Tagged: satellite

Receiving GOES Weather Satellite Images with a Small Grid Antenna and an Airspy Mini

GOES is an L-band geosynchronous weather satellite service that can be received typically with a satellite dish. It produces very nice full disk images of the earth. In the past we’ve posted about Lucas Teske’s work in building a GOES receiving system from scratch (including the software decoder for Airspy and RTL-SDR receivers), devnullings post about receiving GOES and also this talk by @usa_satcom on decoding GOES and similar satellites.

Over on Twitter @usa_satcom has been tweeting about his experiments where he has been successfully receiving GOES L-Band weather satellite images with a small grid antenna and an Airspy Mini. In a Tweet he writes that the antenna is an $85 USD Hyperlink 1.9 GHz 22 dBi Grid Antenna made by L-com. A grid antenna may be more suitable for outdoor mounting for many people as they are typically lighter, smaller and more suitable for windy and snowy conditions. As the GOES satellite is in geosynchronous orbit, no tracking motor or tracking mount is required.

Outernet Patch Antenna Pan-Tilt Servo

Over on YouTube user Tomi Simola has uploaded a video showing his servo based Outernet satellite antenna tracker. Outernet uses L-band geostationary satellites which means that they are at a fixed position in the sky. Optimal reception of the Outernet and other L-Band satellite signals can be obtained by pointing the patch antenna towards the satellite.

Tomi wanted an easy way to remotely switch the antenna to point at one of two geostationary satellites, Alphasat at 25E which has the Outernet signal and Inmarsat at 64E which has more services like AERO and STD-C. Another potential use of his tracker might be for tracking L-Band satellite while in a moving vehicle such as a car or boat. 

To automatically point the Outernet L-band patch antenna Tomi used a commonly found Pan-Tilt servo mounted inside an waterproof enclosure. On the servo is a 3D printed mount which the patch antenna is attached on. An Arduino Nano with Bluetooth module allows control of the servo.

The video below shows a test of the system, over on Reddit he has written a comment explaining the project and over on Imgur he’s uploaded some photos of the construction.


Receiving the Recently Launched BY70-1 Satellite

BY70-1 is a Chinese amateur Cubesat satellite which was recently launched on December 29, 2016. It is expected to stay in orbit for only 1 – 2 months due to a partial failure with the satellite releasing into an incorrect orbit. The purpose of the satellite is for education in schools and for amateur radio use. The receivable signals include an FM repeater and BPSK telemetry beacon both of which can be received at 436.2 MHz. The telemetry beacon is interesting because it also transmits images from an on board visible light camera. These signals can easily be received with an RTL-SDR or other SDR with an appropriate antenna.

Over on his blog Daneil Estevez has been posting about decoding these telemetry images. He’s been using telemetry data collected by other listeners, and the gr-satellites GNU Radio decoder which is capable of decoding the telemetry beacons on many amateur radio satellites. So far the decoded images haven’t been great, they’re just mostly black with nothing really discernible. Hopefully future decodes will show better images.

If you want to track the satellite and attempt a decode, the Satellite AR Android app has the satellite in its database.

Not many people seem to have gotten telemetry decodes or images yet, but below we show an image decoded by  on Twitter.

BY70-1 Image Decoded by @bg2bhc
BY70-1 Image Decoded by @bg2bhc

Building a Wideband Vivaldi Antenna for SDR Use

Vivaldi’s are linearly polarized broadband antennas that have a directional radiation pattern at higher frequencies. The high end SDR manufacturer RF Space produces their own Vivaldi antennas made from PCB boards which they sell online. The larger the antenna, the lower its receiving frequency, and ones that go down to about 200 MHz are almost the size of a full adult person. But all sizes receive up to 6 GHz maximum. Typically smaller versions of Vivald antennas have been used in the past for L-Band satellite reception.

Over on his blog KD0CQ noted that he always had trouble trying to purchase a Vivaldi from RF Space because they were too popular and always out of stock. So he decided to try and build his own out of PCB boards. On this page he’s collected a bunch of Vivaldi cutout or transfer images. On his second page he shows a Vivaldi antenna that he built out of PCB material, just by using scissors and semi-rigid coax. With the Vivaldi placed outdoors he’s been able to successfully receive and decode L-Band AERO on his Airspy Mini even without an LNA. 

KD0CQ writes that he’ll update his blog soon with more results.

