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Sunday, January 13th 2019, 8:08pm

Need help digitizing NASA tapes

Dear forum members,

I am a dutch space memorabilia collecting enthusiast, especially when it comes to digital and analog tapes.

Last year I have been busy digitizing NASA magnetic tapes. I buy the tapes myself and then look for people who can read them. Most of the tapes are 7 and 9-track computer tapes, digitized by Chuck in America. There are many people who help, and everyone does it on a voluntary basis. Without the help of others we would never have come this far.

So for a new project, I need YOUR help.

First an introduction to a number of ongoing projects:

See here a computer tape used for Apollo 16 in one of our drives:



A sample of the data:

Source code

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R/L 40M17360-11 E/O 8S-0412 REV L D/I 10/27/71 ECP 10-3216 E 

Block 12:

R/L 40M17360-11 E/O 8S-0413 REV M D/I 10/28/71 ECP 10-3206 E 511 FRT-1 
S 01 03 L DI 0003 SIC SPARE M DO 0003 ON C I 

Block 20:

S 01 04 L DI 0004 SIC THRUST CHAMB JKTS LOW M DO 0004 ON C I 

Block 21:

S 01 05 L DI 0005 SIC HYDRAULIC SYSTEM START M DO 0005 ON C I 

S 26 15 L DO 0615 EDS ENG NO 5 THRUST OK NO 3 NONE C G 

Block 5329:

S 26 16 L DO 0616 EDS S/C CUTOFF ENABLE A NONE C G 

Block 5330:

S 26 17 L DO 0617 EDS S/C CUTOFF ENABLE B NONE C G 

S 27 19 M DI 2155 SII CMD R S NO 2 ENG CO ON NONE R F 

Block 10515:

S 27 20 M DI 2156 SII CMD R S NO 1 ENG CO ON NONE R F 

Block 10517:

S 27 21 M DI 2157 SII LOW LEVEL SENS CONT ON NONE R F 


D D EE 4301 SII CMD LOX FILL + DRAIN V OP 

Block 20990:

D D EE 4302 SII CMD LH FILL + DRAIN V OP 

Block 20991:

D D EE 4303 SII 1250PSI SPIN ST BTL PRES 

43 09 L DO 1017 SII LOX PRES SUP LINE VENT OP NONE C F 

S 43 20 L DO 1028 SII BF1 ON COMMAND IND NONE C F 

Block 5933:

S 43 21 L DO 1029 SII RF COUPLER COAX NONE C F 

Block 5935:

S 43 22 L DO 1030 SII TM CAL PREFLIGHT NONE C F 

Block 5936:

S 43 23 L DO 1031 SII TM CAL INFLIGHT NONE C F 

Block 5918:

S 43 10 L DO 1018 SII PD STATUS S+A ARMED NONE C F 

Block 5920:

S 43 11 L DO 1019 SII EBW 1 ON INTERNAL POWER NONE C F 

Block 5921:

S 43 12 L DO 1020 SII EBW 2 ON INTERNAL POWER NONE C F


After some research we suspect this tape was used to diagnose the Saturn-V after it was assembled at the VAB. With a computer at Launch Control.

Another project was with magnetic tapes with Pioneer 11 space probe data. The American has been able to read most of the tapes, and from 1 we have now converted photographic data to PNGs:




Three B/W photos from the tape:
[img]https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=46255.0;attach=1507468;sess=54302[/img]

1 of the 3 color photos:


So we have already saved and processed data from two projects. These projects are still running, but are on hold because we are waiting for documents from NASA.

The current digitized data can be found here: https://archive.org/details/SpaceData

Furthermore, I have digitized hours of Apollo broadcasts recorded on 1/4 inch tape recorder tapes. In Dutch, German and English.

These can be found here:https://archive.org/details/thirdpartyaudiotapes

For this I have an Akai X-201D and Revox A-77 IV

I have also digitized NASA S-VHS tapes, and uploaded some tape recordings of the Apollo missions. See links below:
https://archive.org/details/apollo16uvc_gmail_FPSV
https://archive.org/details/thirdpartyspacevideos

Nice, but what do you want now?

Since last week I have bought 4 NASA tapes from Ebay. It is 1/2 inch tape on a 10.5 inch reel and has 7 tracks. The tapes are recorded with Ampex FR-100 and Ampex FR-600 instrumental recorders. On the tapes are analog telemetry signals from satellites, recorded at NASA stations in 1963.





