Since I made my homepage people have asked me many different questions. Below I have listed the questions asked the most...and yes the two first question have been asked many times. So if you are not familiar with SatCom or space shuttle communication...this FAQ is for you. If you have other questions don't be afraid to drop me an email.
Q: Are you a retard?
A: No, I just have a different hobby then you do! :)
Q: No really...are you a retard?
A: No, really...I'm not. :) I know this may seem pretty stupid. Why wast time setting up antennas so that you can pick up 20 seconds of comm?! Why not visit NASA.gov a watch some NASA tv...you can hear all the comm there. But where is the fun in that?! Its a challenge...to pick up a weak signal from hundreds of miles away.
Q: What does STS-132 mean?
A: It is the specific space shuttle mission. The STS-132 mission was done with space shuttle Atlantis. This specific mission was the finishing touches on the International Space Station (ISS). The STS stands for Space Transportation System and the number is the mission number.
Q: TAL..what is that?
A: TAL is short for Transoceanic Abort Landing. In Europe and Africa there are air bases that can handle a space shuttle landing in case of an emergency. You can read more about this in the Recordings section of my homepage. On each STS mission page you can hear examples of TAL communication between NASA and the different TAL sites.
Q: What is UHF SatCom?
A: UHF SatCom is short for Ultra High Frequency Satellite Communication. The US military and other countries have communications satellites that transmit and receive in the UHF range. Most satellites operate on much higher frequencies but not these. In the Recordings category you can hear some of the things picked up on these satellites.
Q: Can I hear UHF SatCom?
A: Yes, it is actually very easy. Picking up communication from these satellites can be done with a simple scanner/receiver. The scanner/receiver must be able to listen in the 200-400 MHz range. The only thing that can be a little tricky is the antenna. I don't think the small antenna on normal scanners can pick up these satellites. I use a homemade yagi antenna but I have heard that a simple discone can do the job.
Q: Can I hear the space shuttle?
A: Maybe! It depends on where in the world you are located. If you live in Holland it travels right over your head and you can probably hear it with a normal scanner using the standard antenna that came with it. But here in the north its not that easy. When the space shuttle travels over Holland it only just passes over the horizon here in Denmark. So you gotta be prepared and have a clear view to the south.
The picture above (from the NASA TAL document) shows the rute the shuttle takes during lift-off. On NASA's space shuttle page you can see which rute the specific mission will follow. ISS missions normally follow the 51.6 degree inclination.
As the shuttle returns from its mission it is again possible to hear it. The last couple of trips around the earth they transmit on UHF.
Q: What frequency does the space shuttle use?
A: According to NASAs own documentation [DEAD LINK] the space shuttle has two UHF frequencies that it can use during launch and landing. Once in orbit they switch from UHF to Ku-band (and S-band) and thats it for us non-NASA guys. On UHF they have a primary frequency of 296.8 MHz and a secondary 259.7 MHz. For some reason they usually pick 259.7 Mhz. Both of these are AM modulated since it is normal military air band.
Q: How do you know where the space shuttle is?
A: This is actually a very good question. Before a launch the guys on #hearsat usually talk about some "keplar's" or "kep's". This is information released from NASA about the first orbit of the space shuttle. The program WXtrack can then tell you the rute of the shuttle. I have not paid much attention to this since I live way north. So for more info on that subject visit #hearsat and ask the guys for help.
But when the shuttle is in orbit it can be tracked on this page.
Q: In what direction should my antenna point?
A: It depends on your location. I live in Denmark which is way north so I just need to point my antenna south. But again if you live in Holland it travels right over you. Talk to the guys on #hearsat for more help.
Q: Where can I learn more about UHF SatCom and space shuttle communication?
A: You can join the IRC #hearsat and talk to others with the same interest. You can also check out my links.