Observe A Satellite’s Morse Code Message Today!


If you live in the Eastern portion of the United States and the skies are clear you can see a student built satellite flashing LEDs in Morse Code today. But don’t worry. If you it’s cloudy or if you live elsewhere there are several other opportunities to see it in the coming days.

This is the Niwaka Fitsat-1. It was developed by students at the [Fukuoka Institute of Technology] and deployed from the International Space Station on October 4th. Included in the payload is an array of LEDs seen in the image above. On a set schedule these are used to flash a Morse Code message for two minutes at a time. That is what’s shown in the image on the upper right.

You can look up information on seeing Fitsat-1 in your own area using this webpage. All of the observation windows in our area require a pair of binoculars or better. We’re not sure if there is any case in which this can be seen by the naked eye.

[Thanks SWHarden and KomradBob]

58 thoughts on “Observe A Satellite’s Morse Code Message Today!

    1. You realize that Fukuoka Institute of Technology is in Japan right? Deployed from the International Space Station… It just happens to be visible to certain parts of the U.S. and Europe at this time.

      You’re a tool.

    2. Oh please. Nobody would raise an eyebrow if the ROK launched a hundred satellites a week. The DPRK is a hostile nation using “space exploration” as a dodge to develop their ICBM programme. And they’re doing it by launching it over the territories of the ROK and Japan, which is an unfriendly and provocative act.

    3. There is a big difference between exploring space and firing missiles off willy nilly with no regard for people’s safety while claiming to be “launching satellites”. Its true that nuclear weapon delivery was the original goal of space exploration. However even if the international community had not agreed that North Korea having ICBMs is a bad thing then they would still be flinging giant high velocity chunks of metal filled with fuel up into the air with no regard for where they may come down. With their current success rate its unclear where the stupid thing will crash, be it a small farming village or Seoul. What North Korea is doing is stupid and reckless on far too many levels to count.

      On the other hand putting a student made satellite up into space is freaking awesome. Encouraging STEM education is a very valid goal. You can argue that maybe it should have a mechanism to de-orbit itself at the end of life but that is a completely different discussion.

      1. Maybe you missed it, but NK just put a multistage rocket into orbit, while ensuring the earth-falling stages splashed in the ocean.

        They are far past tossing missiles willy-nilly.

        1. I must have misheard that. Did not realize they were successful. However I still am concerned about the safety of the whole thing. Do they actually coordinate with aviation officials of the surrounding countries? Also one success out of how many failures doesn’t exactly boost my confidence in the safety of this thing. Not to mention that now they are that much closer to being able to drop ordinances anywhere they want.

    1. You’re all ragging on these students because they were lucky enough to get this opportunity while you haven’t. Get bent. You have no idea the stringent testing every aspect of software and hardware on board must go through to be cleared for launch. Things aren’t just tossed into orbit without a process and these students amazingly made it through

      I’m an undergrad and have a cubesat going up to LEO this July. I have no security clearance and no connections to NASA or any military branch. So how do you figure that happened by your logic? The truth is, being a real developer is just as much about commitment as it is knowing your field. If you were actually committed to space exploration or the aerospace industry you would be able to find a launch opportunity.

      You’re embarrassing yourself and everyone associated with this site.

  1. stop posting jerk comments, for real. you guys are acting like complete morons. this is beyond cool, and if you dont like it. dont post negative comments until you can say you have accomplished sending a satellite into space yourself. stupid jealous underachieving kids.

    1. Show us how to do it without a visit from our countries intelligence agency, Mr.Wizard. Gases and civilian class rockets don’t go to orbit…

      Even if you could you need security clearance and can even be convicted of high treason for broadcasting imagery…

      1. Could you site sources for ANY of that mr Xor? I can site dozen of examples counter your claims. Amateur radio has been developing and launching satellites for decades now. Student groups often get a slot on comercial launches. Private enterprise has been running most of the space operations for a while now including recent from scratch rocket development.

    1. Yeah, cos making a blinky was an incredible show of intelligence and really has opened my mind to the vastness of space, I had no idea that there were galaxies, black holes, pulsars, quasars, globular clusters, nebulae etc. up there. Thanks students for opening my eyes.

    1. Nick – B+ ;)
      I would have accepted “Blink Sat”
      …. . .-.. .-.. —
      .– — .-. .-.. -..

      It’s all low earth orbit – not in the way of “official” sats, and will tumble into the atmosphere. I do appreciate the work that goes into getting ANYthing into space.

      Oh – and sats reflect the sun and flare all the time for astronomers – so I can’t expect that this is a real serious issue.

      I’m curious how they keep the track stable (with the LED’s pointed at Earth) – as the sat is no doubt tumbling.

      1. “I’m curious how they keep the track stable (with the LED’s pointed at Earth) – as the sat is no doubt tumbling.”

        If they actually figured that out, that would be a hack of military-grade proportions.

