[amsat-bb] Re: Stand alone real time tracker

Bruce Robertson ve9qrp at gmail.com
Sun Nov 29 15:54:53 PST 2009

On Sun, Nov 29, 2009 at 6:23 PM, w4upd <updwrb at bristor-assoc.com> wrote:
> GO to the following FTP location at my site. I think you'll find what
> you need there. If not let me know and I'll look to see if I have other
> info related to the Trakbox.
>          ftp://bristor-assoc.com/pub/Amateur/TrakBox/
> Reid, W4UPD
> William Leijenaar wrote:
>> Hi AMSATs,
>> For some longer time I have been looking for a way to get a stand-alone real-time satellite tracking system, without the use of a dual-core, GHz speed power consuming computer :o) To my suprise I didn't found much, only one design called trakbox which can be found E.g at the following tapr website:
>> http://www.tapr.org/kits_trakbox.html
>> Unfortunatly it is not available anymore, and the mean reason I guess is the outdated components.
>> I found out that the design originates from JAMSAT. Maybe someone has data (schematic, PCB layout, source code) of this design ?
>> I wonder with todays highly integrated microcontrollers if there is some modern kind of real-time-tracker available ?
>> I am looking for a system that works just seconds after switching on the power supply and not something that first has to boat 15min and needs a mouse to work.

William --

It depends what you mean by tracker, since the word is a bit widely
used in English. It could mean 1) a device that, in response to az/el
values submitted on a serial line, controls antenna rotors to track a
satellite, or 2) a device that calculates those az/el values (as well
as downlink and uplink frequencies, e.g.), or 3) something that does
both of these tasks.

There are many commercial and one-off instances of #1. Trackbox above
is an instance of #3, though I don't believe it is still being kitted.
The LVBtracker is best known as an instance of #1 above, but in fact
the latest version is an example of #3 above. It is available from
AMSAT-UK as a kit, and from AMSAT-NA as a completed product.

If you'd like to explore an extremely low-power and small footprint
device that will do #2 above, you might want to consider the
qrpTracker libraries and applications I've written and ported for the
Arduino platform, available at http://code.google.com/p/qrptracker/
with a website at http://sites.google.com/site/qrptracker/ I think
hobbiests might find this easy to work with because the various
building blocks -- like Plan 13 tracking code, TLE-storage and -access
routines and rig-control activies -- have been packaged into C++
classes. Moreover, the Arduino hardware is ubiquitous, standard and
relatively cheap.

My youtube video demoing how this code and hardware could be used
onboard a satellite to save power made the rounds a couple of weeks

In a day or so I hope to post a video of the same device
doppler-tuning my FT-817. The long-term terrestrial goal is to provide
a satellite-selecting and doppler tuning 'dongle' for this and the

73, Bruce

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