Overview - Telescope Compatibility - Using SkyFi with Other Software

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    SkyFi Wireless Telescope Controller

     

    SkyFi is our patent-pending WiFi-to-Serial adapter, designed for wireless telescope control. If you have a computer-controlled GoTo telescope, SkyFi can use the WiFi capabilities built into your Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to point your telescope in the sky.

    SkyFi now includes both USB and serial ports! That means SkyFi can now control the latest USB-only telescopes from iOptron and Meade, as well as other telescopes with RS-232 serial interfaces.

    To order SkyFi from our on-line store, please go to http://store.simulationcurriculum.com/collections/skysafari. Android users please note: unfortunately, most Android devices cannot see or join Ad Hoc Wi-Fi networks. This means that, out of the box, they cannot work with SkyFi. Android users have two ways to overcome this limitation: 1) Enable Ad Hoc networking on your Android device; or 2) configure SkyFi to join your home Wi-Fi network. For more discussion, see http://www2.skysafariastronomy.com/products/skysafari_android/scope_control.html.

    Orion StarSeek Wi-Fi Module

    Southern Stars has licensed SkyFi to Orion Telescopes & Binoculars as the StarSeek Wi-Fi Module. Orion's StarSeek Wi-Fi module works with our SkySafari iPhone app, and Orion's StarSeek iPhone apps will work with our SkyFi wireless adapter. They are fully inter-operable.

    Please contact Orion Telescopes for support regarding Orion's StarSeek products. Orion is responsible for technical support on its StarSeek products, not Southern Stars.

    Overview

    SkyFi is the only WiFi device on the market specifically designed for telescope control. It's battery-powered for field use; your scope, SkyFi, and iPhone all run off batteries, or from a 12V source.

    Unlike bluetooth devices, SkyFi requires no pairing, and no special drivers. It uses standard TCP/IP networking protocols. Because TCP/IP is the language of the internet, SkyFi can enable your telescope to be remotely controlled over the internet. This is a capability that bluetooth simply was never designed for.

    You can use SkyFi with your WiFi-enabled laptop or desktop computer, as well as an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.

    SkyFi is very compact, barely larger than an iPhone. It can be easily attached to your telescope's mount or tripod; a strip of double-sided Velcro is included for that purpose.

    SkyFi accepts four AA batteries, and has a typical battery life of 8 to 12 hours under continuous use. SkyFi can also be powered from an external source, like a car battery or a wall socket. Power adapters for both AC (120V, 60Hz) wall socket input and DC (9-12V, 1.2A) cigarette-lighter socket input are available.

    Once powered on, SkyFi creates its own 802.11 wireless network. By default, this is an open wireless network called "SkyFi", but you can rename and secure it later on. Join this network from your iPhone, laptop, or other computer, and - voila! - you're ready to use SkyFi. As long as your computer or iPhone gets its IP address by DHCP, no additional network configuration is required.

    SkyFi provides a standard DB-9 serial adapter to interface with your telescope. That means you can use your existing telescope serial cable - you don't need to buy (or build!) another. If you don't already have a telescope serial cable, Southern Stars can supply one at additional charge; please specify your telescope model when ordering.

    Finally, you'll also need a telescope control application running on your computer, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. SkyFi works seamlessly with our SkySafari software running on Mac OS X, as well as our SkySafari app for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android.


    SkySafari (previously SkyVoyager) with SkyFi in use at the telescope.
    Click to enlarge.

    Telescope Compatibility

    SkyFi can wirelessly enable almost any telescope with a standard USB or RS-232 serial interface. Models that have been tested and are known to work with SkyFi include:

    • Meade LX-200 Classic and GPS
    • Meade LX-90, ETX, LXD, LX-400 ACF with AutoStar #497 controllers
    • Meade Magellan I and II
    • Meade ETX-LS
    • iOptron SmartStar/MiniTower mounts with 8402A controllers. 8402G not supported.
    • iOptron iEQ30/iEQ45 mounts with 8406/8407 controllers.
    • iOptron SmartEQ/ZEQ25 mounts with 8407/8408 controllers.
    • Celestron Ultima 2000
    • Celestron NexStar 4/5/8, 5i/8i, GPS, SLT, SE
    • Celestron CG5, CGE, CGEM, CPC
    • Orion Sirius, Atlas, SkyView Pro, SkyQuest XTg
    • SkyWatcher mounts with SynScan controllers
    • Takahashi Temma 2
    • Sidereal Technology SiTech controllers
    • ServoCAT Argo Navis, Sky Commander, Losmandy DSC
    • Astro-Physics GTO, Losmandy Gemini & Gemini 2, Vixen SkySensor 2000
    • Tangent Instruments BBox, JMI NGC-MAX, Celestron AstroMaster, Lumicon SkyVector, Takahashi Super Navigator, Dave Ek Box
    • Orion Intelliscope, Orion SkyWizard

    Support for additional USB telescope controllers containing the Future Technology FT232R and FT232RL USB-to-UART chipsets is coming in a free firmware update during the first half of 2012. This includes the USB SiTech and USB ServoCAT controllers.

    Some Meade ETX models (60/80) ship with the Autostar #494 controller. To make SkyFi work with these scopes, you need to replace the #494 Autostar controller (which does not have a serial port) with the #497 Autostar (which does). Contact Meade to upgrade your controller.

    For ServoCAT and Argo Navis users, this document contains cable pinout diagrams and setup instructions. For Starmaster Sky Tracker systems, this document contains the equivalent instructions.

    The only models that do not work with SkyFi are those that have neither USB nor RS-232 serial ports. Such models include:

    • Vixen mounts with StarBook controllers

    The Vixen StarBook controller uses an ethernet interface, which is also physically incompatible with SkyFi. However, you can use an Apple AirPort Express (or other wireless router) to control the StarBook from our SkySafari iPhone app. This document from Vixen explains how. You also need to configure SkySafari to communicate with the StarBook controller at 169.254.1.1 on port 80.

    Using SkyFi with Other Software

    SkyFi lets you communicate with your telescope over a wireless TCP/IP connection. Our SkySafari Plus and Pro iPhone apps are designed to do just that. So are the Plus and Pro versions of SkySafari for Mac OS X.

    However, other astronomy programs like The Sky and Starry Night expect to communicate with a telescope directly over a serial port. To make SkyFi work with those programs, you'll need a virtual serial port driver - a piece of software that presents SkyFi's wireless TCP port to other programs as if it were a real serial port.

    A number of third-party virtual serial port drivers are available, and many of them are free. Here are a few that we've successfully tested with SkyFi; all of these run on Windows:

    • COM2TCP - $39 with a 45-day free trial, by AstroGeeks. Our new favorite! Has the simplest user interface of any virtual serial port solution we've tried, and the latest stable version adds support for Windows Vista - 7 (both 32-bit and 64-bit editions).

    • HW VSP3 - Works on Windows XP, Vista, and 7. Free, and reasonably straightforward to install and configure.

    • com0com - an open-source virtual serial port driver for Windows. Also free, but not nearly as easy to set up as HW VSP3. You need to install and configure both the com0com and com2tcp pieces.


    COM2TCP set up to create port COM4 that connects
    to SkyFi's default IP address and TCP port.


    Creating a virtual serial port with HW VSP3.
    Click to enlarge.

    David Snay of Astronomy Technology Today magazine has written a step-by-step guide to Connecting to a Telescope Through SkyFi via COM2TCP. You can download a PDF of Dave's guide from http://www2.skysafariastronomy.com/products/skyfi/files/SkyFi-COM2TCP.pdf

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