Building a ground station need not be complicated. There are a few things to consider when working out what it is you are going to do. Choices such as the desire to have a fixed or steerable ground station will play a big part in the amount of equipment needed and the time taken as well as the complexity of any build. If you are new to this and a little unsure then a fixed (no rotator) option is a good choice. If you fancy a challenge and want to pick out the weakest signals then the steerable ground station might be what you are after. There is more detail in the Ground Stations page
The illustration below sets out the various major components to give an idea as to what is commonly used.
Options for Ground Stations
A satellite ground station is made up from different parts. The following diagram can help you select your setup based on your needs and/or your existing setup.
Here are some links explaining the different options:
How do I pick?
Client: The Raspberry Pi is the reference platform for SatNOGS, and is currently the option that has the best support from the community. Certain SDRs may benefit from a more powerful CPU, like what you'd find in a desktop machine; however, currently you'll need to set that up on your own.
Rotator: A rotator, like the SatNOGS Rotator v3, will allow your antenna to follow satellites as they move across the sky, and thus pick up fainter signals. But if you want to get started quickly, or don't have the hardware skills to build your own, you can still pick up stronger signals (the ISS, NOAA and Meteor weather satellites) with a no-rotator setup. If you already have a rotator supported by rotctl, you can use that.
Signal Reception: The reference radio for SatNOGS is the RTL-SDR v3, but other latest-generation SDRs like the NooElec NESDR SMart should work as well. Higher-end SDRs should work as well, but can get a bit expensive. Alternately, any radio supported by rigctl should work.
Amplification is generally done by a low noise amplifier, or LNA. There are multiple options:
- A wide-band LNA next to your SDR (see LNA4ALL, SPF5189 and similar)
- A band specific (or two) pre-amplifiers next to your antennas (example)
- No amplification at all...just pump the gain of your SDR. (This is not recommended for the rtl-sdr.)
Antenna: Stationary antennas (eg: Turnstile, Lindenblad) will be easy to build and mount, as they won't require rotator hardware. They will let you receive stronger broadcasts, like NOAA weather satellites and ISS broadcasts, but may not work for receiving fainter cubesat broadcasts. Directional antennas (eg: Yagis, Helicals) can be more complicated to build, but will also require a rotator to track satellites across the sky. The advantage is that they will let you pick up fainter broadcasts from cubesats or ham radio satellites. Sometimes it's useful the ability of switch different antennas among observations.
Once you have a ground station ready, you should go ahead and operate it! More info can be found on the Operation wiki page.