SatDump is a popular piece of software that can be used with RTL-SDRs and other software defined radios for decoding images from a wide array of weather imaging satellites including GOES, GK-2A, NOAA HRPT, FengYun, Electro-L and Meteor M2 LRPT + HRPT, and many others (note: there is no APT support at the moment, but it is planned for the future). It is compatible with Windows, Linux and even has an Android APK available.
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.
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).
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.
I turns out ELEKTRO-L LRIT contains all 3 Visible channels and apparently 2 IR channels.
The FengYun-2 line of weather satellites are the Chinese equivalents to GOES, and they are positioned to cover parts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Russia, and Australia. So this is another geostationary weather satellite now available to Europeans which broadcasts in the L-Band at 1687.5 MHz. And unlike the weaker GOES-13 L-Band downlink, the FengYun-2 downlink is much stronger which means that reception with a 120cm satellite dish should be possible. We note that it has not yet been confirmed if the typical 90-100 cm WiFi dishes used with GOES-16 and 17 will be big enough to work. @aang254 writes:
It covers parts of Europe, Russia and down to Australia. FY-2G and FY-2E (no confirmation for this one yet) are also decodable in the same way. I released an early decoder, that currently is not suitable for automated setups but allows getting images already. A later version (that should come soon-ish) will allow live decoding / autonomous setups in a similar fashion to other satellites.
Also, the res is 2km/px on VIS and 8km/px on IR, so half that of GOES-13 with similar-ish coverage (Europe is less visible though).
(also forgot to say but the bandwidth is under 2Mhz, allowing a rtlsdr to be used)
For some time now many weather satellite enthusiasts have enjoyed the ability to relatively easily receive live high resolution images directly from the GOES-16, GOES-17 and GK-2A geostationary satellites (tutorial here). However, while much of the world can see at least one of these satellites, European's have been left out.
What may be of some interest to Europeans is that the older GOES-13 (aka EWS-G1) satellite was repositioned in February 2020, and it can now be received in Europe (as well as Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Russia and West Australia) until at least 2024 when it will be replaced.
The important catch however is that GOES-13 is not broadcasting the same easy to receive LRIT/HRIT signals that the other satellites use. The signal is still in the L-Band at 1685.7 MHz, however it is called "GVAR" and it is much weaker and uses 5 MHz of bandwidth. For GOES 16/17 and GK-2A a 1m WiFi grid dish, LNA and RTL-SDR was sufficient, but for GOES-13 you'll need a much larger 1.8m dish, and a wider band SDR like an Airspy. The big dish requirement significantly increases the reception challenge.
We also note that the decoder is being developed by @aang254 and u/Xerbot and it is not yet publicly released. However, they do intend to release it soon. Update:
My hardware is: 180cm prime focus dish, with a custom cantenna (120mm diameter). I'm using the SAWBIRD GOES LNA. I will be switching to the + version, because the setup is still lacking a few db SNR. The SDR is the one I use for HRPT: the airspy mini
I found that the USB connection on the airspy generates a lot of noise, so I removed the USB cable, by moving the airspy to the laptop. I use 2m of CNT-400 coax and it works much better now. I get about 2 db SNR more. Thought you might find it interesting.
We note that there is some interesting differences with GOES-13 images. Since the image is less processed, it is higher resolution (a full resolution image can be found on this Reddit post), as well as not cropped, meaning that the Earth's atmosphere is visible. Please also follow @ZSztang on Twitter for more images.
According to the newest calculations performed (by me) on the EWS-G1 data, it has a stunning resolution of about 0.6x1 km/px on the VIS channel and about 2.5x4 km/px on the IR channels. I have yet to confirm my calculations with the doc, which is quite hard to get. pic.twitter.com/kLK8YPDyTV
Thank you to a few users who have submitted links to u/ThePhotoChemist's Reddit post showing his e-ink display for his live GOES-16 weather satellite images. The post doesn't go into much detail about the setup, however it seems that he is using a Raspberry Pi, and displaying the images via a 9.7 inch E-Ink display which he notes does not come cheaply. He also notes that the resolution is quite low, and that it's limited to 16 shades of grey, however the images do still look good on it. The display is mounted into a picture frame which makes a very nice display piece.
If you're interested in receiving live GOES (or GK-2A) weather satellite images with an RTL-SDR we have a tutorial available here.
Typically to receive GOES a 2.4 GHz WiFi grid dish has been used in the past. While the mismatch between 2.4 GHz and the 1.7 GHz used by GOES doesn't cause too much trouble, the dish provided by NooElec has a feed optimized for the 1.7 GHz which should make receiving the signal easier. The bundle also comes with their SAWbird+ GOES LNA, one of their always ON bias tee E4000 tuner based RTL-SDR dongles and a roll of 10m LMR400 cable.
The bundle is currently available on Amazon USA priced at US$179.95. Canadian customers can also order from Amazon.ca for CDN$259.95. Amazon shipping is free within the USA, however shipping this overseas will cost at least US$100 extra due to the weight + additional import fees. That said, the coverage area of GOES is mostly only for the USA, Canada and South America.
Recently we posted about new updates to the Sanchez software. The updates allow users to combine images received from multiple geostationary weather satellites such as GOES 16/17, Himawari-8, GK-2A and Electro. The images can also be reprojected into a flat equirectangular image, and then optionally reprojected back into a disk view at any location on earth. Sanchez's original function is also still there which allows users to add a false color underlay image to grayscale infrared images received from the satellites.
Sanchez is a command line tool, so scripts are required to do anything interesting. Over on his page Carl Reinemann has uploaded a page with a number of Sanchez command line examples available. The page shows examples like how to stitch together multiple images, and how to create a stitched time lapse animation. The YouTube video below shows an example of an animation Carl created with Sanchez and GOES 16 and 17 images stitched together.
GOES 16-17 Composite imagery
And the image below is an example of an image of Himawari 8, GOES 16 and 17 he stitched together with Sanchez.
Back in August we posted about the release of Sanchez, a tool originally designed to apply a color underlay image to grayscale infrared images received from geostationary weather satellites such as GOES 16/17, Himawari-8 and GK-2K. The tool has recently been updated with some very nice new features.
One of the new features is the ability to composite together images obtained from multiple satellites in order to form a full equirectangular image of the earth with live cloud cover. Another feature is the ability to use two or more images from different satellites to reproject back to geostationary projection at a specified longitude, essentially creating an image from a virtual satellite.