Telescopes were stagnating and using old technologies over the past years. Thankfully, it started to change recently, and in the last few years, telescope manufacturers finally started upgrading the tech in consumer telescopes. A while back, one of my friends was asking me about telescopes, and we came to the computerized mount topic. He was blown away that it is available for the general public. He thought that the tech is only used in big observatories.
Nowadays we can not only control our telescopes with hand controllers and computers, but we can do it wirelessly with a smartphone or tablet. There are already telescopes with computerized mounts capable of wireless connection. But if you don’t have this feature on your mount, you can upgrade it with WiFi module and control it wirelessly through the app on your smartphone. So, today I’m going to talk about Celestron SkyPortal WiFi module that will allow you to control your Computerized Celestron telescope that way.
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What Is the Celestron SkyPortal WiFi Module?
Celestron SkyPortal WiFi module is a small device that you can plug into the AUX port on the computerized mount. It will create its own WiFi network that you can connect into. The device doesn’t require any batteries
The unit works only with telescopes made by Celestron. However, it is not compatible with all the Celestron mounts, so check the version of your mount before you buy it.
- Advanced VX -CGX-L
- Astro Fi -CPC, CPC DX
- CG-5 (with CG-5 Aux. splitter) -NexStar Evolution
- CGE -NexStar GT (2015 models and newer with Aux. splitter)
- CGE Pro -NexStar SE Series
- CGEM II -NexStar SLT
- CGEM, CGEM DX -SkyProdigy
- CGX -LCM
- NexStar i Series – NexStar GPS
- Ultima 2000 – Early generation GoTo mounts – such as Compustar
The Unit Overview
The Celestron SkyPortal module is a very simple device with only a few buttons. On the left side, you have one small hole where you can find the RESET button. On the right side, there are one switch and indicator lights. The switch button is for switching between Direct Connect Mode and Access Point Mode(WLAN), and I will talk about them in depth later in this article. The three indicator lights are for Mode, Connection Status and Activity.
Mode: It will be ON when using Direct Mode, and it will stay OFF for Access Point Mode(WLAN)
Connection Status: If there is no network found, it will flash fast. Slow flashing means that the connection was established with smartphone, tablet, PC, or WLAN. And if it stays ON, it means that the app is connected.
Activity: Usually flashing, indicates network activity.
SkyQ Link vs. SkyPortal WiFi Module
You can come across the name SkyQ Link on the internet, and you can even find WiFi module with that name. It will look completely the same as SkyPortal WiFi module. Except the SkyQ Link module has gray cover around the connector, and the SkyPortal module has orange cover around it. So what is the difference? Let me explain.
The SkyQ Link is an old name for a generic signal produced by first Celestron Evolution mounts and external WiFi modules manufactured before 2017. The WiFi network produced by the mount and the module was weak and caused many issues.
SkyPortal is the name of the astronomy app, and the new WiFi module has its name. The SkyPortal WiFi module is producing 20x stronger signal compared to SkyQ Link thanks to improved Zentri Ppty chip, and it has an orange cover around the connector.
So be careful, and if you plan to buy a WiFi module for your Celestron telescope, it must have the orange cover, not grey. This is the easiest way to differentiate between two of these modules. Additionally, they will have different names so look for Celestron SkyPortal WiFi module, which is also cheaper than the old SkyQ Link WiFi module.
WiFi Connection Setup
Celestron SkyPortal WiFi Module has two options for connecting your device, as I mentioned before. Direct Connect Mode and Access Point Mode. You will want to use different mode in a different situation.
Direct Access Mode
Direct Access Mode is simply a direct connection to the wifi network created by the module. It is simple and fast, and it is mostly used when out in the field with no home wifi network you can connect to. The only thing you need to do is to slide the switch upwards to the direct mode position and turn on the mount. Then open the settings for the WiFi networks on your device and connect to the WiFi(Celestron-###) created by the SkyPortal Module.
Open the app and tap scope, then tap connect and align to start the star alignment. With this mode, you will lose the option to have internet access over the wifi network. But it is not an issue if you have internet access over your cell phone carrier data(3G/4G/LTE). If you want to use the direct mode on your PC, you will need a wired internet connection on your PC.
Access Point Mode
Access Point Mode will connect the module with your existing WiFi provided by the router. So, you can control the telescope while connected to your home WiFi network. However, this mode requires additional settings to be made in your SkyPortal app.
The first thing you have to do is to use the Direct Connection method described above to access the settings for the Access Point Mode in the SkyPortal app on your device(Tap only Connect not Align and Connect).
When you are connected, go to settings in the SkyPortal app(gear icon), then Communication and Configure Access Point. There you have to fill in your wireless network name(SIID) and the password and tap Send Configuration. After that, you can go back to the previous menu and select Use Access Point.
Now you can slide the switch on the SkyPortal WiFi Module into the Access Point position. The unit will now automatically authenticate with the wireless network of your router, and if it is successful, the Connection Status indicator starts to flash slowly. The module is ready, and you can control the telescope while connected to your home WiFi network.
SkyPortal App Overview
SkyPortal app is free and available for Android and iOS. You can install it on your smartphone, tablet, or PC. You can use this app without the module, and it is useful when you try to learn something about the night sky. It has a database of 100 000+ objects, and you can use tours for the best objects based on your location and time. It is a stripped down version of SkySafari which is more complex and contains more objects. You can use SkySafari with the Celestron SkyPortal WiFi Module as well.
SkyPortal App License Verification Failed
Some people report the problem with the app license verification failed when first launching the app when trying to connect it via Direct Mode with SkyPortal module. No internet connection causes this problem. When you first start the app, you need to be connected to your home wireless network with internet access so the app can verify the license online. Because you are connected to the module WiFi with no internet access, the license can’t be verified. Launch it first while online and then use the SkyPortal Module Direct Mode.
Possible Problems With Celestron SkyPortal WIFi Module
You can encounter problems while using the Access Point Mode. The module might encounter intermittent loss of connection with your router. It is unclear what is causing it if it is the module itself, the environment, or the router. If you are experiencing this issue, then use the Direct mode with the module and contact the Celestron support for the help.
Is It Worth It?
It definitely is! Celestron SkyPortal WiFi Module(link to Amazon) is not too expensive upgrade to your telescope, and it will open a new realm of possibilities while stargazing. You will get more control over the telescope. You don’t have to touch your telescope anymore causing vibrations like with the hand controller. The only issue I have with it is that you are losing your night vision while stargazing and looking on the display of the smartphone. But everything has its ups and downs.
On the other hand, I’m enjoying it during astrophotography where I don’t need my night vision, and I can control the telescope from my room, which is extremely comfortable when it is freezing outside. Before, I was using long USB wires to connect to the telescope with the computer, so the module is a massive upgrade for me.