Over on YouTube we've seen a good video from channel Ham Radio DX where presenter Hayden shows how to use an RTL-SDR to receive slow scan television (SSTV) images from the International Space Station (ISS). Often the ISS will transmit SSTV images down to earth on the VHF 2 meter bands as part of an event. With an RTL-SDR and simple antenna it's possible to receive those images.
In the video Hayden discusses the SSTV transmission, and demonstrates some SSTV decoding happening in real time as the ISS passes over his location. If you're looking to get started in ISS SSTV reception, this is a good video to get an idea of what's involved. He finishes the video with some useful tips for reception.
Using a RTL SDR Dongle to receive pictures from the ISS! | Software Defined Radio
The International Space Station (ISS) periodically schedules radio events where they transmit Slow Scan Television (SSTV) images down to earth for listeners to receive and collect. This time they have scheduled SSTV images for October 9 09:50 - 14:00 GMT and October 10 08:55-15:15 GMT.
With an RTL-SDR and a simple V-Dipole from our RTL-SDR V3 antenna kit it is possible to receive these images when the ISS passes over. ISS passes for your city can be determined online, and the SSTV images can be decoded with a program like MMSSTV.
Thank you to Alex Happysat for writing in and letting us know about the next upcoming ISS SSTV event which will begin on 11 April at about 18:00 UTC and end on 14 April 2019 18:00 UTC. If you were unaware, the International Space Station (ISS) transmits SSTV images several times a year to commemorate special space related events. SSTV or Slow Scan Television is an amateur radio mode which is used to transmit small images over radio signals.
The images will be transmitted constantly at 145.8 MHz over the active period and they are expected to be in the PD-120 SSTV format. To receive the images you can use a simple RTL-SDR dongle and the MMSSTV software. A tuned satellite antenna like a QFH, turnstile, or tracking Yagi would be preferred, but many people have had good success before using simpler antennas like a V-Dipole. Software like Orbitron, GPredict, various Android apps or NASA's Spot the Station website can be used to determine where the ISS is and predict when it will be over your location.
The next big event will be the ARISS SSTV event that starts Thursday, April 11 about 18:00 UTC and will be operational until about 18:00 UTC on Sunday, April 14. Since this event will run continuously for 72 hours, folks in the higher latitudes should have a pretty good chance to receive all 12 of the images. Operators in the mid latitudes should be able to get most of them depending on location. Good Luck and Enjoy!
Alex also mentions that for this and other ISS events AMSAT Argentina is handing out ARISS-SSTV Diplomas to amateur radio operators who receive, record and upload at least 15 images received from the ISS, in at least two different radio operation with a month or more in between then.
If you cannot set up a receiver, it is possible to use R4UAB's WebSDR which will be available directly at websdr.r4uab.ru. However, note that internet reception is not valid for the AMSAT Diploma. An example of WebSDR SSTV reception and decoding from a smaller ISS SSTV event held a few days ago is shown below.
On March 14 the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft mission was launched and this carried three astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Back on the ground, YouTube creator Tysonpower was able to receive the voice communications of Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin while the Soyuz spacecraft was approaching the ISS. To do this he used an Airspy SDR and home made QFH antenna, and he notes that reception could just have easily been achieved with an RTL-SDR.
Tysonpower has uploaded a video explaining what he received along with a subtitled and translated recording of the communication. More information also available on his blog post.
[EN subs] Empfang von Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin im Soyuz MS-12
For his first try he used a Baofeng (cheap Chinese handheld) and a DIY Carbon Yagi. For the second contact he used his RTL-SDR V3, an FM Trap and an LNA4ALL on a V-Dipole antenna placed on the roof of his car. With this set up he was able to receive the downlink transmissions from 1.6 degrees to 1.3 degrees elevation.
Paolo Nespoli ARISS Kontakt mit VCP-Bundeszeltplatz - 1. August 2017
Paolo Nespoli ARISS Kontakt mit FOFM / Moon Day - 5. August 2017
During July 20 – 24, 2017 the ISS (International Space Station) was transmitting SSTV (Slow Scan Television) images down to earth in celebration of the ARISS (Amateur Radio on the ISS) 20th Anniversary. The ISS transmits SSTV images on celebratory occasions several times a year. More information about upcoming ARISS events can be found on their website ariss.org.
The International Space Station periodically schedules radio events where they transmit Slow Scan Television (SSTV) images down to earth for listeners to receive and collect. This time they have scheduled SSTV images for Dec 8 1235 – 1800 UTC, and December 9 1240-1740 UTC. The ARRL announcement reads:
Slow-scan television (SSTV) transmissions from the International Space Station (ISS) are scheduled for December 8-9. The SSTV images will be transmitted from RS0ISS on 145.800 MHz FM as part of the Moscow Aviation Institute MAI-75 Experiment, using the Kenwood TM-D710 transceiver in the ISS Service Module.
MAI-75 activities have been scheduled on December 8, 1235-1800 UTC, and December 9, 1240-1740 UTC. These times correspond to passes over Moscow, Russia. ISS transmissions on 145.800 MHz FM use 5-kHz deviation, and SSTV transmissions have used the PD120 and PD180 formats.
The ISS Fan Club website can show when the space station is within range of your station. On Windows PCs the free application MMSSTV can decode the signal. On Apple iOS devices, use the SSTV app.
These SSTV broadcasts can usually be easily heard with an RTL-SDR and appropriate satellite antenna such as a QFH, Turnstile or a hand held Yagi. Many listeners have reported in the past as being able to receive them even with non-satellite antennas such as discones, ground plane, rubber duck and long wire antennas, so try your luck even if you don’t have the right antenna.
Over on YouTube user surfrockuk shows a fun and educational use of the RTL-SDR. Every now and then astronauts will arrange a ham radio session where they will communicate with a school. An RTL-SDR can be used to listen in on at least the downlink (astronaut talking) portion of these transmissions.
The following video shows astronaut Tim Peake transmitting from the international space station (ISS) on Feburary 19th 2016. He was speaking to Oasis Academy in the UK. To receive the signal surfrockuk used an RTL-SDR with a QFH antenna. Many people have reported that other simple antennas such as discones, quartwave ground planes and even long wire antennas have been good enough to receive transmissions from the ISS too.