Category: Satellite

Weather Satellite Images from Geostationary COMS-1 Received

COMS-1 Geostationary Satellite Footprint
COMS-1 Geostationary Satellite Footprint https://www.wmo-sat.info/oscar/Satellites/view/33

COMS-1 is a geostationary weather satellited operated by the Korean Meteorological Agency (KMA) which was launched back in 2010. It is similar to NOAA GOES satellites as it is also geostationary orbit (@128.2°E - footprint covers all of Asia + AUS/NZ), and so is far away enough to image the entire disk of the Earth at once. Unfortunately, unlike the GOES satellites which have in the past few years become relatively easy for hobbyists to decode, the COMS-1 LRIT and HRIT downlink data is encrypted by KMA. KMA only appear to provide decryption keys to governments, research institutes and large organizations upon request.

However, recently Australian @sam210723 was able to successfully create code to decrypt the key message file and obtain the images. From a previous Twitter post of his, it appears that the encryption keys from the KMA example code are actually valid and can be used without needing to apply for a key.

Sam notes that he'll soon release a full blog post on his results, but for now he has an older post from last year that explains a bit about the satellite and decryption of the LRIT Key. His code is available on GitHub, and in a recent Twitter post he shows some example images that he's been able to receive using an Airspy SDR.

HackSpace Magazine Discusses SatNOGS, Cubesats and More

HackSpace is a monthly magazine dedicated to modern maker projects. This month issue 18 was released and it focuses on space based projects. The HackSpace Magazine is available for free online in PDF form, and physical copies can also be purchased.  There are several interesting articles but one in particular shows us how to set up a SatNOGS ground station with a Raspberry Pi 3, RTL-SDR and a satellite antenna such as a turnstile. 

A problem with low cost satellites like cubesats is that it is difficult to monitor them as data can only be collected when they are passing over a ground station. So in areas with no ground stations data is simply lost. SatNOGS is an open source project that aims to make it easy for volunteers to build and run RF ground stations that automatically monitor satellite data, and upload that data to the internet for public access. SatNOGS ground stations typically use RTL-SDR dongles as the radio.

A related article in the magazine also discusses cubesats, giving an overview of some previous cubesat launches and what sort of payloads are available. A third article under the space topic discusses the Libre Space Foundation which is the team behind the SatNOGS and various other space based projects that aim to democratize space. Readers may also be interested in the articles showing how to build an ISS countdown timer and how to build a Slim Jim antenna.

HackSpace Magazine SatNOGS Article
HackSpace Magazine SatNOGS Article (Excerpt)

Receiving and Decoding the NAVIC (Indian GPS) Satellites

NAVigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC) (previously known as IRNSS) is an Indian navigation system consisting of 7 satellites in geosynchronous and geostationary orbits above India. It is intended for both public and military use, with a public resolution of up to 20m, and military resolution of up to 1m. After a few set backs, the satellite constellation was completed in April 2018.

Over on his blog Radiojitter, Priyasloka has put up a post showing how he was able to receive and decode the IRNSS/NAVIC satellites. To do this he uses an RTL-SDR with a GNSS antenna connected, and a modified version of the MATLAB GPS code found in this previous post, and in SoftGNSS. His post first goes through how he was able to decode and receive GPS, then goes over the technical details of the NAVIC signal, and then shows some result screenshots where he was able to determine his location with both GPS and NAVIC.

Priyasloka writes that he hasn't uploaded the modified code yet, but he plans to do so soon.

NavIC positioning results received with an RTL-SDR
NavIC positioning results received with an RTL-SDR

NUT2NT+ Crowdfunding: Open Source GNSS RF-to-bits Receiver

Back in May 2018 we first posted about Amungo Navigation's NUT4NT+ project, which is a four channel global navigation satellite system (GNSS) board based on the NT1065 chip. With the right antenna, it is capable of receiving any navigation satellite including GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou, IRNSS, and QZSS. With access to multiple satellite systems, the positioning resolution can be down to the centimeter.

Currently Crowd Funding now on CrowdSupply is the NUT2NT+, which is their low cost 2-input GNSS board. Early bird units are going for $250 (12 units left at the time of posting), with the normal price being $320. Compared to their previous legacy version it has an FPGA, TCXO, bias tee and other improvements. They write:

NUT2NT+ hardware is open source, as is the software - giving the user the ability to set a receiver’s modes and frequencies, to capture all signals continuously, and to have complete control over primary processing features.

Several startups and large companies offer proprietary GNSS positioning solutions and even mobile GNSS software-defined receivers. But a closed ecosystem reduces accessibility for an enthusiast or professional developer, and it limits what a user can do with their hardware. We are happy to bring NUT2NT+ to the world as an open source option.

We note that this is an advanced device for developers and experimenters, but the possible applications they write about such as precision positioning for autonomous vehicles and black box logging are quite interesting.

NUT2NT+ with RA125 antenna for precision positioning of autonomous vehicles.
NUT2NT+ with RA125 antenna for precision positioning of autonomous vehicles.

Their higher end four channel input version (which appears to only be for sale via contact on their website at the moment) can be used as a coherent receiver which can locate sources of GPS jamming via an augmented reality app. In our previous post we highlighted how they were able to find the location of the GPS jammer/spoofers famously active around the Russian Kremlin buildings.

