Tagged: funcube

How to Receive the Funcube Satellite with an RTL-SDR

Over on the Hamspirit.de blog author Jan as written a post explaining how to receive the FUNcube satellite with an RTL-SDR dongle (note in German, use Google translate). The FUNcube is a CubeSat (a low cost miniature 10 cm cube sized satellite) which is intended mainly for educating young people about radio, space, physics and electronics, but has also piqued the interest of amateur radio hobbyists.

Jan first writes how the Funcube Dongle was originally invented as a low cost means of receiving the FUNcube satellite, but now there are the even lower cost RTL-SDR dongles. Jan’s post then goes over how to receive the FUNcube at a frequency of 145.935 MHz using software such as SDR-Radio or SDR# and how to decode the telemetry data using the FUNcube dashboard. He also explains a bit about the FUNcubes operating modes which change the satellites transmission strength depending whether or not its solar panels are in sunlight or not.

Funcube Telemetry Dashboard
Funcube Telemetry Dashboard

Modifying a Laptop by Embedding an RTL-SDR and FunCube Dongle

Blogger “French Fry Cattaneo” wanted a portable laptop with built in SDR capability. To achieve this he opened up his Panasonic ToughBook CF-30 laptop and embedded an RTL-SDR FubCube dongle into the laptop using the space left by unused expansion ports.

Cattaneo connected the two SDRs to a small hub and soldered the usb hub connections directly onto a laptop USB port. He also installed an external SMA connector for the RTL-SDR and connected the FunCube’s antenna port to a cellular antenna that was built into the laptop.

He notes that there could be RF interference issues from the laptop, but has so far had no trouble receiving the strong signals he is interested in.

Laptop with built in RTL-SDR and FunCube Dongles
Laptop with built in RTL-SDR and FunCube Dongles

Using the RTL-SDR to listen to the Funcube Satellite

Recently, the FUNcube-1 satellite was successfully launched. The FUNcube is a CubeSat (a low cost miniature 10cm cube sized satellite) which is intended mainly for educating young people about radio, space, physics and electronics, but has also piqued the interest of amateur radio hobbyists.

Amateur radio hobbyist N4JTC’s has shared on his blog his experiences with receiving the FUNcube-1’s telemetry using his RTL-SDR dongle. By using the RTL-SDR to receive the telemetry beacon as the satellite passes overhead, he was able to use the FUNcube Dashboard software to record and decode and view the satellites telemetry data.

Receiving the FUNcube-1 Satellite
Receiving the FUNcube-1 Satellite

Tutorial: HF Decoding Tour with the FUNcube Dongle Pro+

On the FUNcube Dongle blog/store amateur radio enthusiast DK80K (a.k.a Nils) has sent in a link to a 16 page pdf file showing a comprehensive tour on the FUNcube Dongle Pro+’s capabilities on the HF spectrum.

He gives an overview of many digital ham and HF utility modes including DRM, WSPR, RTTY, Olivia, MFSK16, PSK31, Pactor, Packet, Hellschreiben, ROS, SSTV, HF ACARS, SSB, CW, DSC/GMDSS, SITOR-A/B, Globe Wireless, Time Signals, ALE, Baudot, FAX and Stanag 4285.

The FUNcube is a software defined radio similar to the RTL-SDR, but with better sensitivity and noise performance, but at a higher price (around $200 USD). These modes can also be received with the RTL-SDR and an upconverter such as the Nooelec Ham-It-Up upconverter.

Download his pdf here (Mirror)

RTL-SDR for Budget Radio Astronomy

With the right additional hardware, the RTL-SDR software defined radio can be used as a super cheap radio telescope for radio astronomy experiments.

Marcus Leech of Science Radio Laboratories, Inc has released a tutorial document titled “A Budget-Conscious Radio Telescope for 21cm“, (doc version) (pdf here) where he shows

Two slightly-different designs for a simple, small, effective, radio telescope capable of observing the Sun, and the galactic plane in both continuum and spectral modes, easily able to show the hydrogen line in various parts of the galactic plane.

