Similar Projects

The following is a list of other low cost satellite receiving projects. Not all projects are open source hardware, but all include at least some degree of documentation/evidence of success. Note, some of these projects require the use of a directional antenna (usually a hand held Yagi) to provide sufficient gain. Contrast this with the Ground Sphere goal of providing a new user friendly system by utilizing an omni-directional antenna.

Listening to a Satellites for 30 Dollars

Basic instructions for receiving 1990s era weather satellite data. Utilizes SDR USB dongle and free (mostly open source) software. Lowest cost example that does not strictly require Yagi antenna (post does not spend much time discussing the antenna). There is a PBI in Sprint 1 to attempt to reproduce the results of this post at one or more Mach 30 volunteer sites.


A much more complete example of using an SDR stick to receive images from weather satellites. It includes sections on requirements, antennas, software, and tips. Very good resource!

KickSat Ground Station

Hand-held Yagi + SDR based ground station for receiving telemetry from KickSat sprites. This is an open source hardware project published on GitHub.

How to Hear the ISS

AMSAT-UK blog post on using ham radio gear to listen to the ISS. Discussion includes antenna selection (a 1/4 wave whip antenna and a 1/4 wave ground plane). The post mentions 3 things you can listen for from the ISS.

  • AX.25 packet repeater
  • Voice repeater
  • Receive Slow Scan Television (SSTV) pictures

Building A Global Network Of Open Source SDR Receivers

Slashdot post covering a KickStarter to fund a BeagleBone based open source SDR receiver (complete with GPS to allow the receiver to know where it is on Earth). Could be an interesting foundation for networked Ground Spheres. The KS has already been funded and there is a good bit of press around the project. Note, the KS is charging $199 for just the Cape (aka the BeagleBone shield in Arduino speak) and $299 for a more complete package (includes BeagleBone Green but no power supply or antenna).

Receiving Slow Scan TV Images from the International Space Station

YouTube video/blog post about using ham radio gear to receive and decode an SSTV picture from the ISS. As with earlier posts, this operator recommends lower gain antennas for these applications (mostly for omni-directional qualities). Post includes specific antenna recommendations and includes an example pass of the ISS. Check it out:

Need to see if anyone is doing this with SDRs.

Listening to Satellites on a Handheld Scanner

Less instructions and more background. The antenna section is particularly interesting.

RTL-SDR Blog Posts About Using RTL2832U to Receive ISS Signals

Tag search for ISS posts on RTL-SDR blog. Lots of good posts linking to YouTube videos and other blog posts. This is a goldmine of info and a potential resource to share our work with. What I don't see here is someone having kit'ified the concept for easy replication by others.

Example Video of Using an SDR to Receive Signals from the ISS

There is a lot of static and then around half way through the video there are a series of very clear beeps. According to the description, the operator also decoded data on the downlink. Not a lot of detail here, but it is a nice example of what one might actually expect to experience during operations.

Use a $20 dongle to listen to ISS

Long and detailed blog post showing many uses for SDR dongle, including decoding APRS packets from ISS.

Getting Started Contacting the ISS

Blog post covering how to use Ham Radio equipment to listen and talk to the ISS. The post has some very good details on frequencies, antennas, services, and doppler shift.

SDR Dongle Links

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