Tagged: qo-100

TechMinds: Building a 3D Printed 2.4 GHz Dual Feed Helix for QO-100

The Bullseye LNB that we have in our store is great for receiving the QO-100 amateur geostationary radio satellite which is available in some parts of the world. However it cannot be used to transmit to the satellite. Over on his YouTube channel Tech Minds shows us how to build a transmit helix antenna that connects to the Bullseye or other suitable LNB, resulting in a dual feed antenna.

The antenna that was built is based on DO8PAT's "Ice Cone Feed" design. The design requires some 3D printed parts for the mount and housing, as well as a copper wire helix, metal reflector and copper matching strip. The Bullseye fits onto the back of the helix mount. Once mounted on a dish Tech Minds shows that he was able to make contact with a friend via the QO-100 satellite with good signal strength.

2.4 GHz Dual Feed Helix Antenna For QO100

Step-by-step Guide to Creating a GNU Radio Based QO-100 SSB Receiver

Thank you to M Khanfar for submitting his video that shows a step-by-step tutorial on building your own SSB receiver in Windows GNU Radio for QO-100 satellite reception.  His tutorial includes adding several tuning sliders in the GNU Radio GUI as well.

QO-100 / Es'hail-2 is a geostationary satellite at at 25.5°E (covering Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, eastern Brazil and the west half of Russia/Asia) providing broadcasting services. However, as a bonus it has allowed amateur radio operators to use a spare transponder. Uplink is at 2.4 GHz and downlink is at 10.5 GHz. We note that we are selling a "bullseye" LNB in our store which allows most SDR dongles to be able to receive the signal with high frequency accuracy.

GNU-RADIO QO-100 SSB Receiver

QO-100 Bullseye TCXO Ultra Stable LNB Now Available in our Store for $29.95 with Free Shipping

Back in March we posted about Othernet's release of their "Bullseye" TCXO ultra stable LNB for receiving QO-100 and other Ku-Band satellites. We have decided to now offer these for sale on our store as well.

They cost US$29.95 with free shipping to most countries. We are currently selling it over on our blog store and on our Aliexpress store. The Aliexpress store uses Aliexpress Standard Shipping which may be better for some countries like Poland, Ukraine, etc. As usual, please expect that there could be shipping delays at the moment due to the ongoing global pandemic. Since the US is not covered by QO-100 we will not be stocking Amazon USA.

QO-100 / Es'hail-2 is a geostationary satellite at at 25.5°E (covering Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, eastern Brazil and the west half of Russia/Asia) providing broadcasting services. However, as a bonus it has allowed amateur radio operators to use a spare transponder. Uplink is at 2.4 GHz and downlink is at 10.5 GHz. Most SDRs do not tune all the way up to 10.5 GHz, so an LNB (low noise block) is typically used, which contains the feed, an LNA, and a downconverter which converts the 10.5 GHz frequency into a much lower one that can be received by most SDRs.

In order to properly monitor signals on QO-100 an LNB with a Temperature Compensated Oscillator (TCXO) or other stabilization method is required. Most LNBs have non-stabilized crystals which will drift over time with temperature changes.  This means that the narrowband signals used on QO-100 can easily drift out of the receive band or cause distorted reception. It is possible to hand modify a standard Ku-band LNB by soldering on a replacement TCXO or hacking in connections to a GPSDO, but the Bullseye LNB is ready to use and cheap.

The Othernet TCXO Ultra Stable LNB for QO-100 and Ku-Band Satellites
The Othernet TCXO Ultra Stable LNB for QO-100 and Ku-Band Satellites

The official product details read:

The Bullseye LNB is the world's most precise and stable DTH/consumer Ku-band down converter. Even a VSAT LNBF costing hundreds of dollars more is no match for the performance of the Bullseye 10K LNB. Each unit is calibrated at the factory to within 1 kHz of absolute precision against a GPS-locked spectrum analyzer. Under outdoor conditions, the stability of the LNB is well within 10 kHz of offset. As a bonus feature, the  Bullseye 10K provides access to its internal 25 MHz TCXO through the secondary F-connector. This reference output can be used to directly monitor the performance of the TCXO over time. 

