SatNOGS Wins the 2014 Hackaday Prize

The Grand Prize winner of the 2014 Hackaday Prize is SatNOGs. The project is a thrilling example of the benefits of a connected world. It opens up the use of satellite data to a much wider range of humanity by providing plans to build satellite tracking stations, and a protocol and framework to share the satellite data with those that cannot afford, or lack the skills to build their own tracking station. The hardware itself is based on readily available materials, commodity electronics, and just a bit of 3D printing.

The awarding of the Grand Prize caps off six-months of productive competition which started in April with a first round reaching to more than 800 entries. Once the field had been narrowed and sent on to our judges the narrowed it to just 50 projects vying for a trip into space (the grand prize), industrial-grade 3D printer and milling machine, a trip to Akihabara electronics district in Japan, and team skydiving.

Congratulations to all 5 top winners


SatNOGS – Grand Prize


You already know this but such an accomplishment is well worth mentioning again!

ChipWhisperer – Second Prize


The ChipWhisperer is a hardware security testing platform that allows developers to explore side-band and glitch vulnerabilities in their hardware projects. The existing technologies for this type of testing are prohibitively expensive for most products. The availability of this tool plays a dual role of helping to inform developers of these potential attack vectors, and allowing them to do some level of testing for them.

PortableSDR – Third Prize


The form and function of the PortableSDR move forward both Software Defined Radio and Ham. The SDR aspect fully removes the need to use a computer. The wireless functions provided can be called a modernization of portable amateur radio hardware.

Open Source Science Tricorder – Fourth Prize


Inspired by the future-tech item found in the Star Trek franchise, the Open Source Science Tricorder uses currently available technology to produce a handheld collection of sensors. The design provides modularity so that the available sensors can be customized based on need. Equally importantly, the user interface gives meaning to the data being measured, and allows it to be uploaded, graphed, and otherwise manipulated on the Internet.

ramanPi – Fifth Prize


Raman Spectroscopy is used to help determine what molucules are found in test samples. One example would be determining possible contaminants in drinking water. These tools are expensive and the ramanPi project will mean more labs (at University or otherwise) as well as citizen scientists will be able to build their own spectrometer. One particularly interesting aspect of the project is the parametric 3D printer file used for mounting the machine’s optics. The use of this technique means that the design can easily be adapted for different types of lenses.

2015 Hackaday Prize


With the great success of these five projects, and the potential that Open Design has to move the world forward, we hope to host another round of The Hackaday Prize in 2015. When you’re done congratulating the winners in the comments below, let us know what you think the subject of the next challenge should be.

Thank you to our sponsor


Hackaday would like to thank the generosity of our sponsor, Supplyframe Inc., who supported the cost of all prizes. Supplyframe is Hackaday’s parent company and their values are closely aligned with our own.

86 thoughts on “SatNOGS Wins the 2014 Hackaday Prize

  1. well, supplyframe turned out pretty nice in the end.

    Super Congrats to the winner and all winner ups, one thing im curious this “trip into space” any idea’s what firm is providing that yet?

          1. From reading and viewing what the satNOGS team has said the plan is to use existing satellites. Actually for amateurs( amateurs in general not amateur radio operators in particular) the testing has been ongoing for at least a decade.
            Some years ago Bob Bruninga, WB4APR on the TAPR APRSSIG state a discussion about designing a satellite small enough to fit into the smallest available space on a launch. I can’t recall the target dimensions. I do recall until I read Bob reject one suggestion, because the component was to big. The suggestion was to use feed line to achieve some function. However at less than a half inch in diameter it was too large! Perhaps Bob and the students of the US navel academy should enter the 2015 contest? Perhaps all the PBBS & Node sysop that still now exist for world wide digital networks?

    1. I’d just like to say that you’re project cause me to spend about 3 hours looking into ultrasonic flow meters. I wish I had more time to try building an open-sourcey ultrasonic flow meter.

  2. Congrats SatNOGS. Definitely an interesting project.
    Of course, congrats to the other finalists as well. Neat stuff all around. I’ve been wanting my own spectrometer for quite some time, and now it’s actually become a possibility.

    Cheers to all

  3. Sorry to be a negative nancy, but there are few projects between these finalists that I would like to make myself. Above all, I’m not into tracking satellites nor have I been convinced tracking them is worth my time.

