Back in November 2020 we posted about the release of a decoder for the FengYun line of geostationary weather satellites which provide full disk images of the Earth and are positioned to cover parts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Russia, and Australia. Back then only a few people had attempted decoding this, and it was believed that a 120cm satellite dish or larger would be required.
We do note that u/Harrison_Clark55's image appears to be missing a few lines of data, and they are based in Australia where the elevation of FY-2G could be quite high depending on what side of the continent they are on. So it's possible that receivers in lower elevations may still require a larger dish size to work.
Compared to the SATNOGS design, the SATRAN design appears to be much simpler and easier to build. Although being a smaller unit it's only design to handle small compact antennas such as a 70cm Yagi. SATRAN is also controllable via a web interface and there is an Android App. The design is capable of rotating 360 degrees, and 110 degrees from zenith, which allows a user to cover the entire sky.
Daniel notes that SATRAN kits should be available for sale from Feburary/March 2021. He also notes that it is possible to 3D print most of the parts and to just purchase the electronics for a lower price.
Turns out that the TRANSIT 5B-5 satellite's telemetry still has signs of some of the satellite's systems operating (albeit with a questionable reliability). The satellite represents an amazing legacy for all the people that worked on it in the 1950s and 60s, but due to its age it is also very difficult to find technical documentation about the telemetry (or I should rather say impossible), so to make sense of the data that's being broadcast by the satellite would require many people receiving, decoding, and comparing their results, mainly to identify any patterns in the satellite's behavior and the resulting demodulated data.
Derek and u/Xerbot are asking the SDR community to help collect more sample data, which might help in finding a way to decode some of the telemetry. If you have data to contribute, you can contact @ok9sgc on Twitter, and u/Xerbot on Reddit.
This reminds us of an old post from reader happysat where he demonstrated with an RTL-SDR that many "dead" satellites are actually still transmitting telemetry. Due to suspected chemical breakdown of the onboard batteries, the satellites tend to turn themselves on again when the solar panels receive sunlight.
Over on his YouTube channel TechMinds has uploaded a new video showing how to decode signals from Orbcomm satellites. Orbcomm run a global network of low earth orbit satellites that perform services such as Internet of Things (IoT), Machine 2 Machine (M2M) communications, asset tracking, utilities telemetry, government communications and much more. The signals can be received at around 137 MHz.
In the video he explains how the private client data is encrypted, however it is possible to at least see the encrypted data coming down, and decode some of the data management information such as the transmitted uplink frequencies using a program called Orbcomm Plotter. Ultimately, the data available is quite boring to monitor, however decoding these satellites is still an interesting exercise.
Decoding Orbcomm Satellite Transmissions Using Software Defined Radio
Back in 2017 we posted about Adam 9A4QV's simple V-Dipole antenna design which works very well for receiving NOAA and Meteor weather satellites at 137 MHz. This type of antenna is a lot easier to build compared to a QFH or turnstile, and it results in good performance if built and set up correctly. Over the years he notes that he's received a number of questions asking to clarify the design and so he's uploaded a YouTube video which explains the built and dimensions of the antenna clearly.
Thank you to Maksim for submitting news that the International Space Station (ISS) will be transmitting Slow Scan TV (SSTV) in late December to celebrate 20 years of amateur radio operations onboard the space station. The ISS periodically transmits SSTV images during special events throughout the year. You can keep up to date on the ISS SSTV schedule on the ARISS-SSTV site.
An ARISS Slow Scan TV (SSTV) event is scheduled from the International Space Station (ISS) for late December. This will be a special SSTV event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of ARISS operations on the ISS. The event is scheduled to begin on December 24 and continue through December 31. Details to follow later. Dates are subject to change due to ISS operational adjustments.
With an RTL-SDR and a simple V-Dipole from our RTL-SDR Blog V3 antenna kit it is possible to receive these images when the ISS passes over. ISS passes for your city can be determined online, and the SSTV images can be decoded with a program like MMSSTV.
The FengYun-2 line of weather satellites are the Chinese equivalents to GOES, and they are positioned to cover parts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Russia, and Australia. So this is another geostationary weather satellite now available to Europeans which broadcasts in the L-Band at 1687.5 MHz. And unlike the weaker GOES-13 L-Band downlink, the FengYun-2 downlink is much stronger which means that reception with a 120cm satellite dish should be possible. We note that it has not yet been confirmed if the typical 90-100 cm WiFi dishes used with GOES-16 and 17 will be big enough to work. @aang254 writes:
It covers parts of Europe, Russia and down to Australia. FY-2G and FY-2E (no confirmation for this one yet) are also decodable in the same way. I released an early decoder, that currently is not suitable for automated setups but allows getting images already. A later version (that should come soon-ish) will allow live decoding / autonomous setups in a similar fashion to other satellites.
Also, the res is 2km/px on VIS and 8km/px on IR, so half that of GOES-13 with similar-ish coverage (Europe is less visible though).
(also forgot to say but the bandwidth is under 2Mhz, allowing a rtlsdr to be used)
For some time now many weather satellite enthusiasts have enjoyed the ability to relatively easily receive live high resolution images directly from the GOES-16, GOES-17 and GK-2A geostationary satellites (tutorial here). However, while much of the world can see at least one of these satellites, European's have been left out.
What may be of some interest to Europeans is that the older GOES-13 (aka EWS-G1) satellite was repositioned in February 2020, and it can now be received in Europe (as well as Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Russia and West Australia) until at least 2024 when it will be replaced.
The important catch however is that GOES-13 is not broadcasting the same easy to receive LRIT/HRIT signals that the other satellites use. The signal is still in the L-Band at 1685.7 MHz, however it is called "GVAR" and it is much weaker and uses 5 MHz of bandwidth. For GOES 16/17 and GK-2A a 1m WiFi grid dish, LNA and RTL-SDR was sufficient, but for GOES-13 you'll need a much larger 1.8m dish, and a wider band SDR like an Airspy. The big dish requirement significantly increases the reception challenge.
We also note that the decoder is being developed by @aang254 and u/Xerbot and it is not yet publicly released. However, they do intend to release it soon. Update:
My hardware is: 180cm prime focus dish, with a custom cantenna (120mm diameter). I'm using the SAWBIRD GOES LNA. I will be switching to the + version, because the setup is still lacking a few db SNR. The SDR is the one I use for HRPT: the airspy mini
I found that the USB connection on the airspy generates a lot of noise, so I removed the USB cable, by moving the airspy to the laptop. I use 2m of CNT-400 coax and it works much better now. I get about 2 db SNR more. Thought you might find it interesting.
We note that there is some interesting differences with GOES-13 images. Since the image is less processed, it is higher resolution (a full resolution image can be found on this Reddit post), as well as not cropped, meaning that the Earth's atmosphere is visible. Please also follow @ZSztang on Twitter for more images.
According to the newest calculations performed (by me) on the EWS-G1 data, it has a stunning resolution of about 0.6x1 km/px on the VIS channel and about 2.5x4 km/px on the IR channels. I have yet to confirm my calculations with the doc, which is quite hard to get. pic.twitter.com/kLK8YPDyTV