Features

  • Bullseye 10 kHz BE01
  • Universal single output LNB
  • Frequency stability within 10 kHz in normal outdoor environment
  • Phase locked loop with 2 PPM TCXO
  • Factory calibration within 1 kHz utilizing GPS-locked spectrum analyzers
  • Ultra high precision PLL employing proprietary frequency control system (patent pending)
  • Digitally controlled carrier offset with optional programmer
  • 25 MHz output reference available on secondary F-connector (red)

Specifications 

  • Input frequency: 10489 - 12750 MHz
  • LO frequency 9750/10600 MHz
  • LO frequency stability at 23C: +/- 10 kHz
  • LO frequency stability -20 - 60C: +/- 30 kHz
  • Gain: 50 - 66 dB
  • Output frequency: 739 - 1950 MHz (low band) and 1100 - 2150 (high band)
  • Return loss of 8 dB (739 - 1950 MHz) and 10 dB (1100 - 2150 MHz)
  • Noise figure: 0.5 dB

We note that an external bias tee power injector is required to power the LNB as it requires 11.5V - 14V to operate in vertical polarization and 16V - 19V to operate with horizontal polarization. The bias tee on the RTL-SDR Blog V3 outputs 4.5V so it is not suitable.

There has also been an excellent review by @F4DAV and a video review by Techminds which we show below.

Ultra Stable Bullseye LNB For QO-100 Es Hail2 10 kHz

Understanding PLLs and their Importance when Receiving/Transmitting on QO-100

Over on YouTube Andreas Speiss has uploaded a video that explains what the geostationary QO-100 satellite is, and explains about the parts needed to receive and transmit to it. In particular Andreas goes into depth explaining the low noise block (LNB), and the PLL inside it. A PLL or phase locked loop is a common design used in RF electronics as it allows us to increase the frequency of crystal oscillators.

This PLL explanation ties into the fact that most commercial LNBs available do not have a stable enough crystal oscillator to properly receive or transmit the narrowband amateur radio signals used on QO-100. A PLL can increase the frequency of a crystal, but it will also increase the frequency drift and jitter/phase noise of the crystal. He notes that in later videos he'll show how to modify the LNB to improve these factors. We note that a commercially available stable LNB is the Bullseye LNB which we have posted about previously.

QO-100 Satellite Receiving Technology. And Explanation of a PLL

The Othernet Bullseye TCXO LNB for QO-100 Reception

Othernet have recently released their new "Bullseye" 10 kHz Ultra High Stability Universal LNB. It is currently on sale and available for US$39.95 + shipping on their store.

The LNB is designed for receiving QO-100 which is a popular geostationary amateur radio satellite positioned at 25.5°E which covers Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, eastern Brazil and the west half of Russia/Asia. In the past we've seen several posts about people using RTL-SDRs to set up ground station monitors for this satellite, as well as special WebSDR software designed for QO-100 monitoring.

Typically an LNB with small satellite dish is used to receive QO-100 which downlinks at 10.489550 GHz. These LNB's have a built in LNA, and downconvert the signal into a frequency range receivable by an RTL-SDR. One problem is that most commercial LNBs were intended for satellite TV reception, and hence they do not need to use a very stable local oscillator. So reception of the narrowband signals on QO-100 can become a challenge if they are continuously drifting in frequency as temperature changes.

Othernet's new Bullsye LNB uses a 2PPM TCXO as the local oscillator which gives it high stability in the face of changing temperatures. To power it you'll need a bias tee or LNB power source capable of injecting 13 - 18v onto the coax line. The product description reads:

The Bullseye LNB is the world's most precise and stable Ku-band down converter. Even a VSAT LNBF costing hundreds of dollars more is no match for the performance of the Bullseye 10K LNB. Each unit is calibrated at the factory to within 1 kHz of absolute precision against a GPS-locked spectrum analyzer. As a bonus feature, the Bullseye 10K provides access to its internal 25 MHz TCXO through the secondary F-connector. This reference output can be used to directly monitor the performance of the TCXO over time.

  • Bullseye 10 kHz BE01
  • Phase locked loop with 2 PPM TCXO
  • Factory calibration within 1 kHz utilizing GPS-locked spectrum analyzers
  • Ultra high precision PLL employing proprietary frequency control system (patent pending)
  • Digitally controlled carrier offset with optional programmer
  • 25 MHz output reference available on secondary F-connector (red)
     
  • Input frequency: 10489 - 12750 MHz
  • LO frequency 9750/10600 MHz
  • LO frequency stability at 23C: +/- 10 kHz
  • LO frequency stability -20 - 60C: +/- 30 kHz
  • Gain: 50 - 66 dB
  • Output frequency: 739 - 1950 MHz (low band) and 1100 - 2150 (high band)
  • Return loss of 8 dB (739 - 1950 MHz) and 10 dB (1100 - 2150 MHz)
  • Noise figure: 0.5 dB