Simple Vivaldi antenna by KD0CQ cut out of PCB board.
Simple Vivaldi antenna by KD0CQ cut out of PCB board.

Radio For Everyone: An Easy Homemade Outernet Antenna, More FlightAware Pro Stick Plus Results

Akos from the radio for everyone blog (formerly known as the rtlsdr4everyone blog) has uploaded two new posts. On the first post he shows some further tests on the new FlightAware Prostick plus. The Prostick is an RTL-SDR that contains a built in LNA and the Prostick plus adds an additional SAW filter on the stick. For him the Prostick Plus works significantly better than the regular Protstick + external FA cavity filter and also gets about twice the ADS-B reception reports as our V3 which does not use an additional internal LNA. Next week we hope to release our own review of the Prostick Plus, and we’ll hopefully be able to show and explain why some people see better performance with the plus and why some instead see degraded performance.

In his second post Akos shows a tutorial on building an easy helical antenna for Outernet reception. The antenna is constructed from readily available household materials such as a soda bottle, coax cable, electrical tape and a cookie tin. With the cookie tin used he was able to get a SNR reading between 7 – 9 dB, which is pretty good considering that only 3 dB is required for Outernet decoding to work.

Outernet hardware plus the homemade helical antenna made by Akos.
Outernet hardware plus the homemade helical antenna made by Akos.

Two Videos That Show How To Set Up An Outernet Receiver

Outernet is a relatively new satellite based file delivery service which can be received with an RTL-SDR dongle. They continuously send out useful data like weather reports, news, APRS data as well as files like Wikipeda pages, images, videos and books. Previously we posted a tutorial that shows how to set up an Outernet receiver here.

If you instead prefer video tutorials, then two YouTube channels have uploaded Outernet set up tutorials. The first tutorial is by MKme Lab. In this video they set up Outernet using a Raspberry Pi and a Lipo battery for portable operation. Once setup he shows the Outernet browser and weather app in action.


The second video is by John’s DIY Playground and is similar, but goes a bit deeper into setting up the software on the Raspberry Pi and shows how to point the patch antenna towards the satellite.


Demuxing Frames and Generating Images from the GOES Weather Satellite

In his latest two posts Lucas Teske continues with his series about receiving and downloading weather satellite images from the GOES satellites. In past posts he’s show us how to receive the signal with a satellite dish and Airspy or RTL-SDR (part 1), how to demodulate the signal (part 2), and how to extract frames from the demodulated signal (part 3). Lucas has recently completed his series with parts 4 and 5 having just been uploaded.

In part 4 Lucas shows how to parse the frames and get the packets which will ultimately be used to generate the weather image files. His post explains how to de-randomize the frame data which is initially randomized to improve performance, how to add Reed Solomon error correction, how to demux the virtual channels and the packets and finally how to save the raw packet.

The packet structure
The packet structure

In part 5 Lucas shows us how to finally generate weather satellite images from the GOES satellites. He notes that there is a problem with the LritRice compression method used by NOAA, because the library is currently broken on Linux. So he made a workaround which involved making a Windows application that runs through Wine for decompressing the data. Once the files are decompressed he uses the xrit2pic program which can open the generated .lrit files and convert them into images.

In the future Lucas mentions that he will write a user guide to his LRIT decoder, and make the whole decoding process more user friendly for people who do not care so much about the actual decoding process. Below are some images that Lucas was able to receive with his system.

GOES Full Disk Image of the Earth
GOES Full Disk Image of the Earth
Weatherfax (WEFAX) Image
Weatherfax (WEFAX) Image

Building a Frame Decoder for the GOES Weather Satellite

Yesterday we posted about Lucas Teskes (@lucasteske) success in building a demodulator for the GOES weather satellite. Before that he also showed us how to build an antenna system to receive GOES with an Airspy or RTL-SDR dongle.

Today Lucas continues with part three of his series on GOES decoding. This time he shows how he has built a frame decoder to process the output of the demodulator, and also gives us a link to his code. The decoder is written in C code. Lucas’ post explains how to sync the frame by detecting the preamble, perform convolution encoding to generate a parity and help correct any errors, and decode the frame data.

In part four Lucas will show us how to parse the frame data and extract the packets which will eventually form an image file of the earth.

A decode frame viewed as an image. This shows the syncword pattern and frame counter.
A decode frame viewed as an image. This shows the syncword pattern and frame counter.