SONIKS has commenced its operation

SONIKS has commenced its operation
SONIKS has commenced its operation

Last year, Geoscan, in collaboration with the Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises (FASIE), launched the SONIKS project dedicated to establishing a network of open ground stations in schools and additional educational organizations across Russia. The initiative was presented at the III Congress of Young Scientists and garnered support from the president of Russian Federation. To date, Geoscan has manufactured and dispatched 44 stations to various cities, spanning from Kaliningrad to Chukotka, with 17 already installed and actively utilized for interaction with various spacecrafts.

The idea for the network emerged as a solution to significant challenges within the Space-π project. Participants faced difficulties in organizing their own control centers and in regular reception of data from cubesats. With SONIKS help they can know monitor the status of cubesats more regulary. This capability facilitates swift assessments of satellite responses to issued commands, enabling effective monitoring of voltage, current, temperature, and other parameters crucial for accomplishing scientific and educational objectives.

The second important objective of the SONIKS project is to engage schoolchildren in working with data from real spacecraft, including space photos, payloads (such as sensors, receivers, and engines), and telemetry.

Through the platform, users can:

  • Receive and analyze telemetry data from cubesats and their onboard payloads.
  • Utilize amateur radio functions, such as receiving images, text or voice messages, and beacons, ordering QSL cards, etc.
  • Facilitate real-time communication and information exchange among different stations connected to the internet.
  • Provide users access to a public database containing cubesats information.
  • Educate high school students on amateur radio communications, engineering, and programming.

Despite their extensive capabilities, the ground stations themselves are relatively simple from both hardware and software perspectives. Each station comprises an antenna covered by a radio-transparent hood, a mount, a low-noise amplifier, a software-defined radio, and a cable assembly. Installed on the rooftops of institutions, they receive radio signals within the 130 MHz to 1 GHz band (VHF and UHF), transmitting data from satellites to the network continuously, around the clock. Educational institutions hosting these stations are provided with accounts, enabling students to book sessions with available spacecraft across all network stations.

For instance, one such station has already been installed in the Far East, at the Chukchi Observers amateur astronomy enthusiasts club, located at the Provideniya School’s Growth Point. Using this station, students received a farewell message from the Geoscan-Edelveis small spacecraft before its orbital descent, and began tracking number of small satellites over the region’s territory, while also receiving images from weather satellites.

“We received the special quadrifilar antenna, receiver, and other equipment at the end of January. After waiting for suitable weather conditions to install the antenna on the roof, we are now testing the station’s operations and receiving telemetry, including satellite parameters. Initially, decoding the data required some experimentation, such as converting an audio file from the station into an image using specialized software and overlaying it on a map. After contacting the project’s programmer, a new firmware was developed for our station, enabling automatic reception of images and packet data,” shared Anton Balatsky, the club’s leader.

The developed ground stations are connected to an open non-commercial network, allowing not only schoolchildren or Space-π project participants, but also anyone interested, to learn about amateur radio communication basics, receive satellite data, and even connect their own antenna to plan observations across all network stations. Additionally, the project website features an interactive global map for monitoring the status of ground stations and satellites, links to pages displaying network data visualizations from some cubesats, educational materials, and more.

Currently, ten more stations are being prepared for dispatch, with another batch in the manufacturing process. Our specialists continue to update and enhance the website, constantly integrating new functionalities for satellite data handling and developing an interactive educational section tailored for schoolchildren.

Photo source: Chukchi Observers Club, Provideniya School’s Growth Point.

  • 15 March 2024
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