DEFCON 30 Activity Report

Open Research Institute’s amateur radio open source showcase at the annual hacker convention DEFCON was located in RF Village (RF Hackers Sanctuary) in The Flamingo Hotel. A volunteer crew of seven people from three US states staffed the exhibit that ran from Friday 12 August to Sunday 14 August 2022.

RF Village hosts a very popular wireless Capture the Flag (CTF) event. It is a top tier contest at DEFCON and the winners are recognized at closing ceremonies. RF Village also has a peer-reviewed speaking track. See previous talks in the YouTube playlists here: https://www.youtube.com/c/RFHackersSanctuary

RF Village generously offers space for exhibits from the community. For 2022, the exhibits included Open Research Institute, Kent Britain PCB Antennas, Alexander Zakharov (ALFTEL Systems Ltd.), and Starlink (SpaceX). Starlink brought two stations and allowed visitors to experiment with network and physical security.

Total attendance at DEFCON 30 was estimated at 27,000. Conference events were held in the new Caesar’s Forum + Flamingo, Harrah’s, and Linq convention centers.

Open Research Institute’s exhibit had multiple parts. The entry to the exhibit was a poster session. Posters presented were ITAR/EAR Regulatory Relief for Amateur Satellite Service, Libre Space Foundation’s Manifesto, Authentication and Authorization Protocol for Amateur Satellites, and the Ribbit Project Introduction and Architecture. Ribbit allows an amateur operator to type in SMS messages on an Android app. Each SMS message is converted to digital audio tones. The tones are played out the phone’s speaker into the microphone of an amateur radio handheld or mobile rig. This can turn any analog HT into part of a digital messaging network. The app can do point-to-point communications and also has a repeater mode. More open source implementations are planned. 

All posters were enthusiastically well-received. Specific technical feedback was received on the Authorization protocol that will improve the design. There will be a presentation about the Authorization and Authentication protocol at the September 2022 QSO Today Ham Expo.

Visitors understood the purpose and potential of Ribbit and could download the free open source Android app from a QR code on the poster. The code was also on the Ribbit stickers handed out at the booth. All 300 of the Ribbit stickers were handed out by Sunday morning. 

Find the Ribbit “Rattlegram” application here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aicodix.rattlegram

There will be a Ribbit presentation at the September 2022 QSO Today Ham Expo.

The ITAR/EAR Open Source amateur satellite regulatory relief poster garnered a lot of attention. A very large fraction of DEFCON attendees are familiar with ITAR/EAR, which are a set of regulations that govern the way we design communications satellites in the USA. People that read the poster at DEFCON understood and appreciated the value of the work, which provides long-awaited regulatory relief for the amateur satellite service. The poster presentation led to an invitation to Policy Village Sunday afternoon for a panel session hosted by the Office of the National Cyber Director. Summary of that session can be found in ORI’s 19 August 2022 project report. The ITAR/EAR poster will be part of the Projects Exhibits at the September 2022 QSO Today Ham Expo.

Foot traffic flowed past the posters and into the live demonstrations.

The first live demonstration visitors encountered was from OpenRTX (https://openrtx.org). This demonstration used a tablet computer running OpenWebRX to display modified MD-380 transmissions. Visitors could use headphones to hear live transmitted signals. Posters at the table explained the modifications required to implement the M17 protocol on the MD-380 and described the motivation and value of the work, with an emphasis on the use of the free and open CODEC2 voice codec. The use of CODEC2 in M17 replaces the proprietary AMBE codec found in every other digital voice protocol for VHF/UHF ham radio. There was strong interest in both the M17 and the DMR work from OpenRTX, broad understanding of why proprietary codecs are not ideal, and consistently positive feedback. 500 OpenRTX business cards were printed with QR codes for the OpenRTX website and nearly all of them were handed out.

The second demonstration was Opulent Voice. This is a high bitrate open source voice and data protocol. It’s designed as the uplink protocol for ORI’s amateur satellite program. The Authentication and Authorization fields are built in and sending data does not require a separate packet mode. The baseline voice codec for Opulent Voice is OPUS at 16 kbps. Higher bitrates are a build-time option. For the DEFCON demonstration, Opulent Voice was transmitted from an Analog Devices PLUTO SDR and received on an RTL-SDR/Raspberry Pi. Visitors could use headphones to listen to the received audio. The modulator and demodulator code can be found at https://github.com/phase4ground/opv-cxx-demod. 300 custom art stickers for Opulent Voice were ordered and all were handed out.

The two demonstrations compared and contrasted voice quality (3.2 kbps vs 16+ kbps), regulatory limitations (VHF/UHF vs. microwave), and approach to framing (P25 style vs. COBS/UDP/RTP).

The next station had stickers, buttons, patches, ORI’s Tiny CTF, Haifuraiya proposal printouts, and a Trans-Ionospheric badge display.

ORI’s “Tiny CTF” was a hidden web server, accessible from the wifi access point located at the OpenRTX demonstration. The access point allowed people to view the OpenWebRX display directly on their connected devices. Participants that found the hidden web server and then blinked the LEDs on a certain piece of equipment at the booth received a prize.

Haifuraiya (High Flyer) is an open source highly elliptical orbit communications satellite proposal. Microwave amateur band digital communications at 5, 10, and 24 GHz are proposed. Transmissions are frequency division multiple access Opulent Voice up, and DVB-S2/X time division multiplexed down. A presentation about this proposal will be at the September 2022 QSO Today Ham Expo.

Based on the feedback about the amateur radio themed Trans-Ionospheric badge, ORI will update and build another round of these badges. Round one of the Trans-Ionospheric badge was a very successful open source project fundraiser. The badges have been enduringly popular in the community, and they can serve as radio peripherals that display radio link and payload health over bluetooth. The artistic design of the badge is based on the front panel of the Zenith Trans-Oceanic radio. Find out more about the Trans-Ionospheric badge here: https://www.openresearch.institute/badge/

There were very high levels of interest, enthusiasm, and positive feedback throughout the weekend. Friends from Ham Radio Village and Aerospace Village visited the exhibit and shared their experiences. The organizational support from RF Village leads was excellent. ORI will return to DEFCON in 2023 with another round of open source digital radio demonstrations. 

Amateur radio experimenters and their projects are welcome at Open Research Institute. Individuals can join for free at https://www.openresearch.institute/getting-started/. Projects can apply at https://www.openresearch.institute/your-project-is-welcome/

Spring 2022 Meeting Minutes

Recent Business:

Opulent Voice educational effort w/ University of Puerto Rico and University of San Diego
Goal is to develop curriculum using open source protocols

Rocket Desk Toy Fundraiser campaign via CommitChange
Supports open source electric engine synchronization that benefits high-speed digital communications mission integration

Morehead State University ASTROBi “Cost Sensitive KA-band LNA using COTS MMIC devices and novel coding” proposal

Deep space project that is interested in leveraging ORI’s work

AmbaSat sounding rocket work ongoing

Aeva Black of Open Source Initiative (OSI) nominated to the FCC Technological Advisory Board

FCC working group activity and participation continues with sub-working group “Safe Uses” co-chair service provided by ORI for 2022.

P4DX downlink encoder demonstration and code release at Ham Radio

Friedrichshafen 2022.
Report received

Code published (Pluto SDR with DVB-S2/X Encoder)

OpenRTX+M17 visit to Ham Radio Friedrichshafen 2022
Report received

Fiscal Sponsorship of Project Skylark

2021 tax return completed and filed

Grant proposals to ARDC for #104 “Douglas Qugaliana Contract Proposal” project and #106 “Transition from Remote Labs East to Remote Labs South”, both rewritten by ARDC, then declined by ARDC.
Both projects funded from alternate sources

Legal consult regarding a variety of ARDC behavior completed

Grant proposal to ARDC for “#272 A Low-Cost Open-Source Universal Radio Test Instrument” with Great Scott Gadgets deleted before the ARDC review committee saw it.

Government grants pursued as an alternative

Ongoing Issues:
M17 Project discussion of communication, expectations, and reimbursement

Items to Discuss:
Defcon “Retail Hacking Village” request to join Open Research Institute

Opulent Voice – digital voice and data protocol update

This Opulent Voice sticker is available from ORI at events around the world.

Opulent Voice is an open source high bitrate digital voice (and data) protocol. It’s what we are using for our native digital uplink protocol for ORI’s transponder project. Opulent Voice is also looking pretty darn good for terrestrial.

Here is an audible example of the Opulent Voice audio quality under ideal conditions. Each file is about 37 seconds long. It starts with a short musical intro, and the rest is the beginning of the audio track from one of Michelle’s conference talks. These were originally recorded with mid-range podcasting studio gear. The recording was converted to a signed 16-bit PCM raw file, which has been re-converted to a standard WAV file so you can play it easily, MDT-short.wav

Original recording


This file was then run through opv-mod to create a file of baseband samples, which was then piped to opv-demod, which created an output file of signed 16-bit PCM. That file was converted to WAV file MDT-short.demod.wav

Original recording modulated and then demodulated through Opulent Voice.


We expect to present a nice demo at DEFCON in August 2022 and at the QSO Today Ham Expo in September 2022.

We’ll be using COBS protocol within Opulent Voice. If you’re unfamiliar with COBS, please read about it here: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consistent_Overhead_Byte_Stuffing

Authentication and authorization is built in and optional. There is no separate “packet mode”. Things are designed to “just work” and get out of your way whether or not you’re sending voice or data. 

Opulent Voice is designed to where you can use even higher bitrate OPUS codecs if you wish. This will most likely be a build option and not a run-time option, but if a run-time option is something you want to work on, speak up! Let’s see what we can accomplish.

Originally based on Mobilinkd codebase that implements M17, the Opulent Voice development implementation can be found here:

https://github.com/phase4ground/opv-cxx-demod

Initial demos will be on a HackRF/PortaPack on the 1.2 GHz ham bands. 

Thank you to OpenRTX for help with troubleshooting the audio quality on the PortaPack. In order to have a good demo, basic FM transmit from the microphone needs to work. The audio quality is pretty bad (this was a surprise) with the stock application, so we’ve been spending some time with the Mayhem codebase, the microphone transmit app, and the driver for the audio codec in order to get it sounding like it should. This needs to happen before we publish an app for the PortaPack. 

Synthesized audio from the HackRF/PortaPack sounds clear and wonderful. It’s just the microphone that is splattery and overdriven. 

ORI’s Slack channel can be found at https://phase4ground.slack.com/

The authentication and authorization work is in #aaaaa
Opulent Voice work is in #opulent-voice

Thank you to everyone supporting the work!

-Michelle Thompson

Countdown to NASA SBIR/STTR Solicitations Announcement

It is 5 days until the next SBIR/STTR NASA solicitation round.

Let’s take some time and sort through the solicitations and see what we qualify for. 

We have a fantastic community and volunteers that would like to do meaningful work. 

Applying for SBIR/STTRs as the research institute or non-profit is one way to accomplish this goal.

I’ll post the announced solicitations, but if you want to keep track, then the webpage to go to is here: 

https://sbir.nasa.gov/solicitations

If you would like to be part of ORI, please visit:

https://www.openresearch.institute/getting-started/

Video of Working Meeting on Higher Bitrate M17

Specification of M17:

https://spec.m17project.org/

P4DX architecture document:

https://github.com/phase4ground/docum…

M17 is P4DX native digital uplink protocol.

There are at least three use cases of M17.

One, 9600 bps voice for VHF/UHF.

Two, the idea of 9600 bps data or packet mode, also VHF/UHF.

Three, higher bitrate mode for microwave.

There is a data type specifier in the current specification. Reserved protocol types are RAW, AX.25, APRS, 6LoWPAN, IPv4, SMS, and Winlink.

What we’re talking about today is what, if anything, needs to be added to the specification in order to enable high bitrate operation for microwave, and also to figure out if anything needs to be done for IP over M17 or M17 over IP.

From Slack:

Ron

What needs to be defined is how to do IP over M17. In the M17 specification, there’s a protocol identifier for IPv4, but that’s it.

And here is a review of the conversation from 2021. This was the starting point for the conversation in this video recording.

Ron

M17 supports IPv4, but I’m not exactly sure how. The M17 specification seems pretty vague on that particular point

Howie

Assume we consider M17 stream mode operating in an FDM manner with a receiver for each uplink channel. Each channel can be given a GSE label that could map to an uplink center freq. The 4FSK modulated data is demodulated but not decoded. Instead, the data streams are clocked into individual buffers and used to generate the GRE frames. The idea is to keep the M17 frames intact so that on the ground earth station the demodulated data is identical to the uplinked frame which can be processed by the existing M17 decoder software. You listen to a channel by selecting the label for the stream you want to listen to. The limiting factor becomes how fast you can assemble the uplink channels into GRE frames.

I don’t think there is any need or desire to use anything other than native M17 on the uplink. While GSE is normally used for IP transport I think we could put the M17 frames into the GSE data field. At that point the only overhead is on the downlink with the addition of the GSE headers and LSF management. I have not looked closely at the sizes of the required fields are or how much processing it would take to multiplex multiple uplink streams into a composite downlink. At this point I am just brainstorming.

Anshul

looks like we don’t need IP as an intermediate step. I agree with @ab2s that there is no need to use anything other than native M17 on the uplink. GSE should encapsulate M17 frames and produce BBFRAME as it normally does for IP packet.

It implies we will be not using any IP stream/packets on uplink. Everything uplink will be M17 based.

Do you see any concerns here . Else, I will proceed with implementation of GSE block in firmware keeping this decision in mind.

Consensus on:

  1. Validity of use case for higher bitrate M17 for P4DX uplink.
  2. IP over M17 could use an example (as could all the types in this field), but the type field indicating IPv4 is sufficient for carrying IPv4 within M17. M17 packet is small enough to where IP fragmentation will probably occur.
  3. M17 over IP is defined in the appendix, it works as implemented in the reflector network, and did not appear to need any additional work.
  4. P4DX could provide a spigot of M17 uplinks over IP, using the protocol in the appendix, as a Groundsat feature. This would not affect the air interface.
  5. We discussed the XOR with random data aspect (covert SPARROW channel here? Yes/maybe if there’s a known message)
  6. Discussed asking for a P4 Type Field Indicator. Smart receivers won’t need this, but it would allow people to move between 9600 bps M17 and higher bitrate M17.

HamCation 2022 Report

HamCation 2022 Report

Paul Williamson (Remote Labs), Douglas Quagliana (P4DX), Michelle Thompson (ORI), Ed Wilson (M17), and Steve Miller (M17) represented the breadth of projects from Open Research Institute at HamCation 2022.

ORI’s “Tonight’s The Night: SDRs are HOT” booth made its first appearance in nearly two years. Available at the booth were stickers, pins, patches, shirts, consulting, and project updates. ORI’s “extra chair” seating area was appreciated by volunteers and visitors alike. Booth visitors heard about the successful DVB-S2X modem work from ORI and progress on the end-to-end demo of the entire satellite transponder chain. At Open Research Institute, it doesn’t work until it works over the air. Due to the efforts of a truly wonderful international open source team, the custom FPGA code is coming together very well, and Remote Labs continues to evolve. The Phase 4 Digital Multiplexing Transceiver project is on budget, on track, and highly likely to succeed. The return on investment is high. The team isn’t anywhere near done innovating, publishing, and enabling high-tech space aand terrestrial amateur radio work. If you want to be a part of this, or just follow along, visit https://openresearch.institute, go to “Getting Started”, and sign up for the Phase 4 Ground mailing list. This is “home base” for announcements from ORI.

Right beside ORI’s booth was the “future of amateur radio”, the M17 Project. Ed and Steve from M17 brought working hardware, firmware updates, and also demonstrated several different software implementations throughout the weekend. M17 held their weekly net on Friday live from the booth, gave away stickers, magnets, and pins, and captured the hearts of all who visited. You can get involved with this project at https://m17project.org

AmbaSat re-spin was a frequent topic of conversation. The five AmbaSat boards from ORI, which operate at 70cm, have been distributed to the firmware team, and they have begun development and are seeing success in university and hobbyist labs. The goal is to create a compelling application, put the hardware on a sounding rocket, apply for a launch license, and send this project to space in a way that makes the amateur community proud. While “AmbaSat Inspired Sensors” is ORI’s smallest received grant, it has by far the highest capability return on investment of any ORI project.

ORI and M17 booths were located in the North Hall. While the other buildings are larger and many consider them to be higher profile, booths in the North building are what you must walk by to get to the Information Booth and Prize Booth. Since the vast majority of participants visit this part of the show, it is, in our humble opinion, the best possible location.

Michelle Thompson (W5NYV) presented about Digital Communications Technology at the ARRL Expo Technology Track held on Thursday at a conference center near Seaworld. There were four tracks of presentations at the Expo: Contesting, Handbook, Technology, and Emergency Communications.

Michelle reported a positive, enthusiastic, and engaged audience for her ARRL Technology Track talk, and has high hopes that ARRL will continue doing events like this moving forward. She discussed ORI’s Polar Code initiative, successful regulatory and legal work, why open source LDPC work is so important to amateur radio, the four fundamental components to digital communications, and why the M17 protocol was selected as ORI’s satellite uplink protocol for the P4DX transponder project. Michelle invited M17 principals to speak about their work, and opened the floor for questions and comments from the many highly competent and curious technical hams that were in attendance. Subjects covered ranged from asynchronous computing to concatenated coding. The rumors about toilet paper being a fundamentally important part of this presentation are entirely true.

ORI organized a Friday forum track for Clearspan Tent #1 that ran from 11:15am until closing. HamCation was extremely generous in giving us time to present work from a wide variety of people. Here’s our lineup for 2022.

11:15 am
Understanding and Changing Amateur Radio Regulation / Open Source Digital HTs are Real! by Bruce Perens (K6BP)

12:30 pm TAPR – TangerineSDR Update, or How to build an SDR without any parts by

Scotty Cowling (WA2DFI)

1:45 pm M17 Project by Ed Wilson, Steve Miller (N2XDD, KC1AWV)

3:00 pm GNU Radio work at ORI / FreeDV HF Voice Update 2022 by Douglas Quagliana, Mel Whitten (KA2UPW, K0PFX)

3:00 pm Society of Amateur Radio Astronomy SARA by Tom Crowley (KT4XN)

At both the Expo and HamCation, ARRL set the pace this year for satellite talks and satellite demonstrations, with a video (please see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhyUbC_o1JM&ab_channel=ARRLHQ) providing practical examples of amateur satellite operations. Patrick Stoddard (WD9EWK) gave a tutorial on satellite operations at the ARRL Expo in the Handbook Track. Amateur satellite was very well supported from ARRL this year, and we have heard this will continue to strengthen going forward.

With some optimism, ORI looks forward to returning to in-person events. The next planned in-person event is DEFCON (https://defcon.org/). Last year, DEFCON was held in person. Proof of vaccination was required. Masks were required. It was a highly successful and enjoyable event. This year, for 2022, ORI will be represented in DEFCON villages and activities. We are looking at applying for M17 to be part of Demo Labs, multiple radio links between villages to demonstrate a wide variety of technology, and presentations about the R&D that we do.

If you would like to be a part of this, and we do need you, then please join the Slack channel for DEFCON planning. Quite a bit of work is underway already. The goal for DEFCON 2022 is over the air demonstrations, outreach, fun, swag, and supporting our friends at all the villages we’ve been involved with over the years.

DEFCON is run very differently from traditional amateur radio conventions. The most significant practical difference is that DEFCON has a written code of conduct, and those written community standards and policies are enforced. It has a very diverse and very interdisciplinary attendance. Unlike many technical or hobby conferences, participation in the DEFCON community is possible year-round through participation in local groups that meet monthly.

DEFCON is a very large event, with attendance of over 30,000.

DEFCON is devoted to a very broad spectrum of experimental, commercial, and open source work. Participation by the government, industrial, information security, hacker, hobbyist, and scientific communities has steadily grown over the past 30 years.

The next virtual event for Open Research Institute is Ham Expo, 12-13 March 2022. Andre Suoto will have an excellent talk about our open source LDPC encoder for FPGAs and ASICs. This is in the main track. We will have a wide variety of work and projects represented at our booth, which is in the vendor hall. Open Research Institute is a non-profit sponsor of Ham Expo. We’ll have friendly and accessible “office hours” during the event.

HamCation 2022

This post will be updated with information leading up to and throughout the event. Thank you to HamCation for the support and opportunity.

Tucson Amateur Packet Radio

Booth, prototypes, forum presentation, give-aways, and more!

Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers

Forum presentation.

M17 Project

Booth, forum presentations, give-aways, and more!

Open Research Institute

Booth, demonstration reports, give-aways, sales, and more!

ARRL Technology Track

Talk by Michelle Thompson W5NYV.

Abstract:

Digital communications technology is large interdisciplinary field that incorporates some of the most fundamental scientific advancements of the past 120 years.

From the first spark gap transmitters, to telegraph, to the transistor, to the fast fourier transform, to the tape drive, to telnet, to touchscreens and trace routes, trackballs and telecommunications of all sorts, digital transmission of everyday information has revolutionized the way we communicate with each other, the way we store data, and the way we process that data to create things of greater and greater value.

This talk is about how information travels over the air in ways relevant to motivated amateur radio enthusiasts.

Digital communications is a difficult subject. This talk is simplified, but definitely not dumbed down. You will leave this session with a greater intuitive understanding of how digital communications works.

There’s a vibrant community and growing body of work in open source amateur radio digital communications for space and terrestrial work. The talk will close with a brief summary of open source digital communications work at Open Research Institute, Inc., a 501(c)(3) dedicated to open source work for amateur radio and beyond.

2021 Retrospective

Greeting all, and welcome to the close of 2021 at ORI.

For a high-level summary of what Open Research Institute is and what we have been up to, please watch the very short video presented at Open Source Cubesat Workshop 2021. The recording of the talk is here: https://youtu.be/VG9-Mc1Hn4A

If you would like to keep up with what we do, then subscribing to our mailing list and YouTube channel helps in several ways. More people find out about what we do because our work will get recommended more often to new people, and you get notifications of new content when it’s published.

Please visit https://www.youtube.com/c/OpenResearchInstituteInc/featured and subscribe to YouTube.

Please visit https://www.openresearch.institute/getting-started/ for information on joining the mailing list and Slack.

Join Phase 4 Ground Trello board:
https://trello.com/invite/b/REasyYiZ/8de4c059e252c7c435a1dafa25f655a8/phase-4-ground

Join Phase 4 Space Trello board:
https://trello.com/invite/b/GRBWasqW/1336a1fa5b88b380c27ccf95d21fec79/phase-4-space

We have other social media accounts as well (Twitter, Instagram, FaceBook) and we gratefully accept help and support there too. Want to be part of the social media team? Write ori at openresearch dot institute to apply.

https://twitter.com/OpenResearchIns
https://www.facebook.com/openresearchinstitute
https://www.instagram.com/open_research_institute/

Here are our challenges and successes from the past year and what we’re looking forward to in 2022. There’s a lot going on here and some of the things we are facing are not fun. Some of the discussion is political and tedious. We have some decisions that have been made and some big ones to make for 2022 and beyond. Your opinions matter. Comment and critique welcome and encouraged.

First and foremost, we thank the individuals and organizations that have made our work possible. Funding comes from YASME Foundation, ARRL Foundation, ARDC Foundation, Free Software Foundation, our Trans-Ionospheric and JoCo Badge projects, proceeds from the Gold Medal Ideas ORI store, and people like you.

2021 Retrospective

We are a research institution. We are not a ham radio club. Our primary focus is to carry out open source work for the amateur radio space and terrestrial bands. We expect this work to be used by amateur radio groups that execute and operate designs in space and on earth. This expectation has not been met in some of the ways we anticipated, but we have a broad path forward, a lot of things going very well, and we are going to take full advantage of all the positive developments over the past year in every way we can.

This next part is not the most fun story to write or read, but there’s a lot of very good lessons learned here, and it needs to be put in one place so that our amateur satellite volunteers know about it and can find it.

One can skip ahead (by clicking here) to “Successes in 2021” further down the page to get straight to technical progress.

When we say we expected our work to be used by amateur satellite groups, we assumed this meant AMSAT. Primarily AMSAT-NA, but we are also here to serve AMSAT-DL, AMSAT-UK, and so on. ORI is an AMSAT Member Society, and has showed preparation, enthusiasm, and experience through continued contributions to the amateur satellite community. ORI volunteers have professional, academic, and amateur experience with collectively at least a couple dozen payloads in orbit, ranging from GEO commercial to LEO amateur. A very large fraction of our volunteers are new to amateur radio. They have never volunteered for AMSAT or any other legacy satellite group before. Other volunteers have experience with AMSAT but no current role because of the politics of AMSAT-NA GOLF. I can say without any reservation that there is no loss of capability to any AMSAT organization from ORI activity. We have always encouraged volunteering for and membership within whatever AMSAT organization is nearest to you. It’s not just supportive words, but actions as well. We have sold AMSAT-NA memberships at numerous events over the years. We have actively promoted TAPR, AMSAT, ARRL, and other amateur groups at every opportunity. We’ve happily worked with TAPR and ARRL to great positive effect.

We have achieved some truly significant wins in the regulatory sphere with ITAR/EAR and Debris Mitigation, have groundbreaking success in P4DX comms development, and have one of the very few functional advanced communications research remote access lab benches in existence. We have expanded the AmbaSat Inspired Sensors project to move the AmbaSat to 70cm in anticipation of sounding rocket and space tests, have fully supported M17 Development and Deployment, and have proposed an employment program to ARDC to directly confront the problem with open source burnout in DSP/FPGA open source amateur designs.

We really do not suck.

However, despite all this good work, AMSAT-NA leadership, including senior officers, have consistently and publicly described ORI as “grifters” and “thieves” and “frauds”. Officers of AMSAT-NA have said we are “undeserving of any community support” and have taken actions to try and make this opinion a reality. It hasn’t worked, but these aggressively provocative and negative public posts from AMSAT-NA officers and members about ORI are clearly intended to harm. The attacks date back to 2018. ORI has not responded to any of this. However, ignoring it doesn’t make it go away, and participants in ORI need to know what’s being said and done.

