Discovery Dish Lets You Pick Up The Final Frontier

These days, affordable software defined radios (SDRs) have made huge swaths of the spectrum available to hobbyists. Whether you’re looking to sniff the data from that 433 MHz thermometer you’ve got in the backyard or pick up transmissions from satellites, the same little USB-connected box can make it happen.

But even the best SDR is constrained by the antenna it’s connected to, and that’s where it can still get a little tricky for new players. Luckily, there’s a new option for those who want to pick up signals from space without breaking the bank: the Discovery Dish by KrakenRF. After reaching 105% of its funding goal on December 20th, the handy little 65-cm aluminum reflector looks like it’s on track to ship out this summer.

The Discovery Dish was designed from the ground up to enable hobbyists to receive real-time weather data from satellites transmitting in the L band (GOES, NOAA, Meteor, etc.) and experiment with hydrogen line radio astronomy. Neither of which are anything new, of course. But having a pre-built dish and feed takes a lot of the hassle out of picking up these distant signals.

Although the current prototype has a one-piece reflector, the final Discovery Dish will break down into three “petals” to make storage and transport easier. If you don’t want to take it all the way apart, you can simply remove the feed to make it a bit more compact. Speaking of which, KrakenRF is also offering three different feeds depending on what signals you’re after: L band, Inmarsat, or hydrogen line.

You still have options if you’ve got to keep your radio hacking on a tighter budget. As we saw recently, you can actually pull an ET and pick up weather satellites using a foil-lined umbrella. Or spend a little at the big box hardware store and grab some aluminum flashing.

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SDR: Satellite Death Receiver

Halloween may be over, but [happysat] has found a way to listen to the dead. Satellites, that is, specifically those in the 136-138 MHz and 150-400 MHz ranges. He’s using an RTL-SDR dongle and a QFH antenna to detect the death throes of decommissioned navigation and space research satellites.

[happysat] was listening to NOAA/Meteor on the 137MHz band when he made this discovery. When a satellite is near end of life, the last bit of fuel is used to push it into graveyard orbit. This doesn’t always work, however, and when the light is just right, a chemical reaction makes the long-dead batteries conduct and these satellites in purgatory transmit once more.

They’re not sending out anything proprietary useful, just unmodulated carrier that sometimes interferes with currently operational satellites on the 136-138 MHz band. [happysat] captured some audio from two of the oldest satellites that are still broadcasting, and links to a TLE set of dead satellites he created. Check out his frequency database for SDR# as well. Don’t have a weather satellite-capable antenna? Build one!

[via /r/RTLSDR]

Hackaday Links: June 22, 2014


Solar Freakin’ Roadways! There’s been a lot of talk about how solar freakin’ roadways are an ill-conceived idea, and now [Dave Jones] is weighing in on the subject. Highlights include a quarter of the solar power generated being used to light the LEDs that form the lane markers, something that could easily be accomplished with paint. Oh, the solar freakin’ roadway campaign is over. Just over $2.2 million, if you’re wondering.

The Game Boy Micro is the best way to play GBA games, but finding one for a reasonable price just isn’t going to happen. [John Sparks] is making his own Macro Micros by casemodding a DS Lite.On the subject of Game Boy mods, [koji-Kendo] is improving the common frontlight Game Boy Color mod with optically clear UV curing glue. Without glue on the left, with glue on the right.

Need to label a panel with the function of all your switches and dials? Yeah, you could drop the panel into an engraver, till the engraved letters with enamel, or do some electroetching. You can also buy a pack or rub-on letters, available in any Michaels, Hobby Lobby, or the like.

MSI Afterburner is a utility that allows you to play with settings and monitor performance on MSI graphics cards. [Stephen] made a little device for MSI Afterburner that displays the current FPS and GPU load on an external LCD. Handy, seeing as how FPS and GPU load is the one thing you’ll want to know when you’re gaming fullscreen.

Realtime cloudmaps of the Earth. Using reasonably recent images take from five geostationary satellites, you can stitch together a real-time cloud map of the entire Earth. Here’s the software to do it. Now all you need is a projector and pair of frosted acrylic hemispheres, and you have a real-time globe.

Say you have a Kickstarter in the works, and you’re trying to figure out all the ways to get some buzz from the Internet public.. Here’s how you get it to the front page of using a bit of Perl. “So far, this page has been updated 02578 times.”