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.

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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

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