RAMSAT

Spring 2022

The RamSat team has been busy snapping pictures and downloading packets this spring. We are in a race with time and altitude! The images are downloaded on our 9600 baud connection that lasts for 10 or less minutes each pass over East Tennessee. Here are some of the new images we have downloaded. We'll post updates as we identify the locations shown in these images. Enjoy!

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Using digital image processing, we can remove the effects of a hazy atmosphere and get a clearer view. The images below have been corrected that way to improve the visibility of features on the ground.

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Not all images turn out perfectly. If the sun catches a bit of the camera lens, the result is a most spectacular image of lens flair. These images are beautiful in their own right, and are worth showing for all to enjoy!

January 13 - WBIR 10

Thank you Vinay Simlot with WBIR Channel 10 for visiting RamSat tonight! We plan to update the TLE with the overpass this evening. The recent orbit has offered little sun for the solar panels. When the battery runs low, the flight computer will shut down. Without a TLE, RamSat is unable to collect time and position data.

December 16 - AGU Fall Meeting

On December 16, a group of RamSat students, led by Hudson Reynolds, will present the student-designed poster to the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. You can read the full abstract on the AGU website or the RamSat website.

December 7 - Detumble

The steady stream of detumble commands that Mentors have been passing to RamSat are paying off. The tumble rate is now about one rotation in 11 minutes, that’s the slowest tumble we’ve seen yet! The picture here shows current from the solar panels on top, and sun sensor data from the panels below. The annotations indicate the progression of sunlight onto each of the four long faces over an 11 minute period, from SatNOGS dashboard data from earlier today.

New Orleans

Our latest downloaded image, CMD2_005.JPG, was actually taken on 23 August 2021, 17:41:14 UTC. We have very limited occasions for image downloading as RamSat must be over the school's ground station when licensed mentors are available. The process is slow but well worth the wait. The satellite was above Tennessee, but the camera wasn't pointing directly at the Smokey Mountains. Instead, we picked up a lovely view of the clouds over Mississippi and New Orleans. The large blue area at the top of the photo is the Gulf of Mexico.

We are still in the process of analyzing our data but quickly discovered that one of our onboard sensors is exhibiting quite a bit of "noise". Consider the difference between the two plots below. We believe we can correct for this chatter in the flight software.

Original Image

This image captured 9/23/2021 by students in the classroom, is just south of the Smoky Mountains. See the full pair of images here.

Corrected Image

The lens glare created by the bright sunlight can be easily removed. See the full pair of images at the RamSat Image 7 link in our gallery.

September 16

Tonight we finished the downlink of the 3rd image from RamSat as seen here. There is a little too much sun in the frame of this image to make out any detail. We also programmed RamSat to begin taking autonomous images of Gatlinburg when the conditions are ideal. These autonomous images will store additional metadata that will help us determine which images would be most viable for downlink. Also, reviewing the altitude data, we can see that our elevation has leveled off over the past few days. This is good news as it will extend our mission! You can see the current elevation at the bottom of our live telemetry dashboard.

Camera 1: Visible

Aug 12, 2021 21:47:30 UTC

Camera 2: Visible + NIR

Aug 12, 2021 21:47:32 UTC

First Image from Orbit

A monumental achievement today for RamSat! Using the classroom ground station, students and mentors completed the download we started two days ago. This image is the first image from space! First Light!

Two-Way Communication

We have successfully dialed in our ground station radio and now have reliable two-way communication with RamSat. After running our detumble algorithm for a total of four minutes over a couple of days, the tumble of RamSat has now slowed from a period of about 3 minutes to a period of about 10 minutes. That rotation is slow enough that we should be able to get reasonable imaging. The axis of rotation is favorable for having cameras pointed towards the earth.

Telemetry Data via SatNOGS

You can now view the most current RamSat telemetry data via our dashboard courtesy of SatNOGS . SatNOGS is an open-source global network of satellite ground stations and crowd-sourced satellite data. Using their data, were able to deduce the orientation and tumble of RamSat. You can read the full blog post here. Thank you SatNOGS!

Take time to review and interact with the telemetry data, watch the map as RamSat circles the globe, and review the observations from around the world!

RamSat from ISS

NASA has provided some additional, high-resolution images and videos of the deployment from the International Space Station. Here you can see RamSat and SOAR separating immediately after deployment from the launch tube we shared. The SOAR Research Explorer is a 3U research satellite from the University of Manchester.

