Radio Lab – Receiving Satellite Imagerycreinemann


My Main NOAA and Meteor Satelite Imagery Page

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Receiving APT (Automatic Picture Transmission) Satellite Imagery.

The Automatic Picture Transmission (APT) system is an analog image transmission system developed for use on weather satellites. It was introduced in the 1960s and over five decades has provided image data to relatively low-cost user stations at locations in most countries of the world. A user station anywhere in the world can receive local data at least twice a day from each satellite as it passes nearly overhead.  Currently, I receive from these satellites, US NOAA 15,18, and 19, and Russian Meteor M-2 and M2-2 (NOTE M2-2 is currently experiencing an anomaly, possible micrometeorite strike and is not transmitting as of 12/18/2019).

I have my system up and running 24/7, and have both Meteor captures and NOAA captures all set to run automatically with the hardware and software listed below.  It only takes minimal effort to check the system from time to time.  In fact, I control the whole computer system remotely from either my main desktop computer or my smartphone utilizing Google Remote Desktop

For Hardware I am running an older desktop computer, running Windows 10 64bit with a 3.20 GHz processor and 4GB ram with a UPS battery backup, and the following USB RTL-SDR dongles and accessories

For APT Imagery hardware, I use a Nooelec SmarteeXTR dongle and/or a RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongle.  (Note the site is overflowing with useful information).  I also use a Nooelec Sawbird+ LNA for NOAA APT (LNA Low Noise Amplifier, in this case, tuned to 137 Mhz). I also have a Nooelec LaNA as well in line. See my system diagram here.

For an antenna, I have found that this antenna, which is called a QFH (Quadrifilar Helix Antenna) antenna, which you can build yourself with plumbing parts, is suitable and works great. Why such a bizarre-looking construct? Here is a simple explanation- Antennas perform best when they are properly polarized, or the antennas are pointed in the same direction in three-dimensional space.  When you have a satellite orbiting the earth, even if the antenna is pointed straight down, its polarization to you on earth will change as it goes from horizon to horizon. The solution is to build an antenna that is properly polarized in all directions, hence the QFH antenna.  Since the QFH antenna is stationary, Oribtron sends commands to SDR# and adjusts the frequency of the receiver to adjust for the doppler shift, as the selected satellite whizzes past at about 17,000 MPH (27358 KPH).
I have a build sheet PDF here It originally came from Tinhat Ranch site, and I have modified it with the original author’s permission.  I use commonly available RG6 Quad shield cable for the antenna to RTL-SDR.

I use the Following FREE Software: (all links open in  a new tab)

  • Orbitron – For tracking satellites as they orbit the earth, and controlling SDR# during the pass.  Orbitron Software available here: Orbitron
  • WxtoImg – For decoding and generating imagery from NOAA APT satellites (All NOAA APT pic start out as B/W, WxtoImg generates the false colors. It is available here: WxtoImg
  • MeteorGIS – MeteorGIS is an outstanding free program for geo referencing images transmitted by the Russian weather satellite Meteor MN-2 & MN-2.2 It is available here: MeteorGIS
  • Low Rate Picture Decoder for decoding Meteor Imagery It is available here (this is a direct zip download)  LRPT Decoder
  • SDR# – SDR Sharp, the de facto standard free SDR# software for signal acquisition, analysis and demodulation.  It is available here: SDR# (Note: there are many SDR software out there.)
    I also utilize the following plugins necessary to track and demodulate the signals received by SDR#

  • VBCable is a virtual audio device working as a virtual audio cable. All audio signals coming in the CABLE input is transported to the CABLE output. It pipes the audio from SDR# to WxtoImg. It can be downloaded here: VBCable
  • Smooth Meteor – for color correcting and rectifying (correcting shape) of Meteor Imagery. It is available here: Smooth Meteor
  • LRPT Image Processor – another Meteor image processor It is available here:  LRPT Image Processor
  • MeteorGIS 2.24 MeteorGIS is a free program for referencing images send by the Russian weather satellite Meteor MN-2 & MN-2.2 More info at bottom of this page as well. MeteorGIS official page
  • I also use an image processor to help colorize and add my particular label to generated images, I use Photoshop Elements, but others will work if needed.