    1. If you have to say “Sorry to be a negative nancy” as the first few words – you probably should just move along and not bother with the rest. Congrats on being the first negative pointless comment so far, you must feel accomplished.

      These are project to inspire and demonstrate. You seem to have missed the spirit of the competition.

      Perhaps you can enter the next one and show all these contestants up.

      I don’t have any particular interest in replicating any of the winners. But I am extremely impressed with the scope, ingenuity, and creativity of all the projects.

      1. Its still an open internet and this forum does allow for positive, neutral, and negative comments so long as there is no abuse to the negative comments. That being said congrats to all but I am with Jelle and scratching my head and wondering why and how the sat tracker took grand prize and how this project does something beyond what ham radio operators already do in some instances. I had expected to see a project win that serves a positive and beneficial purpose and not one that seems more a hobby.

          1. Yup. It’s supplyframe’s money. And the three questions I’d ask them are:
            1) Do you think you got your money’s worth here? Considering there isn’t any pay content on hackaday, do you think ignoring your majority readership’s idea of what the winner should be and giving the prize to a project many here might think is tangentially interesting but not really relevant and in some cases just doesn’t understand (read the comments on this one), is that a good move to keep and attract new readers?
            2) With the big push for the whole “SPACE!!!!!!” thing, did you plan it as a marketing ploy from the beginning knowing the chances of anyone taking a trip to space (at some indefinite later point since there is no real viable vehicle at this point) over the $200,000 being supremely small? Do you think it paid off more than just offering a $200,000 design contest? If you were serious about the “SPACE!!!!” thing, why not make it a term of the entry contract saying that is the only grand prize option?
            3) I know there was a post about “the next contest” but what are your plans, if any, for doing things differently?

    1. Yeah this is a win for Ham radio, not 1 but 2 projects in final 5. This could also potentially be made into a real global mesh network and begin to have alternative networking besides old monolithic cable companies.

      Congrats Sat-Nog team!

  4. Can anyone explain to me in simple terms what the winner does? I read the project page but it just seems to be a way of passively receiving data from random satellites that happen to be passing overhead.
    Is this like that packet data system using by CB radio enthusiasts to get data off high altitude balloons?

    1. I agree – I watched the video that talked about using this fancy doodad to get data from satellites, but failed to mention what data it is. It piqued my interest so I went to their homepage and didn’t find anything there either. It must be good if it won, but I guess I’m just missing something.

      1. First post ever for me and I agree, I have no idea what the point of the project is. I’m not being negative, I watched the video, read the web page and still have no idea what the point is. To see what satellites are overhead I think, and passively received data I think?

        1. watch the video again.

          Assume you’ve sent, or are going to send a cube satellite of your own to space -this is relatively cheap and easy in this day in age.
          Except because its your experiment, only really you are interested in the results.
          this means that you have 1 base station, (your house)
          and you may be able to receive data from your orbiting experiment maybe for a few minutes every few days.

          what this project does is lets you team up with another guy, now you don’t care about his experiments or data, and he doesn’t care about yours, but by working together you get to observe twice as much radio time with your satellite. (because you have two bases stations and the satellite will travel over either at different times of day)

          just the same as you don’t care about the fifty other experiments inside the cube satellite, sure it’d be great to have your own dedicated satellite, but that costs a lot. you team up with others to lower the individual cost.

          For every person added that’s just a few more minutes that you can communicate with your citizen satellite.
          after a while you get hundreds of people, and cover most of the earth with citizen satellite receivers. – you don’t suddenly care about other people’s experiments (you still don’t care what they are finding out), but you find that by being a part of the network, you get near continuous communication with your experiment, and the only “cost” to you is not billions of dollars investment to build a radio network, but a little extra on your electricity bill, and a bit of data upload on-line.

          It’s the most awesome trade you could make really, you listen to and transmit air signals over ground wire (the internet) and in return to get near global radio listening capabilities.

          -now does it make sense why it’s fundamentally such an awesome project?
          it’s not that it’s novel, it’s not that it’s unique, it’s not that it’s some cutting edge thing. it’s a pretty well understood technology that can seriously change the face of “low grade” space experimentation by co-operation (where low grade means not government -or governments sponsored).

          1. Lets be honest here…..

            According to those guys, it costs $50,000 to make a cubesat, and another $100,000 to launch it.