ORI has had work censored from AMSAT publications and events. An ITAR/EAR update article submitted in October 2021 was removed before publication. According to the editor, this was the first time ever an article had been censored in the AMSAT Journal. The article had been requested by the editor and is in the draft of that issue of the Journal. It was personally squashed by the AMSAT President after the draft Journal was sent out. Several presentations and some papers were ordered to be eliminated at the last minute from 2020 AMSAT Symposium. The work had been welcomed by the submissions chair. This exclusion was unprecedented as well.

This sort of bizarre censorship has no place in amateur radio. Our disappointment with these decisions has been communicated to the editor of AMSAT Journal and the submissions chair for AMSAT Symposium.

For 2021, ORI co-hosted a half-day conference in collaboration with IEEE. This Information Theory Space and Satellite Symposium was successful, got great reviews, and IEEE has asked several times if ORI would be willing to organize something like this again. This gave us a chance to present some of the sort of work that we think should be part of AMSAT Symposium.

You can find the event recordings here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSfJ4B57S8DnhlrRya50IxGP90_uGpiho

Why do we care about any of this grumpy opposition? Why be concerned about censorship from a relatively small event or newsletter?

Because AMSAT-NA is presumed to be the primary advocacy group for amateur satellite activity in the United States. Because we want all AMSAT organizations to be successful. Because AMSAT and ARISS-USA have claimed that they are gatekeepers for amateur radio access to NASA. Because AMSAT-NA currently controls access to things like IARU committees for Region 2. Because AMSAT-NA gets irate when anyone else meets with the FCC on behalf of the amateur satellite service, but will not present anything outside of internal AMSAT-NA interests.

We care about this because ORI showed up and contributed within the AMSAT framework in good faith.

AMSAT-NA is, to be blunt, supposed to help us do exactly what we are doing. We are not a “threat”. We are not “thieves”. We are not “grifters”. We are not “frauds”. We don’t “siphon technical members away”. We are not “an embarrassment”. We deserve absolutely none of this sort of thing. We have invited AMSAT-NA to participate in every single major endeavor that we have carried out and accomplished. This inclusive and cooperative spirit has not been reciprocated.

Tacit acceptance of this sort of behavior is the real embarrassment.

For 2022, we will (of course) continue to utilize the amateur radio bands. All radio work will directly benefit amateur radio terrestrial and space. There will be no loss of opportunities or restrictions of goals for technical work. However, our associations and attention moving forward will focus on communities and organizations that share basic values with ORI. There will be some changes as we adapt, evolve, and grow. We can’t afford to spend time trying to work with organizations completely out of step with open source amateur satellite work, no matter how famous, wealthy, or historical they happen to be.

Successes in 2021

There is a lot of good news here.

Both the San Diego Microwave Group and the San Bernardino Microwave Society have been actively supportive and provided material assistance, volunteer time, and expert advice that we simply would not have received anywhere else. We would not have had a successful meeting with the FCC about Debris Mitigation without the support from members of these two radio clubs. Members generously offered their time, input, and guidance. All the regulatory work can be found here: https://github.com/phase4ground/documents/tree/master/Regulatory

Based on this meeting, we had a series of Orbit Workshops in November 2021. Recordings posted to the debris mitigation channel on our Slack.

The ITAR CJ Request work was funded through a grant from ARDC. The EAR Classification, successful Advisory Opinion Letter from Commerce, FAQ, and “How to use this work” flow graph were paid for with a loan to ORI. The process to fundraise to pay back this loan is underway. The final amount for EAR/Advisory Opinion/FAQ/Flowgraph is $14,425.00 Similar to the ITAR CJ Request work, this amount is substantially less than initial estimates. Credit goes to excellent counsel at Thomsen and Burke LLP and a motivated volunteer team at ORI that handled as many of the preparations as possible. Active sustained involvement reduced costs and increased competence and awareness of the many legal issues we were dealing with.

For 2022, we have two legal efforts that we are considering becoming involved with. Fundraising for those efforts will happen in advance of the work. This is a change from how we did the ITAR/EAR legal work, where fundraising was done after the legal work was completed.

We would not have had a successful multi-media beacon demonstration without support and advice from Kerry Banke and Ron Economos. A video presentation of this work can be found at https://youtu.be/vjfRI1w_dSs?t=609 and documentation can be found here: https://github.com/phase4ground/documents/tree/master/Engineering/Transmitters/DVB-S2-Multimedia-Beacon

This work is presented as a terrestrial beacon, but is also the default digital download for the P4DX transponder payload.

The payload work is currently focused on producing an FGPA-based end-to-end over-the-air demonstration. There are multiple repositories. The best way to get an overview of this work is either through the README.md files in the repos at https://github.com/phase4ground and https://github.com/phase4space.

If reviewing source code and block diagrams is not your thing, then watch the introduction of this video: https://youtu.be/fCmzS6jBhHg followed by the most recent Technical Advisory Committee meeting here: https://youtu.be/V2BlIp7XYMM

Thomas Parry is the Primary Investigator and lead the TAC meeting. Wally Ritchie (SK) was the previous and founding Primary Investigator, and he presented the overview in the design review linked above.

P4DX is our digital multiplexing microwave amateur band transverter. The native digital uplink is M17 FDMA and the downlink is TDM DVB-S2/X. A high-level architectural paper can be found here: https://github.com/phase4ground/documents/tree/master/Engineering/Requirements/Architecture

One of the current roadblocks with the end-to-end demo is a necessary expansion of capability in Remote Labs West. In order to use the Analog Devices ADRV9371 RFIC development board, we can get by with using an SD card image in the FPGA development station. However, this requires a lot of manual intervention, so booting the filesystem over NFS is an obvious improvement. This turned out to be impossible because the kernel from Analog Devices does not appear to support NFS. So, we’re fixing it and will (assuming success) submit whatever capabilities we add to the kernel back to Analog Devices. In the meantime, integration of the various bodies of FGPA code continues. Immediately following the NFS boot addition is DVB-S2/X verification station bring-up, in anticipation of being able to test what comes out of the ADRV9371. That’s just one example of the type of work that has had to happen all year in order to get things done.

Remote Labs have become much more than a “wear item” along the way. Once it became clear that the internet-accessible lab benches had potential to support a much wider variety of projects than just P4DX, volunteers started putting time into making sure they were as easy to use as possible. You can find out more about what Remote Labs are and how they work by going here: https://github.com/phase4ground/documents/tree/master/Remote_Labs

Remote Labs East (Florida) equipment has been moved to Remote Labs South (Arkansas). The move was necessary due to the untimely death of Wally Ritchie in July 2021. The new site will need additional funding to complete that Florida did not require. A grant application was made to ARDC in late August 2021 for this work. Remote Labs South will also have additional capabilities for bacteriophage and interferometry work. Both are open source efforts.

There is a backup bridge funding plan to get the lab bench at Remote Lab South operational. We can temporarily divert funds allocated to P4DX for FPGA software licenses, as the floating license approach has worked out well for us. The original budget planned for 10 node-locked licenses as those were the type of licenses we have received as an organization in the past. With only 1 floating license required for work so far, this leaves some margin in the budget. This is enough margin to develop Remote Labs South infrastructure while waiting for a response about funding from ARDC, without further delaying deployment of this lab.

Remote Labs are a good example of the frugality, public science orientation, and opportunistic spirit of ORI volunteers. We look forward to many years of making the equipment available to the open source community. We could use your help in spreading the word about this asset.

HamCation and Ham Expo have been invaluable. The staff and volunteers have been friendly, supportive, and creative. We are looking forward to HamCation 2022. If all goes well this will be our first in-person event most of us have been able to attend in quite a while. We have a booth in our usual spot. M17 Project and TAPR are on either side, and the large Society for Amateur Radio Astronomy booth is on the other side of TAPR. DATV is in the same row. ARRL will have a large presence. We have a lot of forum time and plenty to talk about. Returning to in-person events is a big step and there is extra stress, risk, and planning involved. If you are willing to be part of HamCation, please get in touch and we will add you to the planning spreadsheet and discussions.

IEEE Computer Society, Information Theory Society, and Signals and Systems have been incredibly supportive. As mentioned above, in 2021, ORI co-hosted a half-day conference in collaboration with IEEE. This Information Theory Space and Satellite Symposium was successful, got great reviews, and IEEE has asked several times if ORI would be willing to organize something like this again.

You can find the event recordings here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSfJ4B57S8DnhlrRya50IxGP90_uGpiho

We have received a lot of positive feedback from IEEE section, region, and national executive teams. The biggest challenge with IEEE is that they are not the best or easiest way to publish open source or open access work. They are honestly not set up for public access papers. IEEE is split between academia and industry members, and that’s the constituencies more or less served. Despite the big differences between a tiny open source non-profit and a gigantic professional development organization, there is a substantial amount of interaction and genuine mutual support. IEEE does not exist without volunteers. Therefore, what we are doing is recognizable as a thing of value by everyone in any role any of us comes into contact with. We also benefited from having access to the salary survey results, anonymized membership statistics, and a targeted member survey in order to help construct the Engineers General grant proposals to ARDC. Is there a possibility of funding through IEEE? Yes, although there are a lot of limitations.

We have solid relationships with a number of Universities. Working with academic institutions is not simple as a non-profit, but we have transcended these difficulties several times and are part of the process of getting space “done better” for students wherever we can. Our most recent involvement is getting AmbaSat at 70cm, the DVB-S2/X microwave band work, and M17 equipment on board sounding rockets and in the running on several LEO platforms. Is there a possibility of funding through Universities? Honestly, no. They expect funding from us, in order to do anything with us. That is just the way the current engineering academy operates. Students are not “free labor” now and never really have been in the past.

We have brought a small grant to a University, with the professor as the Primary Investigator (AmbaSat Inspired Sensors). We would be willing to do that again, if we were fortunate enough to get a professor of the same motivation, experience, and availability, and fortunate enough to get enough grant money to ensure student time. In general, the overhead customarily demanded at a University, and the costs of getting significant seat time from enough students, require much larger grants than we have pursued to date. If you know of an opportunity or have an idea, get in touch with ORI board and let’s see what we can achieve.

AmbaSat Inspired Sensors has redesigned the AmbaSat board to move from 915 MHz ISM LoRaWan to 70cm amateur radio satellite band. Thank you to Vidya Gopalakrishna and Jay Francis for making this happen. LoRa with integration to both SatNOGS and The Things Network through bridging is prototyping now. The first hardware with the 70cm part has been received and works. There were other changes to improve power and ground and routing. All of the details can be found in the kicad-conversion branch at https://github.com/phase4space/AmbaSat-1/tree/kicad_conversion/Release

This past year has been a significant step forward for the M17 Project. The protocol has been strengthened, the number of development boards in the community has increased, the amount of hardware that M17 can work on has increased, and the lab on the East Coast of the US is moving forward. There have been numerous successful public outreach efforts resulting in a steady increase in name recognition, awareness of the communications mode, and participation on the M17 Discord. A large amount of lab equipment has been earmarked by ORI for M17. This purchase opportunity came from Open Lunar Foundation and will put M17 lab into a highly capable category from the start. All of us associated with M17 would like to recognize the OpenRTX project. This team is a vital part of the M17 ecosystem and has done a significant amount of highly technical work to enable M17 on the MD-380 HT. OpenRTX has contributed a lot of engineering work, verification, validation, and lab tests for M17.

https://m17project.org/

https://openrtx.org/#/

Open Lunar Foundation and ORI collaborated on an SBIR grant application for funding targeting LunaNet in January 2021. While our application for funding was not successful, the feedback from the reviewers was positive and very constructive. The process for applying was clear, the technical work in preparing the application lined up with all of ORI’s goals for P4DX, and the teamwork with OLF was excellent.

https://www.openlunar.org/

We attempted to apply for a STTR with Tek Terrain LLC for opportunistic positioning and ranging using LEO signals in mid-October 2021, but we were not able to complete the application in time. We look forward to the next opportunity to work with a for-profit on something like this, as there are dozens of opportunities through a variety of government agencies for research and development. This particular project would have put some significant work into the public domain during Phase 1 of the grant.

We have an opening on our board of directors. Our co-founder Ben Hilburn has stepped down from the board. Thank you very much to Ben for helping found and build ORI. We welcome you to a (much less demanding) senior advisor role.

If you have a recommendation for someone to invite, or you would like to volunteer for this role, then get in touch to start the process. There are a few IRS limitations on who can be on the board to prevent conflicts of interest. No relatives of current board members, for example.

Current board is listed at: https://www.openresearch.institute/board-of-directors/

Our open source workers/employment initiative is called Engineers General. Two grant proposals were made to ARDC after a series of productive meetings with their staff. The initiative got a lot of positive feedback. All of ARDC’s feedback was incorporated into a set of revised grant requests that were re-submitted in October 2021.

We have 6 additional resumes that have been submitted to us. We have received a very large amount of interest in this initiative. Information from IEEE salary surveys, informational interviews with open source workers, and combing through peer reviewed papers resulted in the hypothesis of Engineers General, and all of this information was communicated to ARDC in support of the grant requests.

ORI board has the capacity, capability, and experience to manage contracted workers, and there is a population of highly qualified people that want to work in open source.

We do not have a timeline on when we will hear back from ARDC. P4DX took 11 months to approve. The ITAR legal work funding wasn’t pressing since the funding application followed completion of the work. The AmbaSat Inspired Sensors grant application was folded into P4DX at some point during its review process.

Rent-a-GEO was submitted in October 2019, and there has not been a final answer from ARDC about that proposal as of today. Rent-a-GEO is now down to ~2.5 years left on the offer of 5 years discounted rental of the transponder. This is closer to 2 because the team assembled for Rent-a-GEO would have to be rebuilt.

For those unfamiliar with this project proposal, it would enable a variety of GEO development work over useful space channels with a footprint that covers the continental United States. We did obtain a private pledge of funding for the rental due to the urgency with the lifetime of the resource coming to an end, and we have communicated this pledge of funding to the vendor handling the transponder rental. However, there are substantial contingencies with this funding source, and the vendor has a lot of challenges that they are dealing with. Negotiations are slow. I’ll keep working on this until EchoStar9 is turned off. In the meantime, we have had a series of successful experiments in Europe.

We are headquartered in California, USA. According to Cal Non-Profits, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to helping California 501(c)(3)s, they really do not know of any other organizations like ORI (or Open Lunar Foundation). We are quite rare. The vast majority of non-profits in CA (and across the US) are devoted to health and human services. Non-profits heavily dominate “last mile” services delivery in the US, and there’s a wealth of information about them and advice on how to operate. We have taken advantage of as much as we can all the advice given by Cal Non-Profits, and will continue to rely upon them for guidelines and checklists and statistics about the non-profit sector.

Almost all of the science and technology non-profits are private foundations. Almost all of the research institutes in this category have a single very large source of money, have paid staff, and are clearly dedicated to a mutually beneficial relationship with commercial consumers. This is a very different way of operating from ORI, which is registered as a public charity.

And, the way we have been funded directly impacts this status as a public charity. 501(c)(3)s like ORI are required to have diverse funding. We have to comply with what’s called a “public support test” that kicks in after our fifth year of operation. We’ve been around three years and have two more to go before this test is applied. While we did come very close to passing this test in 2020, we will not pass it for 2021. The specific test is that 33.3% of our funding must come from what are called public sources. Technically this means at least 33.3% of donations must be given by donors who give less than 2% of the nonprofit’s overall receipts. That 2% test means that each non-profit’s donation numbers will be different, depending on the overall receipts.

With ARDC being our primary funding source, all of the other sources amounted to at most 30% in 2020. In 2021, the vast majority of funding came from ARDC, putting the percentage from other sources down much further. A quick calculation today shows other sources of funding coming in at most 24%. Given the 2% rule, that number is in reality lower.

If we had just one unusually large grant from ARDC in our financial history, then that would be ok. The IRS lets you ignore one unusually large grant. You can punch that one out of your public support test calculations.

One can argue that all of the money from ARDC should count as unusually large, and all recipients out there doing tower trailers and buying equipment for mesh networks and university club shacks shouldn’t have to worry about this at all.

The amateur community has never sourced or sunk large amounts of money like this. Hams have a reputation for being tight-fisted with money. Frugality is a virtue that we ourselves value and employ, as described earlier in this letter in the way we’ve extracted several “extra” features from the P4DX grant money that a less motivated organization would not bother to do.

A step function of money of the magnitude that ARDC has, showing up in the amateur radio community, cannot easily be matched or diluted. ARDC principals have heard this from community members with philanthropic experience from the get go.

For almost any amateur radio organization, outside of the very largest, diverse sources of money on the order of an ARDC grant simply do not exist. This means that ham non-profits can take one large grant from ARDC without much trouble or effect on their status, but that’s it. The vast majority of ham clubs and organizations file nothing more than a postcard with the IRS every year. Above $50,000 in gross receipts and then they have to file the full 990. A large influx of money on an ecosystem of organizations that have never had access to it before includes both negative and positive effects.

For organizations like ORI that fully intended to work with ARDC for the long haul, this puts a huge additional fundraising burden on the leadership. Since ORI has ruled out selling memberships, the fundraising alternatives are even more challenging in an environment where a highly successful ham club auction raises $400.

So what happens when your public charity fails the public support test? Well, actually, nothing too horrible, but only if you are prepared for it. You are, after a process that does have a subjective component, converted from a public charity to a private foundation. The downside is that you have to re-file all your taxes as a private foundation going back all five years. There are some upsides. Private foundations do not have to follow some of the rules that public charities are required to comply with.

As soon as we figured out we were well on our way to being converted into a private foundation, which was mid-May 2021, we told ARDC. This was “news to them”. After talking it over with ARDC staff, we then hired a non-profit law specialist for advice (at ORI expense), wrote everything down, and came up with a plan. ARDC could either fund ARDC service programs that ORI would execute, and it would not “count against us”, or ORI could simply plan on becoming a Private Operating Foundation associated with ARDC. These options were proposed to ARDC staff. There was email back and forth and several zoom calls. The answer was eventually “no” on ARDC running Service Programs, but “yes” on ORI becoming a Private Operating Foundation associated with ARDC.

Problem solved! We had a party to celebrate. The feelings of IRS doom are kind of a big deal for a relatively new non-profit. We viewed this as being “hired”, in a way, by ARDC.

This solution held until October 2021. It was no longer clear that ARDC wanted this type of relationship. Both the “run Service Programs that ORI executes” approach and the “Private Operating Foundation associated with ARDC” approaches require a lot of communication and work. ARDC was not set up for either of these solutions. ARDC operates very differently from ORI. It does not have the same management structure or style, and it does not communicate like we do. Despite our best efforts, we couldn’t “impedance match” to make up for these differences. It’s unreasonable to expect them to change.

So, in November of 2021, the board of ORI and other senior advisers with non-profit and foundation experience recommended reversing the “conversion plan”. This means raising enough money to bring the ratio back up above the public support test limit to stay a 501(c)(3). The fundraising goal, as of today, is $150,000. This money has to come from diverse and much smaller sources. This must be raised over the next two years. It will be substantially more administrative and executive work to remain independent, but it’s how we were founded and how we have operated all along. The path forward is clear enough. The series of decisions during this process took a large amount of time and energy from May until November, but it was well worth the effort. Decisions about what type of non-profit organization ORI is or becomes have enormous impact on what we do and how well we are able to do it.

$150,000 (or more) is a large amount of money to raise in small amounts, especially within the amateur radio community. Have some advice? Want to get involved raising the money? Have another solution? Welcome aboard.

The fact that we exist and are successful in amateur radio communications R&D is very unusual. This means that we are vulnerable and it means we have more work to do, every year, to remain operational. Your support is vital for success.

Thank you to everyone that is pulling for us to succeed! We are looking forward to 2022 and welcome your ideas, time, talent, treasure, and advice.

-Michelle W5NYV
CEO ORI

ORI participation at OSCW 2021

Recording, transcript, and slides of Open Research Institute’s presentation at Open Source Cubesat Workshop 2021.


Hello everybody! I’m Michelle Thompson W5NYV and I’m here to tell you all about what Open Research Institute is and what we have been doing.

Open Research Institute (ORI) is a non-profit research and development organization which provides all of its work to the general public under the principles of Open Source and Open Access to Research. As we all know, these mean particular things, and those things have to be defined and they have to be defended.

Open Source is type of intellectual property management where everything you need to recreate or modify a design is freely available. As a baseline, we use GPL v3.0 for software and the CERN Open Hardware License version 2.0 for hardware. All we do is open source work, primarily for amateur radio space and terrestrial, but also some other fields, as you will see.

So who are we?

Here is our current board, and our immediate past CEO Bruce Perens. We have one opening on the board, as Ben Hilburn, one of our founders, very recently retired from being an active Director at ORI. He remains as one of our senior advisors. We are looking for someone to join ORI board that supports what we do and wants to help make it happen. It’s an active role in a flat management structure. Board members are are experienced in management, engineering, operations, and technology, and three out of the current number of four are from underrepresented groups in STEM.

As a board, it is our mission to serve our participants, developers, and community members. We now have at least 535 that participate in what we call the Open Source Triad: our mailing list, Slack, and GitHub. All work is organized in independent projects or initiatives.

We have some affiliations and we proudly ascribe to the Open Space Manifesto from Libre Space Foundation. We work with radio organizations, several universities, and have worked with a variety of for-profits.

What do we do?

Here’s a visual summary of top level projects and initiatives. The vertical axis is risk. Higher risk projects are at the top, lower risk projects are at the bottom. Maturity increases left to right. Maturity may indicate schedule, but the score is also influenced by complexity or difficulty. The color of the shape indicates how much stress that project is under or what the risk level is at this time. The size of the shape is the budget estimate. By far, the largest budget, riskiest, and least mature work is in the AquaPhage project, which is open source bacteriophage research and development. Bacteriophage are viruses that attack and destroy bacteria. This is biomedical and not amateur radio. This project was halted by COVID and has not yet resumed.

Our digital multiplexing payload project is called P4DX, and it’s in the middle in green. This is a multiple access microwave digital regenerating repeater for space and terrestrial deployment.

Channels divided in frequency are the uplink. The uplink is on 5 GHz. The processor on the payload digitizes and multiplexes these signals and uses DVB-S2/X as a single time-division downlink. The downlink is on 10 GHz. The system adapts to channel conditions and handles things like quality of service decisions. For example, low and high latency digital content. The uplink is divided up using a polyphase channelizer, based on the open source work done by Theseus Cores.

For the current prototype, we are only using MPEG transport stream, but generic data is the goal. The prototype beacon signal is 5 MHz wide and we are using one modulation and one error coding (yet). We are not yet rotating through all the allowed combinations in DVB-S2 (yet).

Our prototype work can also serve as a terrestrial multimedia beacon. Work was demonstrated to groups with mountaintop spaces in October 2021, and deployment will be as soon as possible.

M17 project is an open source VHF/UHF radio protocol. Think open source digital mode HTs and repeaters. This project is only slightly more stressed than P4DX, but it’s further along in maturity because it’s narrower in scope. We believe M17 Project will be very successful from current development to scaling up to commercial product launch. The M17 protocol is the native digital uplink protocol, with some modifications for 5GHz, for P4DX. We are working hard to get M17 on and through more satellites and more sounding rocket tests today.

Engineers General is our initiative to hire highly competent open source workers to reduce burnout and increase quality in open source work important to amateur radio. We have one contractor currently, eight resumes, and have applied for funding for two more. We are actively looking for funding for the remaining five.

The “birdbath” is a large dish antenna at the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center. This was used in the past, but has been parked for decades. It took two years of negotiation, but ORI has the support of the museum and permission to begin work renovating this dish for citizen science and amateur radio educational use. Work parties from earlier this year were rescheduled due to COVID.

Upper right there are two completed projects. One is ITAR/EAR Regulatory Work. It took over a year, but we received a determination from the State Department that open source satellite work is free of ITAR, from Commerce that it is free of EAR, and we obtained an advisory opinion that publishing on the internet counts as publishing under the regulations. This is a huge step forward for not just amateur radio, but anyone that wants to contribute to open source space work.

Debris Mitigation Regulatory Work took 10 months to complete. The process culminated in a highly successful meeting with the FCC Wireless Telecommunications Board, the Office of Engineering Technology, and the Satellite Bureau in late October 2021.

Lower right is Battery Matching, a project that matches NiCd cells for very durable batteries in the style that used to be done in amateur satellites, and puts the methods and documentation in the public domain.

AmbaSat Inspired Sensors used to be on the bottom right but now it’s bumped back a bit in maturity level is higher risk. This was supposed to be a project done by students at Vanderbilt university, but no students materialized, primarily due to COVID. We had one kick-butt professional volunteer who was working on a 10GHz beacon that went into the sensor connector on the main board, but the project was moving slowly, and ORI decided to provide additional operational support. Additional volunteers joined the team, we reviewed the finances, and then took some actions. We updated the main board to move it from the illegal ISM band it was in to the legal 70cm ham band. We improved power and ground and addressed some other design concerns. The boards are back as of last week and software and firmware development is underway. The 10 GHz sensor “beacon” work is proceeding quickly as well. AmbaSat is an excellent educational platform, but the ISM band decision isn’t the only problem with it. It’s very small.

We decided to look at combining the 70cm AmbaSat with another open source satellite board to make a combined spacecraft design. I reached out to Pierros Pappadeus at Libre Space, and we are moving forward with using the SatNOGS Comms project. We look forward to contributing to the FPGA codebase and flying both AmbaSat and SatNOGS Comms designs as early and as often as possible, starting with sounding rockets and ending up in space.

All of these projects are open source and all work is published as it is created.

When?

We have timelines! We were incorporated in February of 2018, got our 501c3 in March of 2019, and we hit the ground running and haven’t stopped since.

We’ll distribute a copy of the slides so you can see our wins and losses along the along the way. There’s a lot going on in here.

Here’s what’s been going on since March, and the future plans we know about.

We use Agile framework for management, and most of us have some sort of formal certification either completed, or in process. This is the Agile manifesto and it is the foundation of how our board decides things and how it supports project leads and volunteers. Note the second item, and put in the word hardware instead of software, and that’s one of the reasons we demonstrate early and often and incorporate the feedback quickly.

Where are we?

Here’s the locations of the concentrations of current major contributors and participants. When we say international, we mean it. Our participants have a wide range of ages, are generally educated in engineering, come from a variety of backgrounds, but do tend to be relatively young and male.

We have some physical locations that are important for carrying out the work we do. Remote Labs are lab benches connected to the internet that allow direct access to advanced lab equipment and two different large Xilinx development boards and DVB-S2/X gear. We have relocated our second Remote Lab equipment from Florida to Arkansas, and have added a three-dish interferometry site for amateur radio and public science use. Remote Labs are here for you all to use. If you need large FPGA resources and test equipment up to 6 GHz, then we have your back.

We bought Open Lunar Foundation’s satellite lab. It’s in storage waiting for the M17 project lab construction to conclude, and then the equipment will go there to pack that lab full of wonderful test equipment, materials, and supplies.

Why do this?

We believe that an open source approach to things like amateur digital communications, bacteriophage research, and sticking up for the non-commercial use of space will result in the best possible outcomes for the good of humanity.

We have a lightweight agile approach to doing things. We keep our overhead very low, we are radically participant-focused, and the work must be internationally accessible.

You can see that public demonstrations and regulatory work are given a high priority. Working code and working hardware are highly valued. Working means working over the air.

Thank you to everyone at Libre Space for the support and opportunity to present here today.

https://www.openresearch.institute/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/OSCW-2021-W5NYV-ORI-1.pdf

Space and Satellite Symposium 2021 Transcript and Video Links

Welcome to the IEEE Space and Satellite Symposium: Information Theory, Amateur Radio, and Amateur Satellites.

This event is co-sponsored by the IEEE San Diego Computer Society Chapter, lead by Naveed Qazi. Please welcome him to the stage as explains what the Computer Society is all about. Naveed you have the floor.

(Naveed shared a live update with the audience about the Computer Society meetings, events, and areas of concentration.)

This event is also co-sponsored by the IEEE San Diego Information Theory Society, lead by Dr. Orlitsky and Michelle Thompson, W5NYV.

Logistics sponsor is Open Research Institute. A special thank you to Vidya Gopalakrishna, Jayala_29, Jim Tittsler, Navid Qazi, Charlie Bird, the IEEE review committee, IEEE-USA, and all our speakers.

All talks have already been published on YouTube, so if there’s something in particular you want to see and you have limited time, then please feel free to go straight to the playlist. Our goal for this event is high-tech and low-stress.

If you have questions for the speakers, please put them in chat. If the speaker is present, then they will answer there. All questions will be anonymized and sent to the speakers. A Q&A will be added to the YouTube playlist.

Information Theory is an intensely interdisciplinary field. This collection of talks demonstrates that to great effect.

The talks span a variety of subjects and are from people with a range of experience and backgrounds.

All talks will be available for free going forward and we look forward to working with IEEE on future events and workshops.

In November, Open Research Institute will have a series about mission planning for non-traditional amateur satellite orbits and we will be at HamCation in Florida in February of 2022. If you are there, please visit our booth. We’ll have a forum with TAPR and will be hosting a contest for the hamlets attendees.

We will begin with our keynote, Ugly Modern Music: An Information Theoretic View by Frank Brickle. Talks will play live from here with a brief intermission at 10am US Pacific.

It has been a great honor to work with Frank Brickle. It’s often said that music and mathematics are closely related, but relatively little published accessible and practical work. We hope this presentation is a step forward towards a goal of Information Theory Applications in Music.

Our next talk is about amateur radio as a testbed for science and high technology. Courtney Duncan has a unique viewpoint here, as he recently retired from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was a lead on the Mars Helicopter.

Thank you to Courtney for continuing service to both the scientific and amateur communities and for describing an interpretation of the amateur radio service, for both space and terrestrial, that provides both a practical and a theoretical role.

I think we can see how amateur radio values and practice assisted in the success of the Mars Helicopter.

Please share your questions for Courtney in the chat. He is here and can answer. If you want to send in your questions later, then send them in to the address in the Symposium email, or at w5nyv@arrl.net.

Next, is Anshul Makkar, who will speak about specific very technical work for the amateur radio satellite service. He is working on Low Density Parity Check implementation on Field Programmable Gate Arrays for any amateur satellite project that sees the value in open source work.

Thank you to Anshul Makkar. If you have questions for him please share them in chat, as he is here and can answer them live, or send them to the contact addresses in the Symposium registration email, and we will follow up.

Bringing multiple implementations of LDPC to the open source community is one of the things that Open Research institute does, and it is something that you can find an enormous number of IEEE resources about.

Next is Dr. Estevez who will be speaking about his work on a narrowband modem for the QO-100 GEO amateur radio transponder. For those of you unfamiliar with this satellite, it’s the first geosynchronous amateur radio payload. This is a remarkable achievement and a huge step forward for amateur communications. This physical platform for experimentation will give us opportunities for innovation for years to come. Dr. Estevez work is a big part of that movement. Please welcome him to the stage.

A special note, on October 24th, Dr. Estevez was awarded the G3AAJ Trophy, from AMSAT-UK, in recognition of his contributions to amateur satellite development and activity. In addition to the practical applications seen in this presentation, Dr. Estevez is also the author of GNU Radio satellites block set, which are blocks in gnu radio that allow one to much more easily receive satellite communications using GNU Radio. If you are unfamiliar with GNU Radio, a DSP framework for SDR, then please visit gnu radio dot org to learn more.

Next is a talk about a very practical and scrappy project – figuring out how to characterize channels and make circuits for a very small open source satellite platform called AmbaSat. Part of the mission of IEEE and Open Research Institute is education and professional development. If you see a way to contribute to the success of renovating and improving the AmbaSat platform, please get in touch with Vidya Gopalakrishna and Dr. Alan Johnston, the Primary investigator and advisor for this particular project, which is funded by ARDC.

Please welcome Vidya to the stage.

Thank you to Vidya Gopalakrishna. Please ask your questions for her in the chat, as she is here and can answer them live.

Part of our event was a call for musical compositions related to Space and Satellites. We are proud to premiere some original music today. The first of the two short pieces that we will play today is Space Orchestra, which is categorized as Jazz. A full information theory analysis of this piece will be done for the next San Diego Information Theory Society meeting, later this year.

The theme of this piece, is what the composer felt and decide to write, when focusing on the planets of our solar system, and our place within it. This is Space Orchestra, put into the public domain and available at no cost from Open Research Institute.

Space Orchestra

Our second music premiere is called Risk, and is in the electronic dance music category. The lyrics are from John F. Kennedy’s speech at Rice University, but are from a part of the speech that is not quoted as often as the section that includes “we choose to go to the moon, not because it is easy, but because it it hard.” Instead, we highlight the part of the speech that puts space exploration in the context of human history, and recognizes the great risk of exploration into hostile conditions for the benefit of all.

This is Risk, available from Open Research Institute for free.

Risk

Jan King

Our closing talk is from Jan King, a space industry professional and frequent contributor to amateur satellite work. He is speaking today about the very bright future for millimeter wave amateur satellites. Please welcome to the stage Jan King.

Thank you to Jan King.

This event would not be possible without a significant amount of work from our speakers, sponsors, supporters, and volunteers. Thank you all for your time and expertise.

Do you have an idea or talk that you would like to share? All of us at the chapter level in IEEE, like Naveed Qazi, Dr. Orlitzky, myself, and many others, are here to make it as easy as possible for your work to be shared. Get in touch and we’ll get you started and supported.

This transcript with the links to videos will be posted to the YouTube playlist description, and will be sent out to everyone that registered in advance, to make it easy for anyone to replay any part of this event. For this set of presentations, 104 people pre-registered and there’s a large number of views on the content in the playlist as of the close of the conference.

While the half-day conference program has concluded, the floor is open for discussion, questions, comments, and ideas for related or future work.

ITAR/EAR Regulatory Work Background and Summary

September 12, 2021
Michelle Thompson W5NYV

Export regulations divide both technical information and actual hardware into three categories. The most heavily restricted technologies fall under ITAR, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which are administered by the State Department. Technologies subject to more routine restrictions fall under EAR, the Export Administration Regulations, administered by the Department of Commerce. Technologies that are not subject to either set of regulations are not restricted for export.

ITAR and EAR have had a dramatic effect on both commercial and amateur satellite work since at least the mid-1990s. The regulations are blamed for a significant decline in US market share for satellite systems and halted highly successful international amateur collaborations.

There is a public-domain exception in both ITAR and EAR. Open source work that is published as it is created, and is freely available to the general public at no cost, is not subject to ITAR or EAR.

Open Research Institute (ORI) was founded in March 2018 by Bruce Perens in order to provide a formal structure for open source satellite work. Bruce invited Ben Hilburn and myself to be the founding officers. ORI is headquartered in California, USA. Participants come from all over the world.

ORI memberships would not be sold in order to not compete with amateur satellite membership organizations in any way. All work would be freely available to the general public in compliance with ITAR and EAR. ORI was set up as a project-based research institute and not as a member society.

ORI became a 501(c)(3) in March 2019 and began fundraising with the Trans-Ionospheric conference badge project. This was successful and allowed for open source satellite technical and regulatory work to proceed. While all the legal advice so far had affirmed ORI’s interpretation of ITAR and EAR public domain carve-outs, some potential funding sources wanted to see a “formal” legal opinion.

Our choices were to continue insisting we were right, or to be effective. ORI chose to be effective.

In July 2019 Bruce Perens interviewed several several law firms that were aligned with ORI goals and values. We selected one recommended by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and began working with Thomsen & Burke LLP to form a legal strategy that would clearly and explicitly solve the “ITAR/EAR problem” for amateur satellite.

From May – September 2019, I campaigned in a contested election to the AMSAT-NA Board of Directors and won a seat. AMSAT stands for AMateur SATellite, and is composed of a number of organizations around the world that support the amateur satellite service. AMSAT-NA is the North American amateur satellite advocacy organization. The name of the North American organization is frequently shortened to AMSAT.

In November 2019, December 2019, and January 2020, ORI reached out in writing to AMSAT-DL, JAMSAT (AMSAT Japan), AMSAT-UK, AMSAT-NA, EFF, the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), American Radio Relay League (ARRL), Open Source Initiative (OSI), and multiple Universities and individuals active in open source and amateur radio. The communication outlined the legal strategy, invited collaboration, and asked for statements of support.

The legal strategy consisted of three parts. First, a Commodity Jurisdiction Request to the US State Department asking for a Final Determination Letter that said that open source satellite work was free of ITAR. Second, a classification request to the US Commerce Department that would use the Final Determination to synchronize classification under EAR. Third, an Advisory Opinion Request to US Commerce clarifying the result from the US Commerce Department. This final step would provide needed guidance on publishing requirements and make it abundantly clear that open source satellite work was indeed free. Being free to work with others in the open is vastly superior to complying with onerous and punitive regulations designed to insure “national security”.

All organizations responded to or at least acknowledged the letter, except AMSAT.

On 20 February 2020, Open Research Institute filed a Commodity Jurisdiction Request with the US State Department, seeking to establish that key technologies for amateur radio are not subject to State Department jurisdiction. “Information and Software for a Digital Microwave Broadband Communications System for Space and Terrestrial Amateur Radio Use” was assigned the case number CJ0003120.

As encryption is allowed under Part 97 amateur satellite rules, the use of encryption was deliberately included in the request. The inclusion of encryption mandated that the Bureau of Industry and Security would have to review the request, which lengthened the schedule. The Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security also reviewed the work, as both departments have significant interest in regulating communications satellites and communications technology.

On 11 August 2020, The United States Department of State ruled favorably on Open Research Institute’s commodity jurisdiction request, finding that specified “Information and Software for a Digital Microwave Broadband Communications System for Space and Terrestrial Amateur Radio Use” was definitely not subject to State Department jurisdiction under ITAR.

The technology was not subject to State Department jurisdiction. This was the best possible outcome of a CJ request. The news was publicly announced.

The Final Determination letter, Commodity Jurisdiction cover letter, and the application itself can be found at:
https://github.com/phase4ground/documents/tree/master/Regulatory

A list of Commodity Jurisdiction request summaries can be found at the State Department website at:
https://www.pmddtc.state.gov/?id=ddtc_kb_article_page&sys_id=6ea6afdcdbc36300529d368d7c96194b

Under this Final Determination, the technologies were subject to the EAR. The next step was to submit a classification request to the Commerce Department. Work began on the request with Thomsen & Burke LLP.

In October 2020, the classification request was submitted to the US Commerce Department.

During the board meeting at the 2020 Symposium (October), I moved for AMSAT to adopt the regulatory results from ORI as AMSAT’s open source policy, using ORI’s participant and developer policies and open source approach as a template that would be customized for AMSAT. The motion also included a companion policy for closed-source/proprietary work, as there was no written policy for ITAR/EAR of either type. We would coordinate with both FD Associates and Thomsen & Burke LLP to write this two-pronged policy. This would completely cover AMSAT for any type of project.

The rest of the board wanted to instead establish an “Open Source Committee” that would produce a report in 90 days.

The 90 days expired without a report. The committee was renewed for another 90 days. That 90 days also expired without a report. I volunteered to participate on this committee, but was not included.

In January 2021, a classification of all the items, as requested, was received from the US Commerce Department.

Work began with Thomsen & Burke to draft an Advisory Opinion Request asking that openly published work ceases to be subject to the EAR. This established a full chain of documentation for open source amateur radio satellite service work.

On 23 February 2021, the Advisory Opinion Request was sent to the US Commerce Department.

On 2 September 2021, the US Commerce Department confirmed Thomsen & Burke LLP’s advice that posting information on the internet so that it is available to the public means it is not subject to the EAR.

Classification and Advisory Request documents can be found at: https://github.com/phase4ground/documents/tree/master/Regulatory

Many organizations have picked up the regulatory results, expressed appreciation, asked questions, and have indicated they are incorporating the results into their own work and policy documents.

The legal costs were fully reimbursed with a generous grant from Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC). See https://www.ampr.org/grants/grant-open-research-institute/

ARDC and ORI share a vision of clearly establishing open source as the best and safest way to accomplish technical volunteer work in amateur radio. The regulatory work provides solid support for that vision. The path is clear for a number of interesting projects facilitating new methods for terrestrial and satellite communications, opening the door to robust global digital amateur communications.

Current work with Thomsen & Burke LLP is to write documents that explain how these results can be best used by others. This has significant relevance in industry and academia. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible to use the results.

The FAQ, optional notice, and training can be found (as soon as they are completed) at https://github.com/phase4ground/documents/tree/master/Regulatory

Will there be additional filings? The goal of any additional filings is to build a body of work that solidly support a wide variety of open source work. This is somewhat similar to the way patent portfolios work in commercial settings. It’s the sort of thing AMSAT could, and honestly should, be helping with.

This effort gives direct and large benefits to a large number of organizations, but it benefits AMSAT in particular. It allows free and open international collaboration, dramatically reduces legal risks, increases the potential volunteer corps, simplifies fundraising, and reduces management burdens.

The work applies to orbits besides GEO and technology besides DVB-S2/X. Those that “insist” on extremely narrow final determinations can write their own Commodity Jurisdictions requests and expect to get the same result because they can use this one in their request as a model and reference. As said before, additional filings would be of great benefit to the community because a population of results strengthens the case for open source work. However, additional filings are not necessary to use the results.

The key to using these regulatory results, or any like it, is that the public domain carve outs in ITAR and EAR are solid and provide a bright path out of a bad place. In order to use them, one has to commit to documented open source policies and follow the law with regard to what constitutes publishing. According to the Advisory Opinion Letter, if it is published, it must be free.

Publishing work as it is created, freely available to the general public, is the way to use the public domain carve-outs in the law. Publishing designs and data that allow the recreation of a work of software or hardware means publishing schematics, Gerber files, bills of materials, source code, tools required, test data, test plans, and the license that that work uses.

This last part is often overlooked but is a necessary part of a compliant open source policy. ORI recommends the CERN open hardware license or the TAPR open hardware license for hardware. ORI recommends GPL version 3.0 for software. Any license recognized by Open Source Initiative is an excellent starting point. Providing regular copies of work to a public library, whether in print or on DVD, is a baseline approach for a publishing policy. Using GitHub or GitLab is another recommended baseline policy.

ORI recommends the CERN Open Hardware License v2 because of the way it enables a useful open source hardware definition in a world dominated by a wide variety of proprietary tools. For example, FPGA design is a large and growing part of our world in advanced open source digital communications, and is the central service provided by ORI’s Remote Labs. Find more information about Remote Labs here: https://github.com/phase4ground/documents/tree/master/Remote_Labs

Since open source tools for FPGA are currently not capable of executing some of the required designs, as long as the tool or component meets the definition of “available component”, then the use of things like proprietary tools are allowed in the production of an open source design.

Following the example of FPGA work, this means that the VHDL source code is available for free to the general public. The FPGA is listed in the bill of materials and can be purchased. The version of Xilinx Vivado is listed, and can be obtained.

ORI’s developer and participant policies can be found here:
https://openresearch.institute/developer-and-participant-policies/

This regulatory work is a significant and positive result for the commercial and industrial world as well as in amateur and academic circles. Goals for the amateur radio satellite service should be the absolute minimum regulatory fear and risk for amateur volunteers, and a maximum amount of free and open international technical cooperation.

Thank you! Contact ORI with questions about the legal work at ori at openresearch dot institute

Successful Regulatory Results for Open Source Amateur Satellite Work

On 2 September, 2021, Open Research Institute (ORI) received an advisory opinion from US Commerce Department BIS.

The letter confirmed that posting information on the internet so that it is available to the public means that open source amateur satellite communications work is not subject to the Export Administration Regulation (EAR). Prior work established that open source amateur satellite communications work was free of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

This is a significant regulatory success for open source amateur satellite work and open source in general.

Work was funded by ARDC and executed by Open Research Institute. Legal assistance was provided by Thomsen and Burke LLP.

All documents and links to presentations about the work are freely available at https://github.com/phase4ground/documents/tree/master/Regulatory

Thank you to those who have supported and assisted ORI during the many stages of this successful regulatory endeavor. Making a successful argument requires competence, persistence, and patience. ORI will build upon this work moving forward in order to advance the aims and purposes of open source amateur radio work.

Visit https://www.openresearch.institute/getting-started/ to get involved.

Executive Board Meeting Minutes August 2021

Attending:

Steve Conklin (CFO), Rose Easton (guest), Keith Wheeler (Director), James Wheeler (Acting Secretary), Michael Easton (guest), Paul Williamson (Master at Arms), Michelle Thompson (CEO)

Location:

Koi Restaurant, Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA (DEFCON)

Minutes:

-Opening Remarks
–Motion passed to maintain current group of Directors (Bill and Karen in absentia)
-Previous minutes edits approved
-Open Lunar Business lab equipment obtained due to running under budget on equipment
-ARDC and ORI remote lab talks continue
-Plans on movement of Remote Lab East to Remote Lab South
–Motion Passed Remote Lab South to be established on the property of Keith Wheeler, in Little Rock, AR
–Shipping costs of equipment will likely push over grant budget
—Some amount of leeway needed to adjust budgeting to cover shipping
Recess
-ERR request being considered up to $10k
-Discuss to go beyond the budget originally allocated to make up for the sudden need to shut down Remote Lab East
-Additional discussion made to take from the M17 account to make up for additional cost
-Discussion conducted on determining how far over budget lab project can go before additional meetings must be conducted
-Pertinent Budget Information:
–Currently, under budget by $2k
–Lab equipment in bay area costs $500 a month
-Motion Passed: Proposal to allow for a $20k overage on the lab budget, to account for movement of equipment to Remote Lab South, and M17, used at the discretion of M approved. In the event that additional cost beyond this limit is reached, another meeting will be held
-Progress with discussions with M17 and FCC discussed
–Future discussion with International Satellite Bureau and OET planned after meeting with the FCC
-Plans to discuss successes with the FCC and defeating ITAR at upcoming HAM Expo
-Regulatory meddling in Texas successful
–space industry people happy with meddling due to discussing debris mitigation and FCC jurisdiction
-AMSAT maintains that debris mitigation rules should not be enforced on HAM radio, believe it will destroy space based HAM radio
–AMSAT invited to meetings and to be part of the planning committee but declined
-FCC seems to be leaning more towards ORI beliefs on debris mitigation
-Possibility of LEO being one of few exceptions to debris mitigation rules
-End goal of FCC discussion is to allow for ambitious missions, including graveyard orbits
–Possibility of third graveyard orbit
-The meetings will continue until morale improves
-Note of moving of satellite antennas to Remote Lab South, due to increased space
-Discussion of grant being written by Keith to get a salary for engineers on a contract basis from ARDC, and for payment for Lab Director to maintain lab equipment on Remote Lab South, no motion to be made at time, but grant will be applied for
-Closing Remarks
-Motion to adjourn

Weekly Engineering Report 10 August 2021

Greetings all!

1) OpenRotor will have a Ham Expo workshop from 12:00pm – 2:00pm in the Chat. Direct link is: https://ori.whereby.com/open-research-institute

Get there by clicking “Chat” in the booth at Ham Expo. 

2) Planning spreadsheet for ORI at Ham Expo has been started and the editable version is linked in the Slack.

Please add yourself if you have something to present on any open source amateur radio or amateur radio satellite service subject. Coordinate through Slack. We have excellent resources and support from Ham Expo this year. The goal is to provide a low-stress enjoyable venue to speak with attendees about the things we do and the things we want to see succeed.

I need videos of demos or time commitments for live demos. Don’t be shy – your work is of great interest at the Expo. 

3) If you are not on our Slack, or haven’t visited lately, please do – this is where daily engineering and planning happens. 

https://phase4ground.slack.com/

If you need an invite, please send me a request directly. 

4) FPGA Standup meeting was today and the team will have a lot to show off at Ham Expo and for Google Skywater in October. Most recent recording of the weekly standup is:

5) DEFCON was a big success. We had our first in-person board meeting in nearly two years. A lot of networking and discussion and learning happened. There are several projects that we might want to consider supporting or assisting. More about those projects in the #defcon channel in Slack. 

6) ORI Store (https://stores.goldmedalideas.com/ori/shop/home) will have a promotion. We have a supply of the 2019 printed paper versions of the AMSAT Getting Started With Amateur Satellites Guide and will include one in every order over $30 starting at Ham Expo and lasting until supplies are gone. 

7) Open Lunar Foundation lab purchase is complete and the lease for storage of that equipment is being transferred from Open Lunar to ORI this week. The lab equipment will move to primarily M17 Lab on the East Coast and some will go to Remote Lab South in Arkansas this autumn. If you can help reduce shipping costs then get in touch.

8) FCC has agreed to meet with us and will arrange for both OET and the International Satellite Bureau to attend. The agenda is how open source can successfully address Debris Mitigation regulatory requirements for the amateur radio satellite service, and specific microwave band spectrum defense for the amateur radio satellite service. A summary of the content for this meeting will be presented at Ham Expo. There will be a breakout session and Q&A. 

9) Work session at Huntsville Space and Rocket Center for the Birdbath Big Dish renovation has been postponed due to covid. Originally scheduled for immediately following Huntsville Hamfest, the work session will happen when it’s safe to invite volunteers to work together on site. This project renovates a 20 foot dish for open source amateur and citizen space science use.

-Michelle W5NYV

Wally Ritchie WU1Y – SK

It’s never easy to share bad news about a significant loss.

Wally Ritchie WU1Y passed away in Florida on 1 July 2021 from heart failure.

We have lost a big part of our team. I, and I know many of you, join his friends and family in mourning his passing.

While he defeated cancer with the same energy and style that he overcame so many other daunting challenges in his life, he was unable to recover from a series of setbacks that began in late May and worsened in late June.

Wally was our Primary Investigator for the Phase 4 transponder project, is a primary contributor to the documentation, design, fundraising, and grant process for the transponder, and was responsible for the specification and vision of Remote Labs. He defended, mentored, and supported the team and Open Research Institute work on numerous occasions. He was a true subject matter expert in space and terrestrial digital communications, was an experienced manager, and a talented entrepreneur. He lived and traveled internationally, was well read, and never failed to provide real backbone exactly when and where it was needed.

Professionally, Wally was a Principal Engineer. He had extensive experience in systems engineering and firmware development. He was an expert in Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA). He held several high-level manufacturing and management positions during his career, and knew digital signal processing in depth. He was devoted to education and improving student accessibility to high technology.

I met Wally through Jonathan Brandenburg at the 2016 TAPR DCC. We hit it off instantly. We had a lot in common. Wally had repeatedly attempted to volunteer through AMSAT and had not gotten a positive response. He was thrilled to find out that people were working on the problems that he thought were important for amateur satellites, and he dug in and selflessly volunteered from that day forward. Our collaboration extended to open source medical devices, regulatory work, a variety of grant applications, and some attempts at some really fun proprietary ventures. I met his wife Debbie and his son Keegan.

He did presentations, volunteered at the HamCation booth, and organized several workshops. He lead design reviews and wrote papers whenever they were needed. He did whatever I asked and always let me know when I was doing a good job, or where I could improve.

I learned so much from him and will miss him very much.

While it’s not possible to “replace” someone like Wally, we will keep going with the same spirit. He had great confidence in our ability to achieve our goals. I’m not inclined to let him down.

-Michelle W5NYV

NiCd Battery Analysis: Historical and Modern

Greetings all!

I’d like to tell you all about a project going on to revive/document Larry Keyser’s engineering on matched NiCd cells that made up the batteries for UO-11 and other amateur payloads from that era. This would be up to four of the AO-teens payloads, and at least one other smallsat. The batteries were very reliable, exceeding amateur and professional expectations. 

Selecting cells for a battery takes testing and an understanding of the basics of the underlying chemistry and physics. Early amateur payloads got a great deal here with some surplus cells from avionics and/or medical surplus. These cells were high quality to begin with, but that’s not enough by itself to ensure a lengthy lifespan in space. 

