Tagged: GOES

RTL-SDR.COM GOES 16/17 and GK-2A Weather Satellite Reception Comprehensive Tutorial

GOES 16/17 and GK-2A are geosynchronous weather satellites that transmit high resolution weather images and data. In particular they are far enough away from the earth to be able to take beautiful 'full disk' images which show the entirety of one side of the Earth. As these satellites are in a geosynchronous orbit, they can be counted on to be in the same position in the sky at all times, so no tracking hardware is required and images can be pulled down constantly throughout the day without having to wait for a polar orbiting satellite to pass over like you would with the NOAA APT or Russian Meteor satellites.

With a low cost WiFi grid dish antenna, LNA and RTL-SDR dongle, any home user within the footprint of one of these weather satellites can receive and decode live images directly from the sky. Setting up a station is overall not too difficult, but it can be a bit fiddly with a number of steps to complete. Below is our comprehensive guide. We'll show how to set up a self contained Raspberry Pi based system with goestools (free), as well as a guide for the Windows PC software XRIT decoder (US$125).

We've attempted to make the tutorial as newbie friendly as possible, but we do need to assume basic RF knowledge (know what antennas, SDRs, coaxial, adapters etc are), basic Linux competency for the goestools tutorial (using the terminal, using nano text editor), and basic Windows competency for the XRIT decoder tutorial (unzipping, editing text files, running programs).

Click for the full size image (14MB)
A full disk false color image received directly from the GOES-17 satellite with an RTL-SDR. Click for the full size image (14MB).

There are two fourth generation NOAA GOES satellites that are currently active, GOES-16 and GOES-17. These transmit HRIT signals, and also transmit shared data from the older third generation GOES 15, and Japanese Himiwari8 satellites. At the moment GOES-16 and GOES-17 are producing full disk images every 30 minutes, and close up "mesoscale" shots of the USA every ~15 minutes. GOES-16 (aka GOES-R) and GOES-17 (aka GOES-S) are also known as GOES-EAST and GOES-WEST respectively. At least one of these satellites can be received from North/South America, Canada, Alaska/Hawaii, New Zealand, Eastern Australia and some pacific islands.

There is also the older generation GOES-15 and GOES-14 which have been placed in standby orbits. These transmit LRIT signals which provide images at a slower rate. 

GOES 16/East and GOES 17/West Signal Footprint
GOES 16/East and GOES 17/West Signal Footprint

There is also the Korean GK-2A (GEO-KOMPSAT-2A) satellite which is very similar to the GOES satellites. GK-2A covers countries like India, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Russia. Note that you may have previously heard of the COMS-1 satellite which used to cover this area. Since July 2019 COMS-1 was replaced by GK-2A. Unlike GOES, GK-2A images are encrypted. However it has been found that "sample" encryption keys found online in demo code work just fine.

GK-2A contains both LRIT and HRIT channels, but at the moment only the LRIT channel can be decoded with the currently available software. The LRIT channel sends full disk IR images every 10 minutes in 2200 x 2200 resolution. Compared to the 5424 x 5424 resolution GOES full disk images, this is smaller, but still large enough to be interesting.

Note that even if HRIT decoding is added by the current software, you would require an Airspy or other wideband SDR as the GK-2A HRIT signal bandwidth is 5 MHz. Also since the HRIT bandwidth is so wide, the signal strength is reduced, meaning that you'll need a larger dish. People who have received the HRIT signal note that a 3M+ sized dish seems to be required.

GK-21 (GEO-KOMPSAT-2A) Foorprint
GK-21 (GEO-KOMPSAT-2A) Footprint

You might ask why bother receiving these satellite images directly, when you can get the exact same images from NOAA at https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/GOES/index.php. Well, you might want to set up your own station to be independent from the internet, or you live in a remote location without internet, or maybe just for the fun and learning of it.

To set up a receiver for GOES 16/17 HRIT or GK-2A LRIT you'll need to purchase a dish antenna such as a cheap 2.4 GHz WiFi antenna, an RTL-SDR, GOES LNA, and a Raspberry Pi if using goestools, otherwise a Windows PC can be used. The total cost could be anywhere from $150 - $200 depending on what pieces you already have available.

