Category: SDRplay

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

RadCom Review of the RSPduo Now Available Online

In the July 2018 edition of the UK based amateur radio magazine 'RadCom' Mike Richards wrote up a review of the RSPduo. This review is now available for free to download from SDRplay (pdf). The RSPduo is the latest product from SDRplay. Unlike previous models the RSPduo has two tuners on board which can be used to tune to two independent 2 MHz wide areas of the spectrum simultaneously. It currently retails for US $279.95 + shipping.

Mike's review goes over the design of the RSPduo and discusses it's dual tuning capabilities. He mentions that the most exciting prospect of the RSPduo is going to be the phase-coherent applications, such as active noise cancelling. At the moment no software for these applications is available, however SDRplay is working on it. In addition to this, Mike also discusses the new API, changes to the filtering and connections, and well as some notes on sample rates and decimation.

Inside the RSPduo
Inside the RSPduo

Detecting The Sound of Bats with a Piezo Speaker and SDRplay RSP1A

Over on YouTube user Jan de Jong has uploaded a few screenshots and sounds on a video which shows that he was able to receive the ultrasonic sound of bats by connecting a small piezo speaker to an SDRplay RSP1A.

The piezo speaker used in reverse as a microphone appears to pickup bat echolocation sound waves which are typically between 20 to 200 kHz. The piezo is resonant in the 40 - 55 kHz range and converts sounds from that range into electric pulses that can be received directly by the RSP1A.

SDR RSP1A for Bat detection

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
RSP1A_Case_All_1500x1500
RSP1A_Case_Inside_1500x1500
RSP1A_Case_LongWire_1500x1500
RSP1A_Case_Telescopic_1500x1500
Portable_Antenna_Set_Only_1500x1500

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

RadCom Review of the RSPduo Now Available Online

In the July 2018 edition of the UK based amateur radio magazine 'RadCom' Mike Richards wrote up a review of the RSPduo. This review is now available for free to download from SDRplay (pdf). The RSPduo is the latest product from SDRplay. Unlike previous models the RSPduo has two tuners on board which can be used to tune to two independent 2 MHz wide areas of the spectrum simultaneously. It currently retails for US $279.95 + shipping.

Mike's review goes over the design of the RSPduo and discusses it's dual tuning capabilities. He mentions that the most exciting prospect of the RSPduo is going to be the phase-coherent applications, such as active noise cancelling. At the moment no software for these applications is available, however SDRplay is working on it. In addition to this, Mike also discusses the new API, changes to the filtering and connections, and well as some notes on sample rates and decimation.

Inside the RSPduo
Inside the RSPduo

Detecting The Sound of Bats with a Piezo Speaker and SDRplay RSP1A

Over on YouTube user Jan de Jong has uploaded a few screenshots and sounds on a video which shows that he was able to receive the ultrasonic sound of bats by connecting a small piezo speaker to an SDRplay RSP1A.

The piezo speaker used in reverse as a microphone appears to pickup bat echolocation sound waves which are typically between 20 to 200 kHz. The piezo is resonant in the 40 - 55 kHz range and converts sounds from that range into electric pulses that can be received directly by the RSP1A.

SDR RSP1A for Bat detection

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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RSP1A_Case_Inside_1500x1500
RSP1A_Case_LongWire_1500x1500
RSP1A_Case_Telescopic_1500x1500
Portable_Antenna_Set_Only_1500x1500

Cloned SDRPlay and Airspy Units Now Appearing on Aliexpress/eBay

Recently we've found that there are now cloned units of SDRplay RSP1 and Airspy R2 units appearing on Aliexpress and eBay. (We won't link them here to avoid improving the Google ranking of the clone listings). This post is just a warning and reminder that these are not official products of SDRplay or Airspy, and as such you would not receive any support if something went wrong with them. The performance and long term software support of the clones also isn't known. Buying clones also damages the original developers abilities to bring out exciting new products like we've seen so far constantly with Airspy and SDRplay.

SDRplay

We've been in contact with SDRplay for a statement and they believe that the unit is a clone of the older and now discontinued RSP1, and not the RSP1A, despite the listings advertising RSP1A features such as additional filtering. SDRplay note from the pictures of the circuit board that the cloned unit's circuit board looks like an RSP1, and that the listing description is probably just blindly copied directly from the official RSP1A description.

Currently given that the price of the cloned RSP1 is $139, which is higher than the $109 cost of an original and newer model RSP1A, we don't see many taking up the offer.

Airspy

The Airspy R2 has also recently been cloned and now appears on Aliexpress with the lowest price being US$139 without any metal enclosure. Given that the price of an original Airspy R2 with metal enclosure is US$169, we again don't see many taking up the offer of the clone with such a small price difference.

HackRF

The HackRF is a different story in respect to clones. The HackRF design and circuits are open source, so unlike the closed source designs of the SDRplay and Airspy, in a way HackRF clones are actually encouraged and are legal. For some time now it's been possible to find cloned HackRF's on Aliexpress for only US$120 at the lowest, and from $150 - $200 including antennas and TCXO upgrades. This is quite a saving on the $299+ cost of the original HackRF. Reports from buyers indicate that the HackRF clones are actually decent and work well. The advantage of buying the original version is that you support Michael Ossmann, the creator of the HackRF, and may potentially get a better performing unit.

We've also seen clones of the HackRF Portapack on Aliexpress, which is an add-on for the HackRF that allows you to go portable. The clones go for $139 vs $220 for the original. No word yet on the quality.

