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Jason DavisJune 10, 2016

LightSail 2 will transmit Morse code from space, and you can make the sound your ringtone

During last year's LightSail 1 mission, dozens of radio enthusiasts around the wrote in to tell us they heard our solar sailing CubeSat chattering away in low-Earth orbit.

Every few seconds, LightSail automatically transmits a beacon packet. These packets can be picked up by ground stations and decoded into 238 lines of text telemetry that describe the spacecraft's health and status. Everything from battery current to solar sail deployment motor state is included. We still plan to better support the worldwide radio community's efforts to help us capture those packets; that work is temporarily on the back burner while the engineering team focuses on getting the spacecraft ready for delivery.

Many off-the-shelf CubeSat software packages also have an option to transmit Morse code beacons, and for the LightSail 2 mission, we're activating this feature. Every 45 seconds, the spacecraft will transmit "L-S-2," and radio operators tuned in to the spacecraft's 437.325 megahertz frequency should be able to hear it.

In Morse code, L-S-2 looks like this:

.-.. / ... / ..---

If you capture the beacon using software-defined radio, it looks like this:

LightSail 2 Morse code beacon (.-.. / ... / ..---)

Justin Foley / The Planetary Society

LightSail 2 Morse code beacon (.-.. / ... / ..---)

The Morse code beacon was active during LightSail's recent day-in-the-life test at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Justin Foley, our Cal Poly LightSail team lead, recorded the beacon during the test:

Justin also reminded us that a CubeSat Morse code beacon makes for a great phone ringtone, if you're so inclined. If you want to follow his lead (and you should!), the raw audio files are here:

LightSail 2 Morse code beacon, WAV format

LightSail 2 Morse code beacon, M4R format

For Android phones, you can drag the WAV file into your device's ringtones folder, or download a ringtone app. If you have an iPhone, you should be able to transfer the M4R file using iTunes.

Personally, I'm pretty happy with the result. 

Read more: LightSail

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Jason Davis

Journalist and Digital Editor for The Planetary Society
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