Larry Keyser knew how to match the cells to make batteries that would last a long time. The overall strategy was to select batteries that were similar. Not necessarily the best performers in the batch, but the best matched cells.

Temperature performance and curve matching were both considered critical. Furthermore, the batteries were scanned to eliminate those with internal structural anomalies and faults. 

Several of us at ORI are preserving, publishing, and extending this work. We have some advantages, in that modern battery analysis equipment is much easier to use and more capable than what previous volunteers had to work with. ORI has a modern battery analyzer, capable of working up to 44 volts, available for community use.

Modern test equipment produces much higher resolution charge/discharge curves, and temperature monitoring is incorporated automatically. Measurements can be automated in ways that Larry didn’t really have available at the time he was working on this for AMSAT and other missions. 

We have software tools and languages (Python, MATLAB) that make curve matching easier. There’s never been a better time to save and publish a summary article about Larry’s achievements and what we, as modern hams, can do to improve upon it. 

This is all open source work through Open Research Institute. It’s offered for free to anyone or any organization that wants to use it. NiCd batteries aren’t as hip or cool as Lithium Ion, but they are reliable in space, and this ongoing battery project will produce both data and actual physical battery packs that amateur/educational missions may want to consider using. 

The battery analysis equipment is capable of doing any battery chemistry, so if you have an open source amateur satellite project in mind that needs battery analysis support, ORI is here to help out with that. 

Want to get involved?

Dual-Band Feeds Update

My background is baseband and algorithm development, but the RF side is where the signals meet and exceed the sky. I have only the deepest respect for those that are talented here and give generously of their time for amateur satellite project success. We owe so much to Kent Britain, Paul Wade, and many others.

There are two designs for Phase 4 dual band feeds in the repository linked here. They are dual-band feeds, best used in dishes.

https://github.com/phase4ground/documents/tree/master/Engineering/Antennas_and_Feeds

The first one I want to introduce you to is the 5 GHz up, 10 GHz down. This feed was designed by Paul Wade W1GHZ, has lab results, has been manufactured in amateur machine shops, and has been 3d printed/metallized. This feed was demonstrated at amateur and IEEE conferences.

The second is 10 GHz up, 24 GHz down. Paul fabricated a number of feeds for us to distribute. The design is by Gary K6MG and Lars AD6IW. Their paper can be found at https://dokumen.tips/documents/dual-band-1024-ghz-feedhorns-for-shallow-ad6fp-aa6iw-dualfinalpdfdual-band-1024.html?page=1.

Preliminary lab results are in progress and published in the repository. More to come! ORI bought 15 of them and is interested in putting them into the hands of amateurs that will use them and report back. Three have been sent out so far, and we are looking to send out more.

While the baseline Phase 4 design is “five and dime”, the goal of ORI is to use any and all microwave bands that we can. I think we are all aware of how much pressure our microwave bands are under from commercial interests.

The system design is extensible to 10/24, so we needed a feed for this.

If you want to contribute or participate, then please visit

https://www.openresearch.institute/getting-started/

Thank you to all that have helped make this possible!

-Michelle W5NYV

26 March 2021 Engineering Report

Here is a visual walkthrough of the features on the TEBF0808 UltraITX+ Baseboard for Trenz Electronic TE080X UltraSOM+, presented by Paul KB5MU and Michelle W5NYV.

These stations are available to the community from Open Research Institute’s Remote Labs. We currently have two sets of gear and are procuring two more.

The Trenz platform allows for full access to the FPGA, power reduction work, and thermal modeling. All are extremely important for space applications.

We also have the Xilinx development board for the Ultrascale, for preliminary work.

The FPGA module goes in the lower left empty square with the high-density connectors.

The FPGA module has a heat sink, called a heatspreader, that is a machined metal plate. It attaches to the FPGA module with screws. However, it needs an intermediate layer to conduct the heat from the FPGA to the metal plate. The plate is designed to fit many different modules, and there’s a gap between the metal plate and the top of the components on the FPGA module.

This gap is usually filled with a specific gap-filling thermal paste.

Which happens to be out of stock, all over the world.

So, of the four stations we’re settting up, one will be fitted with a thermal adhesive film. This comes in sheets and can be cut to size. It can be used for space, so as we dial down the power consumption with code adjustments, we can measure the thermal results with something that is appropriate for the space mission.

The other three will get gap-filling goo directly from Trenz. This is the only way to preserve the warranty on these expensive modules, so it’s not a bad choice. And, this gives us something to compare the sheet against. We’ll test both in thermal modeling and chamber.

-Michelle W5NYV

How To Leverage Amateur Radio In Space

Compiled by Michelle Thompson W5NYV, Patrick Stoddard WD9EWK, Douglas Quagliana KA2UPW, and Pierros Papadeas SV1QVE Director of Operations at Libre Space. Please contact any of us with questions, comments, additions, and corrections.

w5nyv@arrl.net
wd9ewk@amsat.org
dquagliana@gmail.com
pierros@libre.space

Version: March 22, 2021

Introduction

Who is this document for? You may belong to one or more of the following categories.

You want to deploy an amateur radio spacecraft.
You want to include amateur radio operators.
You want to use amateur radio frequencies.
You are interested in using SatNOGS.

Amateur radio is about the operators. The licensees in the amateur radio satellite service are individual people. They have a license not just to use communications resources in space, but they are also licensed to control spacecraft, with the permission of the spacecraft license holder.

The Amateur Radio Satellite Service is a non-commercial communications service available worldwide. It is dedicated to education, experimentation, and the amateur use of space.

The VHF international amateur satellite frequency allocation is 144.000 MHz – 146.000 MHz with 145.800 MHz – 146.000 MHz being recommended and preferred. The UHF international amateur satellite frequency allocation is 435.000 MHz – 438.000 MHz. There are other allocations on other bands, but these are the most heavily used at this time.

Providing a spacecraft that is useful to the amateur radio satellite service is not difficult, but there are aspects that may be non-intuitive coming from a commercial or academic background. There are expectations from the amateur radio community of spacecraft that operate on amateur radio bands.

The starting point is https://www.iaru.org/reference/satellites/

This site contains a wealth of information about Amateur Radio in Space. Carefully reviewing the entire site will put your project and your team in the best possible place to leverage the global amateur radio satellite service.

Once this set of documentation has been read, then community standards can be adopted.

Community Standards

The advice following about community standards is hard-won. If this advice is followed, the amateur radio aspects of your project have a much better chance of being successful.

1) Use forward error correction for digital downlinks. Use open protocols and open source.

2) Test over the air, as soon as possible, in the lab, on the ground, well before launch.

3) Clearly describe how amateur radio operators will receive your signal. Operators of satellites in the amateur-satellite service must publish full details of their modulation, encoding and telemetry formats and equations before launch. Publish details long enough in advance so that amateur radio operators can implement and test receiver designs. Use Science-Technology-Engineering-Math (STEM) educational organizations to get the word out. Use your local AMSAT Societies and related groups to get the word out. Describe the air interface as early as possible, even if this is before any software is ready.

4) Make and publish a recording of your telemetry signal to allow amateurs to test demodulation and decoding of your signal.

5) What’s in this for amateur radio operators? What is the added value of the project for the ham radio community? Is there an amateur radio transponder available for general use? If not, then support from the amateur community may be very low.

6) Incorporate SatNOGS.

SatNOGS has a very useful guide for satellite builders that want to use amateur radio.

https://wiki.satnogs.org/Satellite_Operator_Guide?fbclid=IwAR2gE0q8XlWN3HatnLPuVIo9-Y3TFq2uzAqgWN2O7ErjWCYymTrbS6cEbD0

Thank You

If you are reading this, you know that forward error correction or changing frequencies can’t be done at the last minute. The amateur satellite community can be highly valuable active participants in your satellite mission, if they have the information they need about the project.

If the project provides useful communications services and engaging opportunities to amateur operators, then the benefits are plentiful and powerful. Announcing amateur radio plans early enough to get engagement and quality feedback, and publishing all the details, are the key concepts.

Do you know of a team that is starting to look at using amateur radio on their spacecraft? Please pass this along to them.

Amateur Space Radio Exhibit to host ORI Technical Demos at Ham Expo March 2021

Please visit the Amateur Space Radio exhibit at the upcoming Ham Expo, 12-14 March 2021.

https://www.qsotodayhamexpo.com/

Amateur Space Radio is any amateur radio activity that has to do with space. It could be satellites, ionospheric sounding, ground stations, any AMSAT activity, schools, citizen science, radio astronomy, and more.

Exhibit support website is located at https://amateurspace.radio/

Space Radio is fun and accessible. There is room for people that want to operate satellites. There is room for advanced experimenters improving the technology. There is room for people that buy commercial equipment. There is room for DIY and open source. And, there is room for you!

Saturday’s Space and Satellite Track features eight talks that cover all aspects of Space Radio. How to get started with equipment you already own, an introductory talk that opens up all of the magic of satellite operations, a deep dive into current microwave band digital transponder technology, a history of GEO projects at AMSAT, an explanation of what is required to support an international volunteer team working on FPGA development for amateur satellite work, some very good regulatory news for the United States, how we are engaging students in amateur satellite, and what we need to do about space junk.

All of the talks will be available after Ham Expo, but at the event you will get to interact with the presenters directly, asking them questions, live. Many of these speakers will be at the Amateur Space Radio booth for breakout sessions.

The breakout session schedule includes Getting Started, Roving Operations, JAMSAT, Tech Talk, Tech Demos with Open Research Institute and others, ARDC, Space Weather with TAPR, and an Antenna Session with Kent Britain. We have a couple of open tables and if you want to see something discussed, then please come by and we will set something up.

The Amateur Space Radio exhibit in the Expo doesn’t just have breakout sessions with subject matter experts. It also has nine hours of video content from around the world. These videos include highlight reels, tutorials, and presentations. They cover activity ranging from FM satellite operations to antenna design to advanced propulsion experiments and more. We are playing the world class GNU Radio workshop from Dr. Estevez about decoding satellite transmissions on Sunday with all of the resources needed to participate, linked at the booth.

Our video playlist is available on YouTube from a link at front of the booth. This allows on demand viewing. The schedule for when they will be shown during the Expo is at the booth.

We have two social events this year. Friday night is a custom electronic dance set from John Brier. The recording will also be available through a link at the booth. John Brier is an active satellite operator and educator and is also an electronic dance music musician.

Our second social event is an online scavenger hunt with an Around the World Theme. The event starts at 7pm US Pacific tonight, Saturday, the 13 of March, and will be conducted through Zoom by Watson’s Adventures. If you want a ticket, come to Amateur Space Radio and find the Watson table. First come first serve. If you cannot use your ticket please return it or find someone who can. The adventure will start at 7pm US Pacific time sharp, so make sure to join ahead of time so you won’t be left out. We will close the table when we have given all tickets out.

If you want to learn more about Amateur Space Radio, and stay in touch, please use the Register Interest on our main banner at Ham Expo. We think space is the most exciting part of the amateur radio hobby and we want to hear from you on how to best support it moving forward.

Thank you to Ham Expo and the satellite community for making this exhibit such a success. Please welcome our speakers, and see you at the booth!

Welcome to Ham Expo March 2021

Here is the Schedule for the Space and Satellite PresentationTrack in Space Radio Auditorium. ORI is proud to have such good representation at this event. Please visit the Amateur Space Radio booth at QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo for our technical demonstrations, watch video presentations, and to visit with other amateur satellite enthusiasts. This event will be a big highlight of the year for amateur radio!


Watch the Track Intro Video below:

Please visit the Ham Expo website to register for the event.

HamCation 2021 – Special Edition

TAPR and ORI will have a joint forum at HamCation Special Edition 2021.

Attending HamCation Is Now Easier Than Ever!

At this virtual event, you can attend from anywhere you have an internet connection. Attend great webinars, join the HamCation QSO party, and put in your ticket for some truly great prizes.

At this year’s forum, ORI and TAPR focus on use cases for our open source hardware projects, celebrate the very bright present and future of amateur radio, and explain why open source is such a powerfully positive concept for the Amateur Radio Service as well as the Amateur Radio Satellite Service.

Join us Saturday February 13, 2021 at 12:00 PM US Eastern Time. Here’s what ORI and TAPR have in store for you!

12:00 – 12:05 The Spirit of Amateur Radio Experimentation

An inspiring and accessible introduction to the state of the art in amateur radio, this short video showcases the heart and soul of open source amateur radio hardware design, featuring TAPR and ORI. Exciting developments are happening in terrestrial microwave, aerospace, machine learning, contesting, education, and much more. There has never been a better time to be involved in amateur radio. You belong, no matter your level of technical expertise.

12:05 – 12:25 TAPR

Please join us as Scotty Cowling explains the TangerineSDR ecosystem, describes how much fun it will be to use this innovative software-defined radio, and how it stacks up against other radio systems. Then, learn about the Clock Module (CKM) from John Ackermann. This flexible module provides high-accuracy clock signals to your future favorite radio, the TangerineSDR. It can also be used in its own carrier board to provide a GPS Disciplined Oscillator (GPSDO) instrument, permitting near-laboratory grade time and frequency standard measurements in your ham shack. The modular and useful approach guides all of TAPR’s work.

TAPR is central to amateur radio culture. TAPR hosts the annual Digital Communications Conference, publishes a widely-read technical conference proceeding, and sends out an informative newsletter to members. TAPR sustains an enduring community of volunteers that consistently produce fast, flexible, and truly useful open source designs for the discerning amateur experimenter.

Panelists are Scotty Cowling and John Ackermann.

12:25-12:45 Open Research Institute

Space is beautiful, dangerous, challenging, and rewarding. Best of all, amateur radio operators worldwide have access to it! Open Research Institute (ORI) builds digital multiplexing transponders in the microwave bands. Intended for spacecraft at HEO, GEO, and beyond, these powerful transponders use state-of-the art error correction to provide world class reliability that adapts to the signal environment.

But, all statistics and no play makes for a dull radio. This system lets you send any data type you want, even through extremely difficult signal-to-noise conditions. Want to leave someone a voice message? No problem. Impromptu voice meetup? Yes! Set an alert for when a friend is on the air? Sure. Post a photo album of your antenna project with a voice memo to answer another ham’s question? You bet. All over the air and independent of the Internet. These systems can also be deployed terrestrially to provide modern amateur digital communications networks.

Open Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) that does open source research and development for amateur radio and beyond. ORI provides a wealth of community resources and learning opportunities for the experimental amateur radio community. Two well-stocked Remotely Accessible Lab Benches for advanced digital communications work, a full floating Vivado license, field-programmable gate array (FPGA) stations, and most crucially, ORI offers community, expert advice, and support to go from “curious” to “crack shot” in a wide variety of high-tech skillsets. Ready to take advantage of the rapidly growing world of open source hardware? Bring your time and attention and become part of it.

Participants are Michelle Thompson, Paul Williamson, Wally Ritchie, Anshul Makkar, and more.

Engineering Report 11 December 2020

Direct link: https://github.com/phase4ground/documents/blob/master/Management/Weekly_Engineering_Reports/20201211_Weekly_Engineering_Report.md

Content:

## Phase 4 Weekly Report for 11 December 2020

#### Architecture 9 December 2020

Progress this week on detailed architecture for the exciter. The short term goal is to be able to write base-band frames (BBFRAMES) to the buffer and send them out. BBFRAMES are connected to ethernet on the A53 side. This will achieve our original Phase I goals. Wally Ritchie leading efforts on the modulator and the interfaces so we can integrate the existing FEC code.

#### Remote Labs 9 December 2020

Video report from Remote Lab West available here: https://youtu.be/z0d1vvbX_LU

Video shows unpacking and deployment of the logic analyzer accessory for the mixed-signal oscilloscope. Device under test is an RC2014 and the signal inspected was RS232. Some concern here because we can get single characters and short bursts perfectly, but longer bursts of RS232 are not successfully decoded. Nick and others have given advice and it will be followed up on.

Signal generator for Remote Lab West expected Friday 11 December 2020. Remote Lab East has their signal generator with the upgraded clock already.

Trenz gear delayed, date TBD.

#### 9 December 2020 Meeting Notes – Open Lunar Foundation Use of ORI Radio Designs

Participated in a working meeting on how to use ORI’s transponder work in the NASA grant ecosystem. Answered questions, shared documents, and took some action items from Open Lunar Foundation.

#### 8 December 2020 Meeting Notes – Open Lunar Foundation Donor Summit

Attended a donor summit held by Open Lunar Foundation. Answered questions about ORI, P4XT, open source licensing, and how best to use the ORI transponder and ground equipment as a base design for Open Lunar Foundation’s efforts to provide solutions for LunaNet and beyond.

Learn more about Open Lunar Foundation at:

https://www.openlunar.org/

#### 8 December 2020 Meeting Notes – Debris Mitigation, GMAT, and Orbits

Wally Ritchie
Anshul Makkar
Michelle Thompson

**AI:** = Action Items

GMAT stands for General Mission Analysis Tool. This is an open source framework from NASA that allows high-fidelity mission planning. Find more information about this tool here:

https://opensource.gsfc.nasa.gov/projects/GMAT/index.php

Our LEO-to-GEO GMAT models by Achim Vollhardt can be found here:

https://github.com/phase4space/p4xt/wiki/General-Mission-Analysis-Tool-%28GMAT%29-Scripts-and-Explanations

The LEO-to-GEO GMAT models shows what we need to do to get to GEO on our own. They allow us to do a trade study between motoring to GEO from LEO vs. paying for a launch to GEO. In both cases, we need to model the GEO-to-disposal orbit, which is one of the things Anshul Makkar is working on.

There are multiple variables to consider when comparing LEO-to-GEO against straight-to-GEO, including:

1) debris mitigation concerns because spiraling up through what may be very large LEO constellation may raise objections, where straight-to-GEO does not, at increased launch expense.

2) the capability cost to LEO-to-GEO due to the larger amount of space required for fuel.

3) increased radiation exposure of a LEO-to-GEO spiral, which drives up cost and potentially capability.

Anshul is creating a GMAT mission to model desired orbits for P4XT. He had some questions about Debris Mitigation, GMAT, and the impact on orbits. Here is a summary of the discussion and the resulting action items and goals.

Anshul has been working through some examples to learn GMAT and has had success. He came to the point where he needed to know more about the parameters.

For Anshul’s initial round of work, we will model from GEO delivery to disposal orbit.

We currently refer to this as “Straight to Graveyard”.

The disposal orbits are 250 km above and below GEO.

The upper stage of the launches we expect to be able to take advantage of deliver payloads 50 km above or below GEO. The final maneuvering is typically done by the primary payload after separation from the final stage. This orbit, 50 km out, is called the “maneuvering zone”.

While we would like an equatorial disposal orbit, we can handle inclinations.

Wally shared some paper about some stable orbits available in disposal.

**AI:** Wally to send Anshul an edition of a good book resource on orbital mechanics.

With this GMAT mission creation, we will have three line elements (TLEs) that will enable ground station tracking modeling in currently available software.

**AI:** GMAT animations will be created to show a train of 4 payloads for global coverage.

The advantages to Straight to Graveyard are significant.

1) With a GEO-to-dispoal, we do not have to have the estimated 2 lbs of Iodine thruster fuel for a LEO to GEO orbit, modeled previously by Achim.

2) We do not suffer the wear and tear a LEO to GEO mission incurs.

3) We can use the saved space for more and better batteries, which increases mission life.

Given the reduced stationkeeping requirements of disposal orbits, we may be able to use open source thruster technology such as AIS work to maintain attitude.

The disposal orbit does require some tracking. However, it is slow. It also provides additional DX opportunities for operators. Path loss will vary more. Anything below 20 to 15 degrees elevation is challenging.

**AI:** Anshul to use existing GEO orbits and modify this mission with a burn to disposal to achieve the simplest Straight to Graveyard mission presentation.

**AI:** Anshul to present his work.

debris_mitigation Slack channel created for discussion, and relevant foundational documents have been shared there.

#### Virginia Tech Industrial Advisory Board Meeting Report
Open Research Institute attended our first Virginia Tech Industrial Advisory Board Meeting on 20 November 2020. The meeting was attended by over 40 representatives from industrial, academic, amateur, and open source communities. The goal of the Industrial Advisory Board is to improve Virginia Tech’s ability to educate students for roles in space exploration, science, technology, regulation, and management.

**Action items:** prepare 2-3 slides about ORI and our mission on the Industrial Advisory Board. Open source regulatory advancements, positive effect on commerce when used appropriately, and the improvement in educational outcomes are the communications goals for the slide deck.

#### High-Level Discussion on Thermal and Radiation

Action Item closed: Thermal Desktop license successfully installed on a FlexLM server donated to the cause by the power of KN6NK.

Current status: having trouble getting the license from the server to the local installation.

**New Action Item:** Tutorials completed using this software.

Mike Murphree requested a mission plan and expectations on the radiation environment as soon as possible.

Mike Murpree requested resource utilization of the Xilinx parts in order to compare against other potentially more radiation tolerant families of parts.

Michelle to provide documentation on the block diagrams and architecture documentation.

#### Trello Boards up and running
We are using Trello for task management. Plenty going on!

Join Phase 4 Ground Trello board:
https://trello.com/invite/b/REasyYiZ/8de4c059e252c7c435a1dafa25f655a8/phase-4-ground

Join Phase 4 Space Trello board:
https://trello.com/invite/b/GRBWasqW/1336a1fa5b88b380c27ccf95d21fec79/phase-4-space

#### AmbaSat Inspired Sensors

Account at Wells Fargo set up and dedicated funds from ARDC deposited.

#### Ham Expo 2021 Participation
ORI will present at and be part of an exhibit at the Ham Expo 2021. Details about the event here: https://www.qsotodayhamexpo.com/
**We will be using this event as a deadline for transponder work.** We will demonstrate functionality complete by March 2021 at the show.

#### HamCation 2021 Participation
We will participate in HamCation 2021. This is a virtual event. We have 45 minutes available for presentations. HamCation wants unique, fun, engaging, interactive events. This is a wonderful opportunity for us. Message from organizers after we committed: “We don’t have a schedule yet. Plan on 45 minutes for the webinar with a 15 minute break between. Please provide a topic for the presentation with short description that will be posted. Thank you for offering.”

Topics for presentation and short descriptions need to be drawn up. We could do a competition, quiz bowl, live demo, technical presentation, contest, or anything of the sort.

#### Regulatory Presentation
The report is called “Minimum Viable Product” and the Debris Mitigation activities fold into this presentation. Version 1.2 received from Jan King on 7 December 2020.

Engineering Report 20 November 2020

## Phase 4 Weekly Report for 20 November 2020

#### Virginia Tech Industrial Advisory Board Meeting Report
Open Research Institute attended our first Virginia Tech Industrial Advisory Board Meeting on 20 November 2020. The meeting was attended by over 40 representatives from industrial, academic, amateur, and open source communities. The goal of the Industrial Advisory Board is to improve Virginia Tech’s ability to educate students for roles in space exploration, science, technology, regulation, and management.

The first part of the meeting was a description and orientation of the re-dedication of the Industrial Advisory Board lead by Scott Bailey. The second part of the meeting was a curriculum review lead by Dr. Jonathan Black. The next meeting will be in the Spring.

**Action items:** prepare 2-3 slides about ORI and our mission on the Industrial Advisory Board. Open source regulatory advancements, positive effect on commerce when used appropriately, and the improvement in educational outcomes are the communications goals for the slide deck.

#### High-Level Discussion on Thermal and Radiation
We had a high-level discussion about thermal and radiation requirements and work on 19 November 2020. The goals of the meeting were to introduce volunteers with experience in these areas to each other, and to generate any action items necessary to clear roadblocks for future work. Initial list of action items:

Screen Shot 2020-11-20 at 2 44 34 PM

**Meeting Minutes**

Attending were Michelle Thompson, Mike Murphree, Thomas Savarino, Alan Rich, and Nick KN6NK.

We use FlexLM for our Vivado license server, generously donated by KN6NK, and we will be able to use this server for Thermal Desktop. This is limited to one user, Thomas Savarino, but we are satisfied with this work plan. Thomas will also need Parallels and Autodesk. Invoices requested.

Alan Rich provided valuable advice about thermal engineering. Junction temperature and thermal cycling are of primary interest. We need to expect to do a layer analysis and treat the board like a structure. Concerns for radiation were discussed which align with previous work by Wally Ritchie, Thomas Parry, and Suoto.

Mike Murphree requested a mission plan and expectations on the radiation environment as soon as possible.

Mike Murpree requested resource utilization of the Xilinx parts in order to compare against other potentially more radiation tolerant families of parts.

Michelle to provide documentation on the block diagrams and architecture documentation.

*Priorities? Get the Thermal Desktop software up and running so Thomas Savarino can train on it and then start characterizing the 1U circuit cards for the communications payload.*

###### Open Research Institute sponsors the M17 Project
Open Research Institute is proud to sponsor M17, an open source digital radio protocol, code, voice codec, and hardware project.
Learn about and get involved at

https://m17project.org/

M17 has been added to the list of Open Research Institute Projects at

Projects

#### Trello Boards up and running
We are using Trello for task management. Plenty going on!

Join Phase 4 Ground Trello board:
https://trello.com/invite/b/REasyYiZ/8de4c059e252c7c435a1dafa25f655a8/phase-4-ground

Join Phase 4 Space Trello board:
https://trello.com/invite/b/GRBWasqW/1336a1fa5b88b380c27ccf95d21fec79/phase-4-space

#### AmbaSat Inspired Sensors
Phone conference with Dr. Alan Johnston on 2 November 2020 to answer questions and set up a tentative schedule. Work is expected to commence December 2020 through May 2021. This work is funded by an ORI grant. Project kickoff report here: https://www.openresearch.institute/2020/11/12/ambasat-inspired-sensors-project-kick-off-in-december-2020/

#### Remote Labs
Equipment has begun to arrive for the Remote Labs project. Access protocols have been drafted and tested. Feedback has been received and incorporated. Report and link to overview video here: https://www.openresearch.institute/2020/10/24/remote-labs-equipment-review/

Tracking document will be moved to the GitHub Wiki, but the current draft is here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1EG_anaUNWxluriktrDBUa1MnIdIlOe9_hMCkNFj3Tc4/edit?usp=sharing

#### Ham Expo 2021 Participation
ORI will present at and be part of an exhibit at the Ham Expo 2021. Details about the event here: https://www.qsotodayhamexpo.com/
**We will be using this event as a deadline for transponder work.** We will demonstrate functionality complete by March 2021 at the show.

