A few days ago, the Chinese National Space Administration began its Tianwen-1 mission on Mars from its launch site in Hainan Province. It should arrive at the Red Planet in April 2021, when its orbital component will face the daunting task of starting a surface probe, which will leave the rover as soon as it reaches the surface. Like all such missions, it is in constant contact with its controllers on the ground, and its telemetry floating through its wire, along with any radio broadcast, has been received by the radio hacker community and analyzed by has been done [r00t].
There is something interesting in the direct modulation scheme, with the modulation implemented instead being a main unmodulated center carrier instead of a carrier, and the data appearing on a series of subclasses instead. Is it a feature of being a space probe, unmodified carrier to make it easier to find and track in deep space?
They quickly find the telemetry carrier, and decode its frame. It carries a series of data sets, including position and instrumentation data. From situational data they can tell when a craft has made any changes, and sensor data such as solar sensors can be scaled and graphed. This makes for a fascinating insight into the mission, and we are grateful for the analysis.
Mars is a notoriously difficult target for space probes, failing to reach many missions for various reasons. We hope that the Tianwen-1 mission eventually succeeds and over time the Chinese space people will be showing us some of the fruits of their labors. They are not the only ones to start this month, so we’ve got a heap of stories related to Mars, which look forward to next year.
Header Image: Tianwen-1 Rover Mockup. Pablo de Leon / CC BY-SA 3.0