Over on his blog @F4DAV has uploaded a comprehensive review of the Othernet LNB which goes over the specs, construction and testing of the LNB. The review is an excellent read and he concludes with the statement:

As far as I know the BE01 is the first affordable mass-produced Ku-band TCXO LNB. Specifications are not entirely clear but these early tests suggest that it can be a game changer for amateur radio and other narrowband applications in the 10 GHz band. The stability and ability to recalibrate should allow even unsophisticated analog stations to tune to a 5 kHz channel and remain there for hours at a time. For SDR stations with beacon-based frequency correction, the absolute accuracy removes the need to oversample by several hundred kHz or to scan for the initial frequency offset.

The Othernet Bulleye High Stability LNB
The Othernet Bullseye High Stability LNB

Transmitting WSPR on QO-100 with a moRFeus and less than 4 mW Power

Thank you to Zoltan for submitting a short post about using a moRFeus to uplink WSPR to the Es'Hail-2 (QO-100) geostationary satellite with amateur radio repeater. moRFeus is a versatile US$99 signal generator and frequency mixer that can be controlled either by it's built in LCD screen, or via software on a Windows or Linux PC. It can generate a clean low phase noise tone anywhere between 85 to 5400 MHz, and can be used as a mixer for upconverting or downconverting signals. We have discussed moRFeus a few times before on this blog as we think it's a useful tool.

In his setup, Zoltan uses a QRP Labs U3S WSPR transmitter kit that was configured to transmit WSPR at 2m (144 MHz). It is not designed for transmitting the 2.4 GHz QO-100 uplink frequency. To get around that limitation, the moRFeus is used to upconvert the 144 MHz frequency into the QO-100 uplink band by mixing it with a 2,255,634.309 kHz signal. The resulting 2.4 GHz output signal from moRFeus is sent to an amplifier, 2.4 GHz band pass filter, and finally into a 5-turn LHCP helical feed mounted on a 1m parabolic dish.

Successful uplink was confirmed by a UK based WebSDR receiving the QO-100 downlink. Zoltan estimates that the total output power was only 4mW, and actually more like 1-2 mW due to losses in the coax feed.

WSPR uplink with moRFeus
WSPR uplink with moRFeus

Uplinking to QO-100 with a LimeNET Micro and LimeRFE

The LimeNet Micro is a is a $329 board that combines a Raspberry Pi 3 (compute module) together with a LimeSDR radio. The LimeRFE is an amplifier and filter board accessory designed to be used with LimeSDR units. When a LimeNET Micro and LimeRFE are used together, it is possible to create a transmit capable radio system that can be used for amateur radio.

Daniel Estévez has recently been doing several experiments with the LimeRFE, and this time he's managed to create an uplink capable ground station for the QO-100 amateur radio geostationary satellite. The LimeRFE can output 1W at 2.4 GHz and Daniel writes that with a low cost 2.4 GHz WiFi parabolic grid antenna this is more than enough power to work QO-100.

In terms of software, Daniel is using a Python script that communicates with the Limesuite API for PTT control. For transmitting IQ data generated by GNU Radio he uses limesdr_send. So far he's been able to successfully test a CW beacon, SSB voice and waterfall text generated by gr-paint.

LimeNet Micro + LimeRFE + 2.4 GHz WiFi Antenna = Full QO-100 Solution
LimeNet Micro + LimeRFE + 2.4 GHz WiFi Antenna = Full QO-100 Solution

 

Building a DIY 2.4 GHz Helical Feed for the QO-100/Es’Hail-2 Satellite

Over on his YouTube channel Adam 9A4QV has uploaded a short video that demonstrates his 2.4 GHz homemade helical feed designed to be used with a reflector (prime feed satellite dish) for QO-100/Es'Hail-2 satellite reception. The antenna is made from an old can, 2-turns of copper wire, and a plastic insulator to hold the turns in place. The two turns are wound in left hand circular polarization (LHCP), because when used with a satellite dish reflector it will result in right hand circular polarization (RHCP), which is the polarization QO-100 uses.

One of the most important parts of the video is when Adam shows how he matches the antenna to 50 Ohms. He notes that without matching the antenna won't work properly, and the return loss will be about 8 dB or even less, resulting in poor performance. With matching he obtains 30 dB return loss.

Helical feed for the 2.4 GHz QO-100 satellite