SDR4Space: Software Tools for SDR Based Satellite Ground Stations

Over on Reddit we've seen that SDR4Space, a provider of a satellite ground station receiver hardware and software has released a free feature limited lite version of their embedded software over on their GitHub page. In the Reddit comments the software is explained as follows:

It's a command-line tool using scripts, for SDR users. You can write your own scripts to: record IQ samples, predict satellite passes, start a record for a specific satellite and correct doppler at the same time.

It's also useful to record narrow subband IQ streams ( example: 48kHz wide instead of 2.048 MHz on rtlsdr, a single signal on HF is only few kHz wide).

You can work on IQ files: cut, resample, merge, convert formats and so on.

Having said that you can recognize features from predict, rx_sdr/rtl_sdr ,rtl_power/rx_power.

Regarding installation, a Debian package is provided, installing application and some examples in /opt/vmbase directory. Most of dependencies are installed by the package. But you should install SoapySDR and Soapy drivers for your SDR device first by yourself if not yet done !

To understand how it works, the best is perhaps starting download TLE and print a passes list, using scripts in ./sat/ directory.

For the next SSTV event I'd try to run unattended reception of ISS (from ./sat/sat_receiver directory).

From the examples, it appears that you can script a fully automated doppler corrected satellite signal receiver with the SDR interface connecting through Soapy, and all the DSP handled by the SDR4lite library.

SDR4Space Logo

Frugal Radio: How To Decode L band Satellite ACARS and CPDLC messages with JAERO and your SDR

In the latest episode of his YouTube series on Aviation monitoring Rob explores how to decode L-band satellite ACARS (Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System) and CPDLC (Controller Pilot Data Link Communications) messages using JAERO, an SDR like an RTL-SDR, and a appropriate L-band antenna such as our RTL-SDR Blog Active L-Band Patch (currently out of stock).

In the video Rob shows examples of what you might receive such as CPDLC ATC instructions, digital ATIS information, arrival information and suggested landing data configuration instructions. He goes on to show satellite coverage maps, what hardware is required to receive these signals, and finally how to setup the receiving and decoding software.

How To Decode L band Satellite ACARS and CPDLC messages with JAERO and your SDR

SDRPlay SDRUno Spotted on the Skinwalker Ranch History Channel TV Series

Skinwalker Ranch is a History channel conspiracy theory reality TV series where a team of scientists and researchers are sent to look for various explanations for "otherworldly" activities supposedly occurring on the ranch. In some episodes the team have made use of an SDRplay RSP software defined radio with SDRuno software to monitor the radio spectrum.

In the series the team are constantly surprised to see unexplained activity occurring on the spectrum. Are these signals just RF noise or man made activity? Or something else? You can decide from the RSP SDRUno waterfall and spectrum display which is shown clearly in the clips below. In the first clip they discover wideband spectrum noise on HF frequencies. In the second clip (from 2:40 onwards) they discover a suddenly active signal at 832 MHz when attempting to setup their drone which experiences calibration issues.

SkinwalkerRanch& SDR

Mystery Of Utah's Skinwalker Ranch Very Much Alive

CaribouLite: A 30-6000 MHz 13-bit 4MHz SDR HAT for the Raspberry Pi

Thank you to David for submitting news about his company Caribou Labs' new product called "CaribouLite" which will be a software defined radio HAT for the Raspberry Pi. The product is currently in the pre-launch stage over on Crowd Funding platform CrowdSupply and you can sign up for future updates on the release. David writes:

I'd like to inform you of a product we have developed called CaribouLite board, which is essentially a Raspberry Pi HAT that enabled up to 6GHz SDR capabilities Tx and Rx, and an additional TxRx Sub 1GHz channel.

It uses Microchip's modem AT86RF215 as an I/Q ADC, DAC and frequency conversion is done using Qorvo's RFFC5072 IC. An FPGA (ICE40) is used to stream data packets (I/Q @ 13 bit x2 / sample) back and forth between the Raspberry Pi and the Modem, over an interesting fast interface called SMI.

I think this project brings new ideas to the table and would be interesting to the SDR community.