#### HamCation 2021 Participation
We will participate in HamCation 2021. This is a virtual event. We have 45 minutes available for presentations. HamCation wants unique, fun, engaging, interactive events. This is a wonderful opportunity for us. Message from organizers after we committed: “We don’t have a schedule yet. Plan on 45 minutes for the webinar with a 15 minute break between. Please provide a topic for the presentation with short description that will be posted. Thank you for offering.”

Topics for presentation and short descriptions need to be drawn up. We could do a competition, quiz bowl, live demo, technical presentation, contest, or anything of the sort.

#### Regulatory Presentation
We will present to the FCC, accompanied by ARRL counsel, in the next small number of months. This presentation will emphasize how open source technologies and policies strengthen the Amateur Radio Satellite Service. The presentation will show how the Amateur Radio Satellite Service can fully comply with Debris Mitigation, how it can and will continue a rich history of providing quality public service communications, and how it will be a full participant in the New Space Age.

#### Ed Friesma Needs Help
One of our volunteers, Ed Friesma, writes

“We’re submitting a proposal here at UNLV to get a Cubesat off the ground and I’m in charge of the communications team (both hardware and software) We are submitting our base proposal for review but I will have to get a team of students together. A mentor would really help here. Especially when it comes to building the ground station. but also testing the comms link and the ground station software.

Do you know anyone

a) with some good experience setting up communications with Satellites and also boradcasting to satellites over UHF.

b) who would be interested in occasionally speaking with and answering questions from our team.

They don’t necessarily have to be in the area but at least be open to using Zoom or Discord to chat with us.”

Ed has the right experience to put this team together, but would like to run things by someone that’s been there before. It would really help to sort out what must happen over the next few months.

Are you willing and able to mentor Ed’s team? Get in touch with me at w5nyv@arrl.net and I’ll get you in touch with Ed if you don’t already have his email.

As published in The AMSAT Journal, Volume 43, Number 5

[Published under the US doctrine of fair use. This is an excerpt of a publication, used for commentary to advance public discourse regarding a subject of great interest and importance to the amateur radio satellite community.]

September/October 2020

Engineering Update

Jerry Buxton, N0JY

Vice President, Engineering

Open source, Open mind

“Open-Source” is a hot topic for many in discussions about AMSAT, as you may well know. While my go-to, good old fat Webster’s Third New International Dictionary does not have an entry for “open-source,” it does have an entry for “open-mind.” You can find any number of definitions for open-source in an online search. I will go with what turned up first on my search, annotated “Definitions from Oxford Languages”:

adjective [COMPUTING] “denoting software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified.

A handful of others I looked at to be somewhat certain in what I say here were all essentially the same, and specified software as part of the definition of open-source. That is interesting in that some comments directed at me in the argument for open-source seemed to use the term to include not just software, but hardware as well.

“You cannot reason someone out of something he or she was not reasoned into” (Jonathan Swift, 1721). The quote of Jonathan Swift seems to apply to the current situation because of discussions calling for AMSAT to adopt “open-source” as our means of doing business with satellite projects, lest AMSAT die off as an ineffective organization. Hence, the subtitle refers to what seems to be rare in the age of polarized tweets and blogs and unfortunately, amateur radio email lists, having an “open mind.”

My trusty old Webster’s says about “open mind” (actual entry is “open-minded”):

adjective: “receptive of arguments or ideas: free from rigidly fixed preconceptions: UNPREJUDICED (an open-minded curiosity that made him receptive to new ideas – V.L.Parrington)

To me, being open-minded is a natural part of the general fraternity of amateur radio, and it takes place every day in everything from tower parties to satellite QSOs. I’m baffled that the concept seems to be left behind as you look at leadership levels of amateur radio affinity groups where one might think being open-minded is a required “skill.” Yet here we have some of the most highly polarized and divided groups of hams who are the functioning antithesis of the openminded definition, especially “free from rigidly fixed preconceptions.” There appears to be no reasoning behind the highly polarized championing of a dire need for AMSAT to “be” open-source. On the flip side, there is no apparent reasoning by anyone who summarily says “no.”

Fear not. My subject here is not who said what or how AMSAT is run. My director hat is on the tree, and I wear my “VPE MAGA” hat (Moving AMSAT GOLF Ahead) for this. With the scenario set, I will look at how open-source may already exist in AMSAT Engineering, and share some open-minded questions and curiosity in how open-source fits what we do.

There are surely high levels of disagreement already with what I have written this far. Whatever your opinion on my being openminded, please do the same, and perhaps we can think beyond the existing “must” and “no,” which don’t really facilitate any discussion.

To my knowledge, which only goes back just shy of a decade as far as being in a position to know, AMSAT Engineering has never had a policy that specifically ruled out open-source. Obviously, some things would need to be carefully considered before a change is made. I cannot speak for my predecessor as far as the choice to handle documents the way we do right now. It was in place and would make no sense to have tried to change it in the middle of the Fox program.

When I “went to work” for AMSAT in August (or so) 2011 as Systems Engineer, I was tasked with putting together all of the Fox-1 engineering documents that we had at that point for publication in the 2011 Proceedings of the AMSAT Space Symposium. That was the first AMSAT Space Symposium I attended in my then 37 years of fun using amateur radio satellites. I believe, from looking at the 2010 Proceedings, book that 2011 was the first year that Fox-1 was fully documented in that way. In writing the introduction used in those Proceedings, Tony Monteiro (AA2TX), who was VPE at the time, wanted to include the following:

We would also like to be able to discuss our satellite projects with our own members, [emphasis added] some of whom are not “US-persons” per ITAR. These AMSAT Space Symposium proceedings provide a convenient mechanism for the needed publication to make this information public domain and allow us to communicate with our members. The engineering documents published in these proceedings are what was available at the time needed for inclusion, and we hope you find them interesting and informative. AMSAT intends to continue to make the majority of the final technical documents, exclusive of satellite control information, available in future publications.

Those same points were included in what became the yearly publication and sharing of the development of the Fox-1 satellites, and I carried that on when I was voted VPE upon Tony’s passing in 2014. Especially as the Fox-1 platform quickly became popular with partners and prospective partners in flying on our “experiment bay” platform, I took a bit different view of the reason for publication in the Proceedings. I reworded the introduction to better reflect the popularity and the intent of making the designs for Fox-1 CubeSats available to any interested parties, including foreign organizations interested in building their first CubeSats. It stated in part:

AMSAT, in consideration of the educational component of our organization, would like to release the majority of our design documentation to the public as a learning tool to anyone interested in satellite development. [emphasis added]

Since hardware and hardware designs are not included in the definitions of open-source that I mentioned, could you still call our publication of documents “open-source?” It is certainly intended to be accessible to all (purchasing a copy of the proceedings book was not a requirement, as I shared directly as well). It allowed changes for your own use without restriction. In fact, it was about as open as you might get as far as giving stuff to the public.

Incidentally, in the open-source sense, we recently entered into an agreement for an educational program in which students will rework the LTM design to require only two PCBs instead of our design of three. We will benefit from that as the re-design is shared back with us to help improve the LTM package.

The point in the Proceedings introduction that “a majority of the final technical documents” was made available refers to the omission of command and control hardware, and includes software functions regarding such. That point in the sense of “open-ness” is just reasonable security in the operation of the satellites because of licensing, certain government authorizations, and to keep from having the whistler and jammer crowd from also maliciously commanding a bird and ruining the fun for the users. In that, I do not include that omitted piece in this discussion. I expect to make it available after the Fox-1 satellites are no longer operational so it is shall we say, “pending open-ness.”

Let’s look at some of the things that I believe would need to be considered and clarified in “taking Engineering open-source.” One of the points would be whether there is any requirement to put everything on GitHub.com. That is consistently stated or implied in the argument for open-source, but I honestly do not know if that is simply because of general usage or there is something about it in the “compliance” with open-source. The answer to that leads to the obvious question of how doing so makes anything more opensource or officially open-source.

Another point of discussion that flows from that would be the control of information that is restricted by export regulations. Whether you believe that there is no need for concern because the fact that something is open-source makes it impossible for it to be a weapon, what really counts is the government and how the corporation sees it best to comply with those regulations. Certain things that are deemed exports cannot be shared with “non-US Persons,” so how might one secure that information yet still allow some to see it, and all to see whatever other bits are not restricted? There is also the issue of certain blacklisted countries that cannot have access to even something that has an export license, and the internet generally makes it difficult to determine where any interested individuals are from if they hit our GitHub.com page.

For a third point, we do have some volunteers who do not wish to share some or all of the details of their work and that is their right, which is addressed in our IP policy. That work is shared with AMSAT to use in any projects we have, but AMSAT cannot share it, and rightfully so. Do we then have to exclude any volunteers, no matter their capability or desire, if they do not wish to make all that they do open-source? That may be easily dismissed as it has been in some arguments I have seen, but it is an interesting contrast to our current policy that lets anyone participate, whether or not you wish your work to be open-source. In the specific terms of that argument, what we do now is certainly inclusive of all volunteers.

My fourth point in this exploration of the suitability of open-source is something that probably comes only from experience as a volunteer in our all-volunteer organization. It is my understanding that the point of opensource is to allow creativity and input from a larger number of volunteers with the ultimate outcome of essentially, “building better satellites, faster.” In that, I see a situation that we encounter all of the time and for all of the 6+ years I have been VPE.

With any new project, many wish to contribute their ideas in the design and execution of the project, and that is of course a good thing, to some extent. It does present some challenges in areas such as involving numbers of individuals in discussion and demonstration of ideas through documents or prototypes, even existing widgets. I wonder how that would be structured to play out in a reasonable timeframe without the time creep that inevitably comes with lots of individuals pitching lots of ideas.

Also, a pattern of unbridled enthusiasm appears at the start of something new that tends to die rapidly once ideas are pitched and production of those ideas begins. Many are not quite as willing to spend further time making the idea a reality, properly so in some cases, but unfortunately somewhat easily passed on as “and somebody can build it.” If the originator goes silent as is often the case in terms of percentage (recall that this is said from experience), then whoever might have taken up the reins to start making the idea a reality is often put in a position of finding the need for changes in prototyping or further down with PDR and so forth. If they did not originate the idea, while they have done their part of open-source in making the prototype happen, the widget now relies on input from the originator or others in the open-source world to solve the issues found and advance the project.

This is where things get tougher, and while this exists to an extent in our current process, it is more easily solved because it is likely that the originator of the idea is the one pursuing their dream and therefore has the ability (as well as desire) to see it completed. What might be expected in an open-source execution of a project in this regard, if the ideas and designs come from those other than the “construction crew” (for lack of a better term)? I do not necessarily doubt that people will not jump in on GitHub some of the time but you again have the situation of viable contribution if they are not intimately familiar with the stage of the development and willing to spend time with the team working on that widget to find a solution and move forward. Anything less creates delay, and, believe me, we can create that just fine already — and that is the nature of all volunteer projects.

My last thought for this article is that of who is in charge of such a project. Again, I have not contributed to any open-source projects other than AMSAT’s own, so I do not have any idea how they are organized in terms of responsibility. You have to have a boss and some sub-bosses I would think, else you wind up with chaos? At the very least, the systems engineering of any satellite project on GitHub as open-source would be a must and perhaps, a nightmare. That is one more of the items that would need discussion and clarification in consideration of “going open-source” that has not been touched upon in the “on/off ” arguments.

My point is not to list all of these things I think of, I simply believe that if there is any serious intent in the arguments regarding open-source I do not see a simple turnkey solution. Whether commercial (do they use open-source?) or amateur radio satellites, some processes are similar and some, perhaps many, are different because of the extreme difference between a paid workforce and a team of enthusiasts who share a common interest. I also do not expect that the arguments being made are with a full understanding of how AMSAT does satellites.

In my tenure, we have seen opportunities and ideas come out from our Engineering Team that can be at least related to open-source, such as standardizing on KiCad. This was an idea put forth and convincingly shown through documentation and use as a great idea, and it is, by a couple of kids who designed and built the Fox-1 MPPT as well as keeping me up late at night for “10 PM Pacific Time” meetings about the MPPT. Bryce and Brent Salmi were all in and one would regularly call or we would meet (can’t remember which, they kinda start to look alike on GTM at 1 AM) which led to the suggestion. With some frustration from the variety of a few other “free” versions of schematic software that had been used by whoever liked which best at the start of the Fox-1 project, they made the push for KiCad. They also turned me on to Kerbal Space Program through which I got my not-a-real Aerospace Engineer Degree usually after one of their calls since I was no longer sleepy.

I do not recall any suggestions about doing our work as open-source, perhaps it has been mentioned but there has been no momentum behind it, so one might take that as an indication that the team is happy with what we have now (SVN complaints aside). Nonetheless, I do believe that I am 98.9% open-minded and the team might support that statement although most people usually only remember the 1.1% of the times I told them no. All of our satellites are testament though, since I neither designed nor created any of it (that I recall) and always give credit to our Engineering Team for their hard work. They are also my real teachers and tutors by which I earned my status as a Real Engineer. (Who needs a piece of paper nobody sees anyway.) I appreciate your reading this with an open mind and ask you to consider the points not as a rejection of open-source, but as valid points of discussion in the consideration of implementing open-source in AMSAT Engineering. Next Journal issue: NDAs and open-source. Exciting!

Open Source and Space: Everybody But AMSAT Came To The Party!

Bruce Perens K6BP, AMSAT member; Michelle Thompson W5NYV, AMSAT Director

Open Source is big in space! Just ask NASA, which operates code.nasa.gov, containing millions of lines of Open Source software created by NASA itself, including Open Mission Control Technologies, Core Flight System: NASA’s spacecraft firmware system, and the General Mission Analysis Tool. With such a complete Open Source toolkit for all aspects of its missions, we can confidently say NASA has gone Open Source. ESA has also come to the Open Source party, releasing lots of code, including their own nanosat firmware, a plate solver that tells you where your telescope is pointed by looking at the photo it takes, and a directory of Open Source Space software that they recommend. SpaceX, which launches more rockets to orbit today than any nation or company, and owns the largest satellite fleet, uses Linux as the brain of its rockets and open source software with SDRs for communications

And Open Source is big in Amateur Space! Ask Librespace, creator of UPSat, a fully-Open-Source cubesat and SatNOGS, a vast ground-station network built of Open Source software and Open Hardware. Fossa came to the party with an Open Source satellite, and has two more in development. Even AMSAT-EA, the European affiliate of AMSAT, has two satellites containing Open Source electric thrusters developed by Applied Ion Systems. And Open Research Institute has received a half-million-dollar grant to develop a 10 GHz digital ground-station as Open Source.

Why is Open Source important to Amateur Space? Let’s start with money: ARDC is providing five Million dollars per year in grants to non-profit organizations to do work important to Amateur Radio, but requires that the technology created be Open Source. Why is Open Source so important that ARDC insists on it? It is software that is free to use, modify, and redistribute, and comes with source code. So, once written, Open Source software tends to be adopted by programmers who keep it alive, improve it, make it run on more and different sorts of computers, etc. Open Source also gets lots of users, who are attracted by the power, versatility, and the zero cost. ARDC obviously wants their grants to be as effective as possible, and for the result to be available to everyone. So, they insist on Open Source.

But Open Source was already popular long before ARDC started making grants. GNU Radio is probably the most powerful software in the Amateur world, allowing programmers to implement many different kinds of transmitters and receivers in software, without picking up a soldering iron! That Open Source SDR software became so powerful that even the United States Government started supporting its development, so that their intelligence agencies could rapidly write new receivers to eavesdrop on the bad guys. The Government had paid a Billion dollars for commercial software like it that never worked. This was just the latest in a long list of disappointments with proprietary software. After a thorough study, they turned to Open Source. Open Source has similarly taken over the computer industry: The largest companies today, Amazon, Google, Facebook, aerospace giants like SpaceX all have in common: their software infrastructure is built on Open Source.

It turns out that sharing your software development with the general public is a really good idea. It allows collaboration easily, something companies previously had a hard time doing without lots of lawyers and conflicting agendas. It produces measurably better code, because people naturally write better when the whole world is looking over their shoulder, and because two developers (or 1000) are better than one. The superior quality of open source software has been repeatedly confirmed, most notably by Harvard Business Review.

And, everybody benefits because they get great software that they can use, extend, and share for any purpose. It became clear when I spent time with NASA engineers that the decision to Open Source was driven by the engineers and researchers themselves: It’s just considered the best way to make software these days. Open Source is especially important for science: being able to duplicate an experiment to corroborate its results, and being able to read the code to see if an experimenter made a mistake, are critical to establishing truth.

A version of Open Source called Open Hardware is used to share hardware designs rather than computer software. The CERN Open Hardware License and the TAPR Open Hardware License are both excellent examples of widely-adopted and battle-tested open source licenses that enable high quality and productive open source work. If you, as an AMSAT volunteer, want to reserve the right to make money off your code or hardware design, then go into business for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be paid for your product. But, please! Do not encumber an educational organization with proprietary intellectual property for personal pecuniary gain to the exclusion of the non-profit mission of AMSAT!

There are so many other options available to you if making money is your priority. Amateur radio is a special case. We need to be sharing our knowledge for the benefit of all, whenever we can.

Open Source is the only viable strategy an Amateur organization has to work with ITAR and EAR. These are the United States technology export laws that would otherwise hinder any US-based satellite organization. Satellites are part of a large body of technology that the government considers to be “munitions”, and doesn’t wish to have exported. It happens that ITAR and EAR both have clearly written exceptions regarding Open Source. These exceptions allow an Open Source development paradigm to be used without the export restrictions we would otherwise face when working with volunteer collaborators. Without Open Source, we would be required to carry out our development in secret – with all of the logistical complications of developing technology in secret – using only volunteers who are US Residents, and we would face serious penalties for leaks of our technology. This is very expensive and requires volunteers that do nothing more than monitor other volunteers. Is this what you want your AMSAT dues to pay for?

When our amateur satellite projects are Open Source we can operate in public. We can use collaborators from all over the world without restrictions. As of August 2020, the Department of Defense confirmed that for ORI.

So, we can share our amateur satellite developments with Libre Space Foundation, which is in Greece; AMSAT-EA, in Europe; and other organizations that we would have to lock out otherwise. We can directly use the Open Source they, NASA, and ESA have already developed.

So, why won’t AMSAT come to the party?

AMSAT isn’t getting funding like the half-million recently allocated to ORI, an amount which could easily also go to AMSAT if they were willing to work on Open Source.

Incredibly, ORI offered to share the granted funds with AMSAT/AREx, and AMSAT/AREx declined.

In 2020, AMSAT borrowed money from the Federal Government so that AMSAT could continue to pay salaries, closed their office permanently, and permanently ended printing of the AMSAT Journal. It sounds like they need money. For years, at every Hamvention and every AMSAT Symposium, the news has been negative. The potential of getting a piece of that five Million per year, every year, should attract them. Over time that would be many Millions of dollars to fund AMSAT projects.

But today AMSAT is even more hostile to Open Source! In the September 2020 issue of AMSAT Journal, available only to members, AMSAT Vice President of Engineering Jerry Buxton published the most odd column in which he – there’ss no other way to explain it – deliberately paraded his ignorance of Open Source software.

That this flaunt was obviously meant to annoy people was made even more clear because Jerry also included a MAGA reference in the article. This is what’s known as a dog-whistle: speech that has a hidden meaning to your target audience. Whatever your politics is, you should know that responsible corporate officers, which Jerry is supposed to be, don’t mix issues in their corporate communications. Doing so invariably alienates part of their audience to no purpose, and to the detriment of the organization because it harms the organization’s relationships.

In his column, Jerry expresses that he is mystified about what Open Source is, because he can’t find it in his dictionary. Jerry would not have had far to go if he’d really wanted to know about Open Source, since there is considerable overlap between AMSAT’s membership and the ORI and GNU Radio communities, both of which deal with Open Source exclusively. The co-founder of ORI is a current AMSAT Board of Directors member and presented at length about this very subject at the October 2020 AMSAT annual board meeting. Was Jerry not present at this meeting?

And we wonder about the many talks about Open Source at AMSAT Symposium 2019: Jerry was in the audience, perhaps his mind was elsewhere? By AMSAT Symposium 2020, 60% of the Proceedings were about open source projects and policies. Has Jerry not leafed through the 2020 Proceedings yet? Was he absent from the Symposium stream, where AIS presented an update on open source thruster designs? The level of interest in open source from volunteer engineers and contributors is clearly present. Yet, Jerry Buxton claims there is no interest in open source, at all.

There are many AMSAT members known to have a deep knowledge of Open Source that Jerry could have turned to, although I fear that not all of them will be renewing their membership this year. We need volunteers that are competent and comfortable with open source technologies. How else can AMSAT compete?

There is more in Jerry’s discussion which I shall not amplify. Because he chose to base his thesis on ignorance, repeating it would not contribute to your knowledge.

We should consider the cost to AMSAT of Jerry’s professed ignorance. It is completely absurd for any organization that develops software and electronics to have a head of engineering who does not have a significant understanding of Open Source. No other organization would tolerate it today. Any that did would be wasting money and time reinventing what is publicly available for free. In AMSAT’s case, this article is an admission that some Directors and Officers are deliberately passing up on opportunities to financially support the organization.

ARDC isn’t the only grantor that would want to see work made Open Source, many corporate and non-profit grantors expect the same. The amounts of money available dwarf any previous donations and fundraising.

Fortunately, ORI, Libre Space Foundation, and many other organizations carry on the development of Amateur Space. If AMSAT won’t join the party, the party will go on happily without AMSAT.

Is this what you, as a member or amateur space enthusiast, want?

-73-

Open Source is in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, but “Amateur Radio” or “Ham Radio”? Nada. Image copyright 2020 Merriam-Webster.

AmbaSat Inspired Sensors Project Kick-Off In December 2020

We are pleased to announce AmbaSat Inspired Sensors as a formal ORI project.

Please visit https://www.openresearch.institute/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Ambasat-Inspired-Custom-Sensors.pdf to read the proposal document.

Unboxing photographs of flight and lab hardware, with UV sensor included, can be seen here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/w5nyv/albums/72157716833127913

First work session expected December 2020 – May 2021 centered at Villanova University. Principal Investigator is Dr. Alan Johnston.

Autumn Schedule

Open Research Institute will be open for the autumn and winter holidays with a reduced schedule through 6 January 2021.

Remote Labs Equipment Review

Transcript of Introductory Remarks

Greetings all,

Welcome to the Open Research Institute Remote Labs Equipment Review.

Open Research Institute (ORI) is a non-profit research and development organization which provides all of its work to the general public under the principles of Open Source and Open Access to Research.

Remote Labs are two physical lab benches. They have equipment for advanced digital communications design work. This equipment will be accessible online to anyone, anywhere that wants to work on open source amateur radio satellite service or open source amateur radio terrestrial engineering development.

The primary focus of the equipment list reviewed today is to support the design, verification, and test of the DVB family of links. DVB-S2, S2X, and T2 are all commonly found in amateur radio. DVB-S2X is the protocol family used by Phase 4 Ground and Space.

Remote Labs is a part of an extremely important process of re-establishing free and open international collaboration with groups such as AMSAT-DL, JAMSAT, and AMSAT-UK, and to increase and amplify collaboration with Libre Space and other open source groups. This is possible for ORI to do by using the open source carve-outs in the US export control regulatory framework. These controls have impeded international cooperation on amateur satellite work for a long time.

A significant amount of regulatory relief was achieved over the summer by ORI for amateur radio satellite work, and more work is going on right now to build upon this success. Please see the Open Research Website news section for more details on that. Today’s discussion is not about satellite technology, but about the equipment and resources required.

We are fortunate to have the advice and input of people that make a living by using remote labs at work. The advice received so far has been heard and acted upon. Python, HTML5 plus Javascript, and command line access will be the initial methods upon to provide secure access to the equipment.

We will not be writing or using a heavy or complex software framework for the Remote Lab. We will be authorizing and authenticating users. It is highly likely that we will use the same authentication and authorization approach that we intend to use for payload communications access, in order to get more experience with that design. In other words, you may be authenticated and authorized for Remote Labs the same way that you will be authenticated and authorized for the payload communications system.

We will definitely be documenting how to use the lab. We will be responsive to feedback about accessibility and ease of use.

There will be someone physically present at the Remote Labs. The equipment is not installed in racks at an unattended site. If a function needs on-site setup, or a test plan can only be done with someone physically at the bench, then that’s how the work will be done.

Remote Labs is offered as a community resource. Therefore, the review process must include community feedback. Thank you for your time here today to discuss and review the equipment list.

As an example, Thomas Parry has provided the following feedback.

1) The initial list had no power supply listed.

2) A computer controlled coax switch matrix would be very useful to control where the signals are going between test gear, DUT, etc. without physical intervention

3) Some form of general purpose digital/low frequency IO device like an analog discovery would be pretty useful for controlling things remotely

4) A way to get arbitrary RF in and out of the PC, ie. an SDR, would be very useful

5) And please remember cabling.

Wally Ritchie responded with an updated list that includes coax relays controlled from a USB relay board(s), and the other items.

Our practice will be validate and measure any cables we make in-house, buy, or obtain as surplus or donations.

I can answer your questions about budget, operation, and policy at the close of the review, or via email.

Please welcome Wally Ritchie who will lead todays Remote Labs Equipment Review.

