Tagged: NOAA

APT_COLOR: Add False Color to Black and White NOAA APT Images

Thank you to Sasha for submitting news about the release of their latest application called "apt_color". The most popular application for decoding APT weather satellite images from NOAA polar orbiting satellites is WXtoIMG. However, WXtoIMG is closed source and is abandonware. There are APT decoder alternatives, however unlike WXtoIMG most other open source APT decoders only provide black and white images, and do not have a false color feature.

The apt_color application can be used to turn black and white APT images received from NOAA satellites into false color images. Sasha writes:

I am working on an APT false color application here. The application is still in the very, very, early stages but still seems to produce good results. It does not need to rely on any overlays, it simply works off the data you give it - the original decoded image data. I will attach some results. NOAA-18 seems to be the best suited spacecraft for this program.

apt_color: Turn black and white NOAA images into false color
apt_color: Examples

SelfieStick: Combining noisy signals from multiple NOAA APT satellites for clean imagery

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have recently presented a paper detailing how they combined noisy signals from multiple passes of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites NOAA 15, NOAA 18 and NOAA 19 in order to create a higher quality image. For a receiver they used a low cost RTL-SDR Blog V3 mounted indoors with a whip antenna.

In a normal setup, weather satellite images from NOAA LEO weather satellites can be received with an RTL-SDR, computing device and an appropriate outdoor mounted antenna that has a good view of the sky. If the antenna is not suited for satellite reception, and/or is mounted indoors, at best only poor quality very noisy images can be received.  

The researchers demonstrate that it is possible to combine noisy images received over time, and from different satellites in order to generate a higher quality image. The challenge is that the different satellites and different receiving times will all produce different images, because the satellites will be at a different location in the sky each pass. They note that simply transforming the images in the image domain would not work very well for highly noisy images, so instead they have devised a method to transform the images in the RF domain. The RF signals are then coherently combined before being demodulated into an image.

The results show that 10 noisy satellite images from the indoor system are comparable to one from a comparison outdoor system. However, they note some limitations in that the system assumes unchanging cloud cover during passes. In the future they hope to extend the system to cover other modulation schemes used by other low earth orbit satellites in order to increase the number of usable satellites.

Selfiestick: Combining noisy images from multiple NOAA satellites received by an indoor RTL-SDR system.

Receiving NOAA Global Area Cover (GAC) Images with LeanHRPT

A few weeks ago we posted about how @ZSztanga and @aang254 were able to record and decode Global Area Cover (GAC) images from polar orbiting NOAA weather satellites. GAC images are low resolution, but they provide an image of the entire orbit. The GAC signal is only transmitted over the USA.

A week earlier than @ZSztanga and @aang254 above decoded GAC, another software called LeanHRPT by @Xerbo also implemented a GAC decoder. LeanHRPT is available on Windows, Linux and MacOS, and ready to download binaries are available on the releases page. You'll need the LeanHRPT demodulator too, in order to initially demodulate the signal.

@Xerbo also notes that @dereksgc has also released a useful Python script for predicting NOAA GAC transmissions. It shows when a particular NOAA satellite will begin and end their GAC transmission, as well as the frequency, polarization and elevation of the satellite. 

GAC Transmission Prediction Tool

Global Area Coverage (GAC) Images Decoded from NOAA Satellites

Thank you to @ZSztanga and @aang254 for submitting news about their recent success at decoding the L-Band Global Area Coverage (GAC) signal from polar orbiting NOAA satellites. GAC images are low resolution, and described by NOAA as follows:

Global Area Coverage (GAC) data set is reduced resolution image data that is processed onboard the satellite taking only one line out of every three and averaging every four of five adjacent samples along the scan line.

While it's low resolution, the interesting thing about this data is that you get an image of the entire orbit, not just the data from your current location as you'd receive with the standard 137 MHz APT or L-Band HRPT signal. The catch is that the signal is usually only transmitted over the USA, and you'll need a motorized or hand tracked L-Band satellite dish setup to receive it.

We note that GAC data is not to be confused with the Direct Sounding Broadcast (DSB) signal decoding software we posted about in 2020. 

@ZSztanga has provided some more information about what images are available and who can receive it, and @aang254's tweet below provides some images and additional information:

With @aang254 we decoded GAC from NOAA satellites. It's basically a dump of reduced resolution data from the whole orbit. It includes all the instruments and is transmitted on L-band along with HRPT (mostly over USA, rarely above Europe and only NOAA-19 dumps outside the US). All the decoders are in SatDump.

There is also a schedule available (https://noaasis.noaa.gov/cemscs/polrschd.txt) that includes all the dumps in the upcoming week. It might be a bit hard to interpret, but basically there is a date and the ground station name (SVL stands for Svalbard and it is the only one receivable in Europe). Entries with "GAC" or "PBK" are referring to the GAC transmission.

We've also seen a tweet by @OK9UWU that shows a much longer image of a full orbit.

Demonstrating the New 3D Maps in SDRAngel

In December of last year we posted about a video demonstrating the many features that the SDRAngel software comes standard with. Recently they've added a new feature which are 3D maps that can be used to visualize signal data.

