Category: Antennas

Building a Tracking Mount for HRPT Weather Satellite Reception Part 2

Earlier this month we posted about The Thought Emporium who uploaded a video to YouTube where they documented the first steps of their construction of a tracking mount for a 2.4 GHz grid WiFi dish which they intend to use for HRPT weather satellite reception.

If you didn't already know, receiving HRPT weather satellite signals is a little different to the more commonly received NOAA APT or Meteor M2 LRPT images which most readers may already be familiar with. HRPT is broadcast by the same NOAA satellites that provide the APT signal at 137 MHz, but is found in the L-band at around 1.7 GHz. The signal is much weaker, so a high gain dish antenna with motorized tracking mount, LNA and high bandwidth SDR like an Airspy is required. The payoff is that HRPT images are much higher in resolution compared to APT.

In this video they document the steps required to finish the physical build and add the electronics and motors required to control and move the dish. The final product is a working tracking mount that should be able to track the NOAA satellites as they pass over. In the next video which is not yet released they plan to actually test reception.

DIY Satellite Tracker/Radio Telescope - Part 2

Decoding a Moon Orbiting Satellite 378500 km’s away with an RTL-SDR

Thanks to IU2EFA (William) for writing in and letting us know about his success in decoding telemetry from the moon orbiting satellite known as DSLWP-B / LONGJIANG-2. LONJIANG-2 is a Chinese lunar microsatellite (45kg) that was launched in May 2018. It is designed to perform ultra long-wave radio astronomy observations. It also has an on board camera and took some nice photos of the Earth back in June.

While the satellite is still being tested, William notes that it is transmitting telemetry data to Earth during it's scheduled days at 435.4 MHz and 436.4 MHz, and the signal can be received with an RTL-SDR and Yagi antenna. William writes:

[LONJIAN-2] transmits with a little linear antenna and a little power of just 2 Watts.

In other sessions, I used a professional radio to have the maximum performance.

But this morning I wanted to test the reception, just using my RTLSDR V3 and my antenna yagi 15 elements pointed to the Moon. No other options (as filters, pre aplifiers, or other stuffs. Zero of these)

Well, the result was great. I received the signals and also i could decode them!

So I think people can be happy to know, that with a very little setup, they can receive incredible little signals from great distances.

When I received these signals, the Moon distance was about 378500 km.

LONGJIAN-2 transmits telemetry with GMSK and JT4G, and JT4G can be decoded with WSJT-X or WSJT 10. There is also a GNU Radio program called gr-dslwp that can be used to decode the telemetry. JT4G is a weak signal coding that can be decoded with signal levels down to -17 dB. Therefore anyone with modest hardware can decode the satellite. More information about the coding can be found on this post by Daniel Estevez.

On the Lilacsat page for LONGJIANG-2 if you scroll down you can also see reports from several other amateur radio operators who have managed to receive the satellite with RTL-SDR dongles and other radios. Below is an image of an example for SP5ULN who was able to receive and decode the JT4G signal with an RTL-SDR, LNA, and 19-element Yagi.

Example of LONJIAN-2 being received with an RTL-SDR by SP5ULN as noted on the LilacSat website.
Example of LONJIAN-2 being received with an RTL-SDR by SP5ULN as noted on the LilacSat website.

Receiving GOES Weather Satellite HRIT with an SDRplay and 2.4 GHz WiFi Grid Antenna

Over on the SDRplay forums member RSP2user has posted a new tutorial, this time showing how to receive weather satellite images from GOES satellites with an RSP2 and cheap 2.4 GHz WiFi grid antenna

GOES 15/16/17 are geosynchronous weather satellites that beam back high resolution weather  images and data. In particular they send beautiful high resolution 'full disk' images which show one side of the entire earth. As the satellites are in geosynchronous orbit, they are quite a bit further away from the earth. So compared to the more easily receivable low earth orbit satellites such as the NOAA APT and Meteor M2 LRPT satellites, a dish antenna, good LNA and possibly a filter is required to receive them. However fortunately, as they are in a geosynchronous orbit, the satellite is in the same position in the sky all the time, so no tracking hardware is required.

In the tutorial RSP2user notes that he's been using a $16 2.4 GHz WiFi grid dish antenna and the NooElec SAWbird LNA. In the past we've also seen GOES reception from Pieter Noordhuis who used a 1.9 GHz grid antenna from L-Com which seems to be a better match to the 1.7 GHz GOES frequency. However, 2.4 GHz WiFi grid antennas are much more common and therefore much cheaper. In the past there has been debate on whether or not these cheaper WiFi antennas would be good enough for GOES, so it's good to see that the cheaper option is confirmed to work, at least for the satellite elevations found in the RSP2user's part of the USA.

