Howto receive and decode NOAA APT images with the Funcube Dongle and Gqrx

NOAA-18 APT receptionOne of the great advantages of software defined radio receivers is that tuning receiver settings is a matter of adjusting software parameters. Gqrx is no different here and has optimal settings built in for weather satellite reception. This tutorial describes how to receive automatic picture transmissions (APT) from NOAA weather satellites using Gqrx SDR, record them to a WAV file, and finally decode the images using the free and open source Atpdec decoder. If you follow this guide you can end up with very nice results such as the one shown at the end.

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First on the air tests of gqrx

With both the frequency controller and FFT plot widgets in place gqrx was ready for the first on the air tests. The video below shows the first reception of the AO-27 amateur radio satellite during orbit 92436 and 92437, using the Funcube Dongle receiver that I use for portable space communication.

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Simple APT decoder prototype

I have wanted to implement a simple APT decoder for the NOAA weather satellites in GNU Radio for quite some time now, in particular since the USRP equipped with a TVRX or WBX daughterboard and a GNU Radio FM receiver can be an extremely good receiver for this purpose. Today I have spent some time looking at the details of decoding APT and actually ended up with a working prototype implemented using the GNU Radio Companion.

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Module-wide satellite selection in Gpredict

Up until now, users of Gpredict could click on a satellite in any view to make that satellite selected. For most views, selecting a satellite meant highlighting it and showing some additional info about it, or for the case of single satellite view to display the data for that satellite. In case you are not familiar with the terms module and view in Gpredict, a module is a logical object which groups a number of satellites and a ground station together, while views are the display widgets used to visualize the satellite data in different ways like map, list, polar plot, etc. A module can have any number of views laid out in a grid.

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FO-29 satellite reception with Funcube Dongle and Arrow antenna

This is the last satellite reception of a series recorded on Monday, February 28, 2011 using the Funcube Dongle software defined radio receiver and the Arrow II hand-held satellite antenna. The satellite is the good old Fuji FO-29 and the recording was made in JO45KG during orbit 71777.

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HO-68 CW beacon with Funcube Dongle and Arrow antenna

This is the seventh satellite reception of a series recorded on Monday, February 28, 2011 using the Funcube Dongle software defined radio receiver and the Arrow II hand-held satellite antenna. The satellite is HO-68 / XW-1 and the recording was made in JO45KG during orbit 5791.

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PRISM cubesat reception with Funcube Dongle and Arrow antenna

This is the sixth satellite reception of a series recorded on Monday, February 28, 2011 using the Funcube Dongle software defined radio receiver and the Arrow II hand-held satellite antenna. The satellite is the Japanese PRISM cubesat an the recording was made in JO45KG during orbit 11343.

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CUTE-1.7 + APD II reception with Funcube Dongle and Arrow antenna

This is the fifth satellite reception of a series recorded on Monday, February 28, 2011 using the Funcube Dongle software defined radio receiver and the Arrow II hand-held satellite antenna. The satellite is the CUTE-1.7 + APD II cubesat – also known as CO-65 – and the recording was made in JO45KG during orbit 15341.

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