Saturday, September 18, 2010

ISS success

Over the last few days Lynn, KJ4ERJ has been adding some very cool features to APRSISCE/32 which I've been helping to test. The ISS packet digipeater is still operating so as there were several good passes during the daytime I've been playing on it as well.

Today I managed to hear my own beacon repeated back by the space station, and this time it was also gated to the internet by TF8TTY so my call showed up on the map of stations heard through the ISS at ariss.net. I also managed to send a couple of messages through the bird. Tim, G4VXE was impressed to receive a greeting relayed via the space station. I also managed a two-way exchange with Marc, PD4U, which I think counts as an actual satellite contact.

Of course, whilst it's fun to bounce radio waves off a satellite it isn't a very practical method of communication. The ISS is the best QTH ever and it can hear all the activity on a frequency at the same time, so communication is only possible if not too many people use it. Lots of messages never get anywhere because they are sent at the same time as messages from other people which you can't avoid transmitting over because you can't hear them. The space station decodes only the strongest, so turning the power up improves your chances of success quite a bit. You can get through the ISS using a hand-held VX-8, but only at 4 o'clock in the morning when most sane people are asleep, unless you are incredibly lucky.

The new feature in APRSISCE that I mentioned is the ability to open separate windows so you can track individual stations at a more detailed mapping level. Lynn has called this Multi-Track(TM) and he thinks it will be very popular with emergency communications teams who will be able to see the entire area of the event in the main window and see exactly where individual team members are at the same time. It's only available in the development (beta test) versions at the moment, though.
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