It seems that there are 6 telemetry tracks, and 1 voice track.

I do not have have Ampex FR-100 or FR-600, and they are very scarce. Nor do I have a 1/2 inch 8-track recorder.

What now? There are 8-track 1/2 sound recorders. The height difference between 8 and 7-track is so small, I think you can play a 7-track tape on an 8-track recorder.

If you adjust the 8-track head up and down, to align it with 1 track at a time I think we can pick up a good signal. I have talked with someone, and he says the tracks are just analog waveforms. I once played a 9-track 1/2 tape on a 1/4 4-track recorder, and I received an unusable but stable signal.

So far I have received 4 tapes, and more and on the way.

As you can see in the photos, the reels and tape are in good condition. All reels were carefully packed with original documentation in an aluminum holder. This holder was in two layers of cardboard. The cardboard seems to have a bit of water damage, but the tape has remained protected in the holder, which also has no rust. The reel has no scratches and dents.

The tape does not smell and looks good. I do not notice any mold or rotting. Optically, the tape is clean with little scratching on the playback side.

I have unspooled part of the tape and I do not notice any Sticky Shed Syndrome, although of course I could only check the beginning.

Now then, I dared to attempt to play the tape on my Akai X201D 1/4 4-track tape recorder. I did this by unwinding a piece of the tape and guiding the tape through the tape path guides and capstan. The tape gets pulled through the capstan in another box. With clean gloves, I make sure that the tape runs over the heads at the right pressure.

This was a success in itself because I received a number of signals. By carefully moving the tape up and down, I can try to focus on 1 track. Further than this I did not come.


The bottom sound file are the interesting pieces from a few minutes of play on 7-1/2 I.P.S

https://www.dropbox.com/s/k2jbyoka6n50yh…168-2.flac?dl=0

The tapenumber on the boxes and documentation is 3141/2N003
The number on the reel itself is 10786-16-8
Satellite: 1963-014A & B (ERS5)
Recorder: FR-100
Speed: 15 I.P.S
Station Name: GFORKS

With this we have proven that something is on the tape, and it can be picked up with a sound head.

I've been talking with a dutch reel to reel recorder enthusiast, and he has several 8-track 1/2 inch recorders. He has Teac 80-8, Tascam 38 and Otari units. Unfortunately, he is very busy with work and doesn't have much free time.

His Otari MX-5050 8 unit is most interesting to me since it can play two speeds, 7/1-2 and 15 I.P.S which is what I need.

After taking a look, all mechanical functions appear to be working. Playback, fastforward/rewind. When he sends a sound from the build-in tone generator to the recording input, all VU meters register correctly and there is sound.

But...there is no sound on playback! its possible there is nothing on the tape, he will try and find an other one to test once he has the time.

Neither of us have the parts, equipment and time to repair and calibrate such a machine. So its likely we have to hand it over to a company for repairs and calibration.

I will keep you guys updated on the process. I'll be happy to answer any questions.

And if you got any NASA related tapes, be sure to let me know and i'll look into digitizing them for you!

Best regards,
Niels

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Sunday, January 13th 2019, 9:37pm

Hello Niels,

that´s a strage theme for an analog tape recording forum. I think, no owner of an 8track recorder will adjust his PB-Head for a computer tape, unless he has the proper alignment tape to readjust the PB head afterwards. These aligmment tapes are very expensive these days. Members of this forum are interested in analog audio tapes, not in digital computer tapes. They want to hear the tapes, not to read the tapes.

Best regards, Tobias
<<--- Sony BVH-2000PS, prof. 1 Zoll "C"-Standard Videorecorder Bj. 1983
bildgenauer Insert- und Assemble- Schnitt für Video und 3 Tonspuren
Video Zeitlupen-Wiedergabe, Hinterband-Wiedergabe für Video und Audio

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Sunday, January 13th 2019, 10:25pm

I think, no owner of an 8track recorder will adjust his PB-Head for a computer tape,

... especially when the computer tape has 7 tracks.
If this works, I'd be surprised 8o

Best, Peter

This post has been edited 2 times, last edit by "Peter Ruhrberg" (Jan 13th 2019, 10:54pm)


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Sunday, January 13th 2019, 10:43pm

From reading some documents, the FR-100 and FR-600 recorded signals as frequency modulation on the tape, within the human hearing range. So we will indeed be able to hear the telemetry. I will have to check, but I think the telemetry was analog, not digital.

