Bidirectional Data Transfer Through Mud?

We take easy communications for granted these days. It’s no bother to turn on a lightbulb remotely via a radio link or sense the water level in your petunias, but how does a drilling rig sense data from the drill head whilst deep underground, below the sea bed? The answer is with mud pulse telemetry, about which a group of researchers have produced a study, specifically about modelling the signal impairments and strategies for maintaining the data rate and improving the signal quality.

If you’re still confused, mud pulse telemetry (MPT) works by sending a modulated pressure wave vertically through the column of mud inside the drilling tube. It’s essential to obtain real-time data during drilling operations on the exact angle and direction the drill bit is pointing (so it can be corrected) and details of geological formations so decisions can be made promptly. The goal is to reduce drilling time and, therefore, costs and minimize environmental impact — although some would strongly argue about that last point.

Continue reading “Bidirectional Data Transfer Through Mud?”

ISS Mimic Brings Space Station Down To Earth

Built at a cost of more than $150 billion over the last twenty-five years, the International Space Station is arguably one of humanity’s greatest engineering triumphs. Unfortunately, unlike Earthly construction feats such as the Hoover Dam, Burj Khalifa, or the Millau Viaduct, you can’t visit it in person to really appreciate its scale and complexity. Well, not unless you’ve got the $50 million or so to spare to buy a seat on a Dragon capsule.

Which is why the team behind the ISS Mimic project are trying to make the ISS a bit more relatable. The open source project consists of a 3D printable 1:100 model of the Station, which is linked to the telemetry coming down from the real thing. A dozen motors in the model rotate the solar arrays and radiators to match the positions of their full-scale counterparts, while LEDs light up to indicate the status of various onboard systems.

To learn more about the ISS Mimic, team members Bryan Murphy, Sam Treadgold, and Tristan Moody stopped by this week’s Hack Chat to bring us up to speed on the past, present, and future of this fascinating project.

Continue reading “ISS Mimic Brings Space Station Down To Earth”

A scale model of the International Space Station

This Model Mimics The International Space Station

It’s not an overstatement to say that the International Space Station (ISS for short) is an amazing feat of engineering, especially considering that it has been going for over two decades. The international collaboration isn’t just for the governments, either, as many images, collected data and even some telemetry have been made available to the public. This telemetry inspired [Bryan Murphy] and his team to create the ISS MIMIC, a 1:100 scale model of the ISS that reflects its space counterpart.

The model, covered by [3D Printing Nerd] after the break, receives telemetry from the real ISS and actually reflects the orientation of the solar panels accordingly! It also uses this entirely public information to show other things like battery charge level, power production, position above the earth and more on a display. An extra detail we appreciated is the LEDs near the solar panels, which are red, blue or white to indicate using battery, charging battery and full battery respectively. The ISS orbits the earth once every 90 minutes, which can be seen by the LEDs changing color as the ISS enters the shadow of the earth, or exits it.

What could you do to make this better you might ask? Make the it open-source of course! The ISS MIMIC is fully open-source and uses common tools like 3D printing with PLA, Raspberry Pis and Arduinos to make it as accessible as possible for education (and hackers). Naturally, the goal of this project is to educate, which is why it’s open-source and aims to teach programming, electronics, mechatronics and problem solving.

Video after the break.
Continue reading “This Model Mimics The International Space Station”

Know Snow: Monitoring Snowpack With The SNOTEL Network

With summer just underway here in North America, it may seem like a strange time to talk about snow. But when you live in North Idaho, winter is never very far away and is always very much on everyone’s mind. Our summers are fierce but all too brief, so starting around September, most of us begin to cast a wary eye at the peaks of the Bitterroot range in the mornings, looking for the first signs of snow. And in the late spring, we do much the same, except longingly looking for the first signs that the snowpack is finally breaking up.

We all know how important snow is, of course. Snow is our lifeline, nearly the only source of drinking water we have here, as well as the foundation of our outdoor recreation industries. We also know that the snowpack determines our risk for wildfires, so while the long, dark winters may take a psychological toll, the longer the snow stays on the mountains, the less chance we have of burning come summer.

