[TangerineSDR] [HamSCI] First Amateur VLF Transmission Detected at the W2NAF-KC3EEY VLF Receiver!

Dr. Nathaniel A. Frissell Ph.D. nathaniel.frissell at scranton.edu
Wed Jan 18 15:34:28 EST 2023

That is wonderful news, Jonathan! Congratulations!

73 Nathaniel W2NAF

From: hamsci at googlegroups.com <hamsci at googlegroups.com> On Behalf Of Jonathan
Sent: Wednesday, January 18, 2023 12:57 PM
To: TangerineSDR Listserv <tangerinesdr at lists.tapr.org>; Unknown <hamsci at googlegroups.com>
Subject: [HamSCI] First Amateur VLF Transmission Detected at the W2NAF-KC3EEY VLF Receiver!

A new first for the W2NAF-KC3EEY VLF receiver! Ameteur transmissions from VLF Radio Amateur DL3JMM in Germany have been detected at the receiver and messages have been decoded! DL3JMM's QTH is over 6500km away from Springbrook and consists of both a land and sea propagation path. The message was encoded using EbNaut, 8k19a polynomial coding, 16-bit crc, 5 characters message length with a 30 second symbol period at a frequency of 8270.03Hz. This information is important to configure the decoder. The carrier's spectral peak can be seen on this spectrum plot integrated over the transmission period. It was generated on Paul's server from the uplinked vorbis encoded audio stream of VLF spectrum data.

It also was detected at a VLF receiver at Forest, Virginia as well:

I then pulled the spectrum data from the raw downsampled and hum filtered data and integrated over the length of the transmission. To do this, here is the vlfrx-tools signal processing chain. First, the spectrum is fed through a 3 kHz wide brick wall filter with a center frequency of 8270 kHz. Then, it's fed through a sferic blanker to blank out sferics based on a setting that produced the lowest noise floor. Finally, it's fed into the narroband spectrum analyzer with 53.07uHz resolution.

vtfilter -h bp,f=8270,w=3000 2023-01-13_04-15-00_18900s_DL3JMM_8270.03_8K19A-crc16-30s-5chars-18840s_high_power.vt | vtblank -a12 -d0 -t100 -v | vtnspec -v -r53.07e-6 -w0.01 -f8270.03 > "2023-01-13_04-15-00_18900s_DL3JMM_8270.03_8K19A-crc16-30s-5chars-18840s_high_power.dat"

It produced a narrowband spectrum with a carrier peak of 5.622e-08:
vtnspec: amplitudes 0 m/p/r: 1.203e-08 5.622e-08 4.672 p-m 6.61 sigma
The output data was plotted in gnuplot, also showing the carrier's peak:

To see if I could get a decode, I ran it through the ebnaut decoder using the following vlfrx-tools processing chain. After the sferic blanker, the spectrum is fed into a multiplicative mixer at the carrier frequency to produce baseband IQ data. The output of the mixer is then downsampled and converted to ascii data, then sent to the ebnaut decoder with the encoding parameters of the message. -c2 tells the encoder to use both processor cores.

vtfilter -h bp,f=8270.03,w=3000 2023-01-13_04-15-00_18900s_DL3JMM_8270.03_8K19A-crc16-30s-5chars-18840s_high_power.vt | vtblank -a12 -d0 -t100 -v | vtmult -f 8270.03 | vtresample -r 240 | vtresample -r 1 | vtraw -oa | ebnaut -d -N5 -p 8K19A -S30 -k16 -r1 -c2 -v -L20000 -PS -T60

But this did not result in a successful decode. A few more dB was needed. Thankfully, DL3JMM did more transmissions in his transmission campaign at the following times, he wrote:

The next transmission already started at 18:00 UTC because 18 is modulo of 6h. So they begin
next broadcasts probably:

today (01.14):

- 18:00

tomorrow (01.15):

- 00:00
- 06:00
- 12:00
- 18:00

Monday (01.16):

- 00:00
- 06:00

Here is a spectrogram showing the transmissions. Between transmissions, only an unmodulated carrier.
You can see the first transmission on the 13th, one on the 14th, four on the 15th, and the beginning of the one on the 16th.

