Many people with an RTL-SDR have had fun receiving NOAA and METEOR low earth orbit (LEO) weather satellite images. However, a step up in difficulty is to try and receive the geostationary orbit (GEO) weather satellites like GOES. These satellites are locked to a fixed position in the sky meaning there is no need to do tracking, however since they are much further away than LEO satellites, they require a 1m+ satellite dish or high gain directional antenna to have a chance at receiving the weak signal. The GOES satellites transmit very nice high resolution full disk images of the earth, as well as lots of other weather data. For more information see this previous post where we showed devnulling’s GOES reception results, and this post where we showed @usa_satcom’s presentation on GOES and other satellites.
Over on his blog and Twitter account (@lucasteske) Lucas Teske has been documenting his work in building a GOES receive system. The SDR he uses mostly is an Airspy, but recently he showed that our RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongle is also capable at receiving the GOES signal.
— Lucas Teske (@lucasteske) October 25, 2016
The nice thing about Lucas’ post is that he documents his entire journey, including the failures. For example after discovering that he couldn’t find a 1.2m offset satellite dish which was recommended by the experts on #hearsat (starchat), he went with an alternative 1.5m prime focus dish. Then after several failed attempts at using a helix antenna feed, he discovered that his problem was related to poor illumination of the dish, which meant that in effect only a small portion of the dish was actually being utilized by the helix. He then tried a “cantenna”, with a linear feed inside and that worked much better. Lucas also discovered that he was seeing huge amounts of noise from the GSM band at 1800 MHz. Adding a filter solved this problem. For the LNA he uses an LNA4ALL.
To position the antenna Lucas used the Satellite AR app on his phone. This app overlays the position of the satellite on the phone camera making it easy to point the satellite dish correctly. He also notes that to improve performance you should experiment with the linear feeds rotation, and the distance from the dish. His post of full of tips like this which is very useful for those trying to receive GOES for the first time.
In future posts Lucas hopes to show the demodulation and decoding process.