            How can you honestly say:
            “Assume you’ve sent, or are going to send a cube satellite of your own to space -this is relatively cheap and easy in this day in age.”

            There is only one guy around here we know of (or a group of guys) that has an extra $150,000 now laying around to spend on a cubesat.

          2. it needn’t cost $50k to build, that very much depends on what you build it with.
            on that page it also says that some may benefit from a free ride to space, that seems pretty cheap to me.
            I don’t think you understand what the word relative means.

            $100k to launch your own satellite IS cheap compared to getting a satellite in space by any government space agency means.

            And guess what, you don’t foot that hundred grand bill yourself, you team up with other people. and that lowers the cost by sharing the cost.

            I’ve never heard of an individual launching a cubesat, but this is something that schools and other organisations do, this is something that relative to your means, if you’re living on a dollar a day, that’s pretty expensive, if you’re living on a $50k wage then it’s a couple of years salary, if you have a fifty member strong hackerspace that’s a grand each, you may wish to team up with another hackerspace to build the experiment. to reduce costs.

            Other pages on that site talk of reducing the cost to around $8k for launch.

            don’t confuse the point of view that “I’m not interested in space and I don’t have the means to do this” with “this is something that nobody does.”

          3. Everything is relative to something else. That doesn’t mean it’s reasonable.
            I’m not sure where you are coming from on some of those statements.
            (150K to build and launch a cubesat) / (50k a year salary) = 3 years… But lets go with 2 years since that’s your example. So you are saying that owning a satellite in low earth orbit (wont’ stay up there forever) that doesn’t do much more than beep and say it’s still alive is worth a full two years salary???? And you are supposed to forgo eating and paying rent and taxes for those three years?
            Reasonable? No.
            The launch companies are businesses. If they launch something for free (8K is essentially free), they are losing money. That is not sustainable. So if someone got a free or cheap launch for whatever reason you better not expect that you’ll get that same deal. We aren’t talking about what’s remotely possible, we are talking about what’s reasonable. You don’t go to a restaurant and demand they give you free desert because it was the guy at the next table’s birthday and he got one.

            The whole point here isn’t anti-space, or anti-cubesat, or anti-ground stations. The whole point here is anti-unrealistic expectations.

            This is a very technically inclined audience. If so many people have access to satellites they own, I would love to hear from all the satellite owners around here. If you own, or co-own a satellite, please post up and give us your opinion on these matters!!!

          4. No, I’m saying this:

            It costs a lot of money to launch a satellite on your own: so you don’t do it on your own, you share the cost, and share the financial burden with others. (obviously how expensive you find it is relative to what you earn.)

            it costs a lot of money to set-up a world wide network of radio receivers, so likewise you can share the cost and burden. (just as the winning project aims to do.)

            I was speaking specifically about the launch when I said 2 years. not the satellite costs.

            No, that one guy earning $50k doesn’t go without eating or living for three years. (because he’d die)
            he teams up with 50 guys from his hacker space, who in turn team up with ten other hacker spaces.
            now there are 500 people sharing that bill, that guy doesn’t need to spend $150k on his own, by finding a load of like minded individuals the all share and spend $300 each (less than 10% of his monthly pay check).

            it seems clear that in this conversation, you either “get” the benefits of open source and open projects such as this; that [imo] bring clear benefits to the masses, in a share and share alike way (i.e you carry my data and I’ll carry yours, if we all pay a bit we can get a lot done).

            Or you just don’t “get it”, and you’re left wondering how anyone could afford to send a $150k toy to space.

            there are may reasons that you may wish to send something to space.
            and if you just want a box that beeps you’d (again from the site that you linked to) send the micro board up, that’s a $300 option, if you have ten friends you could each pay $30…

            to put it into a real world example, the European space agency made history, being the first ever to land on a comet, yes, it wasn’t a great landing, yes, secondary objectives of landing in the sun so the solar power could extend the life of the mission were not met. but they made history none the less

            The European space agency is funded by tax payer money, and it cost everyone in Europe about €3.50.
            or in beer money, about 1 [beer] maybe a couple if you live in a place where beer in cheap, it’s not even a whole beer to Norwegians as beer is very expensive there)

            Does that help you understand how lots of people teaming together can bring down the costs?

            I don’t think I can really explain it any other way.
            you can be as technically minded as you like. the principals of sharing, and basic division are not really technical subjects.

