Category: Antennas

33% OFF Sale: Ultra Stable Bullseye LNB for QO-100/Es’Hail-2

Back in May we started selling the Bullseye LNB on our store, which is an ultra stable LNB for receiving QO-100 and other Ku-Band satellites/applications. We have recently managed to secure a good deal from the supplier. However, our storage warehouse is now low on space and we are hence running a 33% off stock clearance sale with the unit now priced at only US$19.97 including free worldwide shipping to most countries. 

To order the product, please go to our store, and scroll down until you see the QO-100 Bullseye TCXO LNB heading. Alternatively we also have stock via our Aliexpress store or on eBay.

What is QO-100 and an LNB?

QO-100 / Es'hail-2 is a geostationary satellite at at 25.5°E (covering Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, eastern Brazil and the west half of Russia/Asia) providing broadcasting services. However, as a bonus it also has the world's first amateur radio repeater in geostationary orbit. Uplink is at 2.4 GHz and downlink is at 10.5 GHz.

Most SDRs do not tune all the way up to 10.5 GHz, so an LNB (low noise block) is typically used, which contains the feed, an LNA, and a downconverter which converts the 10.5 GHz frequency into a much lower one that can be received by most SDRs.

What's special about the Bullseye LNB?

In order to properly monitor signals on QO-100 an LNB with a Temperature Compensated Oscillator (TCXO) or other stabilization method is required. Most LNBs have non-stabilized crystals which will drift significantly over time on the order of 300 PPM with temperature changes.  This means that the narrowband signals used on QO-100 can easily drift out of the receive band or cause distorted reception. Software drift compensation can be used to an extent, but it works best if the LNB is somewhat stable in the first place. It is possible to hand modify a standard Ku-band LNB by soldering on a replacement TCXO or hacking in connections to a GPSDO, but the Bullseye LNB ready to use with a built in 1PPM TCXO and is cheap.

Reviews

In the past Tech Minds has reviewed this product favourably in the video shown below. In a second video he has also shown how the Bullseye can be combined with a transmit helix in order to create a dual feed uplink + downlink capable antenna.

Ultra Stable Bullseye LNB For QO-100 Es Hail2 10 kHz

F4DAV has also reviewed the unit on his website, concluding with the following statement:

As far as I know the BE01 is the first affordable mass-produced Ku-band TCXO LNB. These early tests suggest that it can be a game changer for amateur radio and other narrowband applications in the 10 GHz band. The stability and ability to recalibrate should allow even unsophisticated analog stations to tune to a 5 kHz channel and remain there for hours at a time. For SDR stations with beacon-based frequency correction, the absolute accuracy removes the need to oversample by several hundred kHz or to scan for the initial frequency offset.

There are also several posts on Twitter by customers noting good performance

Official Feature List + Specs

Features

  • Bullseye 10 kHz BE01
  • Universal single output LNB
  • Frequency stability within 10 kHz in normal outdoor environment
  • Phase locked loop with 2 PPM TCXO
  • Factory calibration within 1 kHz utilizing GPS-locked spectrum analyzers
  • Ultra high precision PLL employing proprietary frequency control system (patent pending)
  • Digitally controlled carrier offset with optional programmer
  • 25 MHz output reference available on secondary F-connector (red)

Specifications 

  • Input frequency: 10489 - 12750 MHz
  • LO frequency 9750/10600 MHz
  • LO frequency stability at 23C: +/- 10 kHz
  • LO frequency stability -20 - 60C: +/- 30 kHz
  • Gain: 50 - 66 dB
  • Output frequency: 739 - 1950 MHz (low band) and 1100 - 2150 (high band)
  • Return loss of 8 dB (739 - 1950 MHz) and 10 dB (1100 - 2150 MHz)
  • Noise figure: 0.5 dB

We note that an external bias tee power injector is required to power the LNB as it requires 11.5V - 14V to operate in vertical polarization and 16V - 19V to operate with horizontal polarization. The bias tee on the RTL-SDR Blog V3 outputs 4.5V so it is not suitable.

Comparing Shortwave Antennas with an RTL-SDR and FT8 Monitoring

Eric had an inverted L and T3FD antenna set up in his backyard and he wanted to test both at the same time to see which received HF better overall. Rather than relying on subjective 'by ear' measurements he decided to use the digital FT8 mode as his comparison signal. FT8 is quite useful for this purpose as the decoded data includes a calculated signal-to-noise (SNR) reading which is a non subjective measure that can be used for comparisons. It also contains information about the location of the signal which can be used for determining the DX capability of the antenna. 

To perform the comparison he used two or our RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongles running in direct sampling mode, and also added an additional low pass filter to prevent excessively strong TV and FM signals from overloading the input. Each antenna is connected to it's own RTL-SDR, and a modified version of GQRX with remote UDP control is used to switch between multiple FT8 frequencies so that multiple bands can be covered in the experiment. WSJT-X is used for decoding the FT8 packets.

After logging SNR values for several days he was able to plot and compare the number of packets received by each antenna, the maximum distance received by each antenna. His results showed that his inverted L antenna was best in both regards. He then performed a relative comparison with the SNR readings and found that the inverted L performed best apart from at 14 MHz, where the T3FD performed better.

In further tests he also compared the antennas on which signal headings they were receiving best from. The results showed that Erics inverted L was receiving best from one direction only, whereas the T3FD received signals from more headings.

Eric's post includes full instructions on the software setup and also Python code which can be used to replicate his experiments. We think that this is a great way to objectively compare two types of antennas.

Antenna directionality measurements via FT8 received headings

TechMinds: Decoding GPS with an RTL-SDR

Over on his YouTube channel Tech Minds has uploaded a video showing how it's possible to receive and decode GPS signals with an RTL-SDR. To do this he uses one of our RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongles and a GPS patch antenna which is powered via the bias tee on the dongle.

On the software side he uses GNSS-SDRLIB and RTKLIB to decode the GPS signal. The result of the two programs is your current GPS coordinates which can be plotted on a map. Unfortunately in the video Tech Minds was unable to get the Google Maps display to work, but you can easily type the coordinates into Google maps yourself.

Decoding GPS using an RTL SDR Receiver

 

KerberosSDR: Tracking a Weather Balloon Radiosonde with Radio Direction Finding

The KerberosSDR is our 4-channel phase coherent capable RTL-SDR unit that we previously successfully crowdfunded back in 2018.  With a 4-channel phase coherent RTL-SDR interesting applications like radio direction finding, passive radar and beam forming become possible. It can also be used as 4 separate RTL-SDRs for multichannel monitoring.

KerberosSDR can be purchased from our partner store at https://othernet.is/products/kerberossdr-4x-coherent-rtl-sdr.

In one of our latest tests we've been able to track a weather balloon radiosonde via the direction finding ability of KerberosSDR. These balloons are launched twice daily by meteorological agencies around the world, and the radiosonde carried by the balloon transmits an RS-41 signal continuously throughout it's flight sending back telemetry such as weather information and GPS coordinates. The KerberosSDR tracks the bearing towards the balloon using only the raw signal - it does not decode. Having the actual GPS location from the RS41 data allows us to compare and confirm that the KerberosSDR is indeed tracking the bearing of the balloon.

In this test we used the excellent 4-element dipole array made by Arrow Antennas. In particular we used the 406 MHz element version as the RS-41 signal is broadcast at 403 MHz. The antenna array is mounted on the roof, the KerberosSDR is in the attic connected to a Raspberry Pi 4. Our KerberosSDR Android app is used to plot the bearings. A separate RTL-SDR running on the video recording PC is connected to it's own antenna and is used to receive and decode the RS41 signal. The free software RS41 Tracker is used to decode and map the balloon for location confirmation. 

We are currently using the latest beta code in development (unreleased at the time of this post - it will be released within 1 to 2 months) which handles non-continuous intermittent signals better.

Arrow Antennas 4-Element Dipole Array Mounted on Roof

The short video below shows a timelapse of the RS41 decoder tracking a balloon which circled the south of our KerberosSDR. The red line indicates the zero degree direction of the antenna array, while the blue line indicates the estimated direction of the balloon determined via the MUSIC radio direction finding technique.

The GPS balloon map from RS41 tracker is overlayed on top of the KerberosSDR Android app map for clarity via video editing. We can see that it mostly tracks the balloon to within a few degrees. When the blue bearing line diverges this is due to the balloon's line of sight path to the antennas being obscured by terrain, buildings or trees. When this is the case a multipath signal reflecting off surrounding hills tends to become dominant.

In the second short video below the weather balloon tracked northwards. Towards the north, north west and north east we have antenna obstructions in the form of rising terrain, houses and hills, so the overall accuracy is poorer. However, it still tracks within a few degrees most of the time.

Finally the YouTube video below shows the same as the above, but in the second half includes the full screen including the KerberosSDR DoA graphs and SDR# waterfall showing signal strength.

KerberosSDR Tracking a Weather Balloon Radiosonde with Radio Direction Finding

In the future we hope to test with two or more KerberosSDR units producing multiple bearing lines on RDFMapper, hopefully resulting in cross points that can be used to estimate the actual location of the balloon.