GUIDES
There are many, many, many helpful guides out there, here are two really great ones. you can find others for Linux, Pi, Mac, and more

GROUPS
You may feel slightly or totally OVERWHELMED when trying to set up and dial in your system. Don’t fret, there are some great online groups I would definitely encourage you to join.

WxtoImg Information
Some useful documents and tools for using the WXtoImg Software (compiled from the original WXtoImg site and re-edited).

HELPFUL HINTS
Here are some helpful hints that I have found useful.

  • Backup your config and bat files, ESPECIALLY when upgrading software packages to a new or beta version.

    Remote access via smartphone

  • I added my WxtoImg, Orbitron, and SDR# to my Windows Startup up directory, that way, if the system crashes, or reboots, the software will load and continue to run automatically.
  • Synch your PC time frequently, or get some software that will do it automatically.
  • If you look elsewhere on this site, such as my Radio Restoration Page you’ll see my radio room is pretty cramped.  It’s also on the second floor of my house.  I have all my RTL-SDR radios and computers up there. BUT I rarely even go up there.  I have found that for me, using Google Remote Desktop is just the ticket. I can run all my computers on the second floor, remotely from my comfortable office and computer on the first floor. I can also run any of them from my Note 9 Smartphone with the Google Remote app!

My SDR# Settings
NOTE: These work for me on my system, to capture both NOAA satellites and Meteor Satellites, You may have need of different settings.

SDR# Settings

WXtoImg Settings 

SDR# Settings
Sampling Mode – Quadrature Sampling
Device Sampling Rate – 0.90001 MSPS
Decimation – noneRadio – WFM
Bandwidth – 41,000
Order – 500
Correct IQ is checked ✔
I do not use any filters or Noise reduction pluginsExample of Tracking DDE Client plugin Settings for NOAA_18
AOS

radio_Start
radio_modulation_type<wfm>
radio_frequency_Hz<137912500>  You would, of course, need to change this for the respective satellite
radio_bandwidth_Hz<41000>
radio_tracking_frequency_On
LOS
radio_Stop

Example of Tracking DDE Client plugin Settings for Meteor-M_2
AOS
radio_Start
radio_modulation_type<wfm>
radio_center_frequency_Hz<137570000>
radio_frequency_Hz<137100000>
radio_bandwidth_Hz<120000>
PSK_set_SymbolRate<72000>
M2_decoder_init_Line<rgb=125>
M2_decoder_init_Line<RoughStartTimeUTC=now>
QPSK_demodulator_Start
send_tracking_frequency_On
start_programm_Path<C:\Meteor\MeteorGIS.bat> NOTE I use a batch file to run MeteorGIS2.24

LOS
QPSK_demodulator_Stop
send_tracking_frequency_Off
radio_Stop

 

There are many options this is what I have:
Under Options:
I have these checked ✔
✔ Disable auto-decode
✔ Crop Telemetry
✔ ResynchSensor Illumination – VIS
Noise Filter – 5×5 Gausian Medium
Despeckle – 2.0
Contrast – Hist Eq
Illumination Compensation – None
Gamma – 1.4
Sharpen – 0.6Under Projection:
Normal

Under Satellite:
Autodetect APT

Under Direction:
Autodetect












 

GEOS-16/17 HIRT Weather Satellite Receiver Project  COMING SOON! World ClockBuilding Wide-Area Composite Images
Thanks to Jeff Kelly (New Jersey, US), Mike Kimzey (Philadelphia, US), David Kunz (San Francisco, US), Cornelius Danielsen (Norway), Alan Hinton (UK), Michael Sørensen (Denmark), and Hans-Juergen Luethje (Germany) who provided the pristine images on their websites to create this wide-area Multi-Spectral Analysis image.WXtoImg has the ability to combine images from multiple ground stations into very wide-area composite images. With images from enough ground stations, it would be possible to produce an image that covered the globe.Pristine images, available on many websites, and raw images can be downloaded and processed by WXtoImg almost identically to locally recorded images. By obtaining pristine or raw images from other WXtoImg sites, it is possible to create composite images that cover a much wider area than a single ground station could cover.

