Ural Federal University: UrFU Students Caught the Signal of a Japanese Educational Satellite

Students of the Engineering School of Information Technologies, Telecommunications and Control Systems of UrFU caught a steady signal of the Japanese educational satellite NEXUS (Fuji Oscar 99), created at Nihon University. They decoded its callsign and are now busy decoding the whole message.

“We received the signal in Morse code format. Each satellite has a call sign – a code name. It is also encoded with known symbols. We were able to distinguish this call sign in the stream of received data. Therefore, we concluded that this was not some kind of interference but the signal from the satellite that we were planning to catch,” explains Oleg Kuvshinov, a Master’s student in the Communications Systems Engineering program.

The signal of the Japanese satellite was caught purposefully. The students knew where and when it would fly over, so the antenna was installed at a specific time and in a specific direction. According to Oleg Kuvshinov, they had 15-30 minutes to receive the signal.

“There is open information on the Internet about student satellites, and it is possible to calculate the trajectory and time of a flight specifically over our radio department. It’s legal, the signal is open, available to the whole world, because such satellites are often launched for educational purposes. Now we are decoding the signal. There is still some data, the exact meaning of which we do not know, but we know its content in general. This is usually telemetry data, such as temperature around the satellite, battery supply voltage, and others,” explains Oleg Kuvshinov.

The use of such satellites of Cubesat format for teaching students is a trend of leading foreign and domestic universities. As well as navigating, receiving and decoding their signals.

“Our students assembled the unit for receiving satellite signals themselves from improvised materials. In other words, our receiving system is not imported equipment, but a student’s creation. All made of the simplest materials. At the same time it works the way it was designed. The software that allows us to track the satellite is also our own – developed by PhD students of the Engineering School of Information Technologies, Telecommunications and Control Systems. I believe this speaks to the high qualification of our Master’s students in the communications program, probably the highest in Russia among students in their field,” says Ivan Malygin, Associate Professor of the Faculty of Radio Electronics and Communications at Ural Federal University.

The system developed by the students consists of two receiving antennas designed for the 435 MHz and 155 MHz bands. These bands are the most popular among student satellites. Thus, UrFU students can track the signals of a wide range of satellites similar in type. The military data, most likely, cannot be tracked.

“Information from military satellites is classified. We don’t know their frequency, their call sign. There is no such data in the public domain. Of course, we can accidentally register some signal, but we will not be able to decode it and extract information,” explains Oleg Kuvshinov.

The students plan to continue research work on pointing the antenna system to the satellite, its tracking, receiving and decoding information. In May, when the weather is good (clear cloudless sky), they plan to go out of town with the antenna to get high-quality data.