          1. Though you can’t use reaction wheels forever without some other means of attitude control. From the same article:

            “Over time reaction wheels may build up stored momentum that needs to be cancelled. Designers therefore supplement reaction wheel systems with other attitude control mechanisms.”

            You have to keep the angular momentum of those wheels down to a safe limit. Ever seen what happens if you spin a CD to ridiculous a ridiculous RPM?

      1. Over 100 tons of rocks and other material pummels the Earths atmosphere each day, and a basketball sized rock will hit and burn up about twice every day, and you are seriously complaining about a single one of them out of all that?

  2. To the idiots worried about the fucking sky….
    It is a LEO satellite, sooner or later it will fall out of the sky and burn up, it’ll last maybe 10 years or so.

    There have also been many satellites launched (admittingly much more useful ones, like repeaters, and comms). LEO satellites are always short term, its a cube sat so it cannot use thrusters to maintain its orbit.

    GEO Sync and farther out orbits are so cluttered by the us/other governments that you can’t easily get a satellite there without space junk hitting it, and that shit isn’t coming down any time soon.

    Point is… It’s a LEO satellite, its only going to last so long, if you don’t like it.. .fuck off, if you do, great because experimentation is what its all about.

      1. tin hats haven’t worked well since the mid 90s, originally because of all the cellular tower interference, but recently because of the VHF and UHF waves that are “unused” now that TV is digital. those frequencies are now being used for a type of mind control (for lack of a better term) where a person’s actions are completely controlled by their spinal cord and nervous system (entirely bypassing the brain). you can still think, and you know what you are doing, but you are powerless and have no control over any of your body’s movements, including speech. most people have experienced this on some level.
        it’s important these days to make your hat out of solid oak and cover it in an iron oxide paste (iron oxide powder mixed with some vegetable oil-or even motor oil in a pinch). a vest soaked in an iron oxide paste is very important –perhaps more than the hat, and you need to protect your spine by using 3 layers of this on the back of anything you wear. as an alternative you can use cement soaked into your clothing, but it is much heavier and prone to cracking.
        this will work for now, but as the signals become stronger, new methods of blocking them will need to be employed.

        1. You should have warned anyone using the iron-oxide paste method of protection not to attempt to increase wave resistivity by covering with aluminium foil. Running into another individual with the same protection could lead to a thermite reaction [Al (s) + Fe3O4 (s) –> Al2O3 (s) + Fe (s or l) ] with disastrous results.

          1. Don’t forget that the iron-oxide is magnetic. That opens you up to an entire class of attack using magnetic waves instead of electric waves. To combat this, make sure to place thin aluminum cylinders all over your body at right angles, on top of the iron oxide. This works because electric waves always travel at right angles to magnetic waves.

            *cough* Right. Cubesats! Next, let’s put a linear array of these up there and do space-POV displays! You could troll telescopes doing long-exposure shots pretty hard if you manage to sweep through their field of view ;)

            it must be noted that aluminum is completely worthless against this type of attack, for the very reason that when these frequencies were being used for TV broadcast, you could get better reception by wrapping aluminum foil over the coat-hanger you were using instead of that broken TV antenna.

            as for magnetic attacks, so far that has not been too much of a problem because the magnetic waves can not be used to gain control over your nervous system. it can get annoying feeling the pull of strong magnetic fields, but it is something that i can live with in this case.

  3. This project is amazing. I will be checking it out from here if I can when it passes close. I’m absolutely intoxicated by the fact that something like this is now within the reach of students like these, and maybe me.

    To those who are grumps, here’s something similar that you could be legitimately grumpy about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosmos_954 TL;DR – The Russians sent up a bunch of nuclear reactors and one blew up over Canada, resulting in a massive cleanup effort (but yielding only 1% of the fuel). So much amazing stuff done with space and yet we don’t hear that much about it (more than the rovers and other “rockstar” projects).

  4. looks like a secret message delivery hidden in plain sight.

    … those 1W – 5W white LEDs could have a couple IR ones too.
    and by IR LED i mean just as powerful as the 1W – 5W ones

    the white LED morse code would be the cover for a IR LED covert transmission?
    maybe put an IR filter on a IR sensor and attatch it to a telescope and aim it at this thing. then send it random streams of IR and see if it replies! :)

    if you sent it IR morse code you think its replying with morse code, but maybe at the same time its also sending data at (34)khz IR, switched at same time as white

    1. im serious, someone aim some IR/visible/UV sensors at that thing and see if its sending bursts of invisible data, or maybe even the white itself has a carrier and data…

      PS: send IR and visible signals through a opamp/comparator and youll see the difference between the signals… way better SNR then just using the IR sensor by itself

      1. Right. Because if you’re an organization that has the capability to put satellites into space (admittedly through another organization), you can’t afford an anonymous payphone call or figure out how to use TOR. What on earth could possibly be the value of this scheme? The major governments already have secret spy satellites!

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