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L-Band Patch Antenna Set Preorder Sale Ending Soon – Shipping Begins Next Week

Just a heads up that the preorder sale on our new L-Band Patch antenna set will be ending October 21 as we are almost ready to ship the units out. After the preorder sale ends the pricing will rise from $34.95 to $39.95 USD.

PREORDER PRICING: 34.95 USD incl. free shipping.
PREORDER ENDS OCTOBER 21!

Please see our store to preorder the unit.

The product is a ready to use active patch antenna set that is designed to receive L-Band satellites such as Inmarsat, Iridium and GPS. It is enclosed in a waterproof plastic case, and can easily be mounted to a window using the provided suction cup and 2M coax extension cable. It can also be mounted to almost anything else using the included flexible tripod legs, or if you prefer, use the standard 1/4" camera screw hole to connect it to any mount that you like.

The antenna is powered via 3.3V - 5V bias tee power, so any bias tee capable SDR such as our RTL-SDR Blog V3 can be used to power it.

In terms of performance see our previous post that announced the product for sample screenshots and reception tips.

The RTL-SDR Blog L-Band Satellite Patch Antenna Set
The RTL-SDR Blog L-Band Satellite Patch Antenna Set
Inmarsat Reception
Iridium Reception

Using a LimeSDR and RTL-SDR to Transfer a Text File Over the Air

Over on his blog nuclearrambo has been working on a project that uses a LimeSDR and RTL-SDR to transfer a small CSV text file over the air.

The transmitting side consists of a GNU Radio flowchart that encodes the text file into a binary string, modulates that binary string with Binary Phase Shift Keying (BPSK), and then transmits it using the LimeSDR.

The receiving side uses an RTL-SDR, and is based on another GNU Radio flowgraph that uses a polyphase clock sync block to synchronize the sampling time, a costas loop for fine frequency correction, an LMS DD equalizer block to compensate for multipath effects, and finally demodulation blocks that recover the bits and text file from the BPSK signal.

His results showed that he can almost recover the entire file except for the first few bytes of data which is always lost since it takes time for the clock sync and costas loop block to converge. The post goes into further detail about what each of the blocks do and some of the signal theory math behind everything. The GNU Radio GRC file is also provided if you want to try it out yourself.

LimeSDR Transmitting a CSV file to a RTL-SDR with BPSK modulation.
LimeSDR Transmitting a CSV file to a RTL-SDR with BPSK modulation.

XYNC: A Massive MIMO SDR with up to 32×32 TX/RX Channels

Back in 2017 we posted about the crowd funding of the Fairwaves XTRX, a small PCIe based TX/RX capable software defined radio that back then cost US$199 (now only the XTRX Pro is available for US$599). The XTRX is based on the same RF chips that are used in the LimeSDR and each unit has 2 x 2 MIMO (multi-input, multi-output), 120 MSPS SISO / 90 MSPS MIMO, 30 MHz to 3.7 GHz tuning range and comes with an on board GPSDO.

Recently Fairwaves have begun crowdfunding a new software defined radio called the XYNC. The XYNC is essentially a motherboard for connecting up to 16 XTRX boards together which results in an SDR with 32 TX and 32 RX channels.

If you’re working on a massive MIMO system or have a large swath of spectrum you need to monitor, XYNC (pronounced iks-sync) is right for you. XYNC builds on the success of the Octopack SDR we offered during the XTRX campaign and takes into account feedback from the original Octopack users.

You can connect two XYNC boards, either to increase the number of RX/TX channels (e.g., two XYNC Octos give you 32 TX and 32 RX channels) or to increase throughput per channel (e.g., two XYNC Quadros give you twice the throughput of a single XYNC Octo). Connecting more than two XYNC boards is also possible, but requires an external clock and 1 pps signal distribution circuitry, neither of which is provided as part of this campaign.

While advertised as low cost, the pricing is probably out of reach for most hobbyists, with the quad 8x8 unit coming in at US$4500 and the top 16 board 32x32 unit priced at US$13,000. Still, these prices are very good for a massively MIMO SDR and pricing is set to rise once the crowdfunding campaign ends in 39 days.

The XSYNC Massively MIMO SDR with up to 32x32 TX/RX Channels
The XSYNC Massively MIMO SDR with up to 32x32 TX/RX Channels

An Easy Windows GNU Radio Setup Guide and Video for the SDRplay

SDRplay have recently posted a new workflow document and video that shows how to easily set up GNU Radio on Windows with an SDRplay software defined radio. They write:

GNU radio is a popular environment for teachers and developers involved in Digital Signal Processing and exploring new radio architectures. For receiver applications, the low cost dongle is a popular hardware choice, but if you need reliable, clean, continuous radio signal reception from 1kHz to 2 GHz (without the need for block converters or external filters) then an SDRplay RSP is a useful alternative.

With help from the GNU radio foundation, SDRplay has now made available a workflow for windows for all its RSP radios: www.sdrplay.com/docs/gr-sdrplay-workflow.pdf

Special thanks goes to Frank Werner-Krippendorf (HB9FXQ) who did the original SDRplay source block development, and to Geof Nieboer who has developed the Powershell scripts which enable operation on Windows.

