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Question: Is anyone working on the reception of satellite imagery using ham radio methods?

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by sashae | May 15, 2020 16:13 | #23635


Hello Public Lab community!

Is anyone working on the reception of satellite imagery using ham radio methods?

I am a UK based radio amateur interested in decoding weather images from satellites. I wondered whether anyone in the Public Lab community is already exploring or applying ham radio-based methods for weather monitoring and sensing?

My collaborator, @sophied and I are working on an accessible how-to guide for the reception of NOAA satellites and we'd love to contribute this to Public Lab. If others are already working on these topics or are interested in collaborating do let us know!



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I don't know of anyone at Public Lab working on this at the moment, but as a former HAM I'd be super interested in following this project. What kind of weather data are you looking to collect?

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Hi @kgradow1 great to hear you're interested in following the project. @sophied and I have already been gradually (and sporadically) collecting data on cloud cover, storms systems, sea surface temperature and a few other variables from NOAA satellite transmissions. However we're looking to extend our practice to decode transmissions from the Meteor M N2 satellite and perhaps one day, geostationary satellites. We're interested to engage with the PL community on intersections between these sorts of datasets and what others might be collecting via other forms of aerial imaging or atmospheric measurements but we're completely open to other ideas!


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One inexpensive way to do that is with an rtlsdr dongle. You might want to check the rtlsdr subreddit. The dongles cost about $20. Thats assuming you already have a computer.

The next question is whether you want to copy a polar orbiting satellite or a geostationary. A polar orbiting is easiest. It would require an antenna ( possibly included with the dongle), maybe an lna, and maybe an FM filter. The software to do this is generally free, but it takes a while to get used to. Look up some articles on rtl-sdr.com, as a starting point. I can hear the polar orbiters with no problems, but interference from FM stations is common and may cause you problems.

The geostationary orbiters take a lot more effort. A modified 2.4 ghz dish, lnb, and bias t will be needed ( at least). I can hear the sun, but have yet to hear one of the geosats. Oh well....

Good luck with your project!

Hi @Ag8n ! Thanks for your message. @sophied and I are huge fans of rtl-sdr.com and the various tutorials posted there. The rtl-sdr forums were crucial in my and @sophied 's process of learning how to decode NOAA transmissions. @sophied uses a rtl-sdr V3 and I use a funcube dongle pro +. We've also been experimenting with the various kinds of software available. I prefer SDR# (on Windows) or SDRDx (on Mac OS) while @sophied primarily uses CubicSDR (on Mac OS). We have our sights set on decoding transmissions from Meteor M N2 next. Unfortunately we live too far outside of the coverage footprint of GOES-16 and GOES-17 to be able to receive those transmissions.

It's great to know that you have experience in NOAA and geostationary sats. @sophied and I are working toward publishing a Wiki on radio-based weather / earth-sensing to share with the PL community and perhaps discover intersections with other existing projects and datasets on this platform. Hopefully we can stay in touch!


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Hi! Yes, SDR# is also my favorite software. I also have a V3, but I also have several of the older dongles. The older ones work ok, you just have to play with the offset.SDR#

Still working on the geosats. Look forward to working with you!

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Hi @kgradow1, @Ag8n and @sasha, just jumping on this thread to add my enthusiasm!

After @sashae and I got our Foundation Licences from RSGB it took months of poking around on the web to realise that it was possible to receive weather satellite images, then, even more time, searching and hanging out in Ham forums (@sashae is great at this) before we got the right hardware and software setups. Now we've done the research and seen what's possible with such cheap kit we're keen to share our experience by creating an accessible How-to guide with everything you need to know to get started, all in one place – something that we were convinced must exist but haven't found yet.

Once we get something online we'd love to have your feedback. All ideas welcome! As @sashae mentioned, the How-to guide will be part of a bigger project about feminist histories of remote sensing!

This sounds AWESOME -- really psyched to hear about this. I've only had one experience pulling data directly from satellites without going through the internet -- this is us waaaaay out in Louisiana in 2017 -- Screen_Shot_2020-05-20_at_10.30.45_AM.png

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Brilliant!!! I wasn't there but know that picture! Ha small world! Gabi and I are good friends, we got chatting about aircraft transponders after a work meeting and discovered our mutual fascination with radio. @sashae and I have emailed Gabi to ask if, when she has the time, she would be up for contributing a guide on DIY antenna building. We are yet to build our own antenna! We had plans for a QFH but then coronavirus hit. Normally the project is unfunded so moves at a snail's pace but we've had a tiny bit of funding recently so have been on hyperdrive. @sashae and I are planning to join next Tuesday's open call. So, hopefully, speak then!


Great! CCing @Ag8n and @danbeavers and @warren about also possibly attending next Tuesday's open call. That will be Tuesday, May 26 at 2:45pm Eastern US -- all time zones shown here https://everytimezone.com/?t=5ecc5c00,465

Also @warren, can you connect the dots to the person in Brooklyn who i seem to remember you mentioning had had prior success pulling down images from satellites? Thanks!

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Great! @sashae and I look forward to introducing ourselves on the call on Tuesday, May 26. We are interested in learning more about the Public Lab community, past experiments in satellite reception, and which aspects out our work might resonate with current projects. >>> A photo of @sashae and me (pre-social distancing!)

Sash-and-Sophie.jpg

A great image @sashae captured this week when the lockdown in London was partially lifted. The last month we've been catching satellites from our flats, which is fun but our views of the sky are limited and there is a lot more interference.

Screenshot_2020-05-22_at_10.52.56.png

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These images are gorgeous! I'm reaching out to try to bring some interested parties to the call on Tuesday.


Fantastic! Speak soon!


Great to hear more about your project on OpenCall today! Looping in @emash Emily from New Orleans and Kent from Portland @kentells


Hey all, Just wanted to say a big thanks for making @sashae and me feel so welcome on the Open Call yesterday. We are such huge fans of Public Lab, so it was just brilliant to be able to share our work with you and to receive in return such generous advice. We are excited to finally connect and for what will come!


We were so glad to have the chat @sophied! Looking forward to seeing this project come to life! -Joe


Hi, just chiming in here - the project Gabi led at the Barnraising was based on this great project by Dhruv Mehrotra, sorry it took me a min to find: https://dhruvmehrotra.info/satellite-sounds/index.html

Dhruv is awesome! https://www.instagram.com/bikini_photoz


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73 DE mark

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