LVB Tracker

A computer controlled AZ/EL rotator controller

The LVB tracker is a simple, cheap AZ/EL rotator controller designed for use with the Yeasu and Kenpro series of AZ/EL rotators. It is not an autonomous device so you'll need a computer with satellite prediction software (SatPC32, Nova, etc.) to make it work.

Building the LVB tracker is pretty straight forward. If you have some soldering experience this shouldn't be any problem as there are no "problematic" (SMD) components used. Read the documentation on Howard's G6LVB website: before you start!

You can buy a kit of the LVB tracker via AMSAT-UK. Please do so as you will support the development and launch of future amateur satellites!

The LVB tracker can be completed in one evening. The finished PCB looks something like this.

LVB Tracker PCB

After finishing the PCB, a cable for connecting the LVB tracker to the Yeasu G5500 control unit has to be made. When making this cable please note that page 5 of some versions of the Yeasu instruction manual G-5500 is not correct concerning the pin layout of the 8-pin DIN connector: Pin 3 = UP, pin 5 = DOWN !

Below you'll see a picture of the finished unit with firmware v0.7 loaded.

Completed LVB Tracker hardware

When programming the PIC please follow the instructions of the application picprog.exe. Make sure there are no other applications running occupying the COM port used for the LVB tracker as this will corrupt the firmware upload! Use the following command line command to start loading the firmware to the unit.
picprog lvbtrack.hex \\.\COM1
Where lvbtrack.hex is the name of the hex file containing the firware code and COM1 is the COM port on which the LVB tracker is connected to the computer. After completing the firmware upload, the LVB tracker unit has to be calibrated. Follow to instructions provided by Howard G6LVB.
If all is well, the rotor can be controlled by the control unit or by the LVB tracker using the buttons. The LVB tracker LCD will display the AZ/EL in realtime.

Configuring SatPC32 12.4 for use with the LVB tracker

The LVB tracker simulates the Yeasu GS-232 rotor interface. For automatic AZ/EL control by SatPC23 you can use the SDX driver. This driver can be found in the subdirectory "SDX" under the SatPC23 program directory.
Check the first 2 lines of the file SDXParam.SQF. The first line contains the number of the COM port which the LVB tracker is using (1 for COM1, 2 for COM2 etc.), the second line contains the baudrate of the COM port (9600 by default). Adjust if needed and save the file.

Start SatPC32 and go to Setup, Options and activate "Rotor Control". Click on "Store".
Then go to Setup, Rotor setup and select Yeasy GS-232 as "rotor interface/controller". Also, enter the correct port number of the rotor interface and other parameters for the rotator you use. Click on "Store".

Restart SatPC32. You will see the SDX driver will also be started now.
Make sure R+ is shown in the status fields in the top left hand corner of the SatPC32 screen. If not, just click on the R- to alter it.

Now, if a selected satellite comes into view the LVB tracker will be updated with the AZ/EL data according to the interval time you configured in the Rotor setup screen.