NyanSat: A Low Cost Open Source Satellite Ground Station

Thank you to John D for writing in and letting us know that Wired magazine has recently run an article about the "Nyansat" project. Nyansat aims to bring low cost open source satellite ground stations to the masses. The goal is to democratize citizen access to space by allowing for easier collection of satellite data, or even for collaborative citizen science radio astronomy projects such as the detection of space debris or undocumented satellites. John writes:

While most people think of a satellite ground station as a giant dish mounted on top of a building in the desert, technically any radio receiver that tunes into a satellite's signal can be called a ground station.  Somewhere between the giant dish and the GPS chip in your phone is a ground station that uses a directional antenna to pull in the faint signals.  So unless you're only interested in geosynchronous satellites, the antenna needs to be aimed at the satellite, and that's where NyanSat comes in. 

The design of the NyanSat consists of a pan-tilt head, an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) for precise azimuth and elevation measurements, a motor-driver board, an optional OLED display, an optional GPS module, and is powered by an ESP32.  Full source code is available in their git repo, found at https://github.com/RedBalloonShenanigans/antenny. The NyanSat's software is written in micropython specifically for the ESP32, but obviously could be ported if desired.

Mounting an antenna, adding an RTL-SDR, and actually tuning in a satellite, is still up to the builder.

One of the goals of the NyanSat project is to eventually build up a network of ground stations that can collaborate to contribute frequently updated satellite ephemeris information.

When they're in stock, the project's sponsor, Red Balloon Security, has occasionally been offering a kit containing a custom PCB that is pre-populated with the ESP32 and motor driver; a pan-tilt gimbal; an IMU; and an RTL-SDR.  They've been selling them for $1.00(!), just to get them out in the hands of people.  Keep your eye open in case they get another batch in.

The Red Balloon store lists the kit as currently out of stock so we suggest keeping an eye on their store just in case any of the $1 kits come back in stock.

NyanSat will also present a live twitch demo at this years online DefCon conference on Friday Aug 7 6:30-8PM EDT and Sat Aug 8 6:30-8PM EDT. On Sun Aug 9 12:30 EDT they will hold another event where they judge the best work of the Nyansat community.

The SatNOGS project which we have covered many times before on this blog is quite similar with it's own open source antenna rotator design, however the Nyansat design looks a bit easier to build as it doesn't require 3D printed parts. Although critically from their demos we haven't seen what sort of sized antennas the gimbal chosen by Nyansat is capable of moving.

The NyanSat Pan/Tilt Gimbal Control Setup

NyanSat Demo

Analyzing Lightning Discharges with an RTL-SDR and the Sage Network

Sage is a project working on creating geographically distributed sensor systems including cameras, microphones, weather and air quality stations in order to benefit the work of scientists. Recently on their GitHub they have uploaded a Jupyter Notebook showing how they have used an RTL-SDR V3 on a Linux Laptop to analyze lightning discharges. When lightning strikes, it creates a broadband RF pulse generally across the lower frequencies. This is how live lightning maps like Blitzortung work.

In their example Sage use a dipole antenna and analysis frequency of 30 MHz. The notebook doesn't offer much additional information, but provides Python Numpy and Scipy code which can be used to detect and plot the lightning pulses.

Graphing Lightning Pulses for the Sage Network

Frugal Radio: SDR Guide Ep 4 – Antenna Basics for SDR Beginners

In this episode of Frugal Radio's series of SDR beginners guide videos he discusses some antenna basics. He shows the most common types of antennas, provides several tips to help improve reception, and shows how to properly tune antennas using online calculators.

Near the end of the video he shows our multipurpose dipole antenna kit and shows how to adjust the telescopic elements for best reception. He demonstrates that simply extending the elements to the maximum length does not result in the best tuning, rather you need to tune the element length for the frequency being received to get the best results.

2020 SDR Guide Ep 4 : Antenna Basics for SDR Beginners inc RTL-SDR / Nooelec NESDR SMArt bundle

TechMinds: Building a 3D Printed 2.4 GHz Dual Feed Helix for QO-100

The Bullseye LNB that we have in our store is great for receiving the QO-100 amateur geostationary radio satellite which is available in some parts of the world. However it cannot be used to transmit to the satellite. Over on his YouTube channel Tech Minds shows us how to build a transmit helix antenna that connects to the Bullseye or other suitable LNB, resulting in a dual feed antenna.

The antenna that was built is based on DO8PAT's "Ice Cone Feed" design. The design requires some 3D printed parts for the mount and housing, as well as a copper wire helix, metal reflector and copper matching strip. The Bullseye fits onto the back of the helix mount. Once mounted on a dish Tech Minds shows that he was able to make contact with a friend via the QO-100 satellite with good signal strength.

2.4 GHz Dual Feed Helix Antenna For QO100