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Space Hardware Hacking Python Build

DIY Satellite Tracking 30

Travis Goodspeed has authored a blog post detailing his method of tracking low-earth-orbit satellites. Starting with an old Felcom 82B dish made for use on maritime vessels, he added motors to move it around and a webcam-based homemade calibration system. "For handling the radio input and controlling the motors, I have a BeagleBone wired into a USB hub. These are all mounted on the trunk of the assembly inside of the radome, sending data back to a server indoors. ... In order to operate the dish, I wanted both a flashy GUI and concise scripting, but scripting was the higher priority. Toward that end, I constructed the software as a series of daemons that communicate through a PostgreSQL database on a server inside the house. For example, I can run SELECT * FROM sats WHERE el>0 to select the names and positions of all currently tracked satellites that are above the horizon. To begin tracking the International Space Station if it is in view, I run UPDATE target SET name='ISS';. For predicting satellite locations, I wrote a quick daemon using PyEphem that fetches satellite catalog data from CelesTrak. These positions are held in a database, with duplicates filtered out and positions constantly updated. PyEphem is sophisticated enough to predict in any number of formats, so it's easy to track many of the brighter stars as well as planets and deep-space probes, such as Voyagers 1 and 2."
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DIY Satellite Tracking

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  • Ok, maybe (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @12:24AM (#44367845)

    Perhaps you can take and antenna and point it where you think Voyager might be with this sort of equipment. I am extremely skeptical that you can "track" it, that is, lock on to the carrier and then follow it. I bet you can't see the carrier at all, much less see the data.


  • Re:Ok, maybe (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ozoner ( 1406169 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @01:16AM (#44368027)

    The article says right there in the heading ".. so it's easy to track many of the brighter stars as well as planets and deep-space probes, such as Voyagers 1 and 2"

    Also there's a big difference between tracking and locking-on. Most big systems (eg NASA) simply track the target (based on precise ephemerals) because extracting the signal from the noise (post processing) takes far to long for locking-on to be practical.

    Plus the beam-width of even a huge dish is far to wide to allow locking-on to be of much advantage. You can nod the dish a little and extract revised ephemerals after the event, but that's about all.

  • by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @01:20AM (#44368037)

    Using an SQL database as means of interprocess communication, wow.

  • Re:This is news? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 24, 2013 @01:43AM (#44368097)

    This isn't as much tracking them in the sense of figuring out where they are, but rather tracking them by controlling a dish, which is way cooler.

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake