NASA is looking for amateur radio help to keep track of signals from the STEREO mission. STEREO is an acronym for the twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory. It employs two nearly identical space-based observatories to provide the first-ever stereoscopic measurements to study the Sun. One leads the Earth in orbit and the other trails our planet by the same distance.
NASA's Deep Space Network downloads data from STEREO only three hours a day but the space agency would like to monitor the transmissions around the clock. To accomplish this, amateurs experienced with receiving weak signals in the microwave region can participate in the mission by helping NASA capture the spacecraft’s images.
Amateurs would be a part of an amateur radio-based mini-Deep Space Network, one that that would monitor STEREO around the clock. Anyone with a 10m dish antenna and a suitable receiver can pick up the spacecraft signals. The data rate is a slow 500 bits per second and it takes 3 to 5 minutes to download a complete image. So far, the mini-Network includes stations in the United Kingdom, France and Japan but NASA is looking for more volunteers. Information on becoming a part of this mission is online at nasa.gov, then search for STEREO ham radio, which will take you to the links to get involved.
The two spacecraft beam their data back to Earth via an X-band radio beacon. Anyone with a 10-meter dish antenna and a suitable receiver can pick up the signals. The data rate is low, 500 bits per second, and it takes 3 to 5 minutes to download a complete image.