    2. Ditto. I could not find an explanation of what use SatNog serves other than as a proof of concept of being able to receive satellite radio signals and to network the results. What data do you expect to obtain or what results will the data analysis return?

    1. I think that your project is awesome,
      however I can’t help but feel pleased that your closed source commercial product did not progress further in a competition that was drafted to extol the virtues of openness.

      in fact I’d go as far as to say that I’m saddened that it got as far as it did! as it took away a semi final prize from projects that were properly open and embraced the theme that “openness is a virtue”

      I still think that it’s awesome, and may even buy one, but I think that you shot yourself in the foot as far as this contest goes!

        1. jaromirs, allow me to clarify.

          Unlike some that see the “open” tag as being trendy, but without in-deep analysis of the things involved, I had to come up with a plan if I am to make this project succeed. OpenSourcing a project like uRADMonitor is not easy: currently each node in the network is manually verified and calibrated to make sure it will deliver the same level of quality , regardless of location or construction. This makes the readings comparable all across the network and it is the entire purpose of the network.
          Allowing others to build and push data to the central server, will be impossible to regulate or control, and will results in many failures like improvised units / units with defects / tubes with issues and so on, all impacting the quality delivered by this network, which is the first of this kind at a global scale.
          Then there is the entire innovation that has been put into this project, that is impossible for me to protect, simply because I have limited resources and the costs are high (patents, trademarks, everything). Being a small project, the innovation is all that it makes it raise among other technologies of its kind. Exposing this without protecting the values created, will lead to quick project termination. I don’t want that.

          So the problem is I allocated too little resources to the open source requirement. The link to sources is from an older version of the project, and I was unable to find the time to update the design files properly, nor to deal with all the legal details of what GPL (or similar) means, as this would have required a well trained lawyer (expensive to me in this phase).

          As Dan said, this had a cost (this is why I agreed with him). But I will be able to change that in the future, as the project will grow and I will find the resources. I do plan to offer up-to-date revision of the design files, and also kits for those that like to solder as soon as I get to implement at least an additional flag to identify calibrated units from DIY builds.

          Currently, as the single person doing everything from hardware / China negociations / firmware software / server software/ artwork / website / email support, and a full time job to help me fund everything, time is a very limited resource. ANd I also have a wife and a soon to be born girl.
          Still the project moves on and has seen increasing development in the last weeks which is good. After all competitions like these are meant to give a boost to developing technologies, and I am pleased to say that the uRADMonitor is on an ascendent road.

          1. As I said, I believe that the urad project is pretty awesome, and the fact that it’s featured on hack a day about three times is testament to that.

            I do agree with your reasons for not open sourcing.
            I actually like your reasons for not open sourcing in that to do so with your current aims would be more of a fashion label than a ethos. Too many people throw in an open source logo when the reality is that the project isn’t really open source.

            I’m not going to tell you how you should run your project.
            However, I believe that you may be able to add a “key” to your upload. So that only authorised hardware can upload to your network.

            In this way you can open source anything and everything that you would like. (Board designs, software for the device, the software that runs on the server etc -enabling people to use your project as a starting point for other geotagged data) -the only thing that you’d leave closed is the key you your server.

            This enables you to put an open source license and maintain the integrity of the data in your database.

          2. Seems like a weird place to have this discussion, and Im not intending to add fire to anything, but I have said it before in comments to the uRad project, and will say it again:

            uRAD could have benefited greatly by communicating with the Safecast project, and perhaps integrated with them. They have significant funding. They have already done everything you are claiming to want to be doing, and have done so entirely on open source. I don’t want to be mean here, but there is absolutely NOTHING unique in the uRAD project as compared to Safecast (a project with now with 3 1/2 years of continuous activity, hundreds of volunteers, and millions of datapoints).

            They have gained a tremendous amount of experience in PRACTICAL radiation monitoring, rad networks, and the reasons for and against stationary and mobile networks. They have dealt with the scientific community’s scrutiny and came out on top.

            They would have told you to give up on surplus market Russian tubes long ago. The validation and calibration procedures on those things is such a nightmare that you can never hope to have a statistically reliable network of sensors.

            Bunny (a judge) is one of the principal technical advisers on the Safecast project. If there was innovation there, he absolutely would have recognized and acknowledged it.

