Over on his blog Adam 9A4QV (seller of various RTL-SDR related goods including the LNA4ALL) has just made a post detailing a build of a high performance super simple NOAA/Meteor M2 weather satellite antenna. Most antenna designs for polar orbiting weather spacecraft are based on circularly polarized turnstile or QFH designs. However, Adams antenna is based on a very simple linearly polarized dipole, which makes construction almost trivial.
The idea is that by arranging a dipole into a horizontal ‘V’ shape, the radiation pattern will be directed skywards in a figure 0 (zero) pattern. This will be optimal for satellites travelling in front, above and behind the antenna. Since polar orbiting satellites always travel North to South or vice versa, we can take advantage of this fact simply by orienting the antenna North/South.
There is also another advantage to Adams design. Since the antenna is horizontally polarized, all vertically polarized terrestrial signals will be reduced by 20 dB. Most terrestrial signals are broadcast in vertical polarization, so this can help significantly reduce interference and overloading on your RTL-SDR. Overloading is a big problem for many trying to receive weather satellites as they transmit at 137 MHz, which is close to the very powerful FM broadcast band, air band, pagers and business radio. In contrast a circularly polarized antenna like a QFH or turnstile only reduces vertically polarized terrestrial signals by 3 dB.
As the satellites broadcast in circular polarization there will be a 3 dB loss in Adams design from using a linear polarized antenna. But this can be considered as almost negligible. Adam also argues that the home construction of a QFH can never be perfect, so there will always be at least a ~1dB loss from inaccurate construction of these antennas anyway.
The final advantage to Adams design is that construction is extremely simple. Just connect one element to the center coax conductor, and the other to the shield, and spread apart by 120 degrees.
Adam has tested the antenna and has gotten excellent results. If you want more information about the antenna design, Adam has also uploaded a pdf with a more indepth description of the design and his thoughts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last week we posted about Lucas Teske’s (@lucasteske) experience with setting up an antenna system that can receive the geostationary GOES weather satellites. He set up a dish antenna, feed, LNA and filter and was able to successfully receive the GOES signal with an RTL-SDR and Airspy.
In order to demodulate the signal Lucas wrote a BPSK demodulator in GNU Radio. His post goes into good technical detail and shows exactly how the demodulator is constructed. Basically the the BPSK signal is first decimated down to 2.5e6, normalized with an AGC, then cleaned up with a Root Raised Cosine Filter. From there the signal goes through a Costas Loop PLL to receover the carrier wave, then a Clock Recovery MM block to recover the symbol clock. The data is then output to a TCP pipe for the decoder.
In the upcoming third part of his article Lucas will show us how to actually turn the demodulated data into an image of the earth.
Many people with an RTL-SDR have had fun receiving NOAA and METEOR low earth orbit (LEO) weather satellite images. However, a step up in difficulty is to try and receive the geostationary orbit (GEO) weather satellites like GOES. These satellites are locked to a fixed position in the sky meaning there is no need to do tracking, however since they are much further away than LEO satellites, they require a 1m+ satellite dish or high gain directional antenna to have a chance at receiving the weak signal. The GOES satellites transmit very nice high resolution full disk images of the earth, as well as lots of other weather data. For more information see this previous post where we showed devnulling’s GOES reception results, and this post where we showed @usa_satcom’s presentation on GOES and other satellites.
The nice thing about Lucas’ post is that he documents his entire journey, including the failures. For example after discovering that he couldn’t find a 1.2m offset satellite dish which was recommended by the experts on #hearsat (starchat), he went with an alternative 1.5m prime focus dish. Then after several failed attempts at using a helix antenna feed, he discovered that his problem was related to poor illumination of the dish, which meant that in effect only a small portion of the dish was actually being utilized by the helix. He then tried a “cantenna”, with a linear feed inside and that worked much better. Lucas also discovered that he was seeing huge amounts of noise from the GSM band at 1800 MHz. Adding a filter solved this problem. For the LNA he uses an LNA4ALL.
To position the antenna Lucas used the Satellite AR app on his phone. This app overlays the position of the satellite on the phone camera making it easy to point the satellite dish correctly. He also notes that to improve performance you should experiment with the linear feeds rotation, and the distance from the dish. His post of full of tips like this which is very useful for those trying to receive GOES for the first time.
In future posts Lucas hopes to show the demodulation and decoding process.
A few days ago we reported that the Outernet L-band satellite service had just upgraded their software to make it available for receiving APRS and weather updates. Back then it wasn’t clear what the weather updates would entail. Today weather updates starting being transmitted. They are using NOAA data and displaying it on a live weather app (which can also be viewed online here).
The app can be used to view weather data such as wind vectors, temperatures, relative humidity, total precipitable water, total cloud water, mean sea level pressure and ocean currents. Outernet writes that the global weather data will be updated via their satellite system once per day, and that each update also provides 24h, 48h and 72h predictions.
We also see that grib files for mariners are now coming in as well as several Wikipedia articles and regular APRS broadcasts from the ISS.
It looks like the Outernet service is becoming more and more useful over time. If you are interested in receiving Outernet with an RTL-SDR see our tutorial post here.
Every month SDR evangelist Balint Seeber hosts the Cyberspectrum Meetup in San Francisco, where many SDR fans come together to listen to various presentations. The 20th Cyberspectrum SDR meetup has now concluded, and the recorded video is available on YouTube.
The talks this time include a very interesting talk by Joe Steinmetz (@usa_satcom) about decoding L-Band weather satellites such as NASA GOES. Previously we made a post regarding GOES where Reddit user devnulling showed his GOES reception setup. To save time, on the video Joe’s talk starts at 00:10:45.
This presentation will cover most aspects of receiving, demodulating and decoding current L-Band Weather Satellite signals (NOAA, MetOp, Meteor, FengYun, GOES). Topics will include hardware, software, de-modulation/decoding techniques, challenges, flows as well as cool sample images and data.
The second talk is titled “Disposable, Stealthy, Cheap SIGINT” is by Chris Kuethe, @kj6gve and delves into topics relating to low cost signal analysis. Chris’ talk starts at 1:45:00. The blurb reads:
This presentation covers some observations and considerations for using inexpensive and compact ARM boards for signals analysis. Topics may include: power budget, air interface, attributability, performance tuning, lolcats and doges.