The SAWBird is a 1.7 GHz LNA which is required to improve SNR by reducing system noise figure, and to filter any interfering out of band signals. The SAWbird is currently not available for public sale, but NooElec have noted that it is due to be released soon. RSP2user also notes that the polarization of the dish is important, so the dish may need to be rotated, and also that flipping the secondary reflector significantly increases the gain at 1.69 GHz.

For software the XRIT demodulator from USA-Satcom for a small fee is used together with the SDRplay RSP2. As seen by Pieter Noordhuis' results, it's also possible to receive these signals with an RTL-SDR and Pieters free software. So it may be possible to reduce the costs of a GOES reception system by using an RTL-SDR, SAWBird and 2.4 GHZ WiFi grid antenna. With those components the total cost would be well under $100.

As a bonus, in later posts on his forum thread, RSP2user shows that the system can also be used to receive HRPT images from the low earth orbit NOAA 19 satellite by hand tracking the antenna as the satellite passes over.

RSP2users GOES Receiver: SDRplay, SAWBird LNA, 2.4 GHz WiFi Grid Antenna
RSP2users GOES Receiver: SDRplay, SAWBird LNA, 2.4 GHz WiFi Grid Antenna

Building a Tracking Mount for HRPT Weather Satellite Reception

Over on YouTube channel The Thought Emporium recently released a new video where they show the first steps they've taken towards building a home made satellite tracking mount for receiving HRIT and HRPT low earth orbit weather satellites. In their build they use a 2.4 GHz WiFi parabolic grid antenna, gears and mounts made from milled wood, and some metal supports. The build is not yet finished, but they intend to show their progress in future videos. Note that we're not confident that the 2.4 GHz grid antenna will actually work for them. In the past people have had success with 1.9 GHz Grid antennas however.

If you didn't already know, receiving HRPT weather satellite signals is a little different to the more commonly received NOAA APT or Meteor M2 LRPT images which most readers may already be familiar with. HRPT is broadcast by the same NOAA satellites that provide the APT signal at 137 MHz, but is found in the L-band at around 1.7 GHz. The signal is much weaker, so a high gain dish antenna with motorized tracking mount, LNA and high bandwidth SDR like an Airspy is required. The payoff is that HRPT images are much higher in resolution compared to APT.

Actually, it's not entirely true that a tracking mount is required, although it certainly makes things easier. We've seen in the past that 'Tysonpower' was able to receive HRPT by tracking his dish by hand.

The Thought Emporium also note that they hope to use their tracking mount in the future for other purposes like amateur radio astronomy. In one of their previous experiments they've build a smaller version which was able to create a heat map of WiFi signal strengths in their area.

Building a Motorized Satellite Tracker for HRIT/HRPT Reception and Radio Astronomy - Part 1

An Opensource Mini-Whip Antenna and Upconverter Design for RTL-SDRs

Thank you to Igor Yatsevich for submitting news about an open source Mini-Whip and Upconverter design that he's created and released for free on GitHub. An upconverter converts HF frequencies into VHF frequencies so that they can be received by RTL-SDRs in their quadrature mode, and a Mini-Whip is a small active antenna for receiving HF signals.

The designs include the PCB Gerber files for manufacturing, the components list and assembly and usage guides. Also both through-hole and SMD designs are provided.

The Mini-Whip design has a frequency range of 10 kHz - 30 MHz and to power it you'll need a 5 - 13V bias tee. You will need to install it up high and preferably away from the house as Mini-Whips are quite susceptible to local noise pickup. Another very important point is that Mini-Whips need to have a good ground connection. The upconverter is based on the ADE-1 mixer, and uses a 125 MHz local oscillator.

Igor's documentation on the project is excellent, and is a good read for getting more information about upconverters and Mini-Whips. He has noted that he is sending us some samples of units that he's built, so when we receive them we'll post again with test results. It looks as if he's put a lot of research into these designs so we're looking forward to seeing how well they work. 

Diagram on how to ground a miniwhip connected to a metal mast.
Diagram from Igor's documentation about how to properly ground a Mini-Whip connected to a metal mast.

New Store Products: SDRplay RSP1A Metal Case Upgrade + Portable Antenna Set

Over on our store we've just released two new products for sale. The first is a metal case upgrade kit for the SDRplay RSP1A. It is similar to the previous enclosure that we sold for the RSP1, but no longer comes with an included BCFM filter since the RSP1A has this filter built in as a software switchable option.