Paul was able to achieve a decode at Forest, VA for the midnight transmission on the 16th, however, I still needed a few more dBs for that transmission and recommended I stack both midnight transmissions. Stacking feeds both transmissions through an additive mixer and aligns timestamps and sampling. This allows the signal power from both transmissions to add and will increase the likelihood of a decode. First, I converted both midnight transmissions to baseband IQ data using the following vlfrx-tools signal processing chains:

vtfilter -h bp,f=8270,w=3000 2023-01-14_23-50_16000s_DL3JMM_8270.03_8K19A-crc16-30s-5chars-16000s_1.vt | vtblank -a12 -d0 -t200 -v | vtmult -f 8270.03 | vtresample -r 240 | vtresample -r 1 > 2023-01-14_23-50_16000s_DL3JMM_8270.03_8K19A-crc16-30s-5chars-16000s_1_r1_baseband.vt

vtfilter -h bp,f=8270,w=3000 2023-01-15_23-50_16000s_DL3JMM_8270.03_8K19A-crc16-30s-5chars-16000s_1.vt | vtblank -a12 -d0 -t200 -v | vtmult -f 8270.03 | vtresample -r 240 | vtresample -r 1 > 2023-01-15_23-50_16000s_DL3JMM_8270.03_8K19A-crc16-30s-5chars-16000s_1_r1_baseband.vt

Then, I fed both into the stacking script:

bash stack2 2023-01-14_23-50_16000s_DL3JMM_8270.03_8K19A-crc16-30s-5chars-16000s_1_r1_baseband.vt 2023-01-15_23-50_16000s_DL3JMM_8270.03_8K19A-crc16-30s-5chars-16000s_1_r1_baseband.vt > 2023-01-14-15_23-50_16000s_DL3JMM_8270.03_8K19A-crc16-30s-5chars-16000s_1_r1_baseband_stacked.vt
2023-01-14_23-50_16000s_DL3JMM_8270.03_8K19A-crc16-30s-5chars-16000s_1_r1_baseband.vt 1673740200.000000 3.914e+05 1.532e+11
2023-01-15_23-50_16000s_DL3JMM_8270.03_8K19A-crc16-30s-5chars-16000s_1_r1_baseband.vt 1673826600.000000 5.056e+05 2.556e+11
Finally, I converted the stacked transmissions to ascii and fed it into the decoder. I GOT A SUCCESSFUL DECODE! The message is in brackets with an Eb/N0 of 2.5dB!!

vtcat -S600 2023-01-14-15_23-50_16000s_DL3JMM_8270.03_8K19A-crc16-30s-5chars-16000s_1_r1_baseband_stacked.vt | vtraw -oa | ebnaut -dp8K19A -r1 -S30 -N5 -c2 -PU -L50000 -v
initial reference phase -48.3 amplitude 2.244e+01
phase   0    0    0    0    0
found rank 0 ber 3.5156e-01 Eb/N0 1.2 M -8.639339600e+02 ph 0 0,0,0,0 [BERND]
carrier phase: -11.9 deg
carrier amplitude: 5.749e-02
carrier Eb/N0: 2.5 dB
carrier Es/N0: -10.05 dB
carrier S/N: 17.04 dB in 65.1 uHz, -24.83 dB in 1Hz, -58.81 dB in 2.5kHz
elapsed 2
phase   1  180  180  180  180
phase   2   30   30   30   30
phase   3 -150 -150 -150 -150
phase   4  -30  -30  -30  -30
phase   5  150  150  150  150
phase   6   60   60   60   60
phase   7 -120 -120 -120 -120
phase   8  -60  -60  -60  -60
phase   9  120  120  120  120
phase  10   90   90   90   90
phase  11  -90  -90  -90  -90
vstack: max height 15

I also wanted to mention the CPU usage during the decode. EbNaut uses powerful error correction and processing for message decodes. CPU usage for the decoder process was 130%, meaning one core was completely utilized and the other was 30% utilized!! Paul mentioned that this is the only amateur radio mode that uses more power to decode the message than it does to transmit the message!

Congratulations to Paul and Bernd DL3JMM on a successful transmission campaign and a first for the W2NAF-KC3EEY VLF Receiver!!

More about the EbNaut mode can be found here<https://nam10.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fabelian.org%2Febnaut%2F&data=05%7C01%7Cnathaniel.frissell%40scranton.edu%7C280a1ea4693a45e1687508daf97d66af%7Ca8edc49a41f14c699768a7f6d7c3b8c3%7C0%7C0%7C638096614239145939%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000%7C%7C%7C&sdata=OSoz%2FgzgWaJAwxlEoMhhl%2BtcmHyyY73FdgSaiGksiMQ%3D&reserved=0>.


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