Tagged: satnogs

SATRAN: An Affordable Motorized Satellite Antenna Rotator

Recently we came across the SATRAN project by Daniel Nikolajsen, which is an attempt to design, build and sell low cost kits of an automatic motorized satellite antenna rotator for less than US$200. A motorized satellite antenna rotator is useful for pointing high gain directional antennas such as a Yagi or satellite dish at low earth orbit satellites which can move across the sky quickly. This is also an idea used by the well known SATNOGS project which also provides a design for a 3D printed antenna rotator, and runs servers that archive received satellite data.

Compared to the SATNOGS design, the SATRAN design appears to be much simpler and easier to build. Although being a smaller unit it's only design to handle small compact antennas such as a 70cm Yagi. SATRAN is also controllable via a web interface and there is an Android App. The design is capable of rotating 360 degrees, and 110 degrees from zenith, which allows a user to cover the entire sky.

Daniel notes that SATRAN kits should be available for sale from Feburary/March 2021. He also notes that it is possible to 3D print most of the parts and to just purchase the electronics for a lower price.

More technical information about the project is available on it's Hackaday.io blog.

SATRAN 3D render and actual prototype

A Seminar on Setting up and Understanding a SatNOGS Satellite Ground Station

At the 2019 TAPR Digital Communications Conference (DCC), Corey Shields (KB9JHU) and Dan White (AD0CQ) presented a comprehensive guide on setting up your own SatNOGS satellite ground receiver station. The video of the presentation has just recently been uploaded to YouTube by Ham Radio 2.0.

SatNOGS is an open source project that aims to make it easy for volunteers to build and run satellite ground stations (typically based on RTL-SDR and Raspberry Pi hardware) that automatically receive RF satellite data, and automatically upload that data to the internet for public access. This is very useful for low budget cubesats launched by schools and small organizations who don't have the resources to run a worldwide satellite ground station network. Without global ground stations the majority of data and telemetry collected by the satellite could be lost as it would only pass over the owners ground station once or twice a day with limited time and bandwidth to downlink data. SatNOGS volunteers with distributed ground stations placed all over the world provide a free solution for this problem. 

Setting up a SatNOGS station and understanding the data coming down can be a pretty involved project, so Corey and Dan's 3.5 hr presentation gently guides us through the steps required. The guide focuses most on the software side, and does not include information about building their open source Yagi antenna rotator which can be used to receive satellites with lower power weak signals. Instead they focus on using a simpler fixed QFH antenna which is still capable of receiving data from a majority of satellites.

Learn to build and operate your own SatNOGS ground station. The Sunday Seminar is somewhat like the "anchor" topic of the entire weekend of the TAPR Digital Communications Conference. In 2019 we had the privilege of hearing from Corey, KB9JHU and Dan AD0CQ from the SatNOGS Team and they are going to give us, in detail, instructions for setting up a home satellite station.

(2:38) Intro
(7:46) Section 1: Satellite Building 101
(1:14:50) Section 2: Using SatNOGS
(2:19:55) Section 3: API and Contributing
(2:51:55) Section 4: RF Stack and Decoders

SatNOGS Ground Station Building Guide from TAPR DCC 2019

OpenAstroTracker: 3D Printed DSLR Tracking Mount may be useful for Antennas Too

OpenAstroTracker is a recently published open hardware 3D printed tracking mount designed to move DSLR cameras for astrophotography. The mount supports heavy long lenses, so we think that this mount could also have the ability to move long directional antennas for satellite tracking. It could also be interesting to modify it for automatic aircraft photography, similar to what we've seen in this previous post where a Raspberry Pi camera on a pan-tilt mount was used with ADS-B data from an RTL-SDR to track aircraft in the sky with the camera.

The 3D printer files are available on Thingiverse, and the mechanical and electronics build guide, and Arduino code is available on GitHub. The build seems to be quite a bit easier compared to a SatNOGS rotator which is another 3D printed open hardware rotator, but it is yet to be seen what sort of antenna sizes it could rotate.

OpenAstroTracker: Could be modified for satellite tracking.
OpenAstroTracker: Could be modified for satellite tracking.

SDR Makerspace Conference to be Held in Switzerland in November

SDR Makerspace is a community based in Greece that is run by the European Space Agency and Libre Space Foundation (who are responsible for the SatNOGS project). It provides funding and resources for Software Defined Radio based space communication projects.

On November 28-29 2019 they are holding the SDR Makerspace Conference in Payerne, Switzerland. The conference is free to register although spaces are limited.

The technical talks during the first day will be:

  • Open-Source SDR Software for Satellite Communications - Alexandru Csete
  • LimeSDR as an enabler for Satellite TV Transmissions - Dave Crump
  • How wide band data converters enable SDR in Satcoms - e2v
  • Teaching SDR: EPFL experience - Bixio Rimoldi
  • Xilinx’s adaptive solutions for SDR application - Georg Hanak
  • SDR Makerspace: Evaluation of SDR Boards and Toolchains - Sheila Christiansen
  • SDR and Amateur radio in space - Michel Burnand
  • SDR Makerspace lightning talks - Multiple Authors

The second day will consist of workshops on using SDRs for satellite communications, and on using the LimeNET Micro and LimeRFE for SDR satcom development.