Instead we've included a portable 7 meter (23 feet) long wire antenna spool (Tecsun AN-03L) with SMA adapter, and an 11 cm to 48 cm adjustable SMA telescopic antenna. The 7 meter antenna is great for HF SWLing, and neatly rolls up into the spool for travelling. The telescopic antenna is a portable VHF/UHF antenna that can plug directly into the SMA port of the RSP1A. Both antennas fit neatly into the supplied semi-hardshell carry case. The set costs US$29.95 including shipping and is available on our store, and will be on US Amazon in a couple of weeks.

The second product is the portable antenna set just by itself. The set includes the 7m Tecsun AN-03L antenna spool, the mono plug to SMA adapter and the 11 cm to 48 cm telescopic antenna. It can be used on any SDR with SMA ports. The set costs US$11.95 and is also available on our store. It will also be on Amazon in a couple of weeks. 

RSP1A_Case_Front_1500x1500
RSP1A_Case_Back_1500x1500
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Building a Tracking Mount for HRPT Weather Satellite Reception Part 2

Earlier this month we posted about The Thought Emporium who uploaded a video to YouTube where they documented the first steps of their construction of a tracking mount for a 2.4 GHz grid WiFi dish which they intend to use for HRPT weather satellite reception.

If you didn't already know, receiving HRPT weather satellite signals is a little different to the more commonly received NOAA APT or Meteor M2 LRPT images which most readers may already be familiar with. HRPT is broadcast by the same NOAA satellites that provide the APT signal at 137 MHz, but is found in the L-band at around 1.7 GHz. The signal is much weaker, so a high gain dish antenna with motorized tracking mount, LNA and high bandwidth SDR like an Airspy is required. The payoff is that HRPT images are much higher in resolution compared to APT.

In this video they document the steps required to finish the physical build and add the electronics and motors required to control and move the dish. The final product is a working tracking mount that should be able to track the NOAA satellites as they pass over. In the next video which is not yet released they plan to actually test reception.

DIY Satellite Tracker/Radio Telescope - Part 2

Decoding a Moon Orbiting Satellite 378500 km’s away with an RTL-SDR

Thanks to IU2EFA (William) for writing in and letting us know about his success in decoding telemetry from the moon orbiting satellite known as DSLWP-B / LONGJIANG-2. LONJIANG-2 is a Chinese lunar microsatellite (45kg) that was launched in May 2018. It is designed to perform ultra long-wave radio astronomy observations. It also has an on board camera and took some nice photos of the Earth back in June.

While the satellite is still being tested, William notes that it is transmitting telemetry data to Earth during it's scheduled days at 435.4 MHz and 436.4 MHz, and the signal can be received with an RTL-SDR and Yagi antenna. William writes:

[LONJIAN-2] transmits with a little linear antenna and a little power of just 2 Watts.

In other sessions, I used a professional radio to have the maximum performance.

But this morning I wanted to test the reception, just using my RTLSDR V3 and my antenna yagi 15 elements pointed to the Moon. No other options (as filters, pre aplifiers, or other stuffs. Zero of these)

Well, the result was great. I received the signals and also i could decode them!

So I think people can be happy to know, that with a very little setup, they can receive incredible little signals from great distances.

When I received these signals, the Moon distance was about 378500 km.

LONGJIAN-2 transmits telemetry with GMSK and JT4G, and JT4G can be decoded with WSJT-X or WSJT 10. There is also a GNU Radio program called gr-dslwp that can be used to decode the telemetry. JT4G is a weak signal coding that can be decoded with signal levels down to -17 dB. Therefore anyone with modest hardware can decode the satellite. More information about the coding can be found on this post by Daniel Estevez.

On the Lilacsat page for LONGJIANG-2 if you scroll down you can also see reports from several other amateur radio operators who have managed to receive the satellite with RTL-SDR dongles and other radios. Below is an image of an example for SP5ULN who was able to receive and decode the JT4G signal with an RTL-SDR, LNA, and 19-element Yagi.

Example of LONJIAN-2 being received with an RTL-SDR by SP5ULN as noted on the LilacSat website.
Example of LONJIAN-2 being received with an RTL-SDR by SP5ULN as noted on the LilacSat website.

