Over on his blog Derek (OK9SGC) has recently uploaded a very comprehensive beginners guide to receiving HRPT weather satellite images. HRPT reception can be a little daunting as it requires a good L-Band dish setup which involves choosing and building a feed, and importantly, a way to track the satellite with the dish as it moves across the sky. Tracking can be achieved manually by hand, but that can be very difficult and so a motorized tracking mount is recommended.
This is unlike the much easier to receive NOAA APT or Meteor LRPT satellite signals in the VHF band which can be received by a V-dipole antenna, or the geostationary GOES HRIT satellites that can be received with a WiFi grid dish and LNA. Both of which do not require tracking.
The advantage of HRPT however, is that you end up with high resolution, close-up, and uncompressed images of the earth. For example Derek notes that NOAA APT gives 4km/px resolution, and Meteor LRPT gives much better 1km/px resolution but it is heavily compressed. Whereas HRPT gives peak resolutions of 1km/px uncompressed. There are also nine satellites in operation sending HRPT, so there are more opportunities to receive.
Derek has created a very comprehensive beginners guide that covers almost everything from purchasing and building the hardware, to finding and tracking the satellites, to setting up the software and decoding images. He notes that an RTL-SDR can be used as the receiver, and that a WiFi dish with GOES SAWBird LNA can work, although the difficult tracking requirements are still there so a smaller offset dish with custom helix feed might be preferred. Derek also provides useful tips, like the fact that the NOAA15 HRPT signal is quite a lot weaker than others.
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.
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.
Back in October/November of last year Lucas Teske showed us how to receive weather satellite images from the GOES line of geostationary satellites with an Airspy SDR (and possibly an RTL-SDR too), dish antenna and the decoding software that he created.
On November 19, 2016 the next generation GOES 16 (aka GOES-R) satellite was launched by NASA. GOES 16 is a little different to the older GOES satellites as it has better sensors and is capable of capturing and transmitting a new image every 15 minutes which is quite fast. Thus a different and higher bandwidth RF transmission protocol called HRIT (High Rate Information Transfer) is used, compared to the LRIT (Low Rate Information Transfer) signal used on the older satellites.
The images being sent right now seem to just be relays of other similar satellites like Himawari-8 and Meteosat, as it seems that they are still testing the satellite. The relayed images received via GOES 16 received by Lucas can be seen on the Open Satellite Project twitter feed and on Lucas’ personal twitter feed.
Every month SDR evangelist Balint Seeber hosts the Cyberspectrum Meetup in San Francisco, where many SDR fans come together to listen to various presentations. The 20th Cyberspectrum SDR meetup has now concluded, and the recorded video is available on YouTube.
The talks this time include a very interesting talk by Joe Steinmetz (@usa_satcom) about decoding L-Band weather satellites such as NASA GOES. Previously we made a post regarding GOES where Reddit user devnulling showed his GOES reception setup. To save time, on the video Joe’s talk starts at 00:10:45.
This presentation will cover most aspects of receiving, demodulating and decoding current L-Band Weather Satellite signals (NOAA, MetOp, Meteor, FengYun, GOES). Topics will include hardware, software, de-modulation/decoding techniques, challenges, flows as well as cool sample images and data.
The second talk is titled “Disposable, Stealthy, Cheap SIGINT” is by Chris Kuethe, @kj6gve and delves into topics relating to low cost signal analysis. Chris’ talk starts at 1:45:00. The blurb reads:
This presentation covers some observations and considerations for using inexpensive and compact ARM boards for signals analysis. Topics may include: power budget, air interface, attributability, performance tuning, lolcats and doges.
The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) is a weather satellite placed in geosynchronous orbit (same position in the sky all the time) which is used for weather forecasting, severe storm tracking and meteorology research. It transmits full disk images of the earth on its Low Rate Information Transmission (LRIT) signal, and weather data images and text on its Emergency Managers Weather Information Network (EMWIN) signal. EMWIN is a service for emergency managers that provides weather forecasts, warnings, graphics and other information in real time.
In his post devnulling writes about receiving GOES:
GOES LRIT runs at 1691.0 MHz , EMWIN is at 1692.7 MHz and is broadcasted from GOES-13 and GOES-15. GOES-14 is currently in a backup position to take over in either fails.
For the hardware side, it is recommended to use roughly a 1.2m or larger dish, depending upon how far north you are, you may need a 1.8m dish (larger the better). Repurposed FTA or C-band dishes are easy to come by and work well.
I made a 5 turn helical feed with some 12ga copper wire and a piece of copper plate, and used this calculator to design it – https://jcoppens.com/ant/helix/calc.en.php
I am using @usa_satcom (twitter.com/usa_satcom, usa-satcom.com)’s LRIT Decoder and that feeds into XRIT2PIC to produce the images and other data streams. By default the decoder only works with the Airspy, but with a custom GNU Radio UDP block, it can be fed with other SDRs like the BladeRF/USRP/SDR Play. A regular R820T(2) RTL probably won’t work because of the higher frequency (rtls tend to not work above 1.5 GHz) and 8 bit ADC. I’m going to try and use the Outernet e4k to see if I can pickup the EMWIN signal in the near future.
EMWIN is broadcasted on 1692.7 MHz, along with being encoded in the LRIT stream at 1691 MHz. The 1692.7 MHz signal is stronger and narrower, so it is easier to pickup. For decoding EMWIN I used @usa_satcom’s EMWIN decoder that piped data into WxEmwin/MessageClient/Weather Message Server from http://weathermessage.com.
LRIT will contain the full disk images from GOES-15, and relayed images from GOES-13 and Himawari-8. It will also included zoomed in pictures of the USA, and northern/southern hemispheres. The images will be visible light, water vapor and infrared. The full disk images are transmitted every 3 hours, with the other images more often. EMWIN will contain other weather data, text, charts, and reports.
It seems as though it may be possible to receive LRIT and EMWIN signals with an RTL-SDR since the signals are at 1690 MHz, which should be covered by cooled R820T2 and E4000 dongles. The only hardware requirements would be a 1m+ dish, 1690 MHz L-band feed, and an LNA + filter.
In 2017 these satellites are due to be replaced by new ones that will use a HRIT signal, which will be about 1 MHz. New software to decode this signal will be required then, but we assume the same hardware could still be used as the frequency is not due to change significantly.
Please note that the decoding software is only available by directly contacting usa-satcom, and devnulling writes that you must have the proper equipment and be able to show that you can receive the signal first before attempting to contact him.