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June 14 - Deployment

The RamSat mission began at 9:05 GMT. Seen here being deployed from the International Space Station along with SOAR satellite from the University of Manchester. RamSat is the first out followed by SOAR. If you watch the second video below, you can see the two begin to separate as they begin their respective missions.

Photo Credit NASA, courtesy of Nanoracks

Photo Credit NASA, courtesy of Nanoracks

Photo Credit NASA, courtesy of Nanoracks

Here are some additional images from the International Space Station of the Nanoracks deployment table.

Photo Credit NASA, courtesy of Nanoracks

Photo Credit NASA, courtesy of Nanoracks, RamSat is in the bottom left tube.

June 3 - Our mission lifts off!

A group of mentors and students traveled to Florida to watch the start of our mission to study the forest regrowth after the 2016 Gatlinburg area wildfires. Live coverage of the launch can be seen here. Visit our media gallery for more links and coverage about the project. The next step for RamSat will be the deployment from the International Space Station in a few days!

June 2 - T-24 Hours

RamSat featured on the NASA blog: "RamSat, a small research satellite, or CubeSat, developed by Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, will launch aboard SpaceX’s 22nd Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-22) mission. Lifting off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 3 at 1:29 p.m. EDT, CRS-22 will carry 7,300 pounds of cargo, science, and research to the International Space Station." Read the full post here.

CRS-22 On the launch pad.

June 1 - Launch Preparation

RamSat makes its way to the launch pad., here are a few pictures courtesy of Twitter.

The Dragon capsule is fully loaded and ready for flight.

The Dragon about to be coupled with the Falcon 9.

A perfect fit!

You can see the solar cells on the top of the Dragon capsule.

May 31 - Launch Week updates

Launch week is here! We are on schedule to launch June 3, 1:29 pm.

Click here for the launch live-stream.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, we have some time-lapse videos to share. Here you can see the build process that got us where we are today.

May 20 - Mission Update

The launch date is approaching! RamSat has been listed on the NASA Website as an ELaNa 36 launch for quite a while now. But we have been told our official launch has been scheduled for June 3, 2021, at 1:29 PM ET from Cape Canaveral. The mentors and students will travel down to view the launch. We also have been awarded our missions patches from NASA shown here! June 3 will officially start the next phase of our educational mission. Also, check out our media page for some new press coverage featuring our NASA mentor, Patrick Hull!

March 8

Today started early with a 6:30am flight to Huston for launch integration. Rammy and RamSat got the VIP treatment which included a cockpit tour by the pilots! Upon arrival, RamSat was cleaned and fitted into a launch container along with a 3U commercial satellite. Pictured below, you can see the large, coiled spring that will be used to deploy both satellites from the ISS. So we say goodbye to RamSat, and hello to a new phase in the mission! Our launch window is still estimated for the first week in June and we expect deployment will be shortly after it arrives at the ISS. Upon deployment, RamSat will begin transmitting a beacon while it waits for position information. That will be provided to us in the form of a two line element (TLE) which includes time, last known location, and altitude. Until that time, it will collect and store basic telemetry data that can be transmitted and analyzed in the classroom.

March 6

Here it is, a fully functional, 2U cube satellite, ready for deployment by NASA! Today in our final workday, we performed some testing and validation of the various RamSat systems. The students were tasked with validating the data from the magnetorquers and all the readings were sound. We stowed the antennas, replaced the top cover, and added a bit of epoxy to hold everything in place. RamSat is once again whole, and ready for flight! All the telemetry has been reset to zero and the post-deployment timer is set to 30 minutes. This is the mandatory wait time imposed by NASA. This will ensure that RamSat has had adequate time to completely clear ISS before deploying the antennas and begging our mission.

March 4 & 5

Our final Thursday night work session was focused on testing RamSat's ability to detect and correct for rotation. Using a cart on wheels, students rotate RamSat in circles while the flight computer calculates the necessary corrections. That data was transmitted to the ground station where we can analyze the results. These were better than expected and we are ready for launch! Tomorrow, final testing and stowing the antennas back into an undeployed state.





February 28

We are one week away from RamSat hand-off to Huston and are expecting a formal launch date soon. It is tentatively set for the first week of June and we will update you as soon as the date is confirmed. Today's work session was dedicated to position and attitude calculations and ground station improvements; both software and hardware. All issues related to radio interference and computer-controlled satellite tracking/prediction are now resolved.

