qrpTracker is a satellite tracking program that works on the popular and easy-to-program Arduino
platform. Based on the Plan-13 algorithm of James Miller, it can provide real-time satellite location and azimuth / elevation data and doppler shift tuning for up to fifteen satellites using a single $4 chip, the ATMega328. With a small additional EEPROM, dozens of satellites can be tracked in real time.
qrpTracker is meant for amateur satellite enthusiasts and computing hobbyists; It is published under the GPL open source license. (This project is not a complete trackbox. If you need a complete tracking solution, consider the LVB Tracker, designed and programmed by G6LVB.)
Here's an intro video, hosted at blip.tv. If you want to get to the eyecandy, skip forward to about 1:30.
Project code is hosted at the corresponding google code site.
Related materials can be found on my blog.
Though qrpTracker was first written to make an automatic doppler shift tuning device, the low price, small size and minuscule power requirements of atmel hardware open up further exciting possibilities:
More ambitiously, even the smallest cubesat could fit the 7mmx7mmx1mm TQFP 32 version of the ATMega328 on board. With a power budget of only tens of micro-watts, the satellite could thereby track its own location, providing a much lower-budget and simpler alternative to an on-board GPS unit or to timed on-off events. With this, the satellite could:
- An ATMega328 with qrpTracker could provide tracking data for rotor-control hardware, replacing the tracking computer.
- A solar-powered remote telemetry collection station could use an ATMega328 as a low-power watchdog, powering up the rest of the station only when a satellite is about to come in view.
- A hands-free mobile transceiver for satellite operations in jurisdictions such as Ontario, where drivers must use hands-free communications devices.
With some improvements to the code, a fleet of cubesats could recognize when they are in communication range with each other, and thereby transmit on a inter-satellite communication channel; they might even conduct the necessary doppler shift on the transmitting signal.
- Stop transmitting over unpopulated polar regions
- Change its mode depending on what region of the globe it was over, perhaps switching from a FM transponder to a linear one
This code is published under the GPL 2.0 Open Source license.
Copyright 2009 Bruce G. Robertson VE9QRP