Tracking of Low Orbit Satellites with a Dish & RTL-SDR

Travis Goodspeed has shared a project on his blog about his adventure in tracking low orbit satellites using a fairly complex setup. He is using a dish intended for connecting to one of the Inmarsat satellites while at sea on a maritime vessel, a EiBotBoard connected to a BeagleBone for motor control and a RTL-SDR for receiving radio signals from the dish. His goal has been to track the whole sky, including moving targets and it looks like he has been pretty successful.


At Black Hat DC in 2008, I watched Adam Laurie present a tool for mapping Ku-band satellite downlinks, which he has since rewritten as Satmap. His technique involves using an DVB-S card in a Linux computer as a receiver through a 90cm Ku-band dish with fixed elevation and a DiSEqC motor for azimuth motion. It was among the most inspirational talks I’d ever seen, and I had a blast recreating his setup and scanning the friendly skies. However, such a rig is limited to geostationary satellites in a small region of the sky; I wanted to see the whole sky, especially the moving targets.

In this article, I’ll demonstrate a method for modifying a naval telecommunications dish to track moving targets in the sky, such as those in Low Earth Orbit. My dish happily sits in Tennessee, while I direct it using my laptop or cellphone here in Europe. It can also run unattended, tracking moving targets and looking for downlink channels.” — Travis Goodspeed


via RTL-SDR.com


ADSB# – Windows ADSB Decoder for use with a RTL-SDR

If you’re looking for an application to receive ADS-B signals in AVR format using your RTL-SDR while running Windows, be sure to head over to SDRSharp.com and check out ADSB#. It can be quite a bit of fun to track the Aircraft that may be flying over your home or office at this very moment. Aircraft from all over the world are equipt to emit signals in this mode. ADSB# should be compatible with the majority of plane plotting software (ex. PlanePlotter, Virtual Radar Server, adsbSCOPE, etc…).

ADS-B, an acronym for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast is a technology that allows tracking aircrafts using high speed radio transmissions. I have never had much interest in this technology until recently. While I was fiddling with this mode with Ian, we discovered a very simple way of demodulating this digital mode using the cheap DVB-T/FM (rtlsdr) dongles. This diagram explains how it works:

adsb-detectionThe final application, ADSB# (read ADSB-Sharp) is released under the MIT license and looks a bit like this:


For the download link and more information, head on over to SDRSharp.com and check out the page on ADSB#. For a great guide on getting started with ADSB, check out the guide at RTL-SDR.com.

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