If you weren't already aware, the Othernet project aims to bring live data such as news, weather, video, books, Wikipedia articles and audio broadcasts to the world via a free satellite service and cheap receivers. Although an internet connection provides the same data, Othernet's satellite broadcast is receivable in remote areas, will continue working in disasters, and costs nothing to continually receive roughly 200MB of data a day. The trade off is that the service is downlink only, so the data that you get is only what is curated by the Othernet team.
Currently the public service is in a test period and is only available in North America. Europe has come online recently too, however they write that the current version of Dreamcatcher that is for sale may not be optimal for receiving the EU signal.
While currently active, they write that the Othernet satellite service is not guaranteed to continue long term. However even if the service discontinues, the Dreamcatcher can still be used as a TX/RX capable LoRa radio. In a previous post we demonstrated a fun application with two Dreamcatchers and a LoRa chat application.
Over on YouTube Tech Minds has posted a video explaining what Es'hail-2 satellite is and why it is interesting for hams and SDR users. Briefly Es'hail-2 is a recently launched geostationary TV satellite that covers Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, eastern Brazil and the west half of Russia/Asia.
What's special about it is that apart from the TV transmitters, it also contains the worlds first amateur radio transponder in geostationary orbit. So amateur radio users within the region covered by the satellite can simply point their antennas to a fixed position in the sky to transmit to the satellite, and the signal will be rebroadcast over the entire covered area. With a simple LNB, satellite dish and SDR the signals can be received.
After explaining Es'hail-2 Tech Minds also shows a demo of Es'hail-2 radio traffic using a public WebSDR.
The Worlds First Geostationary Satellite For Ham Radio - Es'Hail 2 - Qatar OSCAR-100
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.
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).
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:
Es'hail 2 was launched last November and it is the first geostationary satellite to contain an amateur radio transponder. The satellite is positioned at 25.5°E which is over Africa. It's reception footprint covers Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, eastern Brazil and the west half of Russia/Asia. There are two amateur transponders on the satellite. One is a narrow band linear transponder which uplinks from 2400.050 - 2400.300 MHz and downlinks from 10489.550 - 10489.800 MHz. Another is a wide band digital transponder for amateur digital TV which uplinks from 2401.500 - 2409.500 MHz and downlinks from 10491.000 - 10499.000 MHz.
Although it launched last year it takes several months for the engineers to test and qualify the transponder for use. Over the last few weeks the transponder was intermittently active during the testing, but now since Feb 13 2019 the amateur transponder has finally been fully activated for amateur radio use.
To receive it with an RTL-SDR or most other SDRs an LNB is required to receive the 10 GHz signal and downconvert it into a frequency range that most SDRs support. Typically an Octagon LNB is used, and these are easy to find and cheap as they are often used for satellite TV.
From various reports seen on Twitter, it seems that the signal is strong enough that a satellite dish is not required for receiving - simply pointing the LNB directly at the satellite is enough.
#Eshail2 Unbelievable. 1st RX Test with my Smartphone, OTG, DVB-T Stick, Octagon LNB. No Dish !!! I hold the LNB in my Hand in the direction of Es Hail2 ... pic.twitter.com/SQjz7WPyzm
If you can't set up a receiver, there is an OpenWebRX livestream of the Es'hail 2 narrowband channel that has been set up by Zoltan/RFSparkling which is available at sniffing.ddns.net:8073 (note the server can only handle 8 users at a time, so try again later if it's busy). Also as pointed out by KD9IXX on Twitter, there are also several websdr.org servers receiving and streaming Es'hail2 including an Airspy based one run officially by AMSAT-DL.
Es'hail 2 was launched last November and it is the first geostationary satellite to contain an amateur radio transponder. The satellite is positioned at 25.5°E which is over Africa. It's reception footprint covers Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, eastern Brazil and the west half of Russia/Asia.
Although the satellite was launched last year, turning on the amateur transponders has been slow because the commercial systems of the satellite have higher priority for testing and commissioning. However, within the last day the Es'hail 2 team have now begin testing the amateur transponder, and the test signal has been successfully received by several enthusiasts (just check out the Twitter feed). There also appears to have already been a suspected pirate CW signal broadcasting "WELCOME DE ES2HAIL". Actual uplink use of the satellite is not currently wanted, and from the Amsat forums one of the engineers writes:
Before the IOT starts there will be a TRR (test readyness review) in front of the customer. All the testplans and test-specifications will be reviewed. When the test is done there will be a TRB (test readyness board). In the TRB they have to show/present all the measurement results (e.g. inband performance like Gainflatness, Groupdelay... aso.) and compare these results with the specification in the contract. Each unwanted signal makes the measurement difficult and needs to be explained or leads to a so named NCR (non conformance report).