Then we would have to demodulate the signal for further processing. But lets not get ahead of our selves.

I suspect the clear signal heard in the .flac sample I supplied is some kind of timing or reference track. The noise could be from the receiving antenna when it was not receiving a proper signal from the sat.

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Sunday, January 13th 2019, 11:18pm

The longer I think about these tapes I´m asking me for purpose of all that project action. Yes, it is fascinating to have a tape with data of an important NASA flight. If everything goes right with the project, what do we get at the end ? Telemetry data ? What is the use for these data ? Sorry, I cant imagine. I could understand if there were speech communications between earth and space on the tape, which could be listened to afterwards, but data ? May be, I´m thinking too analogue.

Best regards, Tobias
<<--- Sony BVH-2000PS, prof. 1 Zoll "C"-Standard Videorecorder Bj. 1983
bildgenauer Insert- und Assemble- Schnitt für Video und 3 Tonspuren
Video Zeitlupen-Wiedergabe, Hinterband-Wiedergabe für Video und Audio

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Sunday, January 13th 2019, 11:28pm

The same reason people use tape, film, models and practical effects instead of their digital equivalent: Because it is fun, new, and exotic.

Its unlikely these tapes will contain much interesting information, given the sats were rather boring (Mostly temp and solar panel damage data.) though the Vanguard one is interesting. I also think it is unlikely we will be able to process the data into something readable.

Of course, I said the same about the Apollo/Skylab tape and the Pioneer tape. And look where we have gotten with them.

It is the journey that counts.

Likely some of the tapes were recorded on this very drive, as a few are from Winkfield: https://youtu.be/OCcCYXHR8SQ?t=37

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Monday, January 14th 2019, 12:32pm

Hi!

This is a very interessting project that you've got there. Do you have any information about the track geometry, like the width of the tracks and the gaps between? Is it similar to the IBM 7-track computer tapes? Maybe we can say if it's possible to read the tracks with a 8-track r2r recorder, if we got this information.
It could work that way, reading one track after another. But it would be more useful if you buy a 8-track recorder by yourself, for example a Tascam, as no one wants to misalign his heads.
Grüße

Wayne

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Monday, January 14th 2019, 3:33pm

There has been a very interesting project some years ago, the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP), did you ever hear of it ?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Orbi…ecovery_Project
http://www.moonviews.com/category/tapes-and-drives
http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-111408a.html

The result of this project are restored pictures from the lunar orbiter mission.

Best regards, Tobias
<<--- Sony BVH-2000PS, prof. 1 Zoll "C"-Standard Videorecorder Bj. 1983
bildgenauer Insert- und Assemble- Schnitt für Video und 3 Tonspuren
Video Zeitlupen-Wiedergabe, Hinterband-Wiedergabe für Video und Audio

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Monday, January 14th 2019, 4:05pm

There has been a very interesting project some years ago, the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP), did you ever hear of it ?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_Orbi…ecovery_Project
http://www.moonviews.com/category/tapes-and-drives
http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-111408a.html

The result of this project are restored pictures from the lunar orbiter mission.

Best regards, Tobias

Yes I knew about that. Amazing work, and very much historically significant to have the tapes put into the public domain.

I've got some 35mm strips of Lunar Orbiter framelets and scanned them in high resolution (4000 DPI), my film copy holds up pretty well to the digitized tape!

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Monday, January 14th 2019, 4:11pm

Hi!

This is a very interessting project that you've got there. Do you have any information about the track geometry, like the width of the tracks and the gaps between? Is it similar to the IBM 7-track computer tapes? Maybe we can say if it's possible to read the tracks with a 8-track r2r recorder, if we got this information.
It could work that way, reading one track after another. But it would be more useful if you buy a 8-track recorder by yourself, for example a Tascam, as no one wants to misalign his heads.


Unfortunately I don't know the track geometry, to measure this I would need something like this: https://www.q-card.com/store/products.asp?cat=8 which is comparable to the stuff used by the person who read my 7 and 9 track computer tapes. It is expensive though. I could try magnetic viewing paper but it might not be sharp enough. I haven't found any documents on FR-100 and FR-600 heads.

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Wednesday, January 16th 2019, 1:12pm

Hello, they want to hear tapes, but not read tapes. It's true, mostly of the times, but also, you can hear it !

