When Japan’s SLIM lunar lander made a rather unconventional touch-down on the lunar surface, it had already disgorged two small lunar excursion vehicles from its innards: LEV-1 and LEV-2. Of these, the LEV-1 is not only capable of direct to Earth transmission, but it also has been assigned its own amateur radio license: JS1YMG, which makes it the first Ham radio station on the Moon. LEV-1 receives data from LEV-2, which is transmitted to Earth using its 1 Watt UHF circular polarization antenna as Morse code at 437.410 MHz. Although the data format hasn’t been published, [Daniel Estévez] (EA4GPZ) has been sleuthing around to figure it out.
Using captures from the 25 meter radiotelescope at Dwingeloo in the Netherlands, [Daniel] set to work deciphering what he knew to be telemetry data following a CCSDS standard. After some mix-and-matching he found that the encoding matched PCM/PSK/PM with a symbol rate of 64 baud and 2048 kHz subcarrier. The residual carrier is modulated in amplitude with Morse code, but initially this Morse code made no sense.
Fortunately a few fellow Hams pitched in and figured out that the amplitude signs for the Morse code were inverted. By inverting the amplitude, suddenly the Morse code looked a lot more clear, with the LEV-1’s call sign and what looked like hexadecimal data following it. Each of the frames is also followed by a CRC-16, which should make it possible to start decoding the data transmitted in each frame.