Hunting for Space Radio Pirates on the US Military Fleet Satcom Satellites

In the 70's and 80's the US government launched a fleet of satellites called "FLTSATCOM", which were simple radio repeaters up in geostationary orbit. This allowed the US military to easily communicate with each other all over the world. However, the technology of the time could not implement encryption. So security relied entirely on only the US militaries technological advantage at being the only ones to have radio equipment that could reach these satellites.

Of course as time progressed equipment which could reach the 243 - 270 MHz range of the satellites became common place, and the satellites began picking and repeating terrestrial broadcasts of things like cordless phones. These days the satellites are often hijacked by Brazilian radio pirates, who use the satellites for long range communications.

A common hobby of RTL-SDR users is to listen to these pirates. All you need is a simple antenna and to be based in a region where the satellites cover both your ground station and the pirates.

Over on YouTube the "saveitforparts" channel has uploaded an entertaining video overviewing the pirate phenomenon, and showing how it's possible to listen in using a cheap Baogeng scanner and RTL-SDR. He uses a homemade Yagi and cleverly makes use of an old security camera motorized PTZ mount to accurately aim the antenna. Once the Yagi antenna is aimed at the satellite, pirates can be heard on the radio.

Searching For Space Pirates On Old Military Satellites

On a previous post, we showed an interview by SignalsEverywhere and an anonymous Brazilian radio pirate who explains how and why they do what they do. If you search our blog for 'satcom' you'll also find several previous posts including examples of receiving SSTV from pirates.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Brazilian portuguese speakers. You got the pirates

Mike Richards

Hello, wondering since the US had this satellite system which is now somewhat dormant. Does anyone know if Russia, China or anyone else had such an old system that is still active?

Mike Richards

Hi, curious since the US had a Satellite system like this that is now somewhat dormant. Did Russia, China or any other large nation have such a system in the air that might be able to also be pirated?


can you share your bandplan.xml for sdr sharp with the satellite entries ?

Steve Herman

I would be very interested in getting a copy of any Russian language traffic heard on these satellites.


Yea, i have them covered also
With some antenna build examples and Fleet Sat Decoder 🙂


can you share your bandplan.xml for sdr sharp with the satellite entries ?