but with modern software-defined radio setups, it all becomes a lot more convenient to receive. The ISS folks do this periodically as a service to the amateur radio community, so it’s a good time to try out your chops.

We’ve covered ARISS before, but Yuri’s birthday is always a good reason to celebrate the folks out there. And if you need a reminder of when to look up, this hack right here has you covered.

If you do receive some images, you can upload them to the ARISS Gallery.  Or you can just hit refresh to see them as others post them up.

SSTV beacon based on a Raspberry Pi

The Budapest hackerspace did some joint work with a local ham radio club and created an SSTV beacon housed inside a CCTV case that takes an image of its environment and transmits it using slow-scan television over ham bands.

As the title says, the build uses a Raspberry Pi to process the image taken from its camera and then transmits it over the air using a Ricofunk UHF transceiver with a main frequency of 433.425MHz. On the software side, PySSTV is used to convert images to frequency/time tuples, UNIXSSTV then creates the actual audio file and finally sox plays it. To avoid screwing up the Raspberry SD card, every part of the filsystem is either mounted in read-only mode (things like /home and /usr) or uses a ramdisk (things like /tmp and logs).

The plans, schematics and source code are available, so they hope that other hackerspaces will join the ranks!