Awaiting launch

Once again we did not update our blog for some weeks – why?

Well, the main reason is that we are currently focusing on the development of a GUI for data analysis. The first steps for this are always not very interesting for the public, as requirements have to be defined and backend (background) tools have to be implemented. For these tasks, some new team members joined us and immediately showed there advanced skills in Python programming. Thanks José, Fynn, Leo and Alex (yes, Alex #6 joined the team) for your major contributions (same goes to the standing team, of course!). Here is some information on how our tools will work.


The experiment data that we receive from our ISS experiment is delivered via ESA/ BIOTESC in the form of csv tables that contain the measurements of signal strenght over predefined portions of the radio frequency spectrum. These tables first have to be stored in a database to allow better data handling. Additionally, we need to know at which time the measurements were recorded ( and add this information to the database . This is done using the Two Line Elements (TLE) of the ISS that are available online. TLEs contain all the important orbit information of the ISS for a given time and we propagate this position forward for each of our measurements.

Now that we have the data easily accessible in our database, we want to visualize them. This is done in a Graphical User Interface (GUI). A first draft is shown below. As we receive data on various frequencies and want to specify, which data we want to look at, the GUI includes a lot of buttons and fields. Yes, the GUI still looks a little to “technical”, but this might be improved in the near future.

Draft GUI design for MarconISSta data analysis

Based on the input data and the specified parameters, we will plot the signal strenght in a frequency band over time, which is also called “waterfall diagram”. A draft plot is shown below for random data.

A waterfall diagram will visualize the signal strength at different frequencies over time.

Additionally, we will plot “heatmaps” of the Earth in 2D and 3D that will highlight the frequency use for the selected frequency bands:

A 2D heatmap will visualize the frequency use on a global scale.

We are already quite far in the process of development and will have our first release soon. This will be only accessible for the project team, but in the future we will also work on web apps with which everybody can access the data. Until then, we will publish the plots regularly.

What’s next?

The end of May will become very interesting for the whole team. Martin will spend the next week at the ITU in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the current frequency use in ITU study groups. Afterwards, he will take the flight spare components to Hergiswil, Switzerland, where BIOTESC is located and do a final check of the installation procedures with the experienced ground ops crew over there.

The Orbital OA-9 will be launched on May 20th, approx 11 a.m. Berlin time (CEST). We will have a small launch party for this, but we will still have to wait for the installation after the successful launch. The installation is currently scheduled for the beginning of June. And of course, we all look forward to Alexander Gerst’s (and his crew’s) launch on June 6th!

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