Before we start the tutorial, you might want to use an augmented reality Android app like "Satellite-AR" to get a rough idea of where either GOES 16/17 or GK-2A (GEO-KOMPSAT-2A) is in your sky, and if receiving them is even feasible for your location. You'll need to find an area on your land where you can mount a small satellite dish with an unobstructed line of sight view to the satellite (no trees or buildings can be blocking the signal path). If the satellite is low on the horizon (below 25 deg elevation), then things get a little more difficult as you have more obstructions and a weaker signal. But it can still be done, and we're able to routinely get good results at 24.5 deg elevation.

Note that for Europe and Africa, unfortunately there are no satellites that can be received easily with an SDR and LNA. But you might instead be interested in the EUMETCAST service, which can be received from EUTELSAT 10A (Ku band), Eutelsat 5 WEST A (C Band) and SES-6 (C Band) . To receive this service you'll need a DVB-S2 receiver and a satellite dish with appropriate band LNB. You also need a license keys and software which all together cost €100. EUMETCAST reception is not covered in this tutorial, instead see this video.

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SignalsEverywhere: Investigating USGS Gaging Stations and their GOES Satellite Connection

The United States Geological Service maintains over 8500 "Gaging stations" in bodies of water all over the country. Gaging stations are devices that are used to measure environmental data such as groundwater levels, discharge, water chemistry, and water temperature. What's interesting is that they all upload their data in real time to GOES satellites - the same satellites that we can use with an RTL-SDR to receive weather images of the entire earth. The data is then downlinked in the L-band to the USGS scientists via a protocol known as DCP (Data Collection Platform).

In the latest SignalsEverywhere video, Corrosive investigates how these stations work, and how we can receive the downlink at 1.68 GHz with a simple Inmarsat L-band antenna. While a fully functional decoder is not yet available, Corrosive notes that one called goes-dcs is currently being worked on.

USGS Gaging Station | Satellite Uplink to GOES and DCP Messages

Decoding EMWIN Weather Information VHF Rebroadcasts with an RTL-SDR

EMWIN is an acronym for Emergency Managers Weather Information Network, and is a service for emergency managers that provides weather forecasts, warnings, graphics and other information in real time. EMWIN is broadcast from geostationary NOAA GOES satellites, and if you have a GOES SDR receiver setup it is possible to receive and decode EMWIN data.

However, if you don't want to set up a GOES receiver, KD9IXX writes on his blog how he investigated EMWIN and found that 24/7 dedicated EMWIN VHF repeaters are common around the US. Having found an EMWIN repeater in his area at 163.37 MHz he used the TrueTTY decoder and was able to successfully decode the 1200 baud 8-bit ASCII encoded signal and receive weather text information. He notes that VHF EMWIN is an excellent source of non-internet based weather data that could be useful to anyone requiring weather data in emergency circumstances.

EMWIN VHF Repeater Decoded with TrueTTY
EMWIN VHF Repeater Decoded with TrueTTY

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.

XRIT Decoder Updated: Improved Image Quality and IR Enhancements

USA-Satcom is the programmer of XRIT Decoder, which is a popular (paid) Windows decoding application for GOES weather satellites. With a WiFi grid dish antenna, LNA and SDRplay, Airspy or even an RTL-SDR, high resolution full disk images of the earth can be downloaded from these geosynchronous satellites. Browse through our previous GOES posts for ideas and various tutorials about setting up a receiver.

Recently, XRIT decoder has been updated and now has improved image quality and an antenna alignment helper tool. A further update also adds improved processing for IR images. Over on the SDRplay forums RSP2user has been testing the updates and writes:

USA- Satcom has just released version 1.4.6985 of the XRIT Decoder software package. New features include:

1) Improved image clarity.

2) An antenna Align Mode feature.
3) And a Viterbi and Eb/No (Energy per Bit to Noise Power Spectral Density Ratio akanormalized SNR) graph over time feature. 

