DIY Low-Cost LoRa Satellite Ground Station

Embedded engineer [Alberto Nunez] has put together a compact LoRa satellite telemetry ground station that fits in your hand and can be built for around $40 USD.

The station receives signals from any of several satellites which use LoRa for telemetry, like the FossaSat series of PocketQube satellites. Even with a sub-optimal setup consisting of a magnetic mount antenna stuck outside a window, [Alberto] is able to receive telemetry from satellites over 2,000 kilometers distant. He also built a smaller variant which is battery powered for portable use.

The construction of this ground station makes use of standard off-the-shelf items with a Heltec ESP32-based LoRa / WiFi module as the heart. This module is one of several supported by the TinyGS project, which provides receiver firmware and a worldwide telemetry network consisting of 1,002 stations as of this writing. The firmware has a lot of features, including OTA updates and auto-tuning of your receiver to catch each satellite as it passes overhead.

The TinyGS project started out as a weekend project back in 2019 to use an ESP32 to receive LoRa telemetry from the FossaSat-1 satellite, and has expanded to encompass all satellites, and other flying objects, using LoRa-based telemetry. It uses Telegram to distribute data, with a message being sent to the channel anytime any station in the network receives a telemetry packet from a satellite.

If you’re interested in getting your feet wet receiving satellite signals, this is an easy project to start with that won’t break the bank.

23 thoughts on “DIY Low-Cost LoRa Satellite Ground Station

  1. Interesting, I always wanted to get my feet wet into that kinda stuff. How exactly do i start? I am completely new to Satelites, how to build them etc. etc. I believe this will be too hard for me as a beginner. Any nice sources i can learn from, read and so on? build my knowledge up?

    1. Read the wiki on GitHub repository. This project can be done even by people without programming experience. It’s really easy to start and there is a big bunch of smart people in Telegram group that will help you to get some good packets from space.

  2. Please stop supporting proprietary and patended technologies like LoRa in the amateur radio spectrum. Besides being illegal in many countries (e.g. France) it is highly unethical.

    1. No. Why is it illegal in France? Lora was developed by a French company.
      Wifi is also a patented use of the unlicensed spectrum, is that illegal in France? Good luck convincing people to drop that.

      1. I was referring to the usage of proprietary/patented modulations in the amateur radio spectrum. That’s what is illegal in many places (and highly unethical anyways). LoRa is fine and legal in ISM around the world. But that is not the amateur radio service and definitely not the amateur radio satellite service.

      2. I was referring to the fact that proprietary and patented modulations (like LoRa) are illegal in some countries (like France) when used under the Amateur Radio service (and thus amateur radio spectrum).

        1. This is a receiver! I struggle to believe that receiving and demodulating a signal that is encoded using a patented technology is actually illegal in France. But maybe I’m being naiive! Blocking the population from decoding signals that are landing in their airspace just seems wrong.

        2. 70 cm LoRa is used inside ISM section, which should be the same for all the Region 1. So IMHO if a garage door openers are not forbidden in France, how can be LoRa, providing 10 mW emission power is respected?

    2. @Pierros Papadeas said: “Please stop supporting proprietary and patended (sic) technologies like LoRa in the amateur radio spectrum. Besides being illegal in many countries (e.g. France) it is highly unethical.”

      It depends where you are and what the laws of your country are. For example here in the U.S. (ITU-Region-2) there is an ISM/Amateur overlap in the 33 centimeter band (902-928MHz) which now must be shared between the two services.[1] Plus if I’m not mistaken, the ISM signals take precedent over Amateur emissions in the U.S. at 33 centimeters. Unfortunately the 33 centimeter band was forced into sharing because it was highly underutilized by the Amateur Radio community. There’s a saying: “Use it, or lose it!”

      LoRa is an interesting case here in the U.S. The law says that as a U.S. Amateur operator you are not allowed to send any encrypted traffic inside the allocated Amateur bands. LoRa traffic can be and often is encrypted. So what happens if a U.S. licensed Amateur sends LoRa traffic that is encrypted in the shared 33 centimeter band – is that illegal? Meanwhile in the U.S. a non-Amateur licensed LoRa transmitter operated at 33 centimeters may use encryption without recourse. At least that’s the way it seems to me. Corrections welcome.