He uses the RTL-SDR as the receiving radio with an LNA (low noise amplifier) and a couple of line amps, a 93cm x 85cm offset satellite dish (potential dish for sale here, and here), and GNU Radio with the simple_ra application. In his results he was able to observe the spectrum of the Galactic Plane, and the Hydrogen Line. Some more information about this project can be found on this Reddit thread.

Here is a link to an interesting gif Marcus made with his RTL-SDR, showing a timelapse of recorded hydrogen emissions over 24 hours. Reddit user patchvonbraun (a.k.a Marcus Leech) writes on this thread an explanation of what is going on in the gif.

Interstellar space is “full” of neutral hydrogen, which occasionally emits at photon at a wavelength of 21cm–1420.4058Mhz.

If you setup a small dish antenna, and point at a fixed declination in the sky, as that part of the sky moves through your beam, you can see the change in spectral signature as different regions, with different doppler velocities move through your beam.

This GIF animation shows 24 hours of those observations packed into a few 10s of seconds.

 Marcus’ setup is shown below.

RTL-SDR Radio Telescope Setup

And here is just one of his many resulting graphs shown in the document showing the Hydrogen line.

RTL-SDR Radio Telescope Hydrogen Line

A similar radio astronomy project has previously been done with the Funcube. More information about that project can be found in this pdf file. In that project they used the Funcube, a 3 meter satellite dish and the Radio Eyes software.

However, in this Reddit post patchvonbraun explains that the Funcube’s much smaller bandwidth is problematic, and so the rtl-sdr may actually be better suited for radio astronomy.

This image is from the Funcube project document.

Funcube Radio Telescope Project

Another related project is the Itty Bitty Telescope (IBT), which does not use SDR, but may be of interest.

You may also be interested in Marcus Leech’s other tutorial where he uses the RTL-SDR to detect forward meteor scatter. (doc here) (pdf here)

If you enjoyed this tutorial you may like our ebook available on Amazon.

The Hobbyist’s Guide to the RTL-SDR: Really Cheap Software Defined radio.

Satellite Receive Station with RTL-SDR and Raspberry Pi

Over on the carpcomm blog, the author has posted a how to guide on building a remote satellite receive station using the Raspberry Pi and a $20 rtl-sdr dongle or funcube. He uses his own opensource CarpSD software which allows the station to be accessed directly via the web.

Space and satellites are something that only few people are fortunate enough to interact with. However, this is starting to change due to the rapid growth in capability of consumer electronics. In fact, you can receive and decode transmissions from satellites using only a Raspberry Pi, a USB software-defined radio receiver, and a few other cheap parts.

For the software, we’ll use the CarpSD ground station control software. It’s an open-source program with the source hosted on GitHub. It runs as a background process and connects to the Carpcomm server, so that you can control your station from the Carpcomm website. Thus, there is no need to connect a display to your Raspberry Pi and you can leave your station running continuously in the background. The instructions below can be executed entirely over SSH.

Check out the rest of his post here.

Satellite Receive Station with Rapberry Pi and RTL-SDR

RTL-SDR Tutorial: Receiving NOAA Weather Satellite Images

Everyday multiple NOAA weather satellites pass above you. Each NOAA weather satellite broadcasts an Automatic Picture Transmission (APT) signal, which contains a live weather image of your area. The RTL-SDR dongle combined with a good antenna, SDRSharp and a decoding program can be used to download and display these live images several times a day.

This tutorial will show you how to set up a NOAA weather satellite receiving station, which will allow you to gather several live weather satellite images each day. Most parts of this tutorial are also applicable to other software radios, such as the Funcube dongle and HackRF and Airspy, but the RTL-SDR is the cheapest option. Hardware radio scanners can also work, provided the radio has a large IF bandwidth (30 kHz +) and a discriminator tap.

Note that if you have success with this tutorial, you may also be interested in decoding Meteor M N2 weather satellites which provide much higher resolution images.

