Category: Satellite

SDR Talks from the SDRMakerspace Online Presentation

Thank you to Robert for letting us know about these videos from the "ESA ARTES SDR MakerSpace Presentations" from September 6-8, 2021 which are now available on YouTube. 

Libre Space Foundation ( Greece) and the Institute of Reconfigurable & Embedded Digital Systems(REDS) of the Haute Ecole d’Ingénierie et de Gestion du Canton de Vaud – HEIG-VD (Switzerland) have been implementing a number of smaller projects as part of an Software Defined Radio MakerSpace of the European Space Agency.

This activity is part of the ARTES programme of ESA that supports innovation in satellite communications.

The findings were presented in three 2-hour slots in the afternoon at 15:00 CEST (for which you are requested to register separately) on Mon 6, Tue 7 and Wed 8 September 2021.

  • Monday 6 Sep was focused on the evaluation of various SDR boards and FPGA tools chains. High-rate direct sampling by SDR’s and SDR on Android will also be presented.
  • Tuesday 7 Sep was dedicated to building blocks that have been implemented as open source developments for Gnuradio, such as gr-leo, gr-ccsds, gr-soapy etc.
  • Wednesday 8 Sep was mainly about the combination of SDR and AI/ML to do signal detection and classification. In addition, an SDR testbed and spectrum monitoring will be presented.

The talks cover various SDR topics related to satellite observing. Some talks we were interested in are highlighted below, but the full list can be found on the SDRMakerspace website, or the SDRMakerspace playlist on the Libre Space Foundation YouTube channel.

SDRMakerspace - SDR on mobile

Installing Remote SDR V2 on a Raspberry Pi 4B

Remote SDR V2 is software that allows you to easily remotely access either a PlutoSDR, HackRF or RTL-SDR software defined radio. It was originally designed to be used with the amateur radio QO-100 satellite, but version 2.0 includes multiple demodulation modes, NBFM/SSB transmission capability, CTCSS and DTMF encoders, modulation compression and a programmable frequency shift for relays.

Over on the programmers blog, F1ATB has put out a new post showing how to install Remote SDR V2 on a Raspberry Pi 4B. The installation has been made simple thanks for a ready to use SD card image.

If you're interested in an overview of Remote SDR V2, we have posted previously about a Tech Minds review of the software.

Remote SDR V2 with a PlutoSDR

RTL-SDR Blog Active L-Band Patch Antenna for Inmarsat, Iridium, GPS Back in Stock

Just a quick note to say that the second batch of our Active L-Band Patch Antenna for receiving Inmarsat, Iridium and other L-Band satellites is now in stock, available to be shipped from our warehouse in China from early next week. Amazon will be stocked within the next 1-2 months as the freighter will take time to arrive.

Please see our store for ordering details.

Apologies as we've had to temporarily suspend sales of this product as a manufacturing defect has been discovered in this batch. The defect is that on a number of units the plastic around the screws is cracking, and this was caused by a factory worker over torqueing a pneumatic screwdriver.

The antenna itself will work fine, and it probably won't even affect weather tightness, but it is certainly a defect. If your unit already shipped out and your unit has these cracks, please let us know at [email protected] and we will get the factory to ship you a replacement enclosure. For unshipped units we will be issuing a refund within the next few days.

Pricing remains the same at US$49.95 including free worldwide shipping to most countries. A reminder to EU customers: please order from our Aliexpress or eBay stores as due to the new IOSS laws we need to now use those marketplaces to collect and remit VAT upon your purchase, instead of upon import at the border.

This second batch comes in a gray color as feedback from the previous batch indicated that a lighter color is preferred to avoid excess heating from the sun.

If you are hearing about this patch antenna for the first time, please see our original release post for more information. In short this is an amplified patch antenna designed to be used with bias tee capable SDRs that can provide 3.3V - 5V power, such as our RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongle, Airspy, SDRplay or HackRF.

The antenna allows for reception of L-band satellites that transmit between 1525 - 1660 MHz, such as Inmarsat, Iridium and GPS. Please note it is *not* for receiving weaker signals like HRPT and GOES which require a dish antenna.

The patch comes with useful mounting accessories including a window suction cup, bendable tripod and 3M RG174 coax cable. The patch and active circuitry is enclosed in a weather proof enclosure.

What can you do with this antenna?

