Satnogs satellite list policy

Hi all,

I am wondering whether there is or it would be good to have a policy to add new satellites in the Satnogs list of objects that can be tracked, in particular for those operating in the radio amateur bands.
According to legislation (in general), to transmit on amateur radio frequencies you need a callsign assigned by national authority and the callsign has to be transmitted periodically to identify the station. I am not sure if all satellite are following these basic rules and it could be that some satellites are not even authorised.
I think it will be good to have a policy to avoid that the amateur radio band becomes a jungle where everyone is transmitting without control. I think this is in the interest of radio amateur community.
For examples, satellites that do not follow some basic rules would not be added to the SATNOGs list of objects. E.g to have the satellite added there must be evidence that the satellite has a proper callsign assigned by a national authority and transmits the callsign in clear mode every some minutes, being clear mode CW or any other agreed one. IARU coordination shall be also indicated as a pre-requisite to have the satellite added (even if this is not mandatory from legal point of view). BTW, in IARU coordination file it can be added the request to provide evidence that authorisation and callsign is granted by national authority.
Of course, this is only valid for satellite in amateur bands.

What do you think? Is it something too demanding to implement?

I agree that this is a libre network, but amateur bands are not!

Alberto IW1FNW & Marco IW1DGG

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Hello @iq1ry !

Thanks for bringing this topic up. We have been having this discussion a lot lately and decided we should indeed move ahead and enforce some policies on SatNOGS. The policy to be applied is the following:

For all satellites operating in the Radio Amateur frequencies we will be requiring a way to demonstrate that their frequency usage has been coordinated through IARU. If a satellite owner fails to provide such information the satellite and frequencies will be added in SatNOGS DB but marked as “Violating Frequency” and will not be available for scheduling through SatNOGS Network.

The first step is tracked as an issue opened by @cshields here: https://gitlab.com/librespacefoundation/satnogs/satnogs-db/issues/250

We in Libre Space Foundation and SatNOGS project take frequency coordination and respecting amateur radio regulations very seriously and will do anything to ensure proper adherence to the regulations as well as exposing the violating satellites and frequencies.

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I agree with the principles of not allowing scheduling of uncoordinated satellites; however, I would recommend some caution about how uncoordinated transmitters are described or presented. AFAIK, ham radio does not have any exclusive frequency allocations from 70 cm and up, so it can be perfectly legal to transmit on ham radio frequencies without any IARU coordination or even having a ham radio license. We need to differentiate between violating regulations and “just annoying”.

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I think it will be a good solution to have the satellite listed anyway, since sometime you see signal on waterfall that is hard to understand where they could come from.

Concerning frequency allocation, the 432-438MHz slice is allocated to Amateur Radio, Radiolocation and Earth Exploration Satellite Active service (i.e. active instruments, like SAR or so), according to ITU regulation RR5-54 (http://search.itu.int/history/HistoryDigitalCollectionDocLibrary/1.43.48.en.101.pdf). I do not think there are other services here (I know that locally, some country may have additional fixed/mobile ground services, but not space).
So, to me, even if it is perfectly legal to transmit without IARU coordination, it is not legal to transmit without a radio amateur license.

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I think we need two fields which should extend the transmitter model:
License field
This should hold the type of license with which the transmitter operates. Possible values can be:

  • Amateur
  • ISM
  • Commercial
  • Experimental
  • Unknown

Frequency coordination
This field should hold if and how the frequency for this transmitter is coordinated. Possible values for this field can be:

  • IARU requested
  • IARU coordinated
  • IARU informal
  • ITU
  • None
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I think the policy reflects the amateur values of the group.

While other users may be allowed to use the same spectrum it doesn’t mean we as amateurs should provide value to those groups and encourage the usage of the spectrum and amateur resources to subsidize their missions.

“Amateur radio service” means a radio communication service in which radio apparatus is used for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication or technical investigation by individuals who are interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.

If these other services feel they need the networks and skills amateurs can bring to the table then let them hire those interested and let them build their own network.

I adhere to a similar policy in my monitoring of signals out of the amateur bands. If non-amateur users want data they can pay their fair share.

Regards,
Scott Tilley
VE7TIL

Some amateur freqs are shared with other entities. Some, amateur radio is secondary and must not interfere with other transmitters. These entities are coordinated via IARU or ITU or some governmental use. It is not for anyone that wishes to transmitt on a band or freqs just because amateur radio is secondary or that the freq is above a set point. I fully agree that all sats tracked via Satnogs should be legal and non-interfering and properly licensed.Satnogs should list them as described above so that the rogues can be blocked from the db and made public.

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All I wanted to say is that there may very well be legal ways for a satellite to transmit within the hamradio bands without having its frequency coordinated via the IARU frequency coordination. Which by the way is offered as a service and not a law, so I think it is quite legal for someone with hamradio license to send up a hamradio satellite without participating in the IARU frequency coordination.

Of course, national laws may prevent someone from doing that, but I don’t think there is any international law that requires IARU frequency coordination. Anyway, I’m not a lawyer so I might be wrong, but I would avoid using the term “violation”. The list proposed by @Acinonyx sounds good to me.

