The Amateur Radio satellite community is fortunate to have a relatively new Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellite. The satellite is named Greencube or IO-117. Here’s some more information about Greencube from the S5Lab Research Team:
GreenCube is a 3U CubeSat aimed at demonstrating an autonomous biological laboratory for plants cultivation on-board a CubeSat platform. The satellite project is managed by the S5Lab research team at Sapienza University of Rome and it involves ENEA (the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) and University of Naples “Federico II”. The project is coordinated by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and it has benefitted of a launch opportunity offered by the European Space Agency. The spacecraft has been launched on-board the maiden Vega-C flight on 13 July 2022 and it has been deployed in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) at approximately 5800 km of altitude. GreenCube is carrying microgreens (brassicacae) seeds for the farthest experiment ever of plants cultivation in microgravity.
Amateur Radio Payload
In addition to its scientific payload, Green carries an Amateur Radio digipeater that operates on the 70 cm band. The Digipeater operates in both real-time and store and forward modes.
The satellite’s MEO orbit provides passes lasting as long as 90 minutes and some great DX contact opportunities for Amateur Radio satellite operators. The image above shows a typical Greencube pass in the Northeastern US. The tracking program is MacDoppler, and the red arc shows the area on the ground that we can contact. This pass provides DX contacts to China, Asia, Hawaii, Alaska, the US, and Mexico. We can also reach much of Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and South and Central America via Greencube.
To date, I have made about 320 contacts using Greencube, including DX contacts to Japan, China, Hawaii, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and many stations in the US.
Operating with Greencube – What’s Required
Greencube requires the following for successful contacts via its digipeater:
- A directional antenna with at least 12 dBi gain
- A 70cm SSB/FM capable Transceiver with a soundcard interface and at least 25 watts of output at the antenna
- Software to control the Transceiver to correct for Doppler shift and provide antenna tracking control or pointing information
- A computer running modem software and a Greencube Client Program
- A low-noise preamp at the antenna is recommended
The ground station at our QTH more than meets these requirements.
We are also testing our Transportable LEO Pack-based station with Greencube, and we’ll have more on the results from these tests soon.
More to Come
I am planning a series of articles covering setup and operations with Greencube in hopes that other Amateur Radio satellite operators might take advantage of this bird:
- Greencube (IO-117) – Station Setup, Software, and Operation
- Greencube (IO-117) – Completing a Satellite Worked All States
- Greencube (IO-117) – M2 Antenna Systems LEO Pack – Will It Work?
- Greencube (IO-117) – A Portable Station for Activating Grid Squares
- Greencube (IO-117) – The Road to a Satellite DXCC?
You can read more about our Satellite Ground stations here.