Executive Board Meeting Minutes September 2020

Attendees: Michelle Thompson, Karen Rucker, Ben Hilburn, Steve Conklin, Keith Wheeler
Date: 9/24/2020, 9 AM PT/10 AM MT

Approved minutes from last meeting in February – unanimous

Status on grants and fundraising:

Received grant money of $511,220,000 – deposited by Michelle at Wells Fargo
Took 14 months to obtain
Budget and proposal is still good
Actually 2 grants won in a single payment

3rd grant still in front of ARDC $140,000 (rent-a-geo)
Vision was to get more people to build microwave rx equipment for space

Board decided to hold on future fundraising efforts and concentrate on technical deliverables

Discussion of D&O insurance and legal considerations as a non-profit; might need to consider the legalities of having minor participants

Regulatory Updates:

ITAR/EAR:
Major win this summer with ITAR restrictions

Michelle has commissioned CCR for under EAR
Request board to authorize amount for commission and lawyers

Got a grant from ARDC to pay for CJ request (ITAR)

Ben made a motion to approve up to $10k for Dept of Commerce, Steve seconds, motion passes

Debris mitigation rules proposed to FCC
Rules will affect ORI’s spacecraft and potentially up cost of rideshares
Michelle proposes that we should file a comment – will send drafts ASAP
Expectation that we will indemnify

Other:
Paid for a booth at hamcation in Florida in February 2021
Steve proposes a motion to withdraw and ask for a refund due to ongoing COVID-19 complications, Karen seconds, motion passes

The technical meeting for FPGA team went well

Discussion of ORI board members’ involvement in GR Con 2020

Michelle proposes discussion on how we can improve our code of conduct

Action Items:

Need to update participant policies to reflect final determination with ITAR

Michelle to look into transferring the website over

CJ Determination: Open Source Satellite Work is Free of ITAR

CJ Determination: Open Source Satellite Work is Free of ITAR

The United States Department of State has ruled favorably on Open Research Institute’s commodity jurisdiction request, finding that specified “Information and Software for a Digital Microwave Broadband Communications System for Space and Terrestrial Amateur Radio Use” is definitely not subject to State Department jurisdiction under ITAR, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. This is an important step toward reducing the burden of regulations restricting international cooperation on amateur satellite projects, which have impeded engineering work by amateurs in the United States for decades.

Export regulations divide both technical information and actual hardware into three categories. The most heavily restricted technologies fall under ITAR, which is administered by the State Department. Technologies subject to more routine restrictions fall under EAR, the Export Administration Regulations, administered by the Department of Commerce. Technologies that are not subject to either set of regulations are not restricted for export.

On 20 February 2020, Open Research Institute (ORI) filed a Commodity Jurisdiction (CJ) Request with the US State Department, seeking to establish that key technologies for amateur radio are not subject to State Department jurisdiction. “Information and Software for a Digital Microwave Broadband Communications System for Space and Terrestrial Amateur Radio Use” was assigned the case number CJ0003120. On 11 August 2020, the case received a successful final determination: the technology is not subject to State Department jurisdiction. This is the best possible outcome of a CJ request.

The Final Determination letter can be found at
https://www.openresearch.institute/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/CJ-0003120-Final-Determination-Letter.pdf

Under this determination, the technologies are subject to the EAR. The next step is to submit a classification request to the Commerce Department. ORI anticipates that the Commerce Department will find that these technologies are unrestricted under the carve-out for open source in the EAR.

Open Research Institute (ORI) is a non-profit research and development organization which provides all of its work to the general public under the principles of Open Source and Open Access to Research.

This work was accomplished by a team of dedicated and competent open source volunteers. The effort was initiated by Bruce Perens K6BP and lead by Michelle Thompson W5NYV.

Open Research Institute developed the ideas behind the Commodity Jurisdiction request, hired Thomsen and Burke LLP (https://t-b.com/) for expert legal advice, organized the revisions of the document, and invited organizations and individuals with amateur satellite service interests to join or support the request.

ORI thanks Libre Space Foundation and Dr. Daniel Estevez for providing their subject matter expertise and written testimony, and JAMSAT for helpful encouragement and support.

The legal costs were fully reimbursed with a generous grant from Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC). See https://www.ampr.org/grants/grant-open-research-institute/.

ARDC and ORI share a vision of clearly establishing open source as the best and safest way to accomplish technical volunteer work in amateur radio. This final determination letter provides solid support for that vision. The determination enables the development of implementation guidelines that will allow free international collaboration.

This clears the path for a number of interesting projects facilitating new methods for terrestrial and satellite communications, opening the door to robust global digital amateur communications.

Questions and inquiries to ori at open research dot institute.

P4XT (Phase One) Workshop Design Review

Learn about our work on the digital microwave broadband transponder for amateur radio.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXiWCgo10lg

All work is donated to the general public as open source.

This digital multiplexing transponder is a regenerative design, taking full advantage of a wide variety of cutting edge technology, intended for amateur radio use in space and terrestrial deployments.

This review focuses on decisions made for the prototype board set that implements the transmitter side of the payload.

Comment and critique welcome and encouraged.

Floating Vivado License for FPGA Work Purchased – Will be Available for Community Use

Thanks to the generous support of Yasme Foundation, ARRL Foundation, and many individual Open Research Institute supporters, ORI has purchased a full floating Vivado license for FPGA work. This includes the System Generator for DSP.

We are testing a setup that will make team and community use of this license possible. This is a big step forward from our current situation and will greatly accelerate FGPA design and test.

The first step was setting up a license server at a donated data center. Many thanks to Nick KN6NK for offering the time, resources, and expertise to get this working.

The second step, being tested right now, is using GitHub as a directory service for adding users and keys.

The goal is for users of the license to be able to add themselves with minimal admin overhead while asserting some reasonable control over access.

GitHub provides a way for users to get public keys. The work required of us is to script user management and periodically sync key management.

Thank you to EJ Kreiner for helping test and refine this community asset. We anticipate being able to support as many amateur technical communities and projects as possible, to get the greatest possible use from the license.

Special thanks to ARRL and Yasme. We would not be able to afford this investment without their support.

Yasme Foundation Generously Awards Grant to ORI

Yasme Foundation Generously Awards a $30,000 Grant to Support the Open Research Institute (ORI) Amateur Radio Satellite Service Research and Development Program

ORI, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to open source research and development in amateur radio, has been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Yasme Foundation. This grant completes the Phase 1 fundraising campaign and allows ORI’s communications prototype work for geosynchronous and interplanetary amateur radio satellites to proceed.

Combined with the ARRL Foundation’s recent maximum grant of $3,000, the $14,000 in proceeds from ORI’s successful Trans-Ionospheric electronic badge fundraiser, and many deeply appreciated individual donations, a total of $51,490 was raised for Phase 1 of the Digital Multiplex Transponder research and development program.

A project that will directly and immediately benefit from this work includes the Amateur Radio Exploration (AREx) project, brought to you by Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS).

AREx is devoted to designing and building amateur radio equipment for the Lunar Orbiting Platform Gateway project. This lunar orbiting station will have open source broadband microwave amateur equipment and affordable open source ground stations. AREx is not limited to Gateway, as there are many other opportunities under consideration that can re-use all of the work.

All work completed by ORI is made available to the general public at no cost.

The Yasme Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation organized to support scientific and educational projects related to amateur radio, including DXing (long distance communication) and the introduction and promotion of amateur radio in developing countries. Yasme supports various projects relating to amateur radio, with an emphasis on developing amateur radio in emerging countries and encouraging youth participation in amateur radio.

The Yasme Foundation makes supporting grants to individuals and organizations providing or creating useful services for the amateur radio community. Regardless of originality or novelty, Yasme supports these programs in order to further the development of amateur radio around the world.

The global perspective and commitment to authentic, accessible, and sustainable amateur radio training and experience puts Yasme Foundation into the rare category of organizations that provide true and broad public benefit.

Find out more about the Yasme Foundation here:
https://www.yasme.org/

ARISS is the home for AREx. ARISS can be found on the web at
https://www.ariss.org/

JAMSAT supports AREx and has partnered with ORI to work on the Gateway Ground Station, which also directly benefits from this grant. JAMSAT can be found on the web at
https://www.jamsat.or.jp

Open Research Institute supports AREx and open source amateur radio research & development, primarily microwave.

Find ORI on the web at
https://openresearch.institute

Documentation about the Phase 1 transponder program can be found on the ORI website at the following links:

Overview:
https://openresearch.institute/2019/09/27/open-research-institute-phase-4-space-grant-application-overview/

Technical proposal:
https://openresearch.institute/2020/01/10/p4xt-digital-multiplexing-transponder-project-program-proposal/

Phase 1 statement of work can be found at the summary document linked below.

Summary:
https://openresearch.institute/2020/02/21/summary-proposal-open-research-institute-phase-1-p4xt/

Digital Multiplexing Transponder Workshop Guide and Link to Audio

DMT-workshop-mp3-guide

The document linked above is a Guide to navigating the Audio Recording of the P4XT Digital Multiplexing Transponder Workshop.

The workshop was held Sunday 9 February 2020 (3PM – 7PM) at Starter Studio’s Conference room in downtown Orlando, 4.5 miles from the HamCation venue.

A full audio recording (330MB MP3) is available at https://www.dropbox.com/s/9k065i5kqj3i49w/200209_1316.mp3?dl=0.

American Radio Relay League (ARRL) Awards Grant to ORI

Good news!

American Radio Relay League (ARRL) has Generously Awarded a $3,000 Grant to Support the Open Research Institute (ORI) Amateur Radio Satellite Service Research and Development Program

ORI, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to open source research and development in amateur radio, has been awarded a $3,000 grant from the ARRL Foundation. This grant, the maximum amount, will be immediately applied to Phase 1 of the Digital Multiplex Transponder research and development program. This grant allows hardware prototypes for broadband microwave digital payloads to proceed much more quickly. All work completed by ORI is made available to the general public at no cost.

A project that will directly and immediately benefit from this work is the Amateur Radio Exploration (AREx) project, brought to you by Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS). ARISS is a project sponsored by the Amateur Radio Satellite Corporation (AMSAT).

AREx is devoted to designing and building amateur radio equipment for the Lunar Orbiting Platform Gateway project. This lunar orbiting station will have open source broadband microwave amateur equipment and affordable open source ground stations. AREx is not limited to Gateway, as there are many other opportunities under consideration that can re-use what is designed and built.

Documentation about the transponder program that this award supports can be found on the ORI website at the following links.

Overview:
https://openresearch.institute/2019/09/27/open-research-institute-phase-4-space-grant-application-overview/

Technical proposal:
https://openresearch.institute/2020/01/10/p4xt-digital-multiplexing-transponder-project-program-proposal/

Phase 1 statement of work can be found at the summary document linked below.

Summary:
https://openresearch.institute/2020/02/21/summary-proposal-open-research-institute-phase-1-p4xt/

Established in 1973 by the American Radio Relay League, Inc. (ARRL) as an independent and separate 501(c)(3) organization, the ARRL Foundation administers programs to support the Amateur Radio community.

Funded entirely by the generous contributions of radio amateurs and friends, ARRL Foundation administers programs for Amateur Radio award scholarships for higher education, award grants for Amateur Radio projects, and award special Amateur Radio program grants for The Victor C. Clark Youth Incentive Program and The Jesse A. Bieberman Meritorious Membership Program.

Find out more about the ARRL Foundation here: http://www.arrl.org/the-arrl-foundation

Here are some of the organizations that will appreciate your time, energy, effort, and enthusiasm.

ARISS is the home for AREx. ARISS can be found on the web at
https://www.ariss.org/

AMSAT North American is the home for ARISS. AMSAT is active in AREx in multiple roles and can be found on the web at
https://amsat.org

JAMSAT supports AREx and has partnered with ORI to work on the Gateway Ground Station. JAMSAT can be found on the web at
https://www.jamsat.or.jp

Open Research Institute supports AREx and open source amateur radio research & development, primarily microwave.

Find ORI on the web at
https://openresearch.institute

One Year Anniversary of Open Research Institute 501(c)(3)

March 6th is Open Research Institute’s 501(c)(3) anniversary. As it’s our first birthday, we are going to celebrate!

ORI is incorporated in California, USA. There are a lot of statistics available for CA non-profits from https://calnonprofits.org/ which is an organization that provides support to directors and officers and the general public about the non-profit landscape. Here’s the highlights from their recent report that are relevant to what we are doing, followed by how we fit in and where we can go next.

There are 27,317 nonprofits with paid staff in California, and another 65,250 (70%) that are all-volunteer organizations, for a total of 92,567 active nonprofits.

We are all volunteer, with no paid staff, so that puts us into the larger of the two categories.

11.7% of non-profits are categorized as “public benefit”, which is what we do and is how we are set up. Specifically, we are a scientific and technology research institute. We’re part of a very small group of non-profits that fall into the public benefit category. Definition in the paragraph below:

“In this report, three common nonprofit organizational classifications (mutual benefit, public societal benefit, and otherwise uncategorized nonprofits) have been merged to create this category. Organizations include those working with civil rights and community development, advocacy groups, neighborhood associations, business leagues, civic and service clubs, science and technology organizations, credit unions, and public grantmaking foundations.”

So, how many other non-profits are like us? I don’t know yet, but I’m asking calnonprofits.org how to find out! Maybe we could all help each other better if we knew about each other and what we were doing.

California nonprofits employ a significantly higher percentage of women and a slightly higher percentage of people of color than the overall civilian workforce.

Contrary to common perception, the largest sources of nonprofit revenue are fees for service and government grants and contracts. We are different here, since 100% of our revenue to date is individual donations. We now have $18,875. I’m working as hard as I can to grow our finances.

Volunteerism in CA has undergone some changes since 2014, the last time that this particular study was completed. The percentage of adult volunteers has risen slightly, from 24% to 25%, but the number of hours per volunteer is down by 25%. What are the underlying reasons for this? Volunteerism is difficult when it’s crowded out by so many other demands on time. Activity in organizations and associations has been in decline since the 1950s. There’s whole books written about the theories as to why.

A lot of what we do requires skills that are earned through years of education, training, workplace, self-training, or avocational effort. While our mission is to demystify and make accessible advanced engineering concepts, we don’t dumb it down. We break it down. Regardless, it’s still hard work and requires real commitment and a willingness to fail along the way. That’s a lot to ask of volunteers, but our community has delivered. The number of hours donated to the effort is deeply appreciated, especially given the context of the statistics in this particular and admittedly geographically limited report. California trends don’t necessarily mirror the rest of the world, but I do hear a lot of the same sort of thing from a wide variety of volunteer driven organizations. Everyone seems to be doing more with less and under harder conditions.

That’s why it’s so important to make it easy to volunteer, reduce as many risks as possible from regulatory and legal points of view, and take on things worth doing that are ambitious and rewarding. We have done our best to do exactly this – especially over the past year! We have written clear developer and participant policies, we have a code of conduct, and we filed a Commodity Jurisdiction request to clarify how we fit into ITAR and EAR. Our technical progress has been steady and we are at the point where we can build functional prototypes.

If you have feedback or suggestions on how we have chosen to support, protect, and enable volunteers then please share.

The report states that non-profits with large budgets have more access to government funding and rely on it as a significant source of revenue. The findings suggest that non-profits can not “grow large” without government funding. There is a big difference between small non-profits, like us, and larger non-profits, like many healthcare organizations. Healthcare is by far the largest category of non-profits in CA, and they get their money from different places.

How big do we need to be to succeed? Do we have to go after government money to achieve that goal, given the realities of other non-profits?

Foundations were not the focus of the study, but the report talks about them for several reasons. First, CA is a net exporter of foundation grant money, and the report lists the top 25 foundations. The total assets of all ~7,000 CA foundations are $137.5 billion and they gave away a total of $9.5 billion. These numbers are for 2019. The single largest foundation is Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which gave away nearly a billion dollars *alone*. San Francisco is far and away the hot spot in CA in terms of foundation dollars generated and many other categories in the study.

For 90% of nonprofits, foundation funds represent 50% or less of their revenue. For the “bottom” 50% of non-profits, foundations fund less than 10% of revenue. Only 5% of non-profits get more than 75% of their revenue from foundations. The perception that foundations fund non-profits is widespread, but the statistics in CA do not bear that out. Where is all the foundation money going? Like we see with a lot of other resource allocation patterns, most of the money goes to a few organizations.

What does all of this mean for us going forward?

If we can’t raise additional funds for the *products* that we want to build, then those things won’t happen. The financial needs are greater for the open source payload part than ground. However, without a payload or groundsat, the ground station design simply doesn’t work. We have a product envisioned. It’s the right time to step up and deliver. This the “development” part of “research and development”.

Yes, we’ve done very well building ORI from scratch and raising significant amount of money in a short amount of time. We’ve also had fun in the process, with very successful outreach events and the Trans-Ionospheric badges.

Fundraising was not at all what I thought I would be doing when I agreed to come aboard as a technical volunteer for Round Two of “build a GEO for amateur radio” several years ago, but addressing it like any other challenge, building a team, and tackling it with optimism and a willingness to learn has had good results.

Other organizations related to us generate revenue in other ways. It’s important to talk about what those strategies are and whether we should adopt the same methods. For example, a lot of amateur radio technical and advocacy organizations have member fees and generate income that way. We don’t do this, and have not since the very beginning of ORI, for several reasons.

First, the amount of time required to manage and account for paid memberships is non-trivial.

Second, paid members have expectations that must be met. Members expect services that must be delivered. We are not a member service organization, we’re a research institute. Our “members” are projects, and the expectation is that we help with scientific and technical goals. Member services, newsletters, trinkets, swag, books, producing social events, contests, and conferences are wonderful things that we love to see happen. ORI doesn’t *regularly* do those things because scientific and technical work is the very firm focus. This doesn’t mean we won’t have a conference, if it serves the research institute mission. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have a t-shirt, another badge project, or a newsletter, if that serves the research institute mission. The functions and benefits of a membership organization were what I thought we would be getting when the Phase 4 Ground project was part of AMSAT-NA. Now that we are a Member Society of AMSAT, over time, we should start seeing support, promotion, and cooperation. We are also associated with Open Source Initiative as a Member Affiliate of OSI.

Third, I believe that ORI must remain open to all, without the “us” and “them” that often arises when memberships are purchased. Individuals are “members” of ORI as soon as they show up and participate in the community at any level. There is no process of “joining”. Associate Membership, the only explicit membership status, is free for the asking and will stay that way. The way we’re organized and the practice of radical inclusion should be very familiar to anyone looking at open source technical projects and how they are commonly structured.

This structure (completely open, collaborative flat leadership structure, no membership dues) is common and highly effective, but it also opens us up to significant risks. Burnout of leaders, no easily distributed tokens or artifacts of membership to build pack bonding or loyalty, we give up “easy” financial income, and the repercussions of the intermittent nature of volunteering. These are the facts on the ground and we do whatever it takes to deal with them.

If we converted to a membership organization, we would gain some reliable revenue, but would give up a large part of what makes us extremely successful, adaptable, agile, and accessible. We’re here to supercharge organizations that don’t have a pure technical focus. Over time, I expect organizations that benefit from our work to help us in places where we need assistance, such as fundraising, marketing, promotion, and publishing.

Research and Development will always be a sink for money and will always be higher risk than delivering customary or traditional member services. Research and Development needs fearless funding.

In our first year, we have applied for several grants that would financially support the first phase of the transponder build. The foundations approached are in the amateur radio space and their values and conditions seem to align almost perfectly with us. You can read the proposal documents on the website.

We have early indications of valuable in-kind contributions from companies that want us to succeed. We have excellent relationships with universities and engineering firms. We’ve made a dramatic contribution to testing the regulatory process as well as enumerating ambitious yet achievable technical goals. We have the ingredients for success. Our second year will be as crucial as the first in terms of deciding our long-term trajectory.

Thank you all for a fantastic first year!

-Michelle W5NYV

Google Summer of Code 2020 Application Results

Today is the day for Google Summer of Code “Accepted Organizations”, and I got the extremely kindly written rejection notice for Open Research Institute’s application a few minutes ago. There are a *lot* more organizations applying than spots, this was our first year, and we will 100% try again.

Also, there are also designated “umbrella” groups that we can potentially move underneath and still participate. I’m going to reach out and see if we can’t get that rolling! If you know of one that would be a good match, let me know.

This is the first year applying, and it resulted in the creation of a much more publicly accessible list of project content than we had with the task board on GitHub.

So, we are going to fully use this list and tackle all the jobs! The content will go straight over the The Ham Calling, a new site designed specifically for connecting high-tech ham work with high-tech hams!

Here’s the current lineup:
https://openresearch.institute/google-summer-of-code-2020/

I’m writing up an article for the Journal as well.

What other projects do you think should be added? This list best serves as a “base” of potential work to advance the radio arts in the community.

Thank you very much to those that volunteered to be mentors! Several of you volunteered to be mentors for the first time, ever. That is a big step and greatly appreciated.

In several cases, hams contacted me with anxiety over being “technical enough” to mentor students. Yes, some of these projects are complex, but mentorship is much much more than being able to answer a student’s technical questions. Being supported while taking risks, learning about amateur satellite operation, learning about the amateur “code”, and how to fail and start over or roll back to what most recently worked – these are foundational things.

Encouragement and steady support are, in the long run, of greater value than being able to substitute in for a Wikipedia article on FEC.

Next year, assuming things continue to improve, TAPR, AMSAT, and ARRL will all apply to be mentoring organizations along with ORI and GNU Radio and others. Amateur radio is uniquely qualified to serve a meaningful and significant role in open source technical advancement, and I cannot wait to see the future results.

-Michelle W5NYV

Open Research Institute Sponsors GNU Radio Conference

Open Research Institute is proud to be a logistics sponsor for GNU Radio Conference 2020. It is an honor to serve the GNU Radio community and provide critical support for this premier event.

GNU Radio is an open source digital signal processing framework for software-defined radio. Used across the government, academia, industry, and by hobbyists and researchers worldwide, GNU Radio Conference 2020 will focus on speed, performance, and latency.

https://www.gnuradio.org/grcon/grcon20/

Tucson Amateur Packet Radio will hold their Digital Communications Conference the weekend immediately before GNU Radio Conference at the same venue. This is a highlight of the year for amateur radio digital communications theory and practice.

https://tapr.org/dcc.html

Come enjoy one or both conferences with minimal difficulty and no additional travel!

Open Research Institute is a non-profit 501(c)(3) research and development organization which provides all of its work to the general public under the principles of Open Source and Open Access to Research.

https://openresearch.institute/

TAPR is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization of amateur radio (“ham”) operators who are interested in advancing the state of the radio art. The initials stand for “Tucson Amateur Packet Radio” but today the organization is much broader than that: we long ago became an international organization, and while we still support packet radio our areas of interest have expanded to include software defined radio, advanced digital modulation methods, and precise time and frequency measurement.

TAPR’s main activities are education and knowledge sharing through conferences, publications, and Internet resources; and research, development, and sales of unique products that assist amateurs and other experimenters. TAPR strongly endorses technology sharing, and in 2007 released one of the first licenses designed for open hardware projects, the TAPR Open Hardware License. With rare exceptions, all hardware and software developed with TAPR support is licensed under open source or open hardware terms.

https://tapr.org/

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Renaissance Charlotte Suites Hotel
11-13 September TAPR DCC
14-18 GNU Radio Conference

Charlotte, South Carolina is the epicenter for technology and finance in the southeastern US – and as such, is blessed with many attractions and a breathtaking skyline.

Find out more to do in Charlotte at
https://www.charlottesgotalot.com/

P4XT Digital Multiplexing Transponder Project Program Proposal

Greetings all,

This is our P4XT Digital Multiplexing Transponder Project Program Proposal. It’s the result of multiple revisions and a lot of work.

We recognize Wally Ritchie WU1Y for taking on the majority of the writing duties. He has crafted quality work from a wide variety of input, commentary, argument, and critique. He has clarified our intentions and ambitions into a quality proposal.

It is ready for publication and distribution.

Current version can be found at:
p4xt_proposal

Invitation – Digital Multiplexing Transponder Working Meeting at HamCation 2020

Open Research Institute is planning a working project kickoff session for the P4XT Digital Multiplexing Transponder Project, and you are invited!

This will be a half-day session to be held just after the closing of HamCation in Orlando on Sunday afternoon, February 9, 2020.

The goal of the P4XT project is to produce open source Digital Multiplexing Transponders (DMTs) for the Amateur Radio Service Microwave Bands, including fully tested and verified hardware, hardware descriptive language, and firmware. These DMTs will be suitable for deployment in Geostationary Orbit.

This will be a working session by the participants. The first half of the session will be technical. The second half will focus on project planning and budget issues.

During the HamCation, there will be a public one-hour high-level presentation of the project. There will also be another one hour presentation by ORI on GEO amateur satellites and a presentation about open source projects across amateur radio.

The written project proposal and the agenda for the meeting will be published in advance of the session.

The session will be held near the HamCation venue. The session will be from 3PM – 7PM on Sunday, February 9, 2020.

3PM – 3:30 PM will be a meet and greet. The formal agenda will be 3:30PM – 7PM.

As this is a working session, attendance is limited. It is not intended to be an open public event but rather a working session of key potential contributors and advisors. Therefore, an RSVP is required.

RSVP to w5nyv@arrl.net or 858 229 3399 (leave a message, texts are welcome)

We will hold this session in accordance with Open Research Institute Developer and Participant Policies. These can be found at https://openresearch.institute/developer-and-participant-policies/

See you there!

-Michelle Thompson W5NYV

Open Research Institute ITAR/EAR policy work – 2019 Update

Open Research Institute has a significant update to our ongoing amateur radio satellite communications policy work. This letter describes the work and includes a request for assistance.

The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) are two United States export control laws that affect the manufacturing, sales and distribution of technology.

Open Research Institute (ORI) operates using the public domain carve-outs in ITAR and EAR.

Our current policy is documented on our website. Here’s the direct links:
https://openresearch.institute/itar-and-ear-strategy/ and https://openresearch.institute/developer-and-participant-policies/

We believe these policies are sufficient.

However,

1) Some potential funding sources want to see a formal legal opinion.

2) Some organizations have made allegations that everything we do is illegal (and unethical, fattening, stupid, etc.).

Our choices were to continue insisting we are right, or to be effective.

I chose to be effective.