Receiving GOES Weather Satellite HRIT with an SDRplay and 2.4 GHz WiFi Grid Antenna

Over on the SDRplay forums member RSP2user has posted a new tutorial, this time showing how to receive weather satellite images from GOES satellites with an RSP2 and cheap 2.4 GHz WiFi grid antenna

GOES 15/16/17 are geosynchronous weather satellites that beam back high resolution weather  images and data. In particular they send beautiful high resolution 'full disk' images which show one side of the entire earth. As the satellites are in geosynchronous orbit, they are quite a bit further away from the earth. So compared to the more easily receivable low earth orbit satellites such as the NOAA APT and Meteor M2 LRPT satellites, a dish antenna, good LNA and possibly a filter is required to receive them. However fortunately, as they are in a geosynchronous orbit, the satellite is in the same position in the sky all the time, so no tracking hardware is required.

In the tutorial RSP2user notes that he's been using a $16 2.4 GHz WiFi grid dish antenna and the NooElec SAWbird LNA. In the past we've also seen GOES reception from Pieter Noordhuis who used a 1.9 GHz grid antenna from L-Com which seems to be a better match to the 1.7 GHz GOES frequency. However, 2.4 GHz WiFi grid antennas are much more common and therefore much cheaper. In the past there has been debate on whether or not these cheaper WiFi antennas would be good enough for GOES, so it's good to see that the cheaper option is confirmed to work, at least for the satellite elevations found in the RSP2user's part of the USA.

The SAWBird is a 1.7 GHz LNA which is required to improve SNR by reducing system noise figure, and to filter any interfering out of band signals. The SAWbird is currently not available for public sale, but NooElec have noted that it is due to be released soon. RSP2user also notes that the polarization of the dish is important, so the dish may need to be rotated, and also that flipping the secondary reflector significantly increases the gain at 1.69 GHz.

For software the XRIT demodulator from USA-Satcom for a small fee is used together with the SDRplay RSP2. As seen by Pieter Noordhuis' results, it's also possible to receive these signals with an RTL-SDR and Pieters free software. So it may be possible to reduce the costs of a GOES reception system by using an RTL-SDR, SAWBird and 2.4 GHZ WiFi grid antenna. With those components the total cost would be well under $100.

As a bonus, in later posts on his forum thread, RSP2user shows that the system can also be used to receive HRPT images from the low earth orbit NOAA 19 satellite by hand tracking the antenna as the satellite passes over.

RSP2users GOES Receiver: SDRplay, SAWBird LNA, 2.4 GHz WiFi Grid Antenna
RSP2users GOES Receiver: SDRplay, SAWBird LNA, 2.4 GHz WiFi Grid Antenna

Building a Tracking Mount for HRPT Weather Satellite Reception

Over on YouTube channel The Thought Emporium recently released a new video where they show the first steps they've taken towards building a home made satellite tracking mount for receiving HRIT and HRPT low earth orbit weather satellites. In their build they use a 2.4 GHz WiFi parabolic grid antenna, gears and mounts made from milled wood, and some metal supports. The build is not yet finished, but they intend to show their progress in future videos. Note that we're not confident that the 2.4 GHz grid antenna will actually work for them. In the past people have had success with 1.9 GHz Grid antennas however.

If you didn't already know, receiving HRPT weather satellite signals is a little different to the more commonly received NOAA APT or Meteor M2 LRPT images which most readers may already be familiar with. HRPT is broadcast by the same NOAA satellites that provide the APT signal at 137 MHz, but is found in the L-band at around 1.7 GHz. The signal is much weaker, so a high gain dish antenna with motorized tracking mount, LNA and high bandwidth SDR like an Airspy is required. The payoff is that HRPT images are much higher in resolution compared to APT.

Actually, it's not entirely true that a tracking mount is required, although it certainly makes things easier. We've seen in the past that 'Tysonpower' was able to receive HRPT by tracking his dish by hand.

The Thought Emporium also note that they hope to use their tracking mount in the future for other purposes like amateur radio astronomy. In one of their previous experiments they've build a smaller version which was able to create a heat map of WiFi signal strengths in their area.

Building a Motorized Satellite Tracker for HRIT/HRPT Reception and Radio Astronomy - Part 1

An Opensource Mini-Whip Antenna and Upconverter Design for RTL-SDRs

Thank you to Igor Yatsevich for submitting news about an open source Mini-Whip and Upconverter design that he's created and released for free on GitHub. An upconverter converts HF frequencies into VHF frequencies so that they can be received by RTL-SDRs in their quadrature mode, and a Mini-Whip is a small active antenna for receiving HF signals.