      1. Here are links to the ARRL (U.S.) Amateur Radio Band-Plans. Unfortunately, as is often the case the ARRL servers are refusing to respond.

      Try this instead:

      1. @Drone , @Tõnis and @Martyn Bull :

        There seems to be a great misunderstanding about ISM, space and Amateur radio service. Let me try to explain it in plain words:

        I am referring to transmissions from space objects (satellites), and for those according to the ITU for each beam (i.e. transmitter or receiver) there needs to be an assigned “space service”. According to the ITU and *any* national legislation I know there is *no* ISM space service (see ref 1). Whatever flies in space and transmits in a band needs to be in a space service. In the case of transmissions in 435-438Mhz there are satellites that their national administrations have assigned them in [EA] Amateur radio satellite service and thus in principle if they are transmitting above jurisdictions that ban proprietary/patented and encoded modulations (i.e. France) in the amateur radio service, they are in violation of the local law. Again this is besides the fact that it is *highly* unethical from an amateur radio ethics perspective.

        Please consider the primary characteristic of a transmission to be its service allocation and secondary the specific frequency band (Ref 2). That will help navigate national law and international treaties easier.

        There are plenty of services and thus frequency bands that could work OK for LoRa from space for commercial missions. Examples are “Earth Observing Satellite Service” and “Space Operation Service”, but not “Amateur Radio Satellite Service” and especially not with a global area of operation.

        Ref 1
        Ref 2

  3. I’m G4lile0 one of the developer of tinyGS, our aim is to promote space, technology and STEM with a minimal cost..
    LORAWAN is encrypted by default but Amateur satellites use RAW LoRa that isn’t encrypted.

    In this document from IARU LoRa modulation have is own frequency allocation.
    The optimal bandwidth seems to be 125 kHz. LoRa signals will be accommodated in the frequency segment 437.3-437.5 MHz”

    It was deleted recently but luckily we can recover it here:

    We have seen lately that some satellites with LoRa modulation that requested IARU frequency coordination has been denied, if we investigate a bit we see that @Pierros Papadeas, SV1QVE is a member of the panel of experts that decided wich satellite is coordinated or not…

    Pierros Papadeas won the 2014 hackaday price with the amazing SaTNOGS ground station project.
    Technically due the SaTNOGS design they are unable to receive satellites with LoRa modulation…

    From my perspective there is a clear conflict of interest there .

    1. Hello anonymous G4lile0, Pierros here.

      Few clarifications on the points you raised:

      During my participation in the IARU satellite coordination panel, many LoRa satellites have been coordinated, so the causality you are insinuating here is wrong. Also it is no secret that I believe that LoRa has no place in the amateur radio satellite service, a fact that I am publicly open about it.

      As for your SatNOGS comment: SatNOGS is not “technically due to design unable”, but rather chooses *not* to support LoRa out of principle and since using gr-lora would be illegal and a patent infringement.

      You better ask yourself and the volunteers in your project if they are OK supporting violating and/or for-profit satellites, for free before you talk about conflicts of interest on other projects.


      1. I can reply “Yes i am”
        Also no reply about what motivated deny of frequency coordination for those lora modulated satellites.

        My TinyGs is located in France and be sure that as a model citizen of my country, i use tinygs to record all freqency infrigement from rogue amateur satellite project in order to amass huge amount of physical proof to launch a legal action and destroy any kind of passion in those fraudulent people.

  4. G1XZL hi all , France is very strick about RF band plan useage ..
    Hang Glider and Para Sender Pilots have had in the past used 2m and 70cm band Radios for commuicating while flying because it was cheaper than buying a Air band Radio and License and passing the air band operators license .. The Radio Inspectors had an easy solution at the launch sites .. they’d ask for License if not registered they cease the radio and Drill a couple of hole in the radio so it was no longer able to be used .
    So as you can imagine there often many upset radio users at launch sites not to mention if they were fined as well …

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