I have picked up a side hobby of tracking small cube satellites and decoding their data.
Sounds tricky, but honestly, its all been made super simple by the SatNOGS guys…. Satellite Network of Ground Stations….. Just load their Raspberry Pi image, hook up an antenna and receiver and you are up and running.
They do all the hard work of tracking the sats, triggering your station and handling the decoding.
(Its not that easy, but you get the idea).
I started with a home made antenna, but got hooked on the concept so put my money where my time was and bought two antennas from a company in Florida. (Antennas.us)
Main reason I went with these is because they look like pipes. I am still mindful of being in a pretty strict HOA and did not want to draw any more attention that necessary.
I have two, a VHF and a UHF. Both then run into amplifiers and then to my Raspberry Pis. So yeah, I run two stations. 702 and 908. Why two? One for VHF and one for UHF.
Where all this becomes really fun is that you have to manually (at the moment – the guys are working on some machine learning stuff) ‘vet’ your signals that your station picks up. So every few days I check in with my stations and look at the data they have received and vet it as good, bad or failed.
Here is a short video of one of my decodes. It gives you an idea of the signal, the graphics and the audio from the satellite in orbit.
Its really quite addictive (for a geek).
The plan is, after 10,000 vets of signals on my UHF station, to continue with the upgrades of both the amplifier and the receiver. The better you can make your station, the less vetting you need to do and the more data you kick back to the community.
As for coverage, for the longest time Victoria was not on the map… I was almost at the point of sending you guys something to get us up and running!
But thankfully VK3XN has stepped up and is running a station out Ringwood East way…. Anyway, the more global coverage, the better.
So yeah, its been soaking up my hobby time in the most delightful way.