I take some files, and put it into audacity and convert it. So we can go and download Switch Action TP2009.zip.

Thank you,

La.
Laetitia has attached the following file:
Nein, ich habe eine Bandmaschine nicht dafür, um das Tonband in die Sättigung zu treiben, nein !

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Tuesday, January 29th 2019, 5:25pm

Update

Update

I've got good, and great news.

First the good news, I assembled a small setup to be able to play more of the tapes on my 1/4 inch 4-track recorder. I played the tapes that I previously was afraid had no signals at all, and after some time (8-10 minutes) they too give the expected signals. So far I got 6 tapes, 5 of which hold signals.


The great news i've got, is that I have recorded the reference track briefly by moving the tape up and down. The reference is a 10Khz tone on track 4, as seen on the attached document. Skip to (2:35) on the attached .mp3 file. Its exactly 10Khz on the recording.

314N079 Sample 2 mp3


314N079 documents attached below this post.

Later on when I will make proper scans of all documentation and cases.

It would be useful if we knew the track geometry of the FR-100, FR-600 and Otari MX-5050 8. We should be able to actually see this on the tape by using a magnetic developer solution. They are very expensive to buy and ship, so I have talked with Chuck on how to make it myself. It is quite simple, and he tried it on a floppy disk with good results and no damage to the data. With detailed macro photos we can figure out how well the tracks align.

Stay tuned!
Niels
dsd13 has attached the following image:
  • 314N079-doc1.png

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Tuesday, January 29th 2019, 5:37pm

I think, no owner of an 8track recorder will adjust his PB-Head for a computer tape,

... especially when the computer tape has 7 tracks.
If this works, I'd be surprised 8o

Best, Peter

The computer tapes shown in the OP were just to show an other project. They are being read by Chuck. The satellite telemetry tapes contain the direct or FM signals received from satellites at tracking stations.
With the playback samples i've got so far I am confident I'm able to make it work.

I have talked with chuck on how to make a magnetic viewing solution so I can actually see the tracks and their geometry. I saw you did this before. What iron particle size and what suspension fluid did you recommend?

best regards,
Niels

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Saturday, February 16th 2019, 6:54pm

Update #2

Working on several update that should be a substantial resource of new information. An update on the Satellite tapes and Pioneer tapes.

Here is a preview of visualizing the magnetic tracks of an FR-100 and FR-600 tape:

https://youtu.be/I85-aZuupxM

Sat-GFORKS-314N003-1.jpg


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Thursday, February 28th 2019, 9:37pm

I have got great news on the new ESA tapes!



I have tested out three of the five tapes with a magnetic viewing solution, and all three clearly showed 7 tracks like the NASA tapes. This means they have not been degaused or overwritten with an audio recorder. The tracks look like raw telemetry, not computer tapes. One tape has a label that clearly says it came from a tracking station. I think we should be able to digitize these too eventually.

The tapes I have tested are:
TD-1 (Tape ID: 1117-09-08-B)
ESRO 1A (Tape ID: 800 645 08 10B)
HEOS A2 (Tape ID: 1115 06 11B)

I have made two videos on it in dutch.
First, a tutorial on how to make your town magnetic viewing solution.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_kA0cnkBLI


And finally, a video where I visualize the magnetic tracks on 3 tapes:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAjU2AHIksA

I have attached some photos of the tracks to this message. I promise I will publish a big archive with detailed scans and photos of all ESA and NASA tapes currently in my possession.

I am interested to know if it is possible to determine the frequency of a signal by the macro photos, any ideas?

Best regards,
Niels.
dsd13 has attached the following images:
  • ESRO 1A-07.png
  • ESRO 1A-09.png
  • ESRO 1A-17.png
  • HEOS A2-34.png
  • HEOS A2-44.png
  • Redu TD 1-7.png
  • Redu TD 1-5.JPG
  • HEOS A2-26.JPG

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Friday, March 1st 2019, 12:58pm

I have finally finished v1.0 of the archive for the NASA satellite tapes.

Sat-53123114313-Version1.0 (Object photos, text file.)