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Apropos…

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  1. Unauthorized deployment and operation of satellites risks satellite collisions and radio
    frequency interference, threatening critical commercial and government satellite operations. To settle this
    matter, Swarm Technologies admits that it engaged in these unlawful acts, will implement a five-year
    compliance plan, and will pay a $900,000 civil penalty

satnogs and its parent corporations should have legal council to determine if operating a db that contains data from illegal satellites constitutes a legal collusion with the rogue entities. js

And what about those satellites that have a IARU coordinated frequency but they are transmitting data that are encrypted or the encoding is “a bit obscure” or “not well documented” or even commercial?

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Any progress on the talked about additions to the DB?

Thread on Twitter started again on this issue here and after 6 months, what’s the update here?

73s C

Hello all,

We have gathered the needed changes in the following 3 issues:



Please provide feedback on those issues and we will proceed with implementation.

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As a general remark, before trying to design an overly general solution, I would try to define the problem and to search an appropriate technical solution.

An approach as proposed in the 3 issues above seems nice, but in my opinion it can be too complex. Maintaining all these fields correctly updated for all the satellites can take a fair amount of effort, and its usefulness is perhaps limited.

As I see it, there is only one political/administrative problem here: there are satellites which are transmitting using the Amateur Satellite service but they haven’t been coordinated by IARU. In many of these cases IARU has determined that the mission of these satellites is not compatible with the Amateur service.

It seems that there is agreement among the community that it is not fair that the operators of these satellites can use the SatNOGS Network to collect telemetry for their satellites. On the other hand, many people still want to be able to observe these satellites, for instance to determine the TLE or the type of radio, or for personal research. It seems that an appropriate technical solution here would be to limit the download of audio and decoded data (perhaps only to the owner of the station that made the observation, or to people with certain permissions).

To achieve this technical solution it is enough to have a single checkbox that marks whether the satellite should have undergone IARU coordination but has failed to do so. The more complex options proposed above can be useful for other purposes, but probably don’t give any additional help in the case of this problem.

Still, I will put some more specific remarks in each of the issues.

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We maintain DB as a crowd-sourced project with dozens of contributors. If anything those new information is another chance to engage with more people and get them on board to maintain the DB information more diligently. Re: the usefulness check below.

This is only part of the problem. Namely I would list some others too:

  • We are not only catering to the amateur satellite service. There are other satellite services of interest to our community (like the meteorological, earth observing, experimental etc).
  • There are many more subsets from the one situation you mention. e.g. A satellite can have a frequency coordination from IARU but still violate it in practice in orbit. Or a satellite might have rejected frequency coordination from IARU but yet perform a valid amateur radio service in orbit.

You are confusing DB and Network functionality. Those issues and the discussion at this point are revolving around what information we keep and how we keep it on the DB. DB’s mission is to catalogue everything that is happening in orbit in an open data, open source and accessible way. For that end we need to be specific, exhaustive, unambiguous and keep historical data of the information.

For the Network functionality (and what policy we will be keeping as a project) we will be opening up a different discussion, but it is fair to say that the general consensus in our community (and the direction that LSF supports) is to not facilitate violators. How this will be done technically is a different topic to be raised soon (once we determine the DB data structure).

As you can see on the above mentioned examples, the situation is far more complex than a single “needed IARU coordination” field, since:

  1. IARU is not the only regulatory agency for the satellites/freqs we track
  2. Coordination does not mean no-violation
  3. Violation does not mean no-coordination
  4. More fine tuned information will allow us to provide a better service to all through fine-tuned permissions and policies on Network

Happy to discuss more specifics there.

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Since the DB stores data from contributors worldwide, and each nation/country may/does have its own rules/regulations regarding transmitters in/over their airspace, We cannot ask Satnogs contributors to track and record in perpetuity data from satellites that are transmitting illegally in a country’s airspace for the benefit of a rogue entity. If we, as contributors are asked to violate our government’s rules and regulations ( in my case, the FCC ) to track and record data from a transmitter of any type or design that is operating illegally within our country, then you are essentially asking us to commit a criminal act against our government, if the intent is to benefit the owners of an illegal transmitter. The result will be that most Satnogs operators will not do it, or will commit an illegal act in which we become criminals.

Some clarifications:

Once again, please do not confuse DB with Network functionality. DB is asking no one to do anything. It is a project with a task to catalogue everything that is happening in orbit in an open data, open source and accessible way. There is no law-violation for this part.

For the Network side of things, each country has its peculiarities when it comes to laws about monitoring frequencies (and demoding/decoding too which is different). It is beyond obvious that if operating a SatNOGS station is illegal in your country then you should not do it. That said, I would really like to see the laws/regulations of a country that a SatNOGS station would be illegal to operate (and especially for a licensed radio amateur too).

@bob I am sorry to say but space law and ITU regulations (and delegation to IARU for the amateur bands) do not work that way. (i.e. space is not a nation’s airspace, FCC rules cannot be enforced outside US etc) Not in US, not in EU, not in all the countries that we have seen so far (albeit not every single country in the world). Please refrain from blanket statements as illegal, criminal act, violation of rules since those are different things. Be more specific if you are trying to make a point :slight_smile: Thanks!

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I was told by you several months ago that Satnogs was an entirely open system and monitored all satellites because space was free and all signals from space were considered free as far as Libre Space Community was concerned. Does Satnogs only track and store data from Amateur Radio satellites, or other satellites as well? Your comment above addresses Amateur Radio satellites only. Why?

I know that Satnogs stores in DB information about all satellites that are tracked,

Once again, Satnogs stores data in DB that is collected in network. That is the central idea of Satnogs. The two