NOAA Weather Satellite Image


YouTube user GaitUutLiern shows an example of receiving NOAA satellite weather images with a RTL-SDR, SDRSharp, a decoding program called WXtoImg and a QFH antenna.

Receiving NOAA weather satellite using SDR# and WXtoImg

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RTL-SDR Tutorial: Cheap AIS Ship Tracking

Large ships and passenger boats are required to broadcast an identification signal containing position, course, speed, destination, and vessel dimension information to help prevent sea collisions. This system is known as the “Automatic Identification System” or AIS for short. There are dedicated AIS receivers intended to be used on boats, or by hobbyists, but they can be expensive. A radio scanner or the cheap RTL-SDR software defined radio can be used to receive these signals, and with the help of decoding software, ship positions can be plotted on a map.

This tutorial will show you how to set up an AIS receiver with the RTL-SDR. Most parts of this tutorial are also applicable to other software radios, such as the Funcube dongle, Airspy and HackRF, or even regular hardware scanners if a discriminator tap is used, but the RTL-SDR is the cheapest option.

Safety Warning: This probably should not be used a navigational aid on a boat as the field reliability of the RTL-SDR or other software radios is not proven. This guide is intended for land based scanner hobbyists.

Note, tracking ships with AIS is very similar to tracking aircraft with ADS-B, which is another project that may interest you.

Examples of AIS received with RTL-SDR

An AIS radar example is shown by YouTube user Vinicius Lenci who uses an RTL-SDR, SDRSharp and ShipPlotter. This video also shows what a strong AIS signal sounds like.

Recebendo sinais (AIS) com RTL-SDR

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RTL-SDR Tutorial: Decoding DRM Radio

Digital Radio Monodial (DRM) radio is a type of digital shortwave radio signal that is used by international shortwave radio broadcasters. It provides superior audio quality compared to AM signals by using digital audio encoding. With an upconverter, good antenna, and decoding software the RTL-SDR software defined radio can receive and decode DRM signals.

This tutorial is also applicable to other software defined radios that can receive HF with or without an upconverter, such as the HackRF, Airspy, Softrock and Funcube dongle.

Examples of DRM Decoding

YouTube user Superphish shows DRM reception with his Ham-it-up upconverter, and rtl-sdr.

DRM REE Noblejas Radio with RTL SDR (RTL2832), Nooelec Ham It Up Upconverter, SDR Sharp and DREAM

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RTL-SDR Tutorial: Decoding Digital Voice (P25, DMR, NXDN, D-STAR) with DSD

The RTL-SDR software defined radio combined with SDRSharp and a program called “digital speech decoder” (DSD) can be used as a radio scanner to easily and cheaply listen to unencrypted digital radio voice conversations.

Digital radio voice communications are becoming more commonly used in the radio spectrum. This is due to the various improvements offered over traditional analogue voice radio systems. Unfortunately for radio scanner hobbyists, digital radio is difficult to receive, as special radio scanners which can be expensive are required to decode the digital signal. Additionally, digital radio systems can be encrypted making it impossible for communications to be decoded by a hobbyist. However, most users of digital radio do not bother to encrypt their systems as it can introduce lag, monetary expense and extra battery drain in portable radios.

The most common digital speech codec is APCO P25, which DSD is able to decode. DSD is also capable of decoding other common digital codecs such as DMR/MOTOTRBO, NXDN, D-STAR and ProVoice which no hardware scanner is currently capable of.

Super cheap software defined radios such as the RTL-SDR can be used to decode these digital voice communication signals instead of expensive radio scanners. While this tutorial is aimed at the RTL-SDR, other software radios such as the Funcube dongle, Airspy, HackRF and BladeRF will also work. Hardware radios with discriminator taps connected to a PC may also work.

Examples of DSD Decoding Digital Voice with RTL-SDR as a Radio Scanner

YouTube user Geoff Wolf shows a video where he uses RTL-SDR as a police scanner to listen to public safety P25 digital radio using DSD, SDRSharp and virtual audio cable.

RTL-SDR: Decoding P25 Phase I QPSK with DSD and SDR#

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