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Receiving NOAA Weather Satellite Images with $10 USB SDR Device (2014) [video] (youtube.com)
195 points by peter_d_sherman on Dec 2, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 33 comments

This is really interesting, and it should also be noted that NOAA's mission and ability to provide weather data directly to US citizens is in jeopardy. Rather than paying for it just once through their taxes, there is an effort to charge fees for public access so that companies which repackage weather data can serve forecasts with ads and gather users' data.


edit: If the Union of Concerned Scientists is too ideological (?):


Thanks for bringing this to light.

I don't have a weather app installed on my phone specifically because NOAA doesn't publish one...now I know why.

When I'm driving to the office or on travel and want a snapshot of the current weather, I call ASOS for the relevant area and a bot on repeat tells me what conditions look like, e.g. try (650)827-8593 for San Francisco, or (404)762-1121 for Atlanta. It's a resource that really isn't known outside of the aviation industry, but it's there and publicly available.

EDIT: Fat-fingered the number for SFO ASOS...corrected.

EDIT^2: In the spirit of following cookie crumb trails, I did a quick search on congress.gov for "national weather service" and found this particularly damning piece of legislation introduced in the Senate[1]. Unlike the 2005 legislation cited in the article which fell flat on its face[2], this one looks to more systematically nerf the National Weather Service at taxpayer expense to the benefit of commercial interests. It definitely wasn't a political exaggeration that the NWS is under attack.

[1] https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/570...

[2] https://www.congress.gov/109/bills/s786/BILLS-109s786is.pdf

The word "fee" is nowhere to be found in your linked source. Way to dump a link and pretend your complaint is backed up by a political piece attacking a nominated federal official. That's a republished article by Common Dreams, which is a left-wing version of Breitbart.


You seem to have it backwards: common dreams republished the UCS article.

I just read it, and it appears entirely relevant to what the poster was talking about -- efforts to prevent NOAA from providing high-quality data products directly to the public.

A $10 SDR device sure, but then he’s using a $200+ antenna!

There is a link in the video description for a DIY alternative, but its a little intimidating for a beginner like me (there are no WIP pictures!)

Anyone have any tips/links for someone interested in building a DIY, lower cost antenna for receiving these weather satellite signals?

You can make them pretty easily. I made a qfh one for ~$30 worth of PVC and cable. https://photos.app.goo.gl/TLMZWZmkAuBJtUPz6

Similar to what this person's doing: https://www.instructables.com/id/NOAA-Satellite-Signals-with...

Here's a more rigid version that uses bendable copper pipe with sweat (solder) fit joints.


A fun article would be to compare a poorly constructed one to one that minds the mm's.

You can apparently make a suitable antenna from a wire coat hanger or aluminium rod as such: https://www.rtl-sdr.com/simple-noaameteor-weather-satellite-...

I tried this and whilst I could detect the signal carrier, I did not manage to decode more than about a few dozen lines of image.

sdr-radio V3 with its satellite tracking plugin makes the receiver part easy, and does the Doppler correction for you.

Just build the cheapest ghetto antenna you can (e.g. some coat hangers twisted in the qfh position sans PVC or the dipole option listed in one of the replies). You'll get something over the air, and it will either ignite an ember in your or it won't. If it does, the rest is just nature taking its course.

I lost myself in this stuff for years and had to just stop. It's a lot of fun.

Or grab some metal lawn chairs... Really just whatever you have around :-)


Check out tape measure antennas.Very cheap and easy to assemble one yourself.

Aaaand... there's my rabbit hole for the next hour!

I just came across this video yesterday. They do a little handwaving over some of the technical bits but there’s a link to more dense documentation in the description.


r/RTLSDR has a lot of great info.

In case anyone prefers text, here's a tutorial from 2013 about the same topic:


You can use an el-cheapo radio and sstv software to receive images from the International Space Station also.


Back in my shortwave days, we would do this with regular short wave radios and whatever home computer you had — Commodore 64, Apple ][, etc... Much simpler, and cheaper.

I think the service was called WEFAX, but my memory is a little hazy. It was used to send weather maps and satellite photos to ships at sea.