The improved image clarity reduces image artifacts at the Earth-space boundary of the image and improves the overall aesthetics of the colorization of the full disk images. The images are quite amazing. The resolution is far better than what can be shown here due to image size limitations for this site. Below is a full disk GOES 16 image from February 17, 2019 and a corresponding zoomed in portion to get an idea of the resolution and clarity (the actual full disk images are approximately 40MB PNG images each which are much greater resolution than the below image)

The antenna Align Mode is a great new feature that allows users to view the Signal Quality, Viterbi FEC, and Eb/No from a distance using large numeric values. This mode enables users to better view these values when fine tuning adjustments to GOES receiving antennas. The Eb/No and Viterbi graphing enables users to see how well their receiving system is doing throughout the day (e.g., over temperature and while the sun is in alignment with the receiving path).

GOES 16 Received by RSP2User
GOES 16 Received by RSP2User

More updates from USA-Satcom to the XRIT Decoder software with a new patch from today. The XRIT file manager now provides IR image enhancements for GOES Bands 8 and 13. Here are some examples:

G16 CH13 & G16 Band8 Enhancements . Images received by RSP2user.
G16 CH13 & G16 Band8 Enhancements . Images received by RSP2user.

See the post on the SDRplay forums for further details, higher res images and the full update history.

USA-Satcom XRIT Decoder Updated

USA-Satcom is the programmer of XRIT Decoder (not to be confused with XRITDecoder by CM2ESP), which is a popular (paid) Windows decoding application for GOES weather satellites. Recently, over on the SDRplay forums RSP2user made a note about the latest update:

USA-Satcom has just released v2.1.0.0 of the XRIT Decoder. Along with enhancements for the XRIT Decoder, a new RSP Streamer X has been released and is operable with the RSP1A, RSP2, and RSPduo - new features include operation with two streams simultaneously (provided that the PC being used has sufficient processing power and an RSPduo or more than one compatible RSP are being used). Also new is the XRIT File manager which allows for improved operation with both LRIT and HRIT files, improved LUT for excellent false color images, user-selectable automated black filling of the white background on full disk visual and false color HRIT images, and country as well as state map overlays.

The new color enhancements are excellent:

GOES 16 Full Disk Weather Satellite Image. Received by RSP2user with V2.1.0.0 of XRIT Decoder.
GOES 16 Full Disk Weather Satellite Image. Received by RSP2user with V2.1.0.0 of XRIT Decoder.

If you are interested in receiving and decoding GOES images, we now have several previous blog posts on this topic which may be helpful.

Receiving GOES Weather Satellite Images with GNURadio and XRITDecoder in Windows

Thank you to ON7NDR as well as CM2ESP for submitting and figuring out a way to get GOES 16 decoding working with RTL-SDR using the free XRITDecoder, Xrit2Pic software and GNU Radio for Windows. 

ON7NDR's story is that he wanted to be able to receive GOES 16, but not being familiar with Linux he wanted a Windows based solution. He writes that the credit to finding the solution goes to CM2ESP who has written up a tutorial (pdf) explaining how to set everything up in Windows. ON7NDR has also written a separate complimentary tutorial (docx) that explains some steps in CM2ESPs tutorial a little further and provides a few tips on choosing correct the correct version of GNU Radio. He's also provided a screenshot showing what the correct config file looks like for an RTL-SDR dongle.

We note that for Windows there is also USA-Satcom's XRITDecoder, however this is closed source software which costs $100 USD.

GOES Full Disk Image of the Earth
GOES Full Disk Image of the Earth

A Step by Step Tutorial to Receiving GOES-16 Images with an RTL-SDR, Raspberry Pi and Goestools

Aleksey Smolenchuk (lxe) has recently uploaded a step-by-step guide to setting up a GOES weather satellite receiver with an RTL-SDR dongle, Raspberry Pi and the goestools software.  GOES 15/16/17 are geosynchronous weather satellites that beam high resolution weather  images and data. In particular they send beautiful 'full disk' images which show one side of the entire earth. Compared to the more familiar and easier to receive low earth orbit satellites such as NOAA APT and Meteor M2 LRPT, the geosynchronous GOES satellites require slightly more effort as you need to set up a dish antenna, use a special LNA, and install Linux software.

Aleksey's tutorial first shows where to purchase the required hardware and notes that the total cost of the system is around $185. Next he goes on to show the hardware connection order, and then how to install and configure the goestools decoding software onto a Raspberry Pi.

Aleksey's RTL-SDR Based GOES Receiver setup
Aleksey's RTL-SDR Based GOES Receiver setup