The IOT will be done in shifts/nightshifts and with unwanted signals (if not explain able) some measurements needs to start again and again and leads in addition to a delay for the handover and operation of the satellite.
Maybe that helps to understand why it is really important to have only the IOT uplink signal.
To measure the pattern of each antenna the satellite will be moved east/west by the propulsion system of the DS2000 Bus and the signal level is measured by the IOT station on ground (some cuts) .
The commercial beacon can maybe be switched from LEOP Omni antenna to on station antenna when the satellite is placed in the final slot. This should be the reason for the change of the commercial Ku Band beacon signal level the last days.
If you are interested in receiving Es'hail 2, but live outside the footprint, or don't have a receiver then you can use Zoltan's OpenwebRX live stream of the narrow band portion of the Es'hail 2 downlink. At the moment the beacon doesn't appear to be transmitting, but we expect it to be on and off during the next few days. In his set up he uses an RTL-SDR V3, Inverto LNB, 90cm dish, a DIY bias tee and a Raspberry Pi 3.
He also took a recording of the pirates CW transmission shown in the video below.
Thanks to "Lolo sdr" for submitting his videos that show his process for receiving and decoding Meteor M2 weather satellite images in Windows with an SDRplay and SDR-Console V3. Since the SDRplay is not supported by SDR#, it is not possible to use Vasilli's excellent Meteor Demodulator plugin (site in Russian, please use the Google Translate option) which is only available for SDR#.
Lolo's method gets around this limitation by initially recording an IQ file of the satellite pass in SDR-Console V3, then opening that IQ file in SDR# via the Fileplayer plugin, which is also by Vasilli and available here. The process is a bit of extra work, and the image isn't live, but the image comes out clearly in the end.
The videos are shown below, and subtitles are available in English, French and Italian via the YouTube player options.
Recibir y decodificar Satélite Meteor M2 con SDRplay, parte 1 de 2, grabar el pase, con subtitulos.
Recibir y decodificar Satélite Meteor M2 con SDRplay, parte 2 de 2, decodificar imagen y corrección.
Thanks to Zoltan (aka Veryokay on YouTube) for submitting information about his Inmarsat STD-C EGC live stream setup. His setup allows him to access the Inmarsat STD-C signal from anywhere in the world over the internet, thanks to the use of an OpenWebRX server. Inmarsat STD-C is a geostationary satellite service that provides information for search and rescue, as well as news, weather and incident reports for mariners. We have a tutorial from a few years ago which shows some example messages. OpenWebRX is an efficient SDR streaming server platform that allows you to access RTL-SDR's and other SDRs from anywhere in the world via an internet connection.
In his setup Zoltan uses a Raspberry Pi 3, RTL-SDR Blog V3, L-band LNA and L-band antenna for receiving and processing the signal. Power is provided via a Power over Ethernet (PoE) adapter, and the whole thing is placed outside, in a weatherproof plastic lunchbox.
The video shows the hardware, and then goes on to describe the software setup, along with a demonstration of the OpenWebRX stream. More information as well as the link to his publicly accessible OpenWebRX Inamrsat STD-C stream can be found on his blog post.
Bitcoin is a digital currency based on blockchain technology, and Blockstream are a large innovator in the Bitcoin world. They have recently been developing the 'lightning network' which is a layer that sits on top of the blockchain. The goal of the lightning network is to provide a second layer that helps to speed up bitcoin transactions and alleviate network congestion.
In a previous post we noted that Blockstream have data channels leased on several geostationary satellites. The goal of these satellites is to help users download the blockchain, which is the ledger of all bitcoin transactions ever made. Over time the ledger grows and becomes larger and larger, and at the time of writing is currently about 200 GB in size. Rural/field users of Bitcoin with slow, intermittent, or no internet connection can use this satellite to download or update their ledger and confirm that they have received payments.
To receive the satellite an RTL-SDR dongle together with a Linux PC, LNB and satellite dish antenna are used. More information about setting up a receiver can be found on their GitHub.
Recently Blockstream have released news that their satellites now support Lightning transactions. In addition the Asia-Pacific satellite is now online. This should help boost adoption of the lightning network among rural users.