  5. Congrats to everyone. These connected projects are great resources to the hacker community. For the next Hackaday Prize I think it would be cool to have a theme related to cutting-edge technology. Seeing projects based around emerging technologies would be very exciting.

  6. I’m sure SatNOGs will be really useful, but still kind of disappointed the tricorder didn’t win 1st, as he was probably the only one that would have opted for the trip to space.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I definitely would have taken the trip to space! I don’t see how could you possibly not?! It’s not every day that someone asks you to go to /space/!

      All of the finalists are absolutely incredible projects. I think I speak for all the finalists when I say that we’ve poured our hearts into our work — and as an open content author, there’s nothing more incredible than seeing someone use your work. So celebrate today, but tomorrow, start printing out the parts to build yourself a satellite transceiver, or a raman spectrometer. Or send off the boards for your chipwhisperer, or arducorder, or fill out the survey to help kickstart the first batch of portable SDR radios. And please don’t keep it to yourself! Post pictures, send them to us and tell us how much you like it (or where you think it needs work). Let us know that six months of late nights made the world turn a little better, or inspired a new project that you’ve started. It’ll give us fuel, and negotiating power when our friends and loved ones see us at it again with our next projects.

      There are *five hundred* or so brand new and very good open source hardware projects out there today that were not out there six months ago, and I feel like that’s probably doubled the amount of significant open hardware projects in the ecosystem from a single event. The beautiful thing about open hardware is that it’s not just for building, but learning from example is a very compelling teaching tool, so these projects help bootstrap the next generation of projects. The hackaday and supplyframe folks have my heartfelt thanks, and I’m excited to see where all of these projects go!

      1. Peter, I wholeheartedly agree…and couldn’t have said it better myself.
        The contest generated a tremendous amount of sharing and documentation on some amazing and creative projects from a group who largely don’t ordinarily document and share…myself included..
        It was amazing to watch everyone’s projects develop and mature over time… I don’t expect everyone to build a raman spectrometer, or even just the spectrometer portion…but I hope that some part, some time, someone stumbles across some portion and is able to learn and use something from what I’ve done.. and I think that you’re right, that’s the biggest reward.. especially if we hear about it..!
        The hackaday crowd and judges both deserve their own prize as well for the amount of effort and thought put into this entire contest. Congratulations to everyone on what I see as hacking’s greatest adventure to date…!

  7. Well done. All five winners, the other participants, the judges, hackaday, supplyframe, everyone! What a successful contest! Really shows what people are capable of :)

    Can you imagine what we as a community could create if the next contest is themed at developing nations or something? People in their garages, making the world a better place.

  8. While I congratulate all the winners, I can’t help not feel none of them cleared the high bar I read( or at least felt I was reading) when the contest was announced. But in all fairness it was a high bar to clear, and would have required super human predictions powers on the part of the judges. As an amateur radio operator who has used some the amateur radio satellites I was particularly interested in satNOGS. While it’s a trippy slogan “There thousands of satellites out there… it’s time to talk to them”, it misses that only a relative few are available for use by the project. Would have be great if their was a companion contestant addressing getting more amateur communications satellites in orbit. Not amateur radio, just simply amateur.

  9. Congrats to all the participants, and especially the winners! I wish I had made the time to come up with a project.. hopefully the next one! Gotta clear a few other project-obligations from my schedule first. Anyway, I don’t think I could have outdone any of these folks!

    1. The same exact thing a scanner listener who hooks up
      his local scanner to the internet and streams the audio
      to folks around the world can do.

      Except in this case, instead of streaming the audio from
      a single source, I decide to be a chump and buy all kinds
      of un-necessary hardware and try to form a mesh WiFi
      network to get the data out – what data ? obscure stuff off
      some obscure satellite with no real practical value.

      Talk about “jumped the shark” … SMH

  10. Congratulations to all winners. The prizes are awesome, and the projects are amazing. I know that some are looking at designing new projects, but I’m happy enough taking a look at the details of the current projects and building them myself, particularly the first and second place. Those two open up a wicked amount of information at wildly less than broadband prices.

  11. Ya, congratulations to those that put in the time, money, and effort, definitely worth it. I’ve picked a few projects to follow and will probably use a great deal from the projects, like the open source tricolor, cool stuff. I’ve love to see what happens now. I think a thank you to our overlords is rightfully due

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