  • You’ll need a registered version of WXtoImg, and version 2.10.6 or later to perform this task.
    • NOTE: Be sure your TLE’s are current, and your computer time is synched!
  • Firstly, in Options -> Projection Options you’ll need to set the following:
      • Reference Latitude: in general, should be set to a latitude that is within the north and south boundaries below
    • Reference Longitude: this must be set to a longitude within the west and east boundaries below (use something near the middle if in doubt)
    • North Boundary (latitude): The northern latitude limit of the projection (use negative numbers for degrees south)
    • South Boundary (latitude): The southern latitude limit of the projection (use negative numbers for degrees south)
    • West Boundary (longitude): The western longitude limit of the projection (use negative numbers for degrees west)
    • East Boundary (longitude): The eastern longitude limit of the projection (use negative numbers for degrees west)
    • Scale: Images can get very large, using a scale of about 1.0 will preserve most of the detail, but using a scale of 0.8 or 0.5 or even 0.25 is not unreasonable, alternatively you can set the width of the desired image in pixels (e.g. 1024)
  • Select Options -> Save Options. Note that these projection boundaries won’t affect WXtoImg’s production of composite images during autoprocessing.
  • Set Projection to Eckert IV or Eckert VI or Mercator. Some projections like Orthographic produce very curved and distorted images when the composite image gets very wide.
  • It is a good idea to set Contrast to none or Linear (constant) and Illumination Compensation to Full so that the images will blend together nicely.
  • Set Enhancement to whatever you like (except Pristine).
  • Now build the wide-area composite image by opening pristine (or raw images) using File -> Open Raw Image. (You can also open your own audio files for this step.) A large image will be created, mostly black.
  • Choose File -> Composite image to… and save this. It is preferable to use a PNG extension if you plan to put together more than about 8 images. Using a .JPG extension is less desirable, because JPEG images are lossy and the loss increases each time you add an image.
  • Repeat steps 6 and 7, compositing the image to the same file you chose the first time you performed step 7. Note that you will be prompted if you want to replace the image, choose OK, it won’t replace your composite image, just merge the new image into it.
  • To view your composite image, select File -> View Image and select the file you created (or look in the Composites tab).
  • You can increase the contrast in the final image (you’ll likely want to do this if you selected none for Contrast in step 4), by selecting Histogram equalize Image from the Image menu (and saving the resulting image.) Alternatively, you could select Increase Contrast from the Image menu several times.

Sites with Pristine images If you are interested in sharing your WXtoImg website, send me the link and I will post it here – email to creinemann@gmail.comPristine images may be downloaded and processed by WXtoImg nearly identically to locally made recordings. Using multiple sites, they can be used to generate wide-area composite images as shown above. To process a pristine image, simply download the full-size image and open using (File -> Open Raw Image) in WXtoImg.

North American Wide Area Composite

North American Wide Area Composite

Global Area Composite Click to see High Res Image

SITES WITH PRISTINE IMAGES updated 1-18-2020 (Please note that these sites are operated by individuals and may running be or down, or offline for repairs or upgrades.)WxtoImg sites around the globe that feature NOAA Satellite captures that include 'Pristine' Image format images