Therefore, in July 2019 Bruce Perens went out and found several law firms that were aligned with our goals and values. We selected one recommended by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and began work.

After the first round of conversation in August 2019, we had decided to 1) pay for a formal legal opinion and 2) apply for EAR certification with the US Department of Commerce. This would certify that the open source work we were doing was A-ok with the US government.

There was a delay in beginning this work. I stepped up to lead the effort and initiated another round of conversation with the law firm.

This second round of conversation refined the goal.

My highest priority is ensuring risk reduction to our amazing volunteers. The open source and public domain carve outs deliver enormous risk reduction and offer wonderful international opportunities for meaningful collaboration. But, just like with proprietary ITAR/EAR work, you have to know what you’re doing in order to unlock all the benefits.

A formal legal opinion was still desired and will be obtained. That has not changed. But, instead of going for EAR Certification, which we considered to be an easier application process, we decided we would go for the top tier, and apply for ITAR Commodity Jurisdiction from the US Department of State.

If successful, then this finding solves EAR certification and also better defines a relationship with the Department of Defense, which is the third major entity involved in regulating the amateur radio satellite work we are doing. A Commodity Jurisdiction is widely considered to be the gold standard for work related to ITAR.

ORI is asking that our programs of work be found explicitly *not* subject to ITAR.

This application is appropriately lengthy and complex. This effort is not without risk. Instead of just continuing to happily do what we’ve been doing, which we believe to be entirely legal and above-board, we are instead deliberately attracting attention, scrutiny, and judgement.

Why do this? Because others have not. The trinity of fear-uncertainty-doubt must be confronted and defeated. Open source is the way forward for amateur radio satellite work.

The cover letter from the law firm has been delivered to us. This cover letter contains the draft of the source material for the application. We also have a copy of ITAR Category XV (Spacecraft and Related Articles), DDTC CJ Determinations list (to study the list of successful applications) and a copy of the Commerce Control List.

We will review and if necessary revise the cover letter, until it accurately and completely represents our work. Then we will prepare our application and then we will file it.

Let’s talk about expenses. In August, we estimated the effort would cost $50,000. Current estimates, to get us up to the point of being able to apply, are much less than that at $5,000. I can pay for this.

ORI currently has $13,041 in the bank. These funds are intended for hardware development and boards, and not for legal. If the expenses end up exceeding my ability to pay, then I will ask for help. ORI hardware funds will not be diverted to cover legal costs.

What do we need?

There is a section in the application where supporting organizations can contribute supportive comments.

I ask all AMSAT organizations to seriously consider providing a statement of strong support for Open Research Institute’s Commodity Jurisdiction request. Describing the work that would be enabled by safe, sane, and legal legal open source collaboration would be of great benefit to this application.

I humbly ask ARRL, ARISS, Libre Space Foundation, and any other group that has an interest in this work to consider formally supporting this effort with a statement that can be included with the request.

Our law firm can provide some guidance on statements if necessary. We deeply appreciate any assistance provided.

Thank you all for the support, encouragement, comment, critique, questions, and motivation.

-Michelle Thompson W5NYV
w5nyv@arrl.net 858 229 3399

Open Research Institute – Phase 4 Space Rent-a-GEO

Here is our grant proposal for Rent-a-GEO. The intended audience for this proposal is ARDC, ARRL, and FEMA.

Rent-a-GEO-Phase-4-Space

This project provides a way for amateur radio operators to communicate through a geosynchronous satellite over the continental US, parts of Canada, and parts of Mexico.

There are two main purposes served by this communications project. First is enhanced emergency communications support from amateur radio. Second is research and development of open source hardware that implements advanced digital communications functions.

Functions include field-configurable polyphase filterbank channelizers, queueing and multiplexing functions, digital signal processing, open source implementations of current communications protocols, and geosynchronous satellite communications best practices.

Open Research Institute – Phase 4 Space – Grant Application – Overview

Here is the overview document submitted to ARDC, at their invitation, on 22 August 2019 for the Open Research Institute Phase 4 Space project.

This project unites the global amateur radio community with an advanced microwave digital satellite system. Four geosynchronous amateur radio payloads, and four flight spares, are the product of the work that would be funded by this grant. All work is open source and open access and in full compliance with all developer and participant policies. Satellites to be placed 90 degrees apart for global coverage. All amateur satellite and amateur radio organizations will be invited to fully participate.

Detailed documentation of the communications payload development process is under review and will be published as soon as the review process is complete.

Open_Research_Institute_Phase_4_Space

FPGA iCEBreaker Workshop – digital communications for amateur satellites

Greetings all!

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are one of three fundamental types of digital architectures used for communications R&D.

The others are general purpose processors and graphical processing units (GPUs).

This fall, in San Diego, California, there will be an FPGA course sponsored by Open Research Institute. There are 10 spots with amateur communications as the focus of the work.

FPGAs are a primary technology in satellite communications. They’re used in R&D and in deployment. It is difficult to get started with FPGA design for several reasons. The tools have traditionally been proprietary. The companies that make the tools price them for large corporations to buy. Coursework for FPGA design is rare.

This is where iCEBreaker makes a difference.

An iCEBreaker Workshop 10 pack has been made available. They are described at this link https://www.crowdsupply.com/1bitsquared/icebreaker-fpga

I will use this hardware to put on a course for anyone interested in amateur radio satellite and terrestrial development. All course materials will be published.

The first course will be in San Diego. If you’re in the area, please get in touch! MakerPlace and CoLab are the likely sites.

Later workshops could be at places like Symposium, Xenia, or Hamcation. The full course cannot be accomplished in a day, but a workshop could get the basics across and provide a substantial boost to motivated amateur satellite engineering volunteers. Let me know what you think.

more soon!
-Michelle W5NYV

Video Report – Trans-Ionospheric Badge Update

https://youtu.be/TgJ7m0OETMw

Badge report! Brag Tape, Radio Peripheral update, and our ESP32 development board. It’s from hacker boxes and has a TFT display, programmable RGB LEDs, an SD card for storage, up down left right select user interface input, and some circuitry for charging a lithium ion battery. It’s a good platform for building up the executive function code for Phase 4 Ground radios.

What do we have working?

A high resolution display, SD card access, and bluetooth advertising that sends commands to the trans ionospheric badge.

ESP32 development can be done with the Arduino IDE, but this is very limited and hogs memory. For Phase 4 Ground we use the ESP IDF. This means command line, but Visual Studio Code works with some setup. This gives you context colors and build and run functions.

We highly recommend the ESP32 check it out at the links below. Our next report will be about multicast IP SDR work. See you then!

ESP32 info!

Overview:
https://www.espressif.com/en/products/hardware/esp32/overview

Programming Guide:
https://docs.espressif.com/projects/esp-idf/en/latest/

Trans-Ionospheric is a successful fundraiser for our open source amateur radio satellite communications work.

Thank you so much for the support! Buy one here: https://www.ebay.com/itm/123328684692

$2,449.44 Donated to Amateur Radio on the International Space Station

Palomar Amateur Radio Club and Open Research Institute Donate $2,449.44 to Amateur Radio on the International Space Station

Palomar Amateur Radio Club (PARC) was founded in February of 1936 and serves the San Diego, CA, USA amateur radio community. PARC hosts monthly membership meetings and hosts several annual events. PARC repeater system serves individuals and groups and provides opportunities for recreation, emergency preparation, and technical experimentation.

http://palomararc.org/

Contact board@palomararc.org

Open Research Institute (ORI) is a non-profit research and development organization which provides all of its work to the general public under the principles of Open Source and Open Access to Research.

https://openresearch.institute/

Contact Michelle Thompson w5nyv@arrl.net

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) lets students worldwide experience the excitement of talking directly with crew members of the International Space Station, inspiring them to pursue interests in careers in science, technology, engineering and math, and engaging them with radio science technology through amateur radio.

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) is a cooperative venture of international amateur radio societies and the space agencies that support the International Space Station (ISS). In the United States, sponsors are the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT), the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The primary goal of ARISS is to promote exploration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics by organizing scheduled contacts via amateur radio between crew members aboard the ISS and students in classrooms or public forms. Before and during these radio contacts, students, educators, parents, and communities learn about space, space technologies, and amateur radio.

For more information, see www.ariss.org.

This donation is given to support the Multi-Voltage Power Supply (MVPS). ARISS needs to replace the current aging ISS amateur radio station power supply. ARISS has a fund-raising campaign throughout 2019 to help with the expensive space-rated parts required to finish building the MVPS units.

Kerry Banke N6IZW has been a core volunteer in the effort to design, build, and test the flight, training, and spare models of the MVPS. Inspired by his commitment, expertise, and mentoring throughout this project, individuals organized a fundraiser through the Amateur Radio Satellite Service Facebook group.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/amateurradiosatelliteservice

Palomar Amateur Radio Club agreed to be the 501(c)(3) of record. Open Research Institute handled logistics, publicity, and secured a corporate match from Qualcomm Incorporated.

The $2,449.44 donation was made to ARISS from PARC on 28 May 2019. 

A substantial amount of additional funding is needed to replace the amateur radio power supplies on the ISS. This donation is a small part of a much larger effort to keep amateur radio in space, upgrade and update equipment on the space station, and promote peaceful international cooperation and the unparalleled educational opportunities enabled by ARISS.

March 2019 Report: JAMSAT Symposium, Phase 4 Ground, and GNU Radio Companion Localization!

Phase 4 Ground and GNU Radio

My daughter Geneva and I had a wonderful time at JAMSAT Symposium in March 2019! There was a wide variety of talks about so many different payloads, a very special banquet dinner, adventures in Kyoto and Osaka, visits to ham radio stores, getting to see a new ICOM radio up close, lots of Pokemon, a Fire Festival, and making so many new friends. We were welcomed and will never forget the hospitality. A big part of Symposium was the GNU Radio Workshop by Imamura-san. It was an honor to share how we on Phase 4 Ground use GNU Radio in our presentation on Sunday morning.

GNU Radio is a digital signal processing framework for software-defined radio. It’s the software that tells the hardware in your radio what to do. We need to be able to quickly and easily set up a software-defined radio to do whatever modulation and coding we want, and GNU Radio Companion can help us do this. GNU Radio Companion is a Graphical User Interface that allows us to drag and drop functions onto a canvas. We click block outputs to connect to block inputs. When we do this, it creates a directed graph that implements radio functions. The signals flow from beginning to end. Each block modifies the signal, as if it was part of a circuit. The flow graph looks something like a block diagram combined with a software flowchart. GNU Radio has software variables. It can adapt to signal conditions and user input.

The workshop was held after the last talk on Sunday. It was several hours of hands-on training. Participants brought their own computers, installed GNU Radio, and created useful radio flow graphs that worked with real hardware. Several experiments were done in order. Imamura-san kept everything organized through a set of projected slides that had clear instructions. Optimizations and customizations were made so that participants could see how they can use GNU Radio to achieve their goals. The hardware included RTL-SDRs and Plutos. Imamura-san also demonstrated a live video transmission from the podium.

GNU Radio comes with a very large number blocks included. When you install GNU Radio, these blocks come for free! The first type of block is a source block. This brings the digital samples, from the radio hardware attached to the computer, into the GNU Radio flow graph. The second type of block is a sink block, which consumes signals. Sink blocks include things like saving a signal to disk, an audio output, oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers, time sequences, or video. In between the sources and the sinks are all the radio functions that we need to make our radios work. Filters, amplifiers, decoders, demodulators, counters, constellations, costas loops, synchronizers, and more! You can make your own custom blocks or modify an existing block.

If you install GNU Radio using PYBOMBs, then you can add additional blocks from outside GNU Radio very easily. PYBOMBS works on Linux.

One of the most useful GNU Radio Recipes for our community is gr-satellites, by Dr. Daniel Estévez. There are a lot of satellites supported in this module. For an introduction, please see the source code repository here: https://github.com/daniestevez/gr-satellites.

The introduction also covers how to submit telemetry to the projects that have requested this.

Other great open source satellite communications projects include Dan Cajacob’s base station network, Alexandru Csete’s gqrx and gpredict programs, Libre Space Foundation’s SatNOGs (satellite network on the ground) with RTL-SDR and GNU Radio, and PE4WJ Es’Hail2 (QO-100) uplink, beacon tracker and LNB drift correction flowgraphs.

Phase 4 Ground is a broadband digital microwave system for both terrestrial and space use. It complies with both ITAR and EAR open source and public domain carve-outs, so it’s open to participation worldwide. All engineering is published as it’s created. All are welcome to participate.

Phase 4 Ground is best suited for GEO and HEO satellite missions. The uplink is frequency division multiple access. We use a 5GHz uplink. The regenerative repeater payload receives the uplink signals, digitizes them, multiplexes them, and processes them into DVB-S2 and DVB-S2X frames. The downlink is 10GHz. DVB-S2 is Digital Video Broadcasting Satellite 2nd edition. The X stands for extensions down in to Very Low SNR modulation and codings. Very Low SNR is of interest to hams, so we include the extension to the main standard DVB-S2.

We use both pilots and short frame lengths in order to make the receiver implementation as easy as possible. Pilot tones are optional, and there are medium and long frames available in the standard.

There is a recommended order to receive DVB-S2/X frames. The first stage of the demodulator is symbol timing recovery. We have to figure out the best possible time to measure the received signal. We don?t know what the transmitter clock is doing! We will not be coordinated with it. We may even be off a bit in terms of the period of the clocks, or we might have jitter, or we might have drift. We have to analyze the received waveform and synchronize our receiver clock to the transmitter clock that is ?hidden? in the received signal. Then, once we are synchronized, we sample that symbol and report the results. Doing this gives us a reliable value for the received symbol. Now that we have a series of received symbols, we have to figure out the start of the frame. This is done in DVB-S2 (and many other protocols) by sending a fixed well-known pattern at the start of every frame. For DVB-S2, this is called a Physical Layer Start of Frame sequence. It?s 26 symbols long. This is what we look for. Once we see it, we know where the start of the frame is! Frame synchronization can be done in several ways. There are two different methods described in the implementation guidelines for DVB-S2/X. One is relatively simple, using shift registers. The other is bit more complex, using state machines. There are advantages to using the state machine method, but it?s more complicated and expensive. The shift registers is simple and cheap, but gives up a bit of performance. This is the constant balance in digital communications. Performance comes at a cost!

Right after frame synchronization, we correct for carrier frequency error. First we do a coarse correction. This can be done with a delay-and-multiply frequency error detector. Then we do a fine correction. This can be done with something like a feed-forward estimation algorithm. Coarse correction is in the MHz, and fine correction is the hundreds of kHz.

Next, we do phase recovery. This is to fix any residual frequency offset from the coarse and fine frequency offsets. Phase 4 Ground will support all the modulation and codings of DVB-S2/X, but we expect lower order modulations to be more heavily used. This means that a pilot-assisted maximum-likelihood (ML) feed-forward estimator will be the most useful. If you compute the average phase of each pilot field, then you can subtract this out and improve the signal. Higher-order modulations will need another feedback loop.

Automatic gain control is next. AGC can be done in many ways. One way to do it depends on the pilot symbols in DVB-S2/X standard. These symbols are sent at regular intervals to provide a known easy-to-receive signal. We use these known pilot symbols in order to determine the amplitude multiplication factor for the rest of the signal. Pilot symbols are optional in the DVB standard, but Phase 4 Ground requires them. When the pilot symbols are on, the AGC is listening. When the pilot symbols are off, the AGC turns off, and the information from the AGC is used.

After AGC, the constellation is decoded. DVB-S2 has a lot of them! There are many techniques to get the bits from the constellations. GNU Radio has a very versatile and powerful constellation block.

Instead of the usual MPEG transport stream (DVB-S2 is for satellite TV, so the content is usually broadcast television signals), we use the more flexible Generic Stream Encapsulation standard from DVB.org. This means we have less overhead and complexity, and can handle any digital traffic that the amateur operator wants to transmit. It?s just a digital pipe.

Phase 4 Ground uses GNU Radio extensively in research and development as well as for archiving and publishing our work. GNU Radio is not just a tool to figure things out, but is also a way to define a reference design for the radio.

Because Phase 4 Ground is not a bent pipe, the payload is more complex. This complexity needs to be fully tested on the ground before risking large digital circuits in space.
All the uplink channels are received with a polyphase filter bank. The current polyphase filter bank implementation in GNU Radio needs some updates in order to achieve the speeds and performance that we want. This is an active area of research and development. There have been three efforts over the past three years by various groups that have attempted to update and improve the existing working polyphase filter bank in GNU Radio.

Ron Economos and Paul Williamson successfully implemented GSE in GNU Radio and in Wireshark. This made it possible to do transport layer testing. Ron Economos is the lead author of the DVB blocks in GNU Radio. Improvements to GSE continue today. The current focus is improving internetworking functions so that large amounts of data can be more easily handled. We intend to use multicast IP as much as possible, and making sure GSE integrates well with multicast IP is important.

The error correction in DVB-S2/X is state of the art. There are not many other error correcting codes that are better than Low Density Parity Check + BCH. This is a concatenated digital code specified by the DVB standard for S2 and T2 transmissions. We have two open source implementations of LDPC decode for DVB-S2/X. The first one is for graphical processing units and was written by Charles Brain. It was demonstrated at 2017 AMSAT-NA Symposium and at several events following. The second open source implementation is in C by Ahmet Inan and can be found here: https://github.com/xdsopl/LDPC

This version has been incorporated into GNU Radio by Ron Economos. This can be found here: https://github.com/drmpeg/gr-dvbs2rx

The next step for LDPC is to implement and publish an open source version for FPGA.

GNU Radio is very important for our voice codec work, uplink modulation experiments, and trying out authentication and authorization schemes. GNU Radio allows us to use a wide variety of off the shelf hardware to achieve things that were not possible only a few short years ago. The GNU Radio community has been welcoming, helpful, supportive, friendly, and a source of continually amazing software-defined radio advancements.

GNU Radio has an annual conference. In 2018, we held a week-long “Block Party” for DVB-S2/X. We had fun, set up multiple demos, explained DVB-S2/X, made the case for open source LDPC, and made progress on DVB-S2 correlates and GSE. Phase 4 Ground made significant progress due to the generous support of the conference organizers and the community.

Learn more about the conference here: https://www.gnuradio.org/grcon/grcon19/

Registration for 2019 is open. The conference will be held September 16-20, 2019 in Huntsville, AL, USA. There is a poster session, proceedings, talks, workshops, contests, and social activities. The theme for 2019 is Space Communications! There are special gifts for space themed content. If you have a GNU Radio project that you want to share, consider making a presentation at or sending a poster to GNU Radio Conference 2019.

One of the proposals coming out of JAMSAT 2019 was localization of GNU Radio Companion for the Japanese language. Work has begun. The first step is to make sure that all Japanese characters can be displayed in GNU Radio Companion. This means going through the codebase and removing anything that prevents Japanese characters from being freely displayed. GNU Radio project leadership is very supportive of the project. We will do our best on this! We will need help reviewing and perfecting the language support in GNU Radio Companion.

The collaboration between Phase 4 Ground and JAMSAT has been absolutely stellar and we all look forward to continued enjoyment and success. Next generation payloads will be more complicated with multiplexing and advanced digital techniques. We all need to be able to work together, internationally. Open source and public domain is the best way. Phase 4 Ground and Open Research Institute are entirely dedicated to making this happen. We will be keeping the momentum and progress going. ORI is proud to be an affiliate member of Open Source Initiative https://opensource.org/

Join the Phase 4 Ground team! Our mailing list can be found at our website https://openresearch.institute/ Write Michelle Thompson w5nyv@arrl.net to join our Slack account. This is where daily engineering discussions take place.

More soon!
-W5NYV

GNU Radio Conference 2019 – Call for All! – Submit your presentations, posters, papers, and more

Dear friends and fans of GNU Radio,

GNU Radio Conference celebrates and showcases the substantial and remarkable progress of the world’s best open source digital signal processing framework for software-defined radios. In addition to presenting GNU Radio’s vibrant theoretical and practical presence in academia, industry, the military, and among amateurs and hobbyists, GNU Radio Conference 2019 will have a very special focus.

Summer 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, which landed the first humans on the Moon. GNU Radio Conference selected Huntsville, AL, USA as the site for GNU Radio Conference 2019 in order to highlight and celebrate space exploration, astronomical research, and communication.

Space communications are challenging and mission critical. Research and development from space exploration has had and continues to have far-reaching effect on our communications gear and protocols.

Please join us September 16-20, 2019 at the “Huntsville Marriott at the Space & Rocket Center” hotel for the best technical conference of the year.

Registration and an online and mobile-friendly schedule will be posted at the conference web site:
https://www.gnuradio.org/grcon/grcon19/

Call for All!

We invite developers and users from the GNU Radio Community to present your projects, presentations, papers, posters, and problems at GNU Radio Conference 2019. Submit your talks, demos, and code! Please share this Call for All with anyone you think needs to read it.

To submit your content for the conference, visit our dedicated conference submission site at:
https://openconf.org/GRCon19/openconf.php

If you have questions or need assistance with OpenConf, or have content that doesn’t quite fit and you want to talk it over, please write grcon@gnuradio.org

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Space (including ground stations)*
  • Radio astronomy
  • Atmospheric research
  • Theoretical work
  • Practical applications
  • Aviation
  • Biomedical
  • Citizen Science
  • Digital Signal Processing
  • Education
  • Interface
  • Machine Learning
  • Security
  • Transportation
  • Wireless security
  • Amateur radio

*special focus awards given to all accepted work with Space as a topic.

LimeSDR Mini Hardware Donations from ESA and MyriadRF Announced

Thank you to European Space Agency and MyriadRF for giving Open Research Institute the opportunity to get LimeSDR Minis into the hands of some very amazing people doing open source space communications research and development.

ORI and Phase 4 Ground are very proud to present the following international recipients. We commit to supporting, enabling, promoting, and publicizing their work.

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Sahana Raghunandan, USA

As part of discussions at the 2018 GNU Radio Conference DVB-S2X Block Party, one of the functionalities of the demodulator that was identified as needing additional review and testing was the frame synchronization and symbol timing recovery loop. The goal of targeting LimeSDR is to modify and test existing GNNU Radio flowgraphs related to this subsystem of the demodulator. In order test this functionality independently, it is assumed that signal captures at the input to the baseband demodulator will be available.

Sahana Raghunandan is a researcher at Virginia Tech and an independent consultant focusing on satellite and terrestrial systems engineering including waveform design & implementation and interference analysis for spectrum management. Her experience includes design and FPGA-based implementation of waveforms for satellite broadband modems and satellite ground systems architecture with emphasis on modeling and simulation of cross layer optimization techniques. She has also worked on platforms and architectures for software and cognitive radio networks. Her research experience also includes design of modules for radar data acquisition, system integration of radar depth sounders and application of synthetic aperture radar techniques for ice sheet tomography.

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Jeremy Reeve, New Zealand

Jeremy has been working on VHF and L-band LNA designs. He has been running qucs simulations to look at optimum noise matching and stability circles and the like. His goals are to contribute RF hardware and baseband/FPGA content. He expects to be able to work with his educational institution to create a project that will result in quality open source publications.

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Edson W. R. Pereira, Brazil

Edson is an open source advocate and extremely active in amateur radio. He implemented a GUI (SDR-Shell) for Bob McGwier’s and Frank Brickle’s DttSP SDR, has contributed code for Joe Taylor’s WSJT-X, and has been a primary contributor on many other projects.

He is a lead maintainer for the Phase 4 Ground polyphase filter bank repository and is heavily involved with Phil Karn KA9Q’s development effort for multicast IP SDR innovations and implementations.

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Matias LU9CBL, Argentina

Matias is active in many areas of open source space communications. He is part of a groupworking to build a ground station design that supports a wide variety of satellite missions.

He has a SatNOGS ground station that is making rapid progress through the development portal. He is working to build and test antennas to add to this station.

He is active in his club station (LU4AA), which plans to run a station with an azimuth and elevation rotor from Yaesu, 2 crossed Yagis for VHF, and 2 crossed Yagis for UHF. Multiple fixed station will be added for remote control, and the station will be added to the SatNOGS network after it is functional.

Matias is active on SatNOGS forums and has a blog at lu9cbl.blogspot.com.
It is critically important to increase the number of stations and people involved in satellite communications from the southern hemisphere. Matias is deeply committed to publishing, sharing, and supporting others that are working in open source space communications.

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David Fannin, USA

David Fannin KK6DF works closely with Phase 4 Ground volunteer David Viera and wrote the code for David Viera’s LMX2594 oscillator and CW beacon project. David Viera demonstrated this system at GNU Radio Conference 2018 to great acclaim.

David Fannin has worked on a number of oscillator and SDR projects, his github account is https://github.com/dfannin, and he is committed to open source development in advanced digital communications.

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Open Research Institute and Phase 4 Ground are honored to be given the chance to put advanced software defined radio hardware like the LimeSDR Mini into the hands of active developers across the world. We are ready to help make the most of this very generous donation to open source space communications work.

-Michelle W5NYV

HamSci Data Plane + Satellite (research questions and proposed work plan)

Link to PDF

Abstract
HamSci, or Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation, advances scientific research and understanding through amateur radio activities. Primary cultural benefits include the development of new technologies along with providing excellent educational opportunities for both the amateur community and the general public.

The HamSci Space Weather System is a HamSci project. HamSci Space Weather Stations form a distributed radio network dedicated to space weather research. HamSci Space Weather Stations produce receiver data from transmitters associated with coordinated observations. Sensors range from ground magnetometers, to ionospheric sounders, to lightning detectors and more. The diversity of sensor types means a wide variety of radios can participate.

A collaboration between HamSci and Tucson Amateur Packet Radio (TAPR) was proposed at the Digital Communications Conference (DCC) on 14-16 September 2018 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Discussions about custom software-defined radio hardware designed, built, and sold by TAPR as HamSci Space Weather Stations began at the conference and continued though a Google Group.

HamSci presented at the TAPR DCC Sunday Seminar. Slides introducing possible sensor types from that presentation are reproduced throughout the full document linked above.
The receiver network employs a wide variety of sensor types. Combining sensor data from disparate sources, when the end result has greater certainty, accuracy, or quality than if the data was used individually, is called sensor fusion. The HamSci Space Weather System, as proposed above, can be affordably accomplished through sensor fusion.

