What can be more fantastic and geeky than a project that connects: OpenSource software (a lot of software), Open Source hardware and space (by satellite communication)?!
“Open and Accessible Outer Space for all”
Sounds like a revolutionary slogan? Maybe, but the whole idea is very simple: build an Open Source network for communication with satellites and take data from space, because it’s free and available for all.
This idea is developed by Libre Space Foundation and their main project called SatNOGS (Satellite Networked Open Ground Station).
When joining the project every engineer/geek can find something for themselves and that’s what we did. We got engaged in:
- contributing merge requests to the source code,
- we are building new SatNOGS nodes
- and, what is most important for us (as a data nerd company), we want to start gathering (BIG!) data from satellites and do some data science!
SatNOGS Open Source Rotor
But what satellites?
This information may be new to you, but space is full of non-commercial satellites (since this year you can also find a car there 8-)). Not only those made by huge organizations like NASA, Motorola or Space-X launch satellites, but also: non-profit organizations, students/colleges, nerds/geeks, ham radio operators and other people passionate about all those things connected with space, stars, planets...
A lot of effort goes into building a satellite, a lot of effort is required to put it into space, and then, when it’s up there, we can finally communicate.
Until SatNOGs came to be, there were only two possibilities to do that: wait until the satellite is “over your head” (and this may take a lot of time) or rent a commercial ground station network for communication.
Now with almost ~60 ground stations all over the world, there's a good chance for contact with the desired satellite.
How it all started
It all began 4 years ago, during NASA SpaceApps Challenge in 2014 at Athens Hackerspace - Libre Space Foundation initiated SatNOGS project.
Imagine that lots, LOTS of data fly above our heads and no one uses them - they are unused, and they shouldn’t be.
SatNOGS is a complete platform of an open satellite ground-station network. The scope of the project is to create a full stack of open technologies based on open standards, and the construction of a full ground station as a showcase of the stack.
SatNOGS is retrieving signals from LEO satellites in UHF and VHF bands. It is able to retrieve status and telemetry signals, data from scientific and research satellites (p.e. magnetospheric experiments), weather data, etc.
In simple words:
SatNOGS gives the community a wide variety of open source tools to gain data from all those satellites. The core of this project is the community of radio amateurs, space enthusiasts, satellite operators, programmers, gathered around one simple idea: “Open and Accessible Outer Space for all.”
SatNOGS consists of 4 different sub-projects:
- SatNOGS Network – observations, scheduling, and discovery server: https://network.satnogs.org
- SatNOGS DB – crowdsourced satellite database: https://db.satnogs.org
- SatNOGS Client – An embedded system that receives the scheduled operation from Network, records an observation and sends it back
- SatNOGS Ground Station – The actual ground station instrumentation with a tracker, antennas, LNAs and Software Defined Radio which is connected to Client.
ALL you need to begin full communication with Space! Literally!
“Through the power of open source and community driven development, we can see collaborations like this one with TEONITE be an impactful contribution to our vision of open and accessible outer space technologies and data for all”
Pierros Papadeas, Libre Space Foundation
UPSat - first open source satellite!
Open source Space is real!
Open Souce destroys all barriers and makes it possible to work with a group of people no matter what skills they have and where they are.
All software (network, satellite database, client and other tools) hardware (antenna rotation with 3d printed parts and electronics) needed to gain data from all those satellites are available on GitLab: https://gitlab.com/librespacefoundation/satnogs
There is also great documentation on how to get started if you want to build your own node on wiki: https://wiki.satnogs.org/Main_Page or https://ohai.satnogs.org/
Joining a community of radio amateurs, space enthusiasts, satellite operators, programmers
The satNOGS community is still growing. Currently, there are more than 60 ground stations in the production environment and many more in the development environment. But, it's still not enough, considering that you can catch satellite only in short period (during its fly-by over your head). More ground stations mean more significant opportunity to get more data!
If you are a coder and want to help there’s lot to do in various areas:
- network: https://gitlab.com/librespacefoundation/satnogs/satnogs-network/issues
- satellite database: https://gitlab.com/librespacefoundation/satnogs/satnogs-db/issues
- the client itself: https://gitlab.com/librespacefoundation/satnogs/satnogs-client/issues
We have joined and submitted few merge requests and it didn’t require any space knowledge - python/django is all you need.
If you are a hardware geek, check out:
- the 3D printed rotor project: https://gitlab.com/librespacefoundation/satnogs/satnogs-rotator
- some antenna designs: https://gitlab.com/librespacefoundation/satnogs/satnogs-antennas
But if you want to do actual communication build your own node and join the network! We are in the process of building our nodes (with various antenna types to test which is best for us). We will inform about the work progress here and on our Facebook Page and Instagram.
VHF & UHV Turnstile antennas for our first SatNOGS node
RaspberryPI and SDR dongles and LNAs for our nodes
Our custom build QFH antenna