RTL-SDR V3

We also note that recently there have been several green color RTL-SDRs released on the market with some being advertised as "RTL-SDR Blog V3" units. These are not our units, and are not even actual clones of the V3. These green units appear to just be standard RTL-SDRs without any real improvements apart from a TCXO. Some listings even advertise the V3's bias tee and HF features, but they are not implemented. Real V3 units come in a silver enclosure branded with RTL-SDR.COM.

Final Words

If you know how China works, you'll understand that it's highly unlikely that there is any legal recourse for SDRplay and Airspy to remove these products from sale. Once a product is popular it is almost a given that it will be cloned. It's possible that the clones might be able to be gimped via blacklisting official software, but that the companies would implement this is a stretch, and would probably be easy to get around. In the end while not ethical in a business fairness sense, these clones may be good for the consumer as they force the original designers to lower their prices and improve added value services.

If readers are interested in a comparison between the clones and original units, please let us know as we may consider an article on it.

Cloned SDRs Roundup
Cloned SDRs Roundup

Noise Cancellation using Linrad and the Phase Coherent Capabilities of an RSPduo

The RSPduo is the latest product from SDRplay, and it's main defining feature is it's dual RX channels. The two channels allow you to simultaneously listen to two stations that may be at opposite ends of the spectrum. Of course the same could be done cheaper with two separate RSP1A devices, however the advantage of the RSPduo is that the two channels are phase coherent. This opens up a lot of technical possibilities such as active noise cancelling/spatial filtering of an interfering signal or unwanted RF noise.

The basic idea behind phase coherent noise cancelling is that you have one antenna pointed towards your signal of interest, and the other pointing towards the interfering signal or coupled to the unwanted noise source. The unwanted signal/noise can then be subtracted from the signal of interest, resulting in a cleaner signal. This can only be done if the two channels are phase coherent like they are on the RSPduo.

Over on YouTube and his blog, ICAS Enterprises has been experimenting with noise cancelling on his RSPduo [Part 1] [Part 2]. The blog is entirely in Japanese, but all the relevant screenshots are in English, and we have provided Google Translated links. SDRplay have also provided a description of the process on their blog. The idea is to use Linrad to process the sound output of the two RSPduo channels from SDRuno. Linrad has capabilities that allow you to subtract two signals from one another.

In his experiments he receives a known 50 MHz CW beacon, and then injects an interfering test signal into the system. Then using Linrads 'signal adaption' feature he is able to completely remove the interference. 

RSPduoでのノイズキャンセルの実験 - Linrad使用

Using an SDRplay RSP2 to Measure IMD

Over on YouTube channel Rate My Radio has uploaded a set of three videos showing how to use an SDRplay RSP2 as a low cost spectrum analyzer to measure the inter modulation distortion (IMD) performance of lower end hardware TX capable radios. The test can only be performed on radios that have IMD performance less than that of the RSP2, so very high end amateur radios cannot be tested.

The process is to use audacity to play two audio tones into the transmitting radio under test, and then the SDRplay is used to receive the output. On the SDRuno software you're then able to see the third order and higher IMD products. Later he also performs white noise IMD tests as well. Below is the video description:

We cover 2 Tone Testing, White Noise Testing, and how the later can be particularly useful in terms of station monitoring. Naturally, we show the effects of 'all knobs to the right' :)

Jarrad also covers how with just an SDR Play and a 'rubber ducky' antenna, station performance can be monitored in real time.

Why would a Ham want to do this? The answer is simple: To defend their station performance against that on air Expert, who got their ticket when you needed to send CW at 50WPN, who served in the military radio unit for 20 years, has 3 engineering degrees and worked as a professor at both MIT and Havard, not to mention the times they lectured at Cambridge & Oxford.

With an SDR Play and a bit of simple math, any OM can put such experts in their place.

Below we only post the third video of the three part series. Links to Part 1 and Part 2 are available in those links, or on his channel.

Part 3: IMD Testing & Realtime Station Monitoring

SDRplay Spectrum Analyzer Alpha Version Released

Steve Andrew has just released an alpha version of a Windows Spectrum Analyzer app for SDRplay SDRs that he's been working on. The app is currently still in alpha, meaning that all the features are not yet implemented. In particular, scans larger than the SDRplay's maximum bandwidth of 10 MHz are not ready yet. In the future the app will be able to scan swath's of bandwidth up to 2 GHz wide, similar to what SpectrumSpy for the Airspy and rtl_power for the RTL-SDR does.

We are pleased to announce the availability of the first cut of Spectrum Analyser software developed by Steve Andrew specifically for the RSP line of products. Please note that this is first alpha software and so it is still very much in development and some features are still to be added. Currently supported are:

RSP1
RSP2/RSP2pro
RSP1A

This first alpha release gives a good idea as to the look and feel for the software. The main functional limitation is that sweeps of greater than 10 MHz are not currently supported. Steve is currently re-working the algorithms for providing wider sweeps than 10 MHz to improve sweep time and remove the issue of the DC spike in ZIF mode, so please bear with him.

We recommend using the software with AGC turned off and use manual control of the gain for better display stability.

Please use this forum thread to post any issues. Read the issues already raised and only post if the issue you have found hasn’t been raised. This will help Steve in his development.

Further development information can be found on the forum.

Click here to download the 0.9a Alpha release.

SDRplay Spectrum Analyzer Alpha
SDRplay Spectrum Analyzer Alpha