XNZR is searching for Moscow GPS Spoofing Anomaly

Next International Space Station SSTV Event on April 11 – 14

Thank you to Alex Happysat for writing in and letting us know about the next upcoming ISS SSTV event which will begin on 11 April at about 18:00 UTC and end on 14 April 2019 18:00 UTC. If you were unaware, the International Space Station (ISS) transmits SSTV images several times a year to commemorate special space related events. SSTV or Slow Scan Television is an amateur radio mode which is used to transmit small images over radio signals.

The images will be transmitted constantly at 145.8 MHz over the active period and they are expected to be in the PD-120 SSTV format. To receive the images you can use a simple RTL-SDR dongle and the MMSSTV software. A tuned satellite antenna like a QFH, turnstile, or tracking Yagi would be preferred, but many people have had good success before using simpler antennas like a V-Dipole. Software like Orbitron, GPredict, various Android apps or NASA's Spot the Station website can be used to determine where the ISS is and predict when it will be over your location.

Over on the ARISS SSTV blog, they write:

The next big event will be the ARISS SSTV event that starts Thursday, April 11 about 18:00 UTC and will be operational until about 18:00 UTC on Sunday, April 14. Since this event will run continuously for 72 hours, folks in the higher latitudes should have a pretty good chance to receive all 12 of the images. Operators in the mid latitudes should be able to get most of them depending on location. Good Luck and Enjoy!

Alex also mentions that for this and other ISS events AMSAT Argentina is handing out ARISS-SSTV Diplomas to amateur radio operators who receive, record and upload at least 15 images received from the ISS, in at least two different radio operation with a month or more in between then.

If you cannot set up a receiver, it is possible to use R4UAB's WebSDR which will be available directly at websdr.r4uab.ru. However, note that internet reception is not valid for the AMSAT Diploma. An example of WebSDR SSTV reception and decoding from a smaller ISS SSTV event held a few days ago is shown below.

ISS SSTV R4UAB WEBSDR 12.04.2016 14:00 UTC

Othernet Dreamcatcher On Sale for Only $49

Over on the Othernet website the Dreamcatcher hardware is currently on sale for only US$49. This is the lowest we've ever seen it for sale.

If you weren't already aware, the Othernet project aims to bring live data such as news, weather, video, books, Wikipedia articles and audio broadcasts to the world via a free satellite service and cheap receivers. Although an internet connection provides the same data, Othernet's satellite broadcast is receivable in remote areas, will continue working in disasters, and costs nothing to continually receive roughly 200MB of data a day. The trade off is that the service is downlink only, so the data that you get is only what is curated by the Othernet team.

Currently the public service is in a test period and is only available in North America. Europe has come online recently too, however they write that the current version of Dreamcatcher that is for sale may not be optimal for receiving the EU signal.

While currently active, they write that the Othernet satellite service is not guaranteed to continue long term. However even if the service discontinues, the Dreamcatcher can still be used as a TX/RX capable LoRa radio. In a previous post we demonstrated a fun application with two Dreamcatchers and a LoRa chat application.

Othernet Dreamcatcher
Othernet Dreamcatcher

Receiving Voice Communications From the Soyuz MS-12 Expedition to the ISS

On March 14 the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft mission was launched and this carried three astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Back on the ground, YouTube creator Tysonpower was able to receive the voice communications of Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin while the Soyuz spacecraft was approaching the ISS. To do this he used an Airspy SDR and home made QFH antenna, and he notes that reception could just have easily been achieved with an RTL-SDR.

Tysonpower has uploaded a video explaining what he received along with a subtitled and translated recording of the communication. More information also available on his blog post.

[EN subs] Empfang von Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin im Soyuz MS-12

Transferring Files via the BlockStream Satellite with Lightning Network Payments and RTL-SDR + Transacting Bitcoin over HF

The Blockstream satellite API is now live on the main Bitcoin network. Blockstream satellite is a project that aims to use geosynchronous satellites to strengthen the Bitcoin network by continuously broadcasting the Bitcoin blockchain all over the world. This allows people without internet access (or with censored internet) to receive Bitcoin. Setting up a Blockstream satellite receive station is a matter of building an RTL-SDR based receiver (or other GNU Radio compatible SDR) with a small satellite dish and LNB.

The API was also updated and this has enabled a feature that allows you to upload a file of up to 10 kB via the internet, which will then be transmitted via the satellites to anyone who is running a Blockstream RTL-SDR satellite receiver. Payment for the transmission is taken via the Bitcoin Lightning Network and transmissions appear to work on a priority basis, with larger payments receiving higher priority. The file is distributed to all receivers, so they note that private messages would need to be encrypted with public keys distributed to recipients in other ways. This service is similar to what the Othernet (prev. Outernet) network offered in the past with the ability to transmit data, tweets and APRS messages over their satellite network. We think that cheap small data satellite transmissions could have some interesting applications in remote control.

In related news on CryptoNewsZ it has been reported that a bitcoin lightning network transaction was completed over the 20M amateur radio band. The transaction was completed with the JS8 digital mode, which is similar to FT8 but designed for weak signal usage. The message was sent via the help of twitter, with @eiaine first sending money to @nvk via the internet. @nvk then sent the Lightning Network invoice over 21 JS8 messages via the 20M band to @eiaine who received it, thus confirming that the transaction was completed.