GNU Radio workflow for SDRplay and Windows

SignalsEverywhere: Testing out NooElecs PCB L-Band Patch Antenna

Over on his YouTube channel Corrosive from the SignalsEverywhere YouTube channel has uploaded a video where he tests out the new US$29.95 NooElec PCB patch antenna for receiving L-band satellite signals. In the video he shows how it can be combined with one of their SAWBird L-band low noise amplifiers in order to receive L-band satellite signals such as Inmarsat STD-C and AERO.

We note that our own RTL-SDR Blog Active L-band patch antenna will be ready to ship out before the end of this month, and while waiting for it we are currently having a preorder sale for US$34.95 including free shipping over on our store. For US$34.95 our patch antenna is fully contained in a waterproof enclosure, includes an LNA built in, and comes with several mounting options, so we believe that it is really a great deal. The patch design is based on the Outernet ceramic patch that was compared against the NooElec PCB patch shown in Corrosives video, so performance will be very similar.

Nooelec NEW Inmarsat Patch Antenna with Airspy SDR

SDR in the Local Newspaper: Investigating an RF Dead Spot for Car Key Fobs

Reddit user [SDR_LumberJack] writes how he was recently featured in his local newspaper [Part2] in Ontario, Canada thanks to his efforts in helping to hunt down the cause of an RF deadspot with an SDR. He began his journey by reading a story in his local newspaper called the [Windsor Star]. The story was about locals having found a ‘dead-spot’ for car key-fobs. In the dead-spot key-less cars wouldn’t start, key-fobs wouldn’t unlock cars, and alarms would go off.

Being intrigued by the story [SDR_LumberJack] investigated by driving around with an RTL-SDR, HackRF and a laptop running SDR#. Eventually he found that there was what appeared to be a WBFM Broadcast radio station interfering at 315 MHz. This frequency happens to fall into the ISM radio band that used by car remotes and key-fobs. The exact source of the interference hasn’t been nailed down just yet though.

While it’s possible a broadcast station is at fault it is also possible that his SDR was just overloading, causing broadcast FM imaging. Perhaps a WBFM filter could be used to prevent signal imaging that could interfere with the investigation.

Hopefully [SDR_LumberJack] will continue his investigation and we’ll get an update on this story.

If you’re interested, back in 2016 we posted a very similar story about the exact same thing happening at a car park in Brisbane, Australia. The conclusion to that story was that the dead-spot only occurred in particular locations in the car park, and this was due to the shape of surrounding building causing the RF signals to reflect off the walls and distort the signal.

SDR_LumberJack in the local newspaper
SDR_LumberJack in the local newspaper

The TangerineSDR: A Scientific SDR For Space Weather Radio and More

Over on YouTube the Ham Radio 2.0 has uploaded an interview with Scotty (WA2DFI) from TAPR who talks about a new software defined radio called the TangerineSDR that is expected to be released mid-2020. 

The TangerineSDR will focus on scientific use cases such as the HamSci Personal Space Weather Station, ground satellite stations, academic research and RF sniffing. The goal is to have a modular SDR that can be produced cheaply for educational institutions, whilst having the capability to be upgraded to a high performance version for the space weather station.

The TangerineSDR is a Modular Software Defined Radio Project with the following objectives:

  1. Development of SDR radios that allow experimentation in a variety of radio modes.
  2. Provide support to unaffiliated other groups that need these radios to support their mission.
  3. To provide hardware modularity so that the user can have a functioning radio with different subsets of the possible components.
  4. To allow varying performance so that beginners can have a functioning radio with a minimum of parts, yet allow an expert user more functionality as needed.
  5. To allow users to experiment with differing configurations of data collection, networking, transport and visualization.

In the Video Scotty shows off a mock-up of the TangerineSDR. The video description by Ham Radio 2.0 reads:

Presented at the TAPR Digitial Communications Conference of 2019, Scotty, WA2DFI, shows us a mock-up of a newly designed radio for Space Weather, and many other things, dubbed the Tangerine SDR. This modular radio is planning to be in production by mid-2020, with a working prototype to show at the 2020 Orlando Hamcation. Take a look at this short video and let me know what you think.

Tangerine Scientific SDR Space Weather Radio - FirstLook

For more information see tangerinesdr.com and the TangerineSDR mailing list.

New Product in Store: RTL-SDR Blog Magnetic Whip Antenna Set (Great for KerberosSDR Direction Finding)

We've recently released a new Magnetic Whip Antenna Set in our store. The set consists of a heavy duty magnetic mount antenna base with 2M RG59, a 9.5cm fixed whip antenna (usable from 400 MHz to 2 GHz+), and a 17cm to 1m telescopic whip (usable from 100 MHz - 400 MHz).

Click Here to Visit our Store

The antenna set costs US$14.95 each with free shipping. And if you buy four sets you will receive a 15% discount. Currently available to ship worldwide right now from our warehouse in China, and they will be on Amazon in 2-3 weeks.

One application of our KerberosSDR 4-Tuner Coherent RTL-SDR is radio direction finding. This requires four quality omni-directional antennas. We were disappointed to find that there were no high quality magnetic whip antennas available on the market for a low price that we could use with KerberosSDR so we made our own.

The magnetic base is designed carefully with conductive metal that is properly connected to the shield of the coax cable. Most cheap antenna bases just leave the shield connection floating and this causes insufficient coupling to the underlying ground plane resulting in poor performance and poor results when it comes to direction finding and reception.

We've tested this set with KerberosSDR and it is known to work well. The antenna can also of course be used for any other receiving purpose if you prefer to use a whip antenna over our multipurpose dipole antenna set.

In the first two images in the image slider below you a comparison between a black base that is not properly bonded to the coax shield, vs the RTL-SDR Blog silver base which is correctly bonded to the coax shield. Both tests used the 9.5cm whip antenna. You can see that the RTL-SDR Blog silver base provides a much lower noise floor and higher signal SNR due to the better ground plane. Also we note that when placing the antenna bases on a metallic surface to create a larger ground plane, the black base showed no further improvement, whereas the RTL-SDR Blog silver base did.

The final three images in the slider show the SWR plots of the two whips on the base. We can see that the 9.5cm whip provides an SWR of less than six below 412 MHz. The telescopic whip can be adjusted to provide better SWR for lower frequencies.

RTL-SDR Blog Antenna Base (Coax shield properly connected to base)

RTL-SDR Blog Antenna Base (Coax shield properly connected to base)

Generic Black Antenna Base (Coax shield not connected to base)

Generic Black Antenna Base (Coax shield not connected to base)

9.5cm Whip SWR Plot

9.5cm Whip SWR Plot

Telescopic Whip Collapsed SWR Plot

Telescopic Whip Collapsed SWR Plot

Telescopic Whip Fully Expanded SWR Plot

Telescopic Whip Fully Expanded SWR Plot

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International Space Station SSTV Event Scheduled for October 9 and 10

The International Space Station (ISS) periodically schedules radio events where they transmit Slow Scan Television (SSTV) images down to earth for listeners to receive and collect. This time they have scheduled SSTV images for October 9 09:50 - 14:00 GMT and October 10 08:55-15:15 GMT.

With an RTL-SDR and a simple V-Dipole from our RTL-SDR V3 antenna kit it is possible to receive these images when the ISS passes over. ISS passes for your city can be determined online, and the SSTV images can be decoded with a program like MMSSTV.

AMSAT-UK writes:

Russian cosmonauts are expected to activate Slow Scan Television (SSTV) image transmissions on 145.800 MHz FM from the International Space Station on Wednesday/Thursday, October 9/10.

This is the schedule for the planned activation of the MAI-75 SSTV activity from the ISS.
• Oct 9 09:50-14:00 GMT
• Oct 10 08:55-15:15 GMT

Transmissions will be sent on 145.800 MHz FM in the SSTV mode PD-120. Once received, images can be posted and viewed by the public at http://www.spaceflightsoftware.com/ARISS_SSTV/index.php

ISS SSTV uses a Kenwood TM D710E transceiver which is part of the amateur radio station located in the Russian ISS Service Module.

Please note that SSTV events are dependent on other activities, schedules and crew responsibilities on the ISS and subject to change at any time. You can check for updates regarding planned operation at:
ISS Ham https://twitter.com/RF2Space
ARISS Status https://twitter.com/ARISS_status
ARISS SSTV Blog https://ariss-sstv.blogspot.com/
AMSAT Bulletin Board http://www.amsat.org/mailman/listinfo/amsat-bb

Read the MagPi article Pictures from space via ham radio
https://www.raspberrypi.org/magpi/pictures-from-space-via-ham-radio/

ISS SSTV info and links https://amsat-uk.org/beginners/iss-sstv/

An Introduction to Pagers with the HackRF PortaPack and an RTL-SDR

Over on YouTube user HackedExistence has uploaded a video explaining how POCSAG pager signals work, and he also shows some experiments that he's been performing with his HackRF PortaPack and an old pager.

The Portapack is an add on for the HackRF SDR that allows the HackRF to be used without the need for a PC. If you're interested in the past we reviewed the PortaPack with the Havok Firmware, which enables many TX features such as POCSAG transmissions.

POCSAG is a common RF protocol used by pagers. Pagers have been under the scrutiny of information security experts for some time now as it is common for hospital pagers to spew out unencrypted patient data [1][2][3] into the air for anyone with a radio and computer to decode.

In the video HackedExistence first shows that he can easily transmit to his pager with the HackRF PortaPack and view the signals on the spectrum with an RTL-SDR. Later in the video he explains the different types of pager signals that you might encounter on the spectrum, and goes on to dissect and explain how the POCSAG protocol works.

Intro to Pagers - POCSAG with HackRF

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