DIY Space: DIY Satellite Ground Station

Yes, ground station charts typically look very boring. Nature of the beast, I’m afraid. Image from SatNOGS.org.

Anyone who has been following this site knows that satellites are in many different roles, accomplishing many things beneficial to humanity.  But none this really matters without a way to communicate with them.  If a satellite takes a picture, how does that picture make its way to Earth?  If a satellite requires an element set update (an update of a satellite’s orbital track) or troubleshooting, how does that occur?  To communicate with satellites, to get the data they acquired back to Earth, you need ground stations.

If you are more ambitious, or have a lot of satellites to be communicated with, then you have a ground system.  This site has talked about both in the “Imaging Satellite Operations” series, starting here.  Typically these ground stations and systems cost a lot of money, but there’s a group of folks out there trying to make ground stations more accessible using open-source tech. The group, calling themselves SatNOGS, is trying to make it easier and more affordable for folks to become part of a (according to this Hackaday.com post) “Near Space Network.”

So, yes, you now have the opportunity and plans available to create your own satellite communications ground station.  Plans?  Yep, SatNOGS actually has a recipe to help you talk with satellites, and you can go to this part of their site to see what parts you need to do so.  Software is also available, including software defined radio (based on GNURadio–pretty nifty software, actually–you can use it to monitor A LOT of different frequencies) and SatNOGS’ own tracking and contact scheduling software.  By the way, GNURadio is also used to talk with the ISEE-3 satellite.

If you have your own ideas about bettering ground stations and systems to contribute to SatNOGS, first you should admit you’re a space nerd.  Seriously, confront this and then be comfortable with it.  But second, if you do have ideas, the SatNOGS fellas seem friendly enough and are encouraging all types of space enthusiasts to contribute to the ground station’s design.

Build your own, or contribute to SatNOGS; either way, you too, might be able to command a satellite–or at the very least get some satellite data.

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