February 25

Today we reviewed the results of the sun sensor testing done last Saturday. There is one panel that gives slightly lower readings, and one that gives slightly higher readings. The flight computer will compensate for this and provide the attitude determination and correction software everything it needs to keep RamSat pointing towards earth. One last round of testing for the magnetometers, and a deeper dive into NDVI imaging. Plants use the visible red and blue wavelengths from the sun, reflecting back the green. The infrared is also reflected back which is what our 2nd camera is configured to capture.

February 20

Thank you for a visit from WVLT news today! We did get word that our handoff date has been pushed back two weeks. This will give us some much-welcomed time to refine our flight and ground station software. Thanks to updates of the image capture, transmission, and reconstruction; we were able to take the best image yet of the RMS exterior! The direct sunlight gave us the ability to confirm the voltage for each of the five solar cells and all four sun sensors.

The largest image taken, and transmitted by RamSat yet.

This is the infrared image taken by the second camera.

The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, or NDVI, will show the forestation regrowth of the Smoky Mountains. Notice how the growing grass and shrubs are highlighted white, indicating active growth!

Group photo of mentors preparing for a day of testing.

Direct sunlight will charge the RamSat battery in minutes.

Testing the sun sensors and solar cells by rotating RamSat and collecting telemetry data, every 15 degrees.

Todd is the STEM teacher and brain child of this effort along with Kirk, principal, and Holly, the Supervisor of Career Readiness and Communications.

February 13 & 14

This has been an intensive weekend of development, testing, and putting everything together. First up, attitude determination and correction. RamSat will use the earth's magnetic fields along with the sun sensors to determine where it is; and where it needs to be. The software we are writing will instruct the magnetorquer on how to keep the cameras pointed towards the earth. We also completed the integration of the beacon data. This data has proven useful for our testing, so we integrated that data into the internal telemetry which can be requested at any time during the mission.

Estimated calculations on the whiteboard.

Measured results are better than expected!

We began transmitting beacon data every minute starting Saturday. This graph shows the voltage of various components on the satellite. Charging RamSat overnight created an uptick you see in the center of the graph. The remaining components are idle and therefore remain rather flat.

Saturday was an unusually warm day, but Sunday was much cooler. That can be seen in the telemetry data we collected over the weekend. RamSat cooled overnight when it was off. Because the ambient room temperature is lower, you can see a generally lower temperatures on Sunday.

February 11

Tonight's work session focused on proof testing the attitude determination calculations. A cart on wheels provides a simple mechanism for rotating RamSat while readings are transmitted to the ground station. Once again, the measurements were better than expected. This code will be integrated into the flight software this weekend. In ten days, we pack up and head to Huston for handoff to NASA!

During the first few weeks after deployment, RamSat will broadcast a beacon of basic telemetry data. This can be heard by any armature radio with the appropriate equipment. We will pack as much essential information into a limited 240 bytes of space. This will include such things as battery voltage, date & time, temperature, and sun sensors.

February 7

We continue to refine the image capture, transmission, and reconstruction software between the flight computer and the ground station. Satellite selfie? You bet! Even if our aim wasn't perfect, we were able to transmit and reconstruct the image error-free. You can see the image transmission in progress on the computer screen pictured here. The remaining time was spent planning and testing the post-deployment beacon. We tested battery consumption and were able to determine that RamSat will send a beacon every minute after launch. This will be the first indication that the satellite survived launch and deployment.

January 31 - Magnetometers

The magnetometers are centrally located in the RamSat frame. Therefore, we need to correct for any bias created by the other components. To do this, students built a simple way to calibrate the components. We rotate the satellite in 15 degree increments, taking the average magnetometer reading. When RamSat is deployed from the International Space Station, the first task will be to "de-tumble". In other words, to make sure the cameras and antenna are pointing towards the earth. The magnetometers will provide the flight software the necessary information on the satellite's orientation in space.

Both X and Y axes have positive bias (X = +6168, Y = +5822)

Bias correction shows X and Y axes close to orthogonal.

Z axis has low variability, but is correlated with X axis. Indicates rotation of z axis may be needed.

Bias correction of X and Y axes appears to be successful at removing bias in horizontal magnitude.

Bias correction of X and Y axes appears to be successful at removing bias in horizontal magnitude.

