Grant: Expansion and Equipment Upgrade for The AggieSat Laboratory

Date: March 2022
Amount: $15,904

AggieSat Laboratory is one of the largest university space labs in the world, operating as a student-run laboratory at Texas A&M University, focused on developing and demonstrating modern technologies for space-based systems while educating students in systems engineering. All of the projects are designed, built, maintained, and operated by the students. The REGS project was started as a way to give students hands-on experience specifically in amateur radio and RF fundamentals. Every project that AggieSat Lab has undertaken has required antennas, receivers, and ground stations, but there has always been a distinct lack of basic knowledge of these systems. REGS aims to train current and future lab members in these topics and foster an enthusiasm for the amateur radio hobby. The main goal of this project and its various parts is to allow access to the data we can receive to anyone with internet access.

The REGS project will update the equipment in the Texas A&M University RELLIS campus, which is located close to the main campus in College Station, TX. The ground station has not been used since 2016, but current lab projects have stirred interests in renewing the ground station and using it as a platform to educate new lab members about amateur radio. Additionally, a large focus of our lab is maintaining and developing institutional knowledge. A side effect of being a student-led organization is that knowledge tends to leave the lab over time as the students with experience graduate and leave. Projects like REGS will help all lab member develop RF skills and help maintain institutional knowledge though the cycle of losing old members and gaining new ones. Every member of the project will obtain at least a Technician Class amateur radio license, and they will be encouraged to upgrade to General and Extra.

The next phase of the project is to design the stands for the dishes that will receive transmissions from GOES and renew the yagis. Two Raspberry Pis will be programmed to automatically upload the decoded images from GOES, NOAA, and METEOR to a website as well as connect the tower with the yagis to SatNOGS. Another Raspberry Pi will be used to upload audio from Easterwood airport onto LiveATC. Once the design phase is completed, the build phase will commence. The tower will be cleaned and parts of the mast and boom holding the yagis will be replaced with stronger and safer materials. The yagis and monopole will be installed on the tower and connected to SatNOGS. The dish will be mounted on the ground and connected to our website. After all of the hardware is installed, Raspberry Pis will be set up and connected to a website for all of the pictures to be stored. The last steps will be to maintain the tower and use the antennas there to teach future members of the lab about satellites, amateur radio, and RF.

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