Satellite Operator Guide

From SatNOGS Wiki
This guide is intended for Satellite Operators. For SatNOGS Operations moderators please see SatNOGS Operations Manual


You are building a satellite? Congratulations! The information below will be helpful for the Communications and Operations part of your mission. Plan early and invest time in COMMS and Ground Segment. As a community, SatNOGS is here to help you in the process!

Although the information is tailored for missions that will be using Amateur Radio bands of the spectrum, some information is still relevant for other parts of the band too.


0. Early Stage

It's strongly advised to get in touch with the AMSAT of you country at the beginning of your project. It enables that the radio amateur requirements are taken in account at the early stage on your project. It avoids false expectations and miscommunications along the way. In order to use an Amateur Radio band, your mission needs to be Amateur Radio related. Broadly speaking this includes and Amateur Radio service (like a transponder) or Amateur Radio experiment (new modulations, propagation experiments etc).

1. Frequency Coordination

First you need to determine whether you'll require an amateur frequency, a non-amateur frequency, or both.

Historically educational but non-Amateur Radio satellite operators (e.g. university research projects) were often improperly permitted to use amateur spectrum on a not-commercial basis. As this practice has led to serious congestion of the Amateur Radio Service, the IARU will no longer coordinate amateur frequency allocation for this purpose. Therefore:

  • If your satellite will be purely for Amateur Radio use (i.e. all of its major functions will be available for use by all licensed Amateur Radio operators), then you're usually able to request Amateur Radio Space Service frequency coordination from IARU. You remain free to perform limited control functions on Amateur Radio spectrum. If there is an AMSAT organization in your country, start there. If not, approach your national Amateur Radio body. They will usually help you to get a radio amateur frequency coordination from IARU your allocation. It will take time: usually between six months and a year. If you don't ask for an IARU coordination, the launcher of your satellite may not allow you to launch the satellite.
  • If your satellite will have substantial non-Radio Amateur use (sensor data, imagery, space-qualification of components, ...) then you will usually require a (non-amateur) Space Service license and frequency allocation. Approach your local radio communication regulator directly to start this process, which will have to finalized through ITU.
  • If your satellite will do both, then you'll require licenses and frequency allocation/coordination for both services. A recent example is FalconSAT-3.

1.1 Publicly and openly document your Communications

If you are planning to use a Radio Amateur band you are required to publicly and openly document ever singe detail of your transmission. That includes your modulation, encoding, framing and various functions. Your uplink and TC operations might not be publicly documented if you choose so.

Regardless of your band usage, we would strongly advise you to openly document your Communications since Open Data is a core pillar of sustainable and efficient Space operations. See the Libre Space Manifesto for more info.

2. Integration with SatNOGS

2.1 Reasons to Join

You have recently discovered SatNOGS and you are involved in a mission. Here are the top 10 reasons why your mission should join SatNOGS:

  1. SatNOGS can help streamline your mission operations (Dashboards, Monitoring, Telemetry acquisition)
  2. SatNOGS is open source technology. Every piece of technology we develop is licensed as an open source project (software and hardware), which you can learn from, re-mix, re-use and contribute!
  3. SatNOGS is a global community of satellite enthusiasts, radio amateurs and satellite operators! Join our community and be part of it.
  4. SatNOGS is best suited for educational, research, non-profit, experimental and amateur missions. Libre Space Foundation[1] that runs SatNOGS is committed on supporting those missions.
  5. SatNOGS is the largest global ground station network. 400 stations online with a spread around the world. No other network can beat that :)
  6. SatNOGS is non-profit. Our sustainability is funded through development funds, custom development if needed and a viral model of adding ground stations to the network. Using the network is as simple as adding another station to it!
  7. SatNOGS is full of educational opportunities. Great learning material, documentation and a vibrant community can help you get up to speed for mission COMMS and Operations.
  8. SatNOGS modular technology stack allows you to integrate with your existing space and ground station hardware easily. We support many COTS hardware or can easily add support for more.
  9. SatNOGS provides also a vertical approach if you choose to opt-in for tested integration through Libre Space Foundation space qualified hardware COMMS options (SatNOGS COMMS[2] and PQ9ISH COMMS[3]).
  10. SatNOGS is a project abiding to the Libre Space Manifesto [4].

2.2 Add a new Mission

Do you want to integrate your mission with SatNOGS? Cool! Here is a short guide how to do this. Please also reach out to us via chat or community so that we can support you. Checklist:

  1. SatNOGS DB
    • Suggest to add your satellite to satnogs-db by creating an issue in satnogs-ops providing the following information:
      • Name
      • NORAD catalog number (if already assigned)
      • Amateur Radio call sign (if Amateur service)
      • Description
      • Project Website
      • Image of the satellite
    • Once the new satellite was added to satnogs-db by one of the satnogs-ops team members, find your satellite in and add a transmitter suggestion for each transmitter of your satellite
  2. SatNOGS GNURadio
    • Choose one of the existing flowgraphs in gr-satnogs or provide a new one
  3. SatNOGS Client
    • If you added a new flowgraph under the previous point, make sure to add support for it in satnogs-client
    • Wait for the next release of satnogs-client-ansible, then let the station owners know that your satellite is supported now and ask them to update their stations.
  4. SatNOGS Decoders
  5. SatNOGS Dashboard
In order to have scheduling rights in SatNOGS Network, you need to own an operational Online Station in the Network. Consider building one, or donating one in the Network.

3. Operations

3.1 Launch Operations / Satellite Identification

A few weeks / days before the launch, a contributor will create the Launch Thread for every planned launch in the Launches category of our community. This thread is supposed to collect information about the satellites that will be launched and about when and where this will happen.

After the launch all communication about identifications / deployments / determined orbits / operational status are shared in this launch thread. Keeping the information for all satellites of a single launch in one thread is tremendously helpful for coordinating between missions! For example identifying two of three satellites in a train will allow the identification by exclusion principle of the third one. Note however that for launches with many satellites this thread is quite busy. So if you e.g. intent to describe your mission in detail you can open a separate thread for your mission in the Satellites & Observations category.

You are highly welcomed to participate in this thread, for example by stating the affiliation with your mission, sharing the expected orbit, frequencies and modulations or sharing the identification and photos / images of your satellite. If you share identifications please always shortly explain how you got to a certain TLE (e.g. from on-board GPS, via doppler measurements or using the exclusion principle).

We wish you a successful mission. Claim Space, the Libre Way!

See Also