Satnox-4

The quickly dropping cost of access means that the number of small amateur satellites in Low Earth Orbit is increasing rapidly. However access to the data they’re transmitting isn’t necessarily getting easier. The Deep Space Network that NASA uses to talk to its spacecraft and probes isn’t available to your average amateur, and building your own ground station can be expensive. Using your own ground station also means that you have only a limited window to receive data from your satellite as it sweeps across the sky overhead.

Which is where the SatNOGS project comes in, because if you have access to a 3D printer you can now put together your own ground station for between $300 and $400.

Furthermore, the project gives you access to the community’s network of ground stations, which means that while you might not be able to see your satellite, it’s possible that someone else in the community can.

While we were at Maker Faire we talked with Pierros Papadeas and Corey Shields from the SatNOGS project about it, and how you can put together your own ground station.

While the project isn’t yet offered in kit form, at least not yet, extensive instructions on how to put together your own station and get it connected to the SatNOGS network are available. The default configuration supports both VHF and UHF bands for reception. However the ground station is extendable both for transmission — so long as you have the appropriate amateur radio license — as well as to other satellite bands.

There is obviously a huge amount of work going into SatNOGS, it’s a worthy winner of last year’s Hackaday Prize. It, and other projects like it, show the power that new tools like software defined radios (SDR) and 3D printers are putting into Maker hands. Building something like this, for this amount of money, simply wouldn’t have been possible even a couple of years ago. Now all I have to do is find enough time to build my own ground station. Because who wouldn’t want a satellite ground station in their back yard?