A ground station, earth station, or earth terminal is defined as a terrestrial radio station designed for extra planetary telecommunication with spacecraft. It can be thought of as a constituting part of the ground segment of the spacecraft system.
For the SatNOGS project a ground station is a combination of hardware and software used to receive satellite signals. A SatNOGS ground station has two components - a receiver and an antenna. The choice of antenna will impact the performance and complexity of the ground station.
Typically, the receiver consists of an RTL-SDR dongle and a Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi has an Internet connection to the SatNOGS network. The RTL-SDR dongle connects to the antenna. Further information can be found in the radio page.
The type of antenna used depends on the ground station. Different satellites will have different uplinks and downlinks and the choice of antenna will affect the observation. See the Antennas page for typical ground station set ups.
Types of ground stations
Ground stations can be grouped into ones with movable antennas and ones with static antennas.
Ground stations with movable antennas point one or more directional antennas towards the satellite and tracks them as they cross the sky. Either a commercial or SatNOGS type rotator can be used to move the antenna(s). More information can be found on the rotators page.
SatNOGS also makes provision for static antenna ground stations. These are typically simpler and rely on no moving parts but require an antenna that has a broad view of the sky. Typical installations tend to work well with higher passes but will struggle to achieve successful observations when satellites pass lower to the horizon.