Tagged: satellite

A Comprehensive Beginners Guide to HRPT Weather Satellite Reception

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.

Images from Dereks HRPT Guide

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.

Technical Details on an SDR Supercluster with Eight HackRFs

A few weeks ago we posted about Reddit member u/OlegKutkov who used his HackRF supercluster to receive Starlink beacons, but details on the HackRF supercluster project itself were a little sparse. Now Oleg has posted a full description about the HackRF supercluster, noting that the 8 HackRF's in the system can provide up to 160 MHz of live monitoring bandwidth.

Oleg shows how each of the boards are connected to the same GPS disciplined 10 MHz clock source, how it uses an RF splitter with LNA and how it requires 8 separate host controllers connected to individual PCIe lines in his computer system to overcome the USB2.0 data bandwidth limits. He also shows the GNU Radio script he's created that combines the 8 sources into one.

Oleg writes how he's using the HackRF supercluster together with a TV Ku-Band LNB and satellite dish for wideband satellite monitoring.

HackRF Supercluster Block Diagram
The HackRF Supercluster

Receiving Starlink Beacons with an RTL-SDR and LNB

Derek OK9SGC has recently posted a write-up of how they’ve been able to receive the Ku-band beacon signals from the Starlink constellation of communication satellites continually launched by SpaceX since 2015. While we recently covered Starlink Beacons being captured with a HackRF Supercluster Derek has noted that receiving the beacons requires little more than an LNB, a low-cost SDR such as the RTL-SDR V3 and a power injector to provide 12V DC to the LNB. Derek notes that a dish is not even required as the beacons transmit with high power.

Starlink Beacon Receiver Setup

Due to the low earth orbit and thus high speed of travel of the Starlink constellation you’ll notice strong Doppler effect drifts in your received signal. Derek notes that it may be interesting to perform Doppler analysis on the satellites with the satellite tracking toolkit for radio observations (strf) software. He also noted that in the 30 minutes he was receiving for, there was almost no point in time where a beacon was not being received, indicating that the Starlink constellation is close to achieving 100% sky coverage. 

Derek has made the process easy to understand and illustrates just how easy it is to listen to these beacon signals. Of course we note that these are just the beacons, and they carry no data. Still they are fun signal to receive, and doppler analysis could reveal interesting information about orbits. 

Starlink beacons shown in a fast FFT (LEFT), and slow FFT (RIGHT)

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

SDR Talks from the SDRMakerspace Online Presentation

Thank you to Robert for letting us know about these videos from the "ESA ARTES SDR MakerSpace Presentations" from September 6-8, 2021 which are now available on YouTube. 

Libre Space Foundation ( Greece) and the Institute of Reconfigurable & Embedded Digital Systems(REDS) of the Haute Ecole d’Ingénierie et de Gestion du Canton de Vaud – HEIG-VD (Switzerland) have been implementing a number of smaller projects as part of an Software Defined Radio MakerSpace of the European Space Agency.

This activity is part of the ARTES programme of ESA that supports innovation in satellite communications.

The findings were presented in three 2-hour slots in the afternoon at 15:00 CEST (for which you are requested to register separately) on Mon 6, Tue 7 and Wed 8 September 2021.

  • Monday 6 Sep was focused on the evaluation of various SDR boards and FPGA tools chains. High-rate direct sampling by SDR’s and SDR on Android will also be presented.
  • Tuesday 7 Sep was dedicated to building blocks that have been implemented as open source developments for Gnuradio, such as gr-leo, gr-ccsds, gr-soapy etc.
  • Wednesday 8 Sep was mainly about the combination of SDR and AI/ML to do signal detection and classification. In addition, an SDR testbed and spectrum monitoring will be presented.

The talks cover various SDR topics related to satellite observing. Some talks we were interested in are highlighted below, but the full list can be found on the SDRMakerspace website, or the SDRMakerspace playlist on the Libre Space Foundation YouTube channel.

SDRMakerspace - SDR on mobile

Layering Geo-Spatial Fire Data onto GOES Satellite Imagery

Thank you to Carl Reinemann (aka usradioguy) for writing in and sharing with us how he has developed a script to layer FIRMS data (Fire Information for Resource Management System US / Canada) onto GOES satellite images (usradioguy blog post) that can be received with an RTL-SDR. We have a tutorial on GOES reception here.

The script is a Windows batch file that downloads FIRMS data from the internet every 12 hours, then converts that data into a format that can be processed by goestools. Once converted the resulting JSON file is uploaded to the Raspberry Pi running goestools. A custom goestool process is then used to layer the data onto the received images.

The result is accurate red polygons on the satellite image in areas where fires have been recorded. With this data visualized it is easy to see where smoke seen on the satellite images is coming from. For example, the image below shows the location of wildfires in the Western USA and the resulting smoke trailing across the continent.

Carl has also tested the fire data layer with GK-2A and Himawari-8 and notes that it works well with images from those satellites as well. 

Fires data in Western USA layered on top of received GOES satellite images.

Elektro-L3 Geostationary Weather Satellite: Easy to Receive LRIT Signal Being Tested

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.

However we've recently seen exciting news on Twitter that a new L-band LRIT transmission has been activated on Elektro-L3. Like the Korean GK-2A satellite, this L-band LRIT transmission at 1691 MHz should be much easier to receive requiring only a WiFi dish, SAWBird GOES LNA and an RTL-SDR. We haven't yet confirmed if like GK-2A, the smaller 600 x 400 mm WiFi dish is sufficient, or if Elektro requires the larger 600 x 1000 mm dish size. (See our GOES satellite and GK-2A tutorial for information about the hardware being discussed in this paragraph.)

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).

Elektro-L2 and Elektro-L3 Coverage (Currently only Elektro-L3 LRIT transmissions have been discovered)

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.