North AmericaCentral & South AmericaEuropeAfrica/Indian OceanAsiaAustralia/Pacific
Jefferson, WI, USAFlorida, Buenos Aires, ArgentinaMichael Sørensen (Denmark)Les Avirons, ReunionKochi, JapanBathurst NSW, Australia
San Francisco, CA,USALCF, MexicoDamian- Brinkworth, UKQuatre Bornes, MauritiusLogan City, Qld, Australia
Potomac Falls, VA, USAMendiolaza, ArgentinaFerndown, Dorset, UKMareeba, Australia
Hudson NY, USA
Polmont, Scotland, UK
Houston, TX, USAPenzberg, Germany
San Francisco, CA, USAVasa, Finland
Spring Hill TN, USAFevik, Norway
Sullivan, IL USABasingstoke, Hampshire, UK
Atlanta, GA, USABellinzona, Switzerland
Linden VA, USAMendrisio, Switzerland
Anchorage, AK, USAHrusova, Czech Republic
Port Alberni, BC, CanadaHolice Kamenec, Czech Republic
Sherwood, OR, USABirch, Chechnya
Marion, Ohio, USAOlmeto, Perugia Italy
Zutphen, Netherland
Rostov-on-Don, Russia
Warsaw, Poland
Okha, Sakhalin Island, Russia
Contact me to have your site included.Additional Worldwide Satellite Image links updated 1-18-2020Other Satellite Capture Pages:  These currently do not show “Pristine” Images needed for a wide area capture, but are great sites as wellSites that have not had ANY updated images within the past year, or have since been deactivated have been removed.WxtoImg site around the globe that feature NOAA Satellite captures
North AmericaCentral & South AmericaEuropeAfrica/Indian OceanAsiaAustralia/Pacific
Northern Berkshire County, MA,USANimbus Weather, UruguayChepstow, United KingdomPretoria, South AfricaSuoi Tien, VietnamBrisbane, Australia
Plymouth, MA,USAIxtapaluca, Estado de Mexico, MexicoStowmarket, United KingdomChandigarh, IndiaHirakata, JapanOpua, New Zealand
Tobaccoville, NC,USAOxstedt, GermanyMatsumoto, JapanCromwell, New Zealand
Vero Beach, SC, USATrochtelfingen - Haid, GermanyKorat, ThailandEden Park, Victoria, Australia
Eugene OR, USALom, NorwayKoh Chang, Thailand
West Jordan, UT, USAGrootegast, NetherlandGaziantep, Turkey
Cleveland, Ohio,UNITED STATESSundsvall, Sweden
Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland
OZ7OX, Hou, Denmark
Cassis, France
Thessaloniki, Greece
Lodi, Italy
Roma, Italy
Crema, Italy
Erlach, Schweiz
Salo, Finland
Sipoo, Finland
Moscow, Russia
Kostelec nad Orlici, Czech Republic
Odensbacken, Sweden
Parkstad Netherlands
Schulenburg(Leine), Germany
Bosany, Slovakia
Payerne, Switzerland
Sebastopol, California
Hideaway, Durrus, Co Cork, Ireland
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Meteor SatellitesThe Meteor-M N2 (Launched on July 8, 2014)and the newly launched Meteor M N2-2 (Launched on July 5, 2019 –Unfortunately Meteor M2-2 suffered a possible collision in orbit on 12/18/2019, and as of this writing is still offline for APT )are polar-orbiting Russian weather satellites Their main missions are weather forecasting, climate change monitoring, seawater monitoring/forecasting, and space weather analysis/prediction. Meteor-M N2 and M N2-2 transmit images using the digital LRPT protocol at  137.1 MHz or 137.9MHz (That Frequency can Change!!) and can be received with an RTL-SDR and proper antenna.Excellent site with instructions for setting up your own Meteor Capture Station http://happysat.nl/Setup_Meteor/Setup.htmlExample of one of my Meteor Captures:Here’s a very unique capture, While the Satellite Meteor M2-2 was in configuration mode, it was “Off Axis” in relation to earth which resulted in this Stunning Capture of Earths Horizon!
Click image then expand the pop up by clicking the small “enlarge” box in the upper right corner to see it in full resolution!