Niwaka1n (1).jpg

FITSAT-1 micro-satellite to send morse code back to earth (via FIT)





.... .. / - .... .. ... / .. ... / -. .. .-- .- -.- .- / .--- .- .--. .- -.

Hi this is Niwaka Japan.



If you head outside in the next month or so (weather permitting), you may get to see and hear a message from space in the form of old-school Morse code. The message will be sent by a 10 centimeter cube-shaped micro-satellite designed by scientists from the Fukuoka Institute of Technology. It will be the first orbiting heavenly body to flash an LED message across the sky (if all goes well). FITSAT-1 aka Niwaka, was originally only going to send the message “Hi this is Niwaka Japan” over the Japan sky. After many unexpected requests Takushi Tanaka, Professor and lead creator from The Fukuoka Institute of Technology, said he will show the message around the world, hoping the weather will be clear when he does. People from cities in Brazil, the US, Germany, Italy, Hungary and more are pleading to catch sight of the palm-sized FITSAT-1 satellite.


The 1.33 kg satellite was recently (October 5, 2012) deployed from the ISS and is on a stable orbit around 242 miles above the earth on its original mission of taking pictures along with studying the feasibility of sending high-speed data transmissions back to relay stations on the planet. The FITSAT-1 features a 5.8GHz transmitter with a 115.2kbps modulator and a linear amplifier that transmits a 2w signal. It also features a series of high-powered LEDs on two opposing sides of the satellite with red on the ‘front’ and green on the ‘back’ with the remaining sides outfitted with 4 inch solar panels that power the FITSAT-1.


In addition to its message, which Professor Tanaka says has “no practical purpose”, the satellite will be used to test an onboard high-speed data transmitter. The 5.8 GHz transmitter will send VGA images taken of Earth back to a ground station made up of a 1.2 m parabolic antenna mounted to an equatorial telescope. Tanaka’s team was able to fit in an exciter module with a 115.2 kbps FSK modulator and a linear amplifier that amplifies a 10mW signal to 2W.


The satellite remains in a fixed angle while orbiting the earth with the help of a neodymium magnet that keeps it pointing to magnetic north. So those interested in seeing the code flash (with 200w pulses) across the sky will see green in the northern hemisphere and red in the southern. So far people around the globe, including those in the USA, Brazil, Germany, the UK and Hungary, have requested fly-overs to view the message (that can be seen using binoculars), but Professor Takushi Tanaka (team leader of the micro-satellite from FIT) states that his team will try to accommodate everybody.  Weather will obviously be a deciding factor for observation.


For those interested in seeing the code flashed across the sky, the satellite will be on a trajectory of 51.6 degrees south latitude and 51.6 degrees north latitude (from the equator) which is almost identical to that of the ISS (which I guess you could use as a point of reference). Those interested in hearing the Morse code and have the necessary technology can tune in to the satellites frequency beacon of 437.250MHz. The fly-over schedule for dates or times will be posted on the Fukuoka Institute of Technology’s website sometime later this month (October, 2012).


In case you are wondering, the word Niwaka, in a local dialect of southwestern Japan, refers to impromptu comical dialog done while wearing a peculiar sad-eyed mask.