Sat-GFORKS-314N003-Version1.0 (Object photos, documentation, Akai RTR sample, visualized tracks)

Sat-GFORKS-314N079-Version1.0 (Object photos, documentation, Akai RTR sample)

Sat-GFORKS-330N100-Version1.0 (Object photos, documentation, Akai RTR sample)

Sat-SNTAGO-120J827-Version1.0 (Object photos, documentation, visualized tracks)

Sat-SNTAGO-314J019-Version1.0 (Object photos, documentation)

Sat-WINKFIELD-330P001-Version1.0 (Object photos)

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Saturday, March 2nd 2019, 1:32pm

Hello Niels, :)

wow, this is awesome. Thank you so very much for your work and information . Awesome!
My wife and i are astounded.

Alex
Ein Teil unserer Geräte: 2 x Grundig TK47, Grundig TK 830, Grundig TM 700, UHER 5000 Universalgerät, Telefunken Magnetophon M300, AKAI X-201D, 2 x Dimafon Universa inkl. Platten von 1952 und 1959, TK830, Arabella Musiktruhe 55 mit TM700 integriert, Magnetophon 300 und 302TS, Tefifon M540 und Tefifon M541, TK6L, Tannhäuser 55 & 56, Othello 55, Dual Plattenspieler 1004, 1004S und 1002, Sonolor Röhrenradio, Tefifon B52, Dual Party 295 und noch einige mehr......

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Friday, March 8th 2019, 11:38pm

Playing back some ESA tapes

Some interesting new finds, did we play telemetry?

Last week I took the time to play some ESA tapes (1/2 inch 7-track) on my Akai X201D (1/4 inch 4-track)

The tapes played:
1.
SAT: ESRO 1A
TAPE ID: 680841-292-230
ESOC/Section TLM: 13496
DATE: 24 JULY 70

2.
SAT: 720,141
TAPE ID: 1135 05 10A
ESOC/Section TLM: 21554
DATE:

3.
SAT: TD-1
TAPE ID: 1117 09 08 B
ESOC/Section TLM: 16837
DATE: "Day 089"

4.
SAT: TD-1A
TAPE ID: 1118 07 09 A
ESOC/Section TLM: 16672
DATE:


To give you an idea of ​​how satellites sounded in the 60's and 70's check out this website with recordings.


I made a video where I play the tapes and show it on an oscilliscope:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SnRvu9bfFk

Some remarkable details:
ESRO 1A has a lot of activity at the beginning, it looks like a reference signal that is being adjusted. There pitch changes and there are periods of noise. Eventually we receive a stable signal which is certainly more complex than a simple sine wave.

ESRO 1A:
Oscilliscope:


Spectrogram: seems to show a kind of square wave, would this be satellite data?


Signal played at 20% original speed, sounds like morse code.

The space between the signals is similar to track 6 of the ESRO 1A tape:


TD-1
Oscilliscope : The wave of this signal swells up and comes down again.



Spectrogram : And here you can see that too.


TD-1A
Oscilliscope:
This signal has two harmonic waves:


And when we zoom out, it has a kind of block pattern:


But when it is very interesting to delay the signal, it sounds like a morse code again.
Spectrogram:


Signal played at 15% original speed, sounds like morse code again.



A lot of new information that will take some time to process.

It seems to me quite possible that this is the received data. If we find documents from the relevant satellite with information about telemetry, should it be possible to create a program or circuit that processes the signal?
A program could convert it to a spreadsheet. How much volts the battery outputs every second for example.

I do not know anything about it, but the ESA recordings do not seem to be FM-modulated, since such a wave looks very different.
The NASA recordings are usually not, so apparently AM and FM modulation was not common in recordings from this time.
The NASA documentation usually also has "Direct" recordings and not "FM"

I am looking for people who may be able to help with the relevant satellites, and who are more acquainted with this kind of work.

Niels

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Saturday, March 16th 2019, 9:25pm

Gerald from the unmannedspaceflight forum has the following idea:


When coding the upper potential with 1, and the lower potential with 0, with a more or less fixed clock rate, we get pairs 01 or 10, never 00 or 11. So such a pair, or transition, seems to code a bit .
So it should be fairly easy to convert the signal into a bit stream.

Then it only requires us to find the relevant documentation so that we can write a computer program.

Voice found on beginning of NASA tape

On satellite tape 'Sat-SNTAGO-120J827' a voice can be heard briefly at the beginning. The voice probably tells us the recording time. "The time is 11 5 AM"

The satellite is Upsilon 61, the recording date was Sept 7, 1961

I had to play the recordings backwards.
Here the fragment as an MP3 file.

This post has been edited 1 times, last edit by "dsd13" (Mar 16th 2019, 9:45pm)