For example, a $150 dedicated lightning detector on a Raspberry Pi in Florida, USA can participate in this network with a $6331 USRP X310 station sampling at highest rate and bandwidth in Madrid, Spain. The inexpensive data from the lightning detector may enhance the data from the expensive radio and increase scientific knowledge. Another example is a set of five inexpensive radios configured as ionosondes. The data combined is better than any one station’s individual contribution.

Open Research Institute (ORI) proposed an open source cubesat as part of the network. Observing from ground and space simultaneously provides substantial additional scientific value. The receiver network can be coordinated to make scheduled observations that align with satellite passes. This can be enabled with SatNOGS open source software. See https://satnogs.org/ for more information about this open source satellite network on the ground.

ORI believes that the central challenge of the HamSci Space Weather Station project is not the radio hardware. It is how the radios are interconnected, what metadata is accepted, how observations are scheduled, how the interactions between different sensor data is modeled, and how the large quantity of data is handled, organized, and re-used over time. This is the Data Plane.

GEO and HEO Launch Update – Phase 4 Ground Supported Payloads

We don’t like keeping secrets. However, we do have some secrets.

The Phase 4B payload, and the other related projects that we have actively supported (like CQC) all require launches.

We have a launch with the Wide Field of View payload with the Air Force. The good news is how well we did in getting engineering approval for this launch. We have a ride. The bad news is the cost of the launch. It is $6 million and they can guarantee us about one year and not even guarantee us it will be over the United States. We have decided we cannot ask the community for $6M to support this launch. It’s just not a good deal for US hams.

Fortunately there’s been a lot of work going on behind the scenes for additional launches. This work has been going on for a while.

I can’t share the details. I can say that our prospects have never been better. Anyone following along and helping the project, anyone that has been with us through a lot of challenging experiences, deserves to know that we are absolutely serious, focused, and unrelenting in obtaining multiple launches for this technology.

Traditionally, an amateur launch would be announced and then a payload developed. With modern digital technologies taking significantly longer development time than legacy technologies, and with opportunistic short-notice launches becoming more the norm, this design pattern really can’t work for us. That’s one of the reasons we need to work hard, now, as if the launch was imminent. Howie DeFelice and I wrote an article for QEX about this.

Working hard without a launch date is a lot to ask of people that are not getting paid and in some cases not being given the support or recognition they should be getting.

In the new year, we’ll be doing just that and asking for more in terms of technology demonstration and development from the team. The next big technology demonstration will be HamCation, and the most ambitious goal for that is to have LDPC working on an FPGA with interactive controls. This is the heart of the coding part of the receiver.

A GNU Radio LDPC demonstration can be seen in a recent video report, and the GPU version can be run by anyone with a late model Nvidia GPU.

Until HamCation, our goal is to get the air interface into the best possible shape. We need to capture the excellent progress we’ve made and make it as easy as possible for upcoming payloads to say “Yes!” to Phase 4 Ground.

There’s plenty going on. Progress is good. Launch prospects are part of that good news. A lot of the work is invisible during the negotiating process, but we are working as hard as we can to make it more than worth the wait.

-Michelle W5NYV

Hardware Donation for Open Source Space Communications Work – LimeSDR Mini Kits Available

Thanks to the enormous generosity of MyriadRF, Phase 4 Ground has some hardware help!

Five LimeSDR Mini Kits have been given to Phase 4 Ground for open source satellite communications development work.

We want to get these into as many hardworking hands as possible! Write me today with your need and let’s get you up and running.

I recently set up a LimeSDR Mini with GNU Radio with one of our list members and it went very well. This is a wonderful SDR. The LimeSuite GUI allows prototyping with what feels like every register setting on the controller. Performance is very good.

For a talk about LimeSDR (and the extended frequency range chip) from Microwave Update 2018 from Mike Seguin N1JEZ, please see https://youtu.be/F76BzezuCmw

LDPC-BCH decode on the FPGA is a current area of great interest for us. LDPC-BCH is the forward error correction for DVB-S2/X. But, we are also interested in doing more with Polar codes. There is at least one open source satellite payload project that has specified Polar forward error correcting codes. There is very little open source work here, it’s cutting edge, and Polar codes are specified for use in 5G communications. Polar codes are the first family of error-correcting codes that achieve the Shannon capacity for a wide range of communication channels with efficient encoding and decoding.

The FPGA on the LimeSDR mini is the Intel MAX 10 (10M16SAU169C8G 169-UBGA). How far can we take it?

What else needs doing? How about a SatNOGS station with the LimeSDR mini? A proof of concept of Phase 4 Ground authentication and authorization scheme? Handling the Generic Stream Encapsulation streams properly from the downlink for amateur communications? Plenty to do! Dive in and we will help you.

Contact Michelle W5NYV w5nyv@arrl.net to sign on and get kitted up.

Open Source Low Density Parity Check Decoder for DVB-S2, DVB-S2X, DVB-T2 Working in GNU Radio

An open source Low Density Parity Check decode from Phase 4 Ground is working for DVB-S2, DVB-S2X, and DVB-T2 in GNU Radio, thanks to the efforts of Ahmet Inan, Ron Economos, and Charles Brain.

This is a big step forward for open source satellite communications.

Video report here:
https://youtu.be/fOYVOgybFKY

Out of Tree (OOT) GNU Radio module by Dr. MPEG here:
https://github.com/drmpeg/gr-dvbldpc

Decoder by Ahmet here:
https://github.com/xdsopl/LDPC

3D Printed Cassegrain Antenna Structures at 122GHz Demonstrated at Microwave Update 2018

Here’s a demonstration of a 3D printed Cassegrain antenna system for 122GHz amateur radio. It was presented in the demonstration room at Microwave Update 2018.

https://youtu.be/NbTWWNvtvOU

122 GHz is an amateur radio band. There’s activity and distance records and some contesting. 122GHz has significant attenuation due to atmospheric absorption. Specifically, oxygen gets in the way.

I’ve been working on a 3D printed rig for 122GHz. This was sparked by a request from Alan Devlin VK3XPD for a 3D printed subreflector for a Cassegrain dish. People generally get by with a flat subreflector, but you can get better performance if it’s a hyperbolic curve matched to the feed and parabolic dish.

So what is 122GHz good for? Well, car radar for one thing. That’s what Silicon Radar does. They’re a company in Germany, and they have a radar development board and Millimeter Wave Integrated Circuits (MMICs) for 122GHz. The patch antennas are actually on the chip. The dev boards were used in this experiment. They send out a wide chirped radar signal and measure the return. There is software provided by Silicon Radar that runs the dev board.

The goal for Microwave Update 2018 was to verify a 3D printed Cassegrain antenna design for 122GHz amateur use. This design was adapted from the Customizable Cassegrain dish by drxenocide on Thingiverse. Link is in the show notes. https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1935824

This thing creates a customizable Cassegrain Reflector dish. It was created using the equations from the paper by Peter Hannan, “Microwave antennas derived from the Cassegrain telescope,” in IRE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 140-153, March 1961.

The antenna parts were designed, the 3d model specified, the parts were printed, the resulting pieces were metallized (with MG Chemicals conductive paint), and then the parts combined into their final form.

Design files and papers can be found here: https://github.com/Abraxas3d/122GHz

The assemblies were taken to Microwave Update 2018 and set up in the demonstration room. Here’s what happened next.

So what were the results? Here’s some screenshots from the Silicon Radar software with and without the Cassegrain antenna installed over the stock lens in the development board.

And, there’s more. Please read Mike Levelle’s wonderful report on his efforts with the Silicon Radar chip in building a simple 122GHz transceiver. Link is in the show notes.

Mike has a tremendous amount of expertise and enthusiasm for the higher microwave bands and is a fantastic mentor.

http://www.bay-net.org/docs/k6ml-122GHzradio-baycon2018.pdf

What’s next? Building a radio! Stay tuned and stay on the air!

http://microwaveupdate.org/

Open Research Institute – Open Source CubeSat Workshop 2018 Madrid, Spain

Bruce Perens was the keynote speaker at the Open Source CubeSat Workshop 2018 in Madrid, Spain.

Michelle Thompson presented a technical update on Phase 4 Ground activities and described recent progress with DVB-S2X receivers in GNU Radio.

Held at the European Space Astronomy Center in late September 2018, the conference drew 122 diverse and enthusiastic participants from 22 countries. Two days of presentations and workgroups resulted in a remarkable amount of progress and sharing in support of open source spacecraft and ground stations.

Below are links to notes from the four working groups in which Phase 4 Ground volunteers participated.

Open Source Satellites – Improving the Starting Point
SatNOGS Report and Discussion
Libre Cube Standard, Community Development
Hugh’s Blog Post

Links to video recordings of presentations will be released soon.

Open Research Institute at DEFCON 26

Amateur Radio and open source Amateur Satellite activities at this past week’s DEFCONwere very successful.

Multiple talks across the somewhat daunting schedule provided plenty of opportunities to hear about amateur radio, open source satellites, modulation and coding, and ground station work. Phase 4 Ground had an opportunity to present at Cyberspectrum, and then helped host a Q&A the following day.

Open Research Institute had a booth in the WiFi Village Friday-Sunday. Services provided were the DEFCON ham radio license exam information/encouragement, SatNOGS information/handouts/stickers, Libre Space Foundation information/handouts/stickers, GNU Radio demonstrations and quick tutorials, FaradayRF information/handouts, SDR demonstrations, Trans-Ionospheric badges, Phase 4 Ground updates/recruitment/promotion, and more.

The landscape of amateur radio in space is diverse, interesting, and active. The audience at DEFCON is enthusiastic, positive, technical, and generally unafraid to build things and try stuff.

The Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) was there this year, and they are thinking about coming to GNU Radio Conference as well.

We met several university researchers and put them in touch with the right support networks to get their cubesats “off the ground”.

It’s hard work to be part of a event as large, loud, and busy as DEFCON. The attendance was estimated at 27,500 by Sunday. However, it’s very much worth it! It was great to meet so many people in person for the first time that we’ve gotten to know through electronic means.

We are solidly in the black on Trans-Ionospheric badge sales and are well on our way to funding the development board for Phase 4 Ground radios. Support and information here: https://www.openresearch.institute/badge/

We’ll be selling them online shortly. All proceeds go directly to support the non-profit ORI, and specifically for Phase 4 Ground project.

Next up: finding out how to improve representation for amateur radio on interplanetary missions from NASA. We’ll be at the Interplanetary Cubesat Workshop this week at Goddard Space Flight Center. We’ll have a poster session on open source satellite and ground station work, specifically allowed under ITAR 120.11.

Thank you to everyone that helped make this trip rewarding and fun with the encouragement, support, and materials.

DVB-S2/X Block Party at GNU Radio Conference

Hello everyone,

GNU Radio Conference is coming up in September. If you haven’t registered and want to go, please do at https://www.gnuradio.org/grcon-2018/

There’s a special event this year called Block Party.

It’s an effort to get DVB-S2 and DVB-S2X receivers in GNU Radio.

We will have our own room and tables and swag. We will have docents enthusiasm and test equipment. We’re looking for more! We’ll have documentation and refreshments.

We need blocks!

Most blocks needed for DVB-S2/X receive do, in some form, already exist. Some do not. Some just need additional modulation and codings added to them.

Receiver design is hard, but breaking it up into small blocks makes it tractable.

The DVB protocol documents are all open. There are implementation guidelines. See https://www.dvb.org/

There are several community members that are experts in this area. There is a team (Phase 4 Ground – find out more at https://phase4ground.github.io/) that needs DVB-S2/X to work in GNU Radio. There is a lot of interest from a variety of other groups including Libre Space, ARRL, AMSAT, and TAPR.

If you are able to contribute to this effort, I want to know about it! I am here to support it. I’d like nothing better than to complete the Block Party at GNU Radio Conference with working, tested, documented blocks for a DVB-S2/X receiver. This contribution makes our open source terrestrial and space radio designs for Phase 4 Ground possible, and also opens up a lot of other work.

The thing that is considered the hardest part is the LDPC FEC decode. We have an open source implementation that targets GPUs. We want to take this and get it into RFNoC. If you are working on this as well, we want to collaborate and support and combine and promote.

The GPU implementation (by Charles Brain G4GUO) of LDPC decode can be found at our repository folder here: https://github.com/phase4ground/DVB-receiver/tree/master/G4GUO-LDPC-on-GPU/DVB-S2XTxRx

Phase 4 Ground is devoted to an open source implementation of DVB-S2 and DVB-S2X for amateur radio terrestrial and space use. We are part of Open Research Institute. Learn more about this non-profit here: https://openresearch.institute/

ORI Fulfills ITAR Requirement

ORI has made its public technical data – all software, schematics, designs, and other information contained at https://www.openresearch.institute/public/ available for unlimited distribution at the 2018 Cal Poly Cubesat Developers Conference, in compliance with ITAR 121.11(a)(6).

ITAR 121.11 does not explicitly state that making data available on the Internet places that data in the “public domain” (their wording) – although we believe any court would consider this to be so.? Instead, it gives a number of methods including unlimited distribution at a conference, and making the data available at a public library (most of which do provide web access, and thus we believe this requirement is satisfied by internet data).

Notices of the availability of our online data were posted in several locations at the conference and on the conference’s online discussion system. WiFi and cellular data were available at the conference for the attendees to explore or download our information.

“Public domain” information, in the context of ITAR, is information available to the public, rather than the copyright sense of “public domain” which means information for which copyrights have been abandoned. ORI and its volunteers generally retain copyright on their information, but it is placed under an Open Source license which grants a set of rights including use, modification, and redistribution to the general public.

Correlator Troubleshooting

https://youtu.be/T6TwN2FvfAo

Here’s an update from the lab on correlator troubleshooting. We are trying to get correlation understood and under control over the air.

We have two flowgraphs that we believe aren’t working due to the Correlation Estimation Issue here https://github.com/gnuradio/gnuradio/issues/1207

We don’t think it’s operator error, but we’re relatively new to GNU Radio, and would welcome any comment or critique that helps to solve this!

FM_ARAP_to_downlink.grc is the flowgraph we are using for transmit side.

What does it do?

It collects up four analog FM channels, digitizes, and transmits a time division multiplexed signal out. This is, in general, a simple model of our uplink for a Groundsat or payload.

We see the expected transmitted signal on a spectrum analyzer and on a HackRF portapack and on the receiving system across the lab.

The receiving flowgraph is called TDM_downlink_rx.grc

What does it do?

It takes the time division multiplex signal and is supposed to break the channels back out.

This demo has worked in the past, but not anymore, and definitely not over the air now.

The problem seems to be the correlator, and it seems to be the same trouble reported in the issue.

We want to write a DVB-S2/X correlator. I think we can also help fix this correlation estimation block. In all cases, we want to comply with the tag scheme produced, so that downstream blocks already in GNU Radio get what they’re expecting, if they are expecting these types of tags.

Plenty more at https://github.com/phase4ground

Paid Ground-Station Control Operators and Amateur Satellites

Paid personnel are not allowed to be control operator or license grantee of Amateur Satellites. In the United States, this means that a paid employee of the sponsoring organization of the satellite, for example a professor at the university that has built the satellite, can not be a control operator or the license grantee.

I recently corresponded with our IARU Divison 2 representatives regarding this issue. Thanks to Edson W. R. Pereira PY2SDR and Ray Soifer W2RS for this information:
The issue regarding paid operators is due to the definition of the amateur radio service as defined by the ITU.

ARTICLE 1 Terms and definitions

  • No. 1.56 amateur service: A radiocommunication service for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, that is, by duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.
  • No. 1.57 amateur-satellite service: A radiocommunication service using space stations on earth satellites for the same purposes as those of the amateur service.
  • No. 1.96 amateur station: A station in the amateur service.

The same definition is used by the FCC: https://www.fcc.gov/wireless/bureau-divisions/mobility-division/amateur-radio-service

The key point here is the term “pecuniary interest” — in other words, “without financial compensation”. The definition is related to the *operation* of an amateur radio station, as you have stated in your message. Persons, including amateur radio operators, could be financially compensated to design and build amateur satellites, but according to the regulations, as they are presently written, the person cannot be compensated to operate the station.

If the station will operate under a US FCC amateur license, the control operator may not be an employee of the sponsoring organization, whether or not he is being directly compensated for operating the station. The license grantee is also deemed to be the operator of the space station operating under his license.

For those reasons, FCC licenses most Cubesats as experimental, not amateur. Experimental licenses do permit operators to be compensated. However, experimental stations may not communicate with amateur stations.

Ground Station Weekly Report #409

Welcome to the Phase 4 Ground Weekly Report!

409!

Video link

https://youtu.be/6tW04jWZGjM

2 4 6 8 Everybody Correlate!

Correlator team had a conference call on Thursday 5 April 2018. Jordan, Brennan, Ed, and I talked on the conference bridge Ed set up for us for about 45 minutes. We covered a lot of ground and got some idea of next steps. We have a repository that has GNU Radio draft blocks that do the Pi/2 BPSK demodulation and decoding, and we need to get it working as a correlator.

We also have a correlation estimation block in GNU Radio that has an issue.

Brennan Ashton reviewed our block and didn’t see any major issues yet, and then went out to see what he could see about the correlation estimation block.

Please review Brennan’s pull request here:

https://github.com/gnuradio/gnuradio/pull/1725

This is an attempt to solve this issue here:

https://github.com/gnuradio/gnuradio/issues/1207

Which if successful will help us and a lot of other people.

This effort is in progress and will be updated as the code is reviewed and feedback from GNU Radio given.

10GHz Filter

We have a 10GHz filter design proposed from Jeffrey Pawlan.

It covers the 10GHz amateur band, has 0.1dB variation over the band, 0.1dB insertion loss, and 20-30dB return loss. It’s a high-performance filter and we are talking about how to get it published, how many prototypes to build, and what the potential market might be. Here’s the first four documents from Jeffrey. These are in the repository at the link in the notes. If you have feedback we want to hear it.

https://github.com/phase4ground/DVB-receiver/tree/master/Pawlan-10GHz-Filter

Block Party at GNU Radio Conference 2018

We are sponsoring a Block Party at GNU Radio Conference 2018. This is a multi-day hackfest, workshop, and summit all about making an open source DVB-S2 and DVB-S2X receiver in GNU Radio. Come and help. We have five solid technical docents for the event and could use more. The goal is to bring blocks and write blocks on site, test interoperability, and leave the conference with a working DVB-S2 receiver. This is the central mission for successful continued research and development and we need all hands on deck.

If you’ve have never coded a block in GNU Radio, then don’t worry. It wasn’t until the past year that I had ever coded up a block for GNU Radio. I just had never needed to. There is a series of guided tutorials from GNU Radio’s website. The link is in the notes.

https://wiki.gnuradio.org/index.php/Guided_Tutorials

Go there, or search them up with “gnu radio guided tutorials”, walk through them, and you will have the tools and the workflow experience to be able to contribute.

Having said that, if you are only comfortable coding in python or C++ then that’s ok too. If you have an idea for getting some part of the DVB-S2 digital signal processing done, and either don’t have time to work through block coding or pybombs distribution, then you can certainly still help by sharing your signal processing code. Don’t let GNU Radio block configuration stop you. You’re needed and appreciated.

KA9Q SDR – stereo field

Phil Karn has shared a work in progress with us. He calls it the KA9Q SDR. However, the module in this SDR code that I’d like to highlight is a stereo field audio adapter.

This works by taking in multicast audio streams. Each audio stream comes from an individual audio source, or participant. These participants in a round table audio conference are placed at different points in the stereo spectrum.

Phil Writes:

I’m writing a lightweight, modular SDR package that uses IP multicast
for inter-module communication. Multicasting is very flexible and
convenient for this sort of real-time application, and I really think
it should become standard practice.

One module is an audio decoder-player. I’m often running several SDRs at once so I wrote it to handle multiple multicast streams. Since several mixed audio streams can be confusing, I’ve been experimenting with ways to help the user distinguish them.

I started with a simple text display that lists the streams and their
types and sources, highlighting those that are currently active. You
can individually adjust levels or ignore those you don’t want.

Since most sources are mono, I added the ability to give each one its
place in the stereo aural image. I’m trying to recreate the famous
“cocktail party effect” that, in person, helps you pick out one voice
from several talking at once.

Audio engineers typically place a source in a stereo image with a
mixer “pan pot” that adjusts its gain in each channel. This works –
sort of. I wanted to find something better.

So I read up auditory perception. I learned that we distinguish the
direction of a sound only partly by the level difference between our
ears, as that doesn’t actually change much as your head turns. The
*real* cue is the difference in arrival time. The speed of sound is
about 340 m/s, so if our ears are 30 cm apart (measuring around the
head) that’s a little less than a millisecond.

This didn’t seem like much, but it was very easy to add these small
delays to the “pan pots” in my player. And it works! The effect is
almost eerie; you have to listen to each channel in turn to convince
yourself that the levels are almost the same.

Conference calls (or “round tables” as we hams call them) are very important in communications. I’ve long thought we can make them much better, especially in how we handle several simultaneous speakers. If we use this scheme to place each participant in a round table we should get a lot closer to that “in person” experience that’s so difficult to produce in electronic communications.

All this requires that each participant receives every other
participant as a separate stream — there’s no central “conference
bridge” that mixes everybody together. This is a perfect application
for IP multicasting. Not only can you put each participant in its
place, the status display shows you at a glance who’s talking. You can
squelch an individual who keeps disrupting the meeting, and you can
even have a private aside by sending unicast traffic rather than
multicasting to the entire group.

A lot of this was done as research in the early days of what became
‘voice over IP’ (VoIP) but it seems to have fallen by the wayside. It
really deserves to be more widely recognized and used.

Phil Karn, KA9Q
9 April 2018

Careful COTS SDR

We are making great progress on the Careful COTS re-layout of a USRP E310 with future plans to tackle the E320. We’re collaborating with AMSAT Golf on this and have gained enthusiastic support from Ettus Research engineering. The next steps are to negotiate what’s needed on the business side. Scheduling talks is in progress.

If you’re not familiar with the term, Careful COTS – COTS means commercial off the shelf – is taking something that wasn’t designed specifically for space and making it work for space environments. This is done by selection of the right components, designing in redundancy at the system level, and testing the entire system for radiation tolerance.

We have a high degree of confidence that the Ettus USRP will work and some volunteers willing to do the work. If you are interested in this part of the project, let me know.

Badge Update

The Transionospheric badge prototypes are being built at a contract manufacturer in San Diego right now. We are working hard to have them at Hamvention for sale. All proceeds benefit Phase 4 Ground! They aren’t just for show, they will be a radio peripheral for Phase 4 Ground radios, providing a lot of visual reinforcement on what your radio is doing and the health and status of your link. Whether you have a satellite or a terrestrial system, the same information will be stylishly displayed. We are working hard to make it possible to command other radios as well. More on that as it develops!

If you want to be part of the effort, then join our Slack and mailing list at http://lists.openresearch.institute/mailman/listinfo/ground-station

Write me for an invitation to Slack. All are welcome. This project is intended to spread enjoyment, appreciation, and success in broadband digital communications at microwave for amateur radio use. A lot of what we do is complex and challenging, but we are here to help and you can contribute at any level.

Thank you for all the support and interest. If you have suggestions or questions or something you think we need to know about, let us know. If all goes well, we’ll see you next week!

Open Research Institute Exhibiting at Hamvention 2018

Open Research Institute will show at Hamvention held 18-20 May 2018.

Our booth will show projects associated with Palomar Amateur Radio Club, the AMSAT Member Society Open Research Institute‘s Phase 4 Program, GNU Radio , FaradayRF, and will host the first Trans-Ionospheric electronic badge sales.

Open Research Institute (ORI) is a non-profit research and development organization which provides all of its work to the general public under the principles of Open Source and Open Access to Research.

ORI includes Phase 4 Ground, an open source amateur radio project primarily intended for AMSAT. Our goal is to provide both designs and equipment for a radio that will operate with a 5GHz uplink and a 10GHz downlink. Our mission is to provide an open source implementation of DVB-S2 and DVB-S2X for both satellite and terrestrial amateur radio use. The reference design will be in GNU Radio, and a variety of radio recipes will be published. These solutions range from DIY to something you can purchase off-the-shelf. Phase 4 Ground radios are intended to be reusable and reconfigurable, supporting payloads at GEO (Phase 4B), HEO (Phase 3E), and beyond (Cube Quest Challenge). Additionally, these radios will work as terrestrial microwave stations. Groundsats on mountaintops or towers establish a fun and flexible digital microwave experience.

GNU Radio is a free & open-source software development toolkit that provides signal processing blocks to implement software radios. It can be used with readily-available low-cost external RF hardware to create software-defined radios, or without hardware in a simulation-like environment. It is widely used in research, industry, academia, government, and hobbyist environments to support both wireless communications research and real-world radio systems.

Faraday is more than just another Industrial, Scientific, and Medical band transceiver (ISM). Faraday takes advantage of the ISM hardware which works on the amateur radio 33cm band to let us focus on the real tasks we want to accomplish. The FaradayRF Master Plan details these tasks of which providing a well documented and educational digital wireless ham radio platform enabling an infrastructure to be built from is among the first goals. 500mW at 915MHz packs the power necessary to traverse over 40km required by last-mile communications infrastructure. The on-board Antennova M10478-A2 GPS adds location aware applications out of the box without the need for additional hardware. Overall, Faraday was designed to provide access to 33cm to radio amateurs and empower them to experiment and learn. A stronger ham radio is a more exciting ham radio.

Tickets are available now at http://hamvention.org/purchase-tickets/

European Space Agency and NASA Open Source Licenses Reviewed

As a member of the Open Source Initiative’s license-review committee, I reviewed licenses submitted by the European Space Agency and NASA. The ESA licenses are close to acceptance but need a little more work. The NASA license is more problematical in my opinion and I am not recommending that it be accepted without a significant rewrite. – Bruce Perens K6BP