Layering Geo-Spatial Fire Data onto GOES Satellite Imagery

Thank you to Carl Reinemann (aka usradioguy) for writing in and sharing with us how he has developed a script to layer FIRMS data (Fire Information for Resource Management System US / Canada) onto GOES satellite images (usradioguy blog post) that can be received with an RTL-SDR. We have a tutorial on GOES reception here.

The script is a Windows batch file that downloads FIRMS data from the internet every 12 hours, then converts that data into a format that can be processed by goestools. Once converted the resulting JSON file is uploaded to the Raspberry Pi running goestools. A custom goestool process is then used to layer the data onto the received images.

The result is accurate red polygons on the satellite image in areas where fires have been recorded. With this data visualized it is easy to see where smoke seen on the satellite images is coming from. For example, the image below shows the location of wildfires in the Western USA and the resulting smoke trailing across the continent.

Carl has also tested the fire data layer with GK-2A and Himawari-8 and notes that it works well with images from those satellites as well. 

Fires data in Western USA layered on top of received GOES satellite images.

Elektro-L3 Geostationary Weather Satellite: Easy to Receive LRIT Signal Being Tested

Back in September 2020 we posted about the release of an X-Band decoder for the Elektro-L2 and Elektro-L3 Russian geostationary satellites. These satellites are receivable from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, South America and Australia. Unlike the HRIT and LRIT L-band transmissions from other geosynchronous satellites like GOES and GK-2A, the X-band Elektro signal is quite difficult to receive, requiring a large dish and more expensive hardware.

However we've recently seen exciting news on Twitter that a new L-band LRIT transmission has been activated on Elektro-L3. Like the Korean GK-2A satellite, this L-band LRIT transmission at 1691 MHz should be much easier to receive requiring only a WiFi dish, SAWBird GOES LNA and an RTL-SDR. We haven't yet confirmed if like GK-2A, the smaller 600 x 400 mm WiFi dish is sufficient, or if Elektro requires the larger 600 x 1000 mm dish size. (See our GOES satellite and GK-2A tutorial for information about the hardware being discussed in this paragraph.)

We note that the Elektro-L3 signal appears to be in testing, and the transmission could be turned on and off, or even turned off permanently. The transmission schedule is also not yet clear although in this recent tweet @HRPTEgor has mapped out some current transmission times for Eletro-L3.

It is hoped that LRIT will also eventually be activated on Elektro-L2, and perhaps even HRIT will be activated too. It is also exciting that more Elektro-L satellites are planned to be launched from 2022 onwards and we expect those to have hopefully LRIT and HRIT transmissions as well. To add further excitement, it is hoped that the L3 LRIT activation means that a LRIT or HRIT signal will be activated on the high elliptical orbit (HEO) northern hemisphere Arctic monitoring ARKTIKA-M1 satellite launched in Feb 2021, as this satellite is derived from the Elektro-L design.

The LRIT activation of Elektro-L3 hopefully means that Europeans should finally have access to a geostationary weather satellite that can be easily received with modest low cost hardware. The current coverage map from Orbitron of the two Elektro satellites is shown below (note that Elektro-L2 LRIT does not appear to have been activated yet).

Elektro-L2 and Elektro-L3 Coverage (Currently only Elektro-L3 LRIT transmissions have been discovered)

Over on Twitter @aang254 has noted that he has already updated his satdump software, adding support for Elektro LRIT decoding, and adding support for all of the available channels and for color. Satdump is available as a binary for Windows, and on Linux can be built from source. Experimentally, Satdump can also be built and run on Android.

The Tweet from @aang254 provides a nice sample image of what can be received.

Using an RTL-SDR Dongle to Receive Pictures from the ISS

Over on YouTube we've seen a good video from channel Ham Radio DX where presenter Hayden shows how to use an RTL-SDR to receive slow scan television (SSTV) images from the International Space Station (ISS). Often the ISS will transmit SSTV images down to earth on the VHF 2 meter bands as part of an event. With an RTL-SDR and simple antenna it's possible to receive those images.

In the video Hayden discusses the SSTV transmission, and demonstrates some SSTV decoding happening in real time as the ISS passes over his location. If you're looking to get started in ISS SSTV reception, this is a good video to get an idea of what's involved. He finishes the video with some useful tips for reception.

Using a RTL SDR Dongle to receive pictures from the ISS! | Software Defined Radio

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