LEO satellite tracking with a Meade telescope

From: Thomas Fly (thomasfly@j2ee-consultants.com)
Date: Wed Dec 15 2004 - 15:03:27 EST

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    In prior (not very recent) attempts to track the ISS with my Meade LXD55 scope, it failed miserably, "tracking" into the
    ground, rather than the sky.
    I'd downloaded the Java serial I/O library, and had been playing with issuing Autostar commands, using a simple demo
    program that comes with that library, when I discovered an update to the firmware (Autostar model #497 version 33Ef,
    In testing with TLEs for a couple recent ISS passes, the new version appears basically to work (though I can't easily
    determine how accurately); though in both cases, it stopped tracking when it appeared that further tracking would cause
    the OTA to smack into the tripod (there doesn't seem to be a way to choose which of the 2 possible sections- separated
    by a tripod collision- of a pass to track).
    That problem had occurred to me, in thinking about how to implement my own tracking software.  One way to give the
    telescope free reign over the sky would be to effectively convert the equatorial mount to an altitude-azimuth mount, by
    mounting it to a post, with the RA axis vertical.  However, passes near the zenith would require a high rate of RA slew,
    during which the satellite might be lost (at least temporarily).
    Alternatively, one could have a pseudo altitude-azimuth arrangement, by making the RA axis horizontal, and (most simply)
    parallel or perpendicular to the path of the satellite.
    Just using a post mount, rather than the tripod, would mitigate the tripod collision problem, of course.
    I'd be interested in hearing about any existing solution to this problem, as well as any successes people may have had
    using Autostar.
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