January 31 - Completing a Transmission

RamSat will circle the earth every 90 minutes. But we will only be able to communicate when there is a direct line of sight from the school's ground station. In the most ideal of circumstances, we will have a maximum of 6 minutes to interact with the satellite. That is not enough time to transmit a full image to the ground station. To overcome this limitation, we will break apart images into smaller "chunks" or packets. Those packets will be transmitted individually. Once we have all the packets, the image can be reconstructed. Last Thursday, we began a transmission but missed a few packets of data. Today, we were able to transmit the remaining pieces of the image and assemble the image on the ground station.

This is a partial image transmitted on January 28. If you look closely, you can see the paper, ceiling tiles, and speaker. However, portions of the image are shifted and the color is incorrect due to missed chunks of data.

This is the same image, with the missing image chunks recovered. We were able to download them from RamSat on January 31.

January 24 - Magnetometers

Intensive testing continued today as we focus on the magnetometers. Measuring the earth's magnetic field is a crucial component of attitude determination. Readings on the x, y, and z-axis will be used to position the cameras towards the ground. Students designed and 3D printed components for a test rig that allows us to rotate RamSat in 15-degree increments. The readings were transmitted to the ground station and analyzed to confirm that the magnetometers are working perfectly!


Attitude determination.

The test rig.

Results are better than expected!

Discussing next steps.

January 21 - Vibration Tests

Today we loaded RamSat into the Nanoracks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD) and attached it to a vibration table at Global Test Labs in Knoxville. This video is one of the 3 vibration tests performed on the X, Y, and Z-axis. We returned to Robertsville Middle School, removed the satellite, and the students and mentors confirmed there was no damage to RamSat. This weekend we will perform extensive hardware testing to confirm there is no internal damage to any of the components.

The entire process was monitored remotely by Nanoracks.

Visual inspection ensures proper attachment of the "p-pod" to the table.

Here you can also see the kill switches on the corners that keep RamSat from powering up while in the "p-pod".

Ramsat in the "p-pod" with the side panels removed. Note the large spring on the right that will eject RamSat from the space station.

January 17 - Final Build

Say hello to RamSat: a flight-ready, 2U cube satellite - ready for launch! After some intensive testing today, we confirmed that the battery, solar cells, EPS, antennas, and post-deployment timers are working perfectly. We attached the top of the solar panels and began the tedious process of stowing the antennas. They are held in place with "burn wire", the small green strings pictured below. Each of the four wires runs across two resisters that, when commanded by the flight computer, melt the wire allowing the spring-loaded antennas to uncoil. This is a busy week for RamSat! Wednesday, the mentors and students will secure RamSat in the transport housing provided by our launch partners, Nanoracks. Thursday, it's back to Global Test Labs in Knoxville for a repeat vibration test. The simulates the stress that RamSat must endure during the launch from Cape Canaveral, on May 12th. We will post some video of the test here. Then we return to the classroom for final testing and continued software development.

Testing ground station communications before permanently attaching the antenna assembly.

A closer view of the antennas. Two are coiled, stored, and ready for flight. The gold connectors run around the cameras, down to the radio.

January 14 - Solar Panels

All hands on deck! Today's goal was to attach all four solar panels. We carefully cleaned and tested every component as we went. A quick weight check confirmed that we are well below the maximum weight limit. The last task before next week’s vibration test is to attach and stow the antennas.

January 10

Major progress with testing today! The weather cooperated and we had direct sunlight into the classroom. We were able to test each solar panel and sun sensor. With good readings from all components, we are able to begin the process of attaching the solar panels. Reliable communications between RamSat and the ground station provides the test data and exercises and refine the software.

Using direct sunlight to charge the RamSat battery.

Telemetry from sun sensors, EPS, and battery are nominal.

Removing RamSat from the student 3D printed stand.

Final main stack assembly.

January 7

Another great student turn out for testing and integration!

We use a spotlight from the school's stage to simulate the sun.

We can gather telemetry data from the EPS, sun sensors, and solar cells.

During the next build, we hope to use direct sunlight for further testing.

January 3 - Happy New Year!

Testing, testing, and more testing! We continue to refine the both the flight computer software, and the ground station software. The expanded list of telemetry data includes battery status, EPS status, magnetometers, and position/attitude. We continue to exercise and improve our radio communications. Attitude and position determination code development is taking shape as well! We anticipate a new vibration test date sometime this month. Stand by for details!

Vector calculations and linear algebra will keep the cameras pointing towards earth.

Attitude determination code is written in C programming language.

The ground station software is written in C# and Python programming languages.