Talk: Tracking of Low Earth Orbit Satellites with the RTL-SDR

Back in July we posted about Travis Goodspeed’s project on setting up a satellite dish that automatically tracks satellites in low earth orbit, where he uses an RTL-SDR for the radio. Travis gave a talk on this project at the Chaos Communication Congress conference, and the video has now been uploaded to YouTube.

Satellites in Low Earth Orbit have tons of nifty signals, but they move quickly though the sky and are difficult to track with fine accuracy. This lecture describes a remotely operable satellite tracking system that the author built from a Navy-surplus Inmarsat dish in Southern Appalachia.

The entire system is controlled through a Postgres database, fed by various daemons spread across multiple machines. So when I click on a satellite on my laptop or cellphone, it runs “UPDATE target SET name=’Voyager 1′;” and the motor daemon then begins to track the new target while the prediction daemon maintains accurate estimates of its position in the sky. Additional daemons take spectral prints or software-defined radio recordings of the targeted object for later review.

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