These are all very subjective measures, though, and there’s way too much riding on the snowpack to leave it up to casual observation. To make things more quantitative, the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has built a system across the western US that measures the snowpack in real-time, and provides invaluable data to climatologists, fish and game managers, farmers, and even the recreation industry, all of whom have a vested interest in the water held within. The network is called SNOTEL, and I recently got a chance to take a field trip with a hydrologist and get an up-close look at how it works.

Continue reading “Know Snow: Monitoring Snowpack With The SNOTEL Network”

Listening To A Flashlight — Lunar Flashlight

If you’ve been looking for a practical example of using GNU Radio, you should check out [Daniel Estévez’s] work on decoding telemetry captured from the Lunar Flashlight cubesat. The cubesat is having some trouble, but the data in question was a recording from the day after launch. We aren’t sure what it would take to eavesdrop on it live, but the 3-minute recording is from a 20-meter antenna at 8.4 GHz.

The flowgraph for GNU Radio isn’t as bad as you might think, thanks to some judicious reuse of blocks from other projects to do some of the decoding. The modulation is PCM/PM/bi-phase-L. Nominally, the speed is supposed to be 48,000 baud, but [Daniel] measured 48,077.

Continue reading “Listening To A Flashlight — Lunar Flashlight”

Hackaday Links Column Banner

Hackaday Links: November 20, 2022

Lots of space news this week, with the big story being that Artemis I finally blasted off for its trip to the Moon. It was a spectacular night launch, with the SLS sending the crew-rated but vacant — well, mostly vacant — Orion spacecraft on a week-ish long trip to the Moon, before spending a couple of weeks testing out a distant retrograde orbit. The mission is already returning some stunning images, and the main mission goal is to check out the Orion spacecraft and everything needed for a crewed Artemis II lunar flyby sometime in 2024. If that goes well, Artemis III will head up in 2025 with a crew of four to put the first bootprints on the Moon in over 50 years.

Of course, like the Apollo missions before it, a big part of the crewed landings of the Artemis program will likely be the collection and return of more lunar rock and soil samples. But NASA likes to hedge its bets, which is perhaps why they’ve announced an agreement to purchase lunar regolith samples from the first private company to send a lander to the Moon. The Japanese start-up behind this effort is called ispace, and they’ve been issued a license by the Japanese government to transfer samples collected by its HAKUTO-R lander to NASA. Or rather, samples collected on the lander — the contract is for NASA to take possession of whatever regolith accumulates on the HAKUTO-R’s landing pads. And it’s not like ispace is going to return the samples — the lander isn’t designed to ever leave the lunar surface. The whole thing is symbolic of the future of space commerce, which is probably why NASA is only paying $5,000 for the dirt.

Continue reading “Hackaday Links: November 20, 2022”

DIY Low-Cost LoRa Satellite Ground Station

Embedded engineer [Alberto Nunez] has put together a compact LoRa satellite telemetry ground station that fits in your hand and can be built for around $40 USD.

The station receives signals from any of several satellites which use LoRa for telemetry, like the FossaSat series of PocketQube satellites. Even with a sub-optimal setup consisting of a magnetic mount antenna stuck outside a window, [Alberto] is able to receive telemetry from satellites over 2,000 kilometers distant. He also built a smaller variant which is battery powered for portable use.

The construction of this ground station makes use of standard off-the-shelf items with a Heltec ESP32-based LoRa / WiFi module as the heart. This module is one of several supported by the TinyGS project, which provides receiver firmware and a worldwide telemetry network consisting of 1,002 stations as of this writing. The firmware has a lot of features, including OTA updates and auto-tuning of your receiver to catch each satellite as it passes overhead.

The TinyGS project started out as a weekend project back in 2019 to use an ESP32 to receive LoRa telemetry from the FossaSat-1 satellite, and has expanded to encompass all satellites, and other flying objects, using LoRa-based telemetry. It uses Telegram to distribute data, with a message being sent to the channel anytime any station in the network receives a telemetry packet from a satellite.

If you’re interested in getting your feet wet receiving satellite signals, this is an easy project to start with that won’t break the bank.