The designs include the PCB Gerber files for manufacturing, the components list and assembly and usage guides. Also both through-hole and SMD designs are provided.

The Mini-Whip design has a frequency range of 10 kHz - 30 MHz and to power it you'll need a 5 - 13V bias tee. You will need to install it up high and preferably away from the house as Mini-Whips are quite susceptible to local noise pickup. Another very important point is that Mini-Whips need to have a good ground connection. The upconverter is based on the ADE-1 mixer, and uses a 125 MHz local oscillator.

Igor's documentation on the project is excellent, and is a good read for getting more information about upconverters and Mini-Whips. He has noted that he is sending us some samples of units that he's built, so when we receive them we'll post again with test results. It looks as if he's put a lot of research into these designs so we're looking forward to seeing how well they work. 

Diagram on how to ground a miniwhip connected to a metal mast.
Diagram from Igor's documentation about how to properly ground a Mini-Whip connected to a metal mast.

New Store Products: SDRplay RSP1A Metal Case Upgrade + Portable Antenna Set

Over on our store we've just released two new products for sale. The first is a metal case upgrade kit for the SDRplay RSP1A. It is similar to the previous enclosure that we sold for the RSP1, but no longer comes with an included BCFM filter since the RSP1A has this filter built in as a software switchable option.

Instead we've included a portable 7 meter (23 feet) long wire antenna spool (Tecsun AN-03L) with SMA adapter, and an 11 cm to 48 cm adjustable SMA telescopic antenna. The 7 meter antenna is great for HF SWLing, and neatly rolls up into the spool for travelling. The telescopic antenna is a portable VHF/UHF antenna that can plug directly into the SMA port of the RSP1A. Both antennas fit neatly into the supplied semi-hardshell carry case. The set costs US$29.95 including shipping and is available on our store, and will be on US Amazon in a couple of weeks.

The second product is the portable antenna set just by itself. The set includes the 7m Tecsun AN-03L antenna spool, the mono plug to SMA adapter and the 11 cm to 48 cm telescopic antenna. It can be used on any SDR with SMA ports. The set costs US$11.95 and is also available on our store. It will also be on Amazon in a couple of weeks. 

RSP1A_Case_Front_1500x1500
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Building A Giant $200 3D Corner Reflector Antenna for GOES, Moon Bounce and Pulsar Detection

A corner reflector antenna is basically a monopole antenna with a metallic 'corner' reflector placed behind it. The reflector helps the monopole collect signals over a wider aperture resulting in signals coming in stronger from the direction that the corner is pointing at. In past posts we've seen a homemade tinfoil corner reflector used to improve reception of the generic stock RTL-SDR monopole antenna, and a larger one was used in a radio astronomy experiment to detect a pulsar with an RTL-SDR.

Recently The Thought Emporium YouTube channel has uploaded a video showing how to build a large 2 meter 3D corner reflector out of readily available metal conduit pipes and chicken wire. While the antenna has not been tested yet, they hope to be able to use it to receive weather satellite images from GOES-16, to receive moon bounce signals, to map the Hydrogen line and to detect pulsars. 

Building a Giant 2m Corner Reflector Antenna For Less than $200 (For Goes-16, Pulsars and More!)

Decoding 12 AERO Channels Simultaneously with an Airspy, Outernet Patch Antenna and SDR-Console V3

In a post uploaded last month we noted that Outernet was selling off some of their old L-Band satellite antennas cheaply. Nils Schiffhauser (DK8OK) decided to take advantage of the sale and bought one. Now Nils has created a blog post that shows how he's been able able to decode 12 L-Band AERO channels simultaneously with the Outernet L-band antenna, an Airspy R2 and SDR-Console V3. AERO is the satellite based version of aircraft ACARS, and it's L-band signals contain short ground to air messages like weather reports and flight plans. Multiple channels are often in use at any one time.

To achieve this Nils uses the multi-channel tuning capabilities of SDR-Console V3, which allows him to open up 12-channels, each tuned to a different AERO frequency. He then opens up 12 instances of the AERO decoder known as JAERO, and then uses VB-Cable to pipe the audio from each channel into a JAERO instance. Nils writes that the key to making JAERO run with multiple instances is to install JAERO into different folders on your PC, and give each JAERO.exe a unique file name like JAERO_1.exe.

He collects all the data into a program called Display Launcher and Nils notes that the whole set up has been stable digesting 54,000 messages over the last 24 hours. 

12x JAERO Decoders Running
12x JAERO Decoders Running