In the latest video demonstration they show these 3D maps projecting NOAA weather satellite images onto a 3D globe and at the same time tracking the NOAA satellites over the globe as it produces imagery. They also show the software visualizing a 3D model of aircraft on the globe, using live ADS-B data to show aircraft maneuvers when taking off, cruising and landing. With multiple SDRs they also show how the visualization can be combined with air traffic voice. Finally they also show marine vessels being visualized via live AIS data. There appear to be a wide range of vessel 3D models implemented.

SDRAngel Features Overview: ADS-B, APT, DVB-S, DAB+, AIS, VOR, APRS, and many more built-in apps

SDRAngel is a general purpose software defined radio program that is compatible with most SDRs including the RTL-SDR. We've posted about it several times before on the blog, however we did not realize how much progress has occurred with developing various built in plugins and decoders for it.

Thanks to Jon for writing in and sharing with us a demonstration video that the SDRAngel team have released on their YouTube channel. From the video we can see that SDRAngel now comes stock with a whole host of built in decoders and apps for various radio applications making it close to an all-in-one SDR platform. The built in applications include:

  • ADS-B Decoder: Decodes aircraft ADS-B data and plots aircraft positions on a map
  • NOAA APT Decoder: Decodes NOAA weather satellite images (in black and white only)
  • DVB-S: Decodes and plays Digital TV DVB-S and DVB-S2 video
  • AIS: Decodes marine AIS data and plots vessel positions on a map
  • VOR: Decodes VOR aircraft navigational beacons, and plots bearing lines on a map, allowing you to determine your receivers position.
  • DAB+: Decodes and plays DAB digital audio signals
  • Radio Astronomy Hydrogen Line: With an appropriate radio telescope connected to the SDR, integrates and displays the Hydrogen Line FFT with various settings, and a map of the galaxy showing where your dish is pointing. Can also control a dish rotator.
  • Radio Astronomy Solar Observations: Similar to the Hydrogen line app, allows you to make solar measurements.
  • Broadcast FM: Decoding and playback. Includes RDS decoding.
  • Noise Figure Measurements: Together with a noise source you can measure the noise figure of a SDR.
  • Airband Voice: Receive multiple Airband channels simultaneously
  • Graves Radar Tracker: For Europeans, track a satellite and watch for reflections in the spectrum from the French Graves space radar. 
  • Radio Clocks: Receive and decode accurate time from radio clocks such as MSF, DCF77, TDF and WWVB.
  • APRS: Decode APRS data, and plot APRS locations and moving APRS enabled vehicles on a map with speed plot.
  • Pagers: Decode POCSAG pagers
  • APRS/AX.25 Satellite: Decode APRS messages from the ISS and NO-84 satellites, via the built in decoder and satellite tracker.
  • Channel Analyzer: Analyze signals in the frequency and time domains
  • QSO Digital and Analog Voice: Decode digital and analog voice. Digital voice handled by the built in DSD demodulator, and includes DMR, dPMR and D-Star.
  • Beacons: Monitor propagation via amateur radio beacons, and plot them on a map.

We note that the video doesn't show the following additional features such as an analog TV decoder, the SDRAngel "ChirpChat" text mode, a FreeDV decoder and several other features.

LeanHRPT – A set of tools for the manipulation of HRPT data

Over on Reddit u/Xerbot has posted about the release of his new software called "LeanHRPT". When combined with a software defined radio, this software can be used to decode and view HRPT weather satellite images received from satellites such as NOAA, Meteor, MetOp and FengYun. We note that unlike APT and LRPT weather satellite signals which transmit in the VHF bands, HRPT signals are generally at ~1.70 GHz and require a motorized or hand tracked satellite dish to receive. u/Xerbot writes:

LeanHRPT is a flexible, easy to use and powerful set of tools for the manipulation of HRPT data (maybe I could be convinced to add LRPT support).

When used properly LeanHRPT Decode can generate (almost) L1B data usable in actual land/weather observation, or just pretty images :)

You can get it here: https://github.com/Xerbo/LeanHRPT-Decode

The LeanHRPT project also contains LeanHRPT Demod, as you probably guessed, a HRPT demodulator. It features an incredibly high sensitivity as well as being able to do both realtime (through SoapySDR) and offline demodulation (baseband).

You can get it here: https://github.com/Xerbo/LeanHRPT-Demod

LeanHRPT Applying a map overlay on FengYun

Decoding NOAA on an Debian Chrooted Android Smartphone

Over on Reddit Ian Grody (u/DutchOfBurdock) has posted about his success in using a modded Android smartphone to run an RTL-SDR Blog V3 and NOAA decoder software all within the phone itself.

In the past we posted about Ian's work in getting rtl_power scans to work in conjunction with the Tasker app, in order to generate automated frequency scans on his phone on the go. His more recent work from the past year includes showing us how it's possible to install Debian chroot on an Android phone, and run Linux software like GQRX, GNU Radio, DSD, rtl_433, multimon-ng and dump1090 directly on the phone with an RTL-SDR.

His latest Reddit post shows that the NOAA-APT decoder also runs well on the Debian chroot, leading to a truly portable NOAA decoding setup. He notes that he is now working on the possibility of Meteor M2 decoding on the phone.

Below is his video from last year demonstrating SDR GQRX and GNU Radio running on the Debain chrooted phone.

GQRX, GNU Radio, Rooted Android