The use of the SMI interface is an interesting idea and not something we see utilized often as apparently the official documentation is sparse and poor. But David notes how it allows for up to 500Mbit/s of data to be exchanged between the FPGA and Raspberry Pi, although the true throughput depends on the specific Raspberry Pi model used. Regardless the SMI data rate is more than enough for the 120 MBit/s required by the two streams of 13-bit IQ data that the CaribouLite generates.

The campaign also notes that the sample rate is 4 MSPS, with 4 MHz bandwidth, and up to 14 dBm of transmit power is possible. They also note that they are planning to release a wide range of library code that allows for use cases such as wide range spectrum analysis, a signal / protocol generator, an analog / digital DAB+ receiver, an ADS-B receiver and more.

The software and hardware design is also fully open source and available on GitHub.

The CaribouLite SDR HAT mounted on a Raspberry Pi Zero

Tech Minds: Testing the Pluto Plus SDR

The "Pluto Plus" (aka Pluto+) is an unofficial and upgraded version of the Analog Devices ADALM Pluto SDR. It is currently available on Aliexpress and Banggood stores. In his latest video Tech Minds reviews a Pluto+ SDR that he has received, noting that it has all of the features that should have been in the original Adalm PlutoSDR.

He notes that the PlutoSDR+ has various improvements over the PlutoSDR such as that it comes in a metal enclosure, has four SMA connections (2x TX, 2x TX), a Gigabit Ethernet connection, a microSD slot, external clock input, 0.5PPM TCXO, fine tunable clock via resistor, a PTT key port and a DFU key.

In the video he goes on to show how to set up the PlutoSDR+ before testing it out on a QO-100 satellite setup, noting that it works perfectly and without any signal drift noticed.

Pluto Plus SDR - An Adalm Pluto Upgrade?

A KerberosSDR Based Radio Direction Finding RC Boat

If you weren't already aware KerberosSDR is our 4-channel phase coherent capable RTL-SDR unit that we previously crowdfunded back in 2018. With a 4-channel phase coherent RTL-SDR interesting applications like radio direction finding (RDF), passive radar and beam forming become possible. It can also be used as four separate RTL-SDRs for multichannel monitoring.

KerberosSDR is soon to be replaced with the upgraded KrakenSDR, which will begin crowd funding on Crowd Supply later this year. Please note that we have had some pandemic related delays finalizing the design, but progress is being made.

Recently we came across a brief demonstration video on YouTube where it appears that students have embedded a KerberosSDR into an RC boat. The boat carries four direction finding antennas connected to the KerberosSDR and autonomously navigates towards a signal source.

KerberosSDR Direction Finding RC Boat

Decoding NOAA on an Debian Chrooted Android Smartphone

Over on Reddit Ian Grody (u/DutchOfBurdock) has posted about his success in using a modded Android smartphone to run an RTL-SDR Blog V3 and NOAA decoder software all within the phone itself.

In the past we posted about Ian's work in getting rtl_power scans to work in conjunction with the Tasker app, in order to generate automated frequency scans on his phone on the go. His more recent work from the past year includes showing us how it's possible to install Debian chroot on an Android phone, and run Linux software like GQRX, GNU Radio, DSD, rtl_433, multimon-ng and dump1090 directly on the phone with an RTL-SDR.

His latest Reddit post shows that the NOAA-APT decoder also runs well on the Debian chroot, leading to a truly portable NOAA decoding setup. He notes that he is now working on the possibility of Meteor M2 decoding on the phone.

Below is his video from last year demonstrating SDR GQRX and GNU Radio running on the Debain chrooted phone.

Decoding and Logging GPS Coordinates From Wireless Smart Meters

Back in April we posted about "Hash's" RECESSIM YouTube series on hacking electricity smart meters using a software defined radio. Recently his series continues with a video on decoding and logging the GPS coordinates sent by the smart meters used in his area. Using a car, SDR and laptop he was able to drive down the freeway collecting smart meter data as he travelled, decode the data, and plot it on a map. In his video Hash explains why there is GPS data in the signal, and how he was able to reverse engineer and determine the GPS data.