Detect Starlink Satellites Passing By

The Starlink beta has semi-officially ended, but it seems as though the global chip shortage is still limiting how many satellites are flying around the world for broadband internet access for those that might not be served by traditional ISPs. Not every location around the world has coverage even if you can get signed up, so to check that status the hard way you can always build a special antenna that tracks the Starlink beacons as they pass overhead.

[Derek] is using this project to show of some of his software-defined radio skills, so this will require an SDR that can receive in the 1600 MHz range. It also requires a power injector to power the satellite receiver, but these are common enough since they are used to power TV antennas. The signals coming from the Starlink satellites have a very high signal-to-noise ratio so [Derek] didn’t even need a dish to focus the signals. This also helped because the antenna he is using was able to see a much wider area as a result. Once everything was set up and the computer was monitoring the correct location in the spectrum, he was able to see very clearly how often a satellite passed him by.

Of course, [Derek] lives in an area with excellent coverage so this might be a little more difficult for those in rural areas, but possibly not for long as the goal of Starlink is to bring broadband to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. There is some issue with how much these satellites might interfere with other astronomical activities though, so take that with a grain of salt.

Thanks to [Spritle] for the tip!

Christian Hahn Starlink capture showing guard region.

Analyzing Starlink Satellite Downlink Communications With Software Defined Radio

Often, mere curiosity is sufficient to do something. This is also the case with people trying to analyze the communication setup and protocol which SpaceX is using with their Ku-band based Starlink satellites.  One of these fine folk is [Christian Hahn], who has recently posted some early findings to r/StarlinkEngineering over at Reddit. Some of the captured data seems to include the satellite ID system that ground-based user stations would presumably use to keep track of overhead Starlink satellites.

For the capturing itself, [Christian] is using a second-hand dish for capture and a DIY SDR using KC705 FPGA-based hardware – which may have begun its life as crypto mining hardware – along with the usual assortment of filters and other common components with this kind of capture. Even at this early time, some features of the Starlink protocol seem quite obvious, such as the division into channels and the use of guard periods. Nothing too earth-shattering, but as a fun SDR hobby it definitely checks all the boxes.

[Christian] has also announced that at some point he’ll set up a website and publish the findings and code that should make Starlink signal analysis easy for anyone with a readily available SDR receiver.

 

Pluto Spectrum Analyzer Uses Command Line

If you don’t care about shortwave frequencies, the PlutoSDR is a great deal. The device is supposed to be an evaluation board for Analog Device’s radio chips, but it does great as a software-defined radio that can receive and transmit and it even runs Linux internally. [SignalsEverywhere] shows how to use it as a spectrum analyzer that works from the command line in the video you can see below.

The software used is Retrogram. Despite the ASCII graphics, the program has many features. You can use simple keystrokes to change the center frequency, the sampling rate, the bandwidth, and more. You can run the software on a Linux host or compile a binary on the box or cross-compile using tools on the Raspberry Pi.

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More Software-Defined Radio Projects Using DragonOS

DragonOS, a Debian-based Linux distribution specifically packaged for software-defined radio functionality, roared onto the wavelengths during the beginnings of the various pandemic lockdowns last year. Since then [Aaron], the creator of the OS, has been busy adding features to the distribution as well as creating plenty of videos which show off its capabilities and also function as how-tos for people who might want to learn about software-defined radio. The latest is a video about using this software to detect radio signals in certain specified spectrums.

This build uses two  RTL-SDR devices paired with the DragonOS software suite to automatically detect active frequencies within a specified frequency range and that aslo exceed a threshold measured above the average noise floor. The video includes the setup of the software and its use in detecting these signals, but also includes setup of influxdb and Grafana which provide logging capabilities as well. Using this setup, multiple receivers either local or over the internet can then be configured to dump all the identified frequencies, powers, and time stamps into DragonOS.

[Aaron] has also been helping developers to build the SDR4space.lite application which includes GPS support, so he hopes that in a future video a user will be able to easily associate location to identified frequencies. Projects like these also serve as a reminder that getting into software-defined radio is as easy as buying a $10 USB radio receiver and configuring some free software to do anything that you can imagine like tracking ships and airplanes in real time.

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Raspberry Pi Tablet Gets Radio Surgical Enhancement

We always get excited when we buy a new tablet. But after a few months, it usually winds up at the bottom of a pile of papers on the credenza, a victim of not being as powerful as our desktop computers and not being as convenient as our phones. However, if you don’t mind a thick tablet, you can get the RasPad enclosure to fit around your own Raspberry Pi so it can be used as a tablet. Honestly, we weren’t that impressed until we saw [RTL-SDR] add an SDR dongle inside the case, making it a very portable Raspberry Pi SDR platform.

The box is a little interesting by itself, although be warned it costs over $200. For that price you get an LCD and driver board, a battery system, speakers, and an SD extension slot with some control buttons for volume and brightness. There’s a video of the whole setup (in German) below.

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SBITX: Hackable HF SDR For The Raspberry Pi

Cheap, easy to use SDR dongles are an immensely powerful tool for learning about radio technology. However, building your own SDR is not something too many hackers are confident to tackle. [Ashhar Farhan, VU2ESE] hopes to change this with the sBITX, a hackable HF SDR transceiver designed around the Raspberry Pi.

[Ashhar] introduced the project in talk at the virtual “Four Days In May” annual conference of the QRP Amateur Radio Club International. Watch the full talk in the video after the break. He first goes over the available open source SDR radios, and then delves into his design decisions for the sBITX. One of the primary goals of the project was to lower the barrier of entry. To do this, he chose the Raspberry Pi as base, and wrote C code that that anyone who has done a bit of Arduino programming should be able to understand and modify. The hardware is designed to be as simple as possible. On the receive side, a simple superheterodyne architecture is used to feed a 25 kHz wide slice of RF spectrum to an audio codec, which send the digitized audio to the Raspberry Pi. The signal is then demodulated in software using FFT. For transmit, the signal is generated in software, and then upconverted to the desired RF frequency. [Ashhar] also created a GUI for the 7″ Raspberry Pi screen.

At the moment the sBITX is still in the development stage, information is spread between the video after the break, it’s accompanying PDF, the GitHub repo, and a thread on the BITX20 group.

[Ashar Farhan] is well known in the ham radio community for low cost radio designs like the BITX, and it’s successor, the μBITX. He also created the Antuino, an Arduino based antenna tester. Continue reading “SBITX: Hackable HF SDR For The Raspberry Pi”

Phase Coherent Beamforming SDR

The days when software defined radio techniques were exotic are long gone, and we don’t miss them one bit. A case in point: [Laakso Mikko’s] research group has built a multichannel receiver using 21 cheap RTL-SDR dongles to create a phase coherent array. This is useful for everything from direction finding and passive radar or beam forming. The code is also available on GitHub.

The phase coherence does require the dongle’s tuner can turn off dithering. That means the code only works with dongles that use the R820T/2. The project modifies the dongles to use a common clock and a switchable reference noise generator.

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