Does this still exist on shortwave, or is it all on satellite now?

It's still very much alive on shortwave. Here's a US ham demoing it: https://youtu.be/ZB1Fz294aLw

I'm in the process of setting up an antenna for receiving data from the GOES-15 weather satellite.

I'm just starting out but got inspired after watching this video (no affiliation with the channel).


People have been able to get some stunning pictures of the earth from those satellites.

Examples: https://i.redd.it/xbahbl7egel11.jpg



If you're interested, check out r/rtlsdr, which is where I first was introduced to the hobby. It's full of helpful people.

When I was a kid (back in the 70s) we built hardware to do this - essentially it was:

- an old TV pulled apart so the tube could be driver directly - horizontal sync detector that reset the horizontal beam on the TV and advanced the vertical - an FSK->analog to drive the spot amplitude as it swept across the TV - a VHF receiver - someone with a homemade antenna pointing it at the sky, tracking manually by listening for the noise floor - a camera in a dark room and an operator who would open the aperture and start taking a photo when the pass started and closed it when the beam hot the bottom of the TV

We did sat tracking on the local uni's mainframe so we knew where in the sky and when a pass would start. The satellites in those days made low passes and essentially took line by line of image as they moved thru their orbits. We could also get world wide images from a geostationary satellite that gave us 12 images made by stitching everything together (and whiting out all the communist countries).

In those days a ground station cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and were essentially (pre-commercial) faxes that printed on paper - our photos were higher quality

So will it be possible to combine this with amazon's new groundstation-as-a-service?

No... Groundstation is intended for receiving from your own satellite.

This might be a bit pedestrian of me, but I hope they’re not trying to encourage too many satellite launches... I think we just need improved and more open shared architecture.

Are there any european weather satelites available like this aswell?

Reddit has a really nice community of rtl-sdr enthusiatist http://www.reddit.com/r/RTLSDR

rtl-sdr dongles are awesome. I piped the audio output of mine into the audio input for Ableton Live. Then I start channel hopping, record a few minutes of FM radio, then stop recording and use Ableton's slice audio feature to chop it up into a group of samples. This way I can instantly get new 'instruments' literally out of thin air!

Also one time I was browsing different frequencies and I happened to stumble upon some conversation between two strangers. Neat what you can find.

Get your ham license and you too can have conversations with strangers (and a whole lot more). ~KD2CEL

Good lord, that background music got ridiculous. Had to close it out.

Yea, it was difficult to hear him in quite a few cases because the 'background' music was conflicting with his softer voice.

If you want to live vicariously through others, various people publish live images of captures over their locations on https://wxtoimgrestored.xyz/gallery/ In particular, being on the west coast I'm fond of watching http://wzdave.com/apt/index.html

Also, you don't need a USB SDR per se; the Baofengs will work fine as its just an FM audio signal. The video shows this, but for reference, the three satellites transmitting APT pictures:




As others have mentioned, you don't need a fancy antenna; even a car magnetic mount 2-meter ham radio antenna will work to an extent; the problem and fun part about this is it's wonderfully analong ... any noise in the signal shows up at snow in the picture, and if your antenna isn't circularly polarized, the strength will fade in and out as the satellite moves over the horizon. Still, it works well enough to try out. In fact, even the rubber duck on the Baofeng will kind of work if its a high elevation pass (70-90 degress) as the satellite is closer and has less atmospheric attenuation. A trick I've done in the past is just to record the output of the Baofeng on your phone's voice memo app and play it back later when you're back inside.

Finally, it's worth noting that APT (the tech in this video) is somewhat deprecated, but if you have an SDR already, for somewhat more effort you can receive the digital equivalent https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-rate_picture_transmission


The frequencies NOAA 15 137.62MHz NOAA 18 137.9125MHz NOAA 19 137.10MHz

Also, if you're using a Baofeng, set it to wideband FM in the menu. The APT signal has fairly wide FM modulation compared to most terrestrial voice FM, and even wideband mode won't be enough. It'll still work in any case, but has the effect that the contrast of the picture is somewhat clipped the narrower your receive bandwidth is.

Thanks for the detailed response, going to try it with cheapo rubber duck just to see how it does!

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