Restoring the ETSU Radio Telescope


When I returned to ETSU in 2018, I enrolled in Astronomy I for one of my lab credits. While browsing the department’s website, I noticed they listed a radio telescope on campus. When I asked my professor about it, I was informed that it was currently out of comission. After digging around some more, I found out the receiver was believed to have been damaged by lightining and the cost of repair wasn’t in the budget at the time. Since 2001, when the telescope was initially purchased, software defined radios have sigificantly lowered the cost of computer connected radio receivers, and have been used in amateur radio astronomy with decent results. I am currently working on getting the telescope running again as my free time allows.

The telescope

The radio telescope is the MIT designed small radio telescope. From what I’ve found I believe it was one of the eariler models since it uses a basic stamp powered rotor controller, rather than the a commercial dish controller. All the electronics are currently in the posession of an engineer from the ETSU FM radio station, so I have not had a chance to see the damage first hand or to see what can possibly be reused.

The dish looks to be in good order. There is some doubt in the motors on the dish, so we’ll see how they look when we get the motor controller working.

The plan

My goal is to leave ETSU with an SDR powered radio telescope capable enough for introductory astronomy classes and labs. I will be working on a new rotor controller first, so that we can point the dish and see what condition everything is in mechanically. From there I’ll move on to the receiver chain and the software side of the project. Hopefully I will have time to write a new front end as well

Basic roadmap:

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