Exhibitors who will be at the conference.
Exhibitors who will be at the conference.

A Wall Mounted SatNOGS Ground Station Monitor

If you weren't already aware,  SatNOGS is an open source project that aims to make it easy for volunteers to build and run RF ground stations (typically based on RTL-SDR hardware) that automatically monitor satellite data, and upload that data to the internet for public access. This is very useful for low budget cubesats launched by schools/small organizations that don't have the resources for a worldwide monitoring network as data can be collected from all over the world no matter where the satellite is.

Over on the SatNOGS Libre Space forums, user cshields have posted about his near wall mounted SatNOGS monitoring station. With the station he's able to monitor the status of his SatNOGS station via an LCD screen and see the location of satellites that next in the queue to be received. There are also some status lights and LCD text screen for monitoring the SatNOGS rotator hardware.

The station consists of a Raspberry Pi 4, 7" LCD display, 500 GB SSD, RTL-SDR Blog V3, and an Arduino with 16x2 LCD and NeoPixel. cshields post covers the full details of the build.

[Also seen on Hackaday]

SatNOGS Ground Station Monitor
SatNOGS Ground Station Monitor

HackSpace Magazine Discusses SatNOGS, Cubesats and More

HackSpace is a monthly magazine dedicated to modern maker projects. This month issue 18 was released and it focuses on space based projects. The HackSpace Magazine is available for free online in PDF form, and physical copies can also be purchased.  There are several interesting articles but one in particular shows us how to set up a SatNOGS ground station with a Raspberry Pi 3, RTL-SDR and a satellite antenna such as a turnstile. 

A problem with low cost satellites like cubesats is that it is difficult to monitor them as data can only be collected when they are passing over a ground station. So in areas with no ground stations data is simply lost. SatNOGS is an open source project that aims to make it easy for volunteers to build and run RF ground stations that automatically monitor satellite data, and upload that data to the internet for public access. SatNOGS ground stations typically use RTL-SDR dongles as the radio.

A related article in the magazine also discusses cubesats, giving an overview of some previous cubesat launches and what sort of payloads are available. A third article under the space topic discusses the Libre Space Foundation which is the team behind the SatNOGS and various other space based projects that aim to democratize space. Readers may also be interested in the articles showing how to build an ISS countdown timer and how to build a Slim Jim antenna.

HackSpace Magazine SatNOGS Article
HackSpace Magazine SatNOGS Article (Excerpt)

Demonstration of Two SatNOGS Rotators

Thank you to IZ5RZR for writing in and sharing his two SatNOGS rotator builds with usSatNOGS is an open source project that aims to make it easy for volunteers to build and run RTL-SDR or other SDR based RF ground stations that automatically monitor satellites, and upload that data to the internet for public access.

IZ5RZR writes that he's now made two rotators and one was modified to use a 5:18 stepper motor (which is upgradable to 50:1) to give more torque so that heavier antennas can be turned smoothly. His rotators are powered by a 12V battery charged by solar, and they can be controlled over WiFi with a PC/tablet/phone. He's also tested the rotators with a 24 dB parabolic grid antenna and found that the rotator could handle it even without a counterweight. He also notes that together with IK5XWA they've fixed a "Meridian Flip" bug in the firmware.

The video below shows the two rotators in action.

IZ5RZR Two SatNOGS Satellite Rotators

Talks from the 2018 GNU Radio Conference

GNU Radio is a very powerful open source platform for implementing various digital signal processing (DSP) algorithms. It is very commonly used with software defined radios like the RTL-SDR, as well as much higher end units. The community that uses GNU Radio is very large, and so every year they hold a conference that highlights some of the most interesting applications and developments related to GNU Radio. The 2018 GNU Radio conference was held in Las Vegas during September 2018. Recently they have uploaded the talks to YouTube, and below we're posting some of our favorites. The full list can be found on their YouTube channel.

Keynote Talk: SatNOGs

In this keynote talk Manolis Surligas discusses the SatNOGs project. SatNOGs is a non-profit organization creating an open source and volunteer based satellite ground station network.

GRCon18 - Keynote: SatNOGs

Open Source Radio Telescopes

John L. Makous discusses his work in creating low cost and home made horn antenna radio telescopes designed to receive the 21cm hydrogen line and other astronomical objects and phenomena. The idea is to provide a low cost solution and easy to build telescope to use in schools.

GRCon18 - Open Source Radio Telescopes

Enter the Electromagic Spectrum with the USRP

Nate Temple gives us an overview of several signals that have been decoded with GNU Radio flowgraphs.

GRCon18 - Enter the Electromagic Spectrum with the USRP

Software Defined Radar Remote Sensing and Space Physics

Juha Vierinen discusses using a USRP to measure propagation conditions with ionospheric chip sounders, and improvements to chirp sounders by using spread spectrum noise. He also discusses various other radar techniques and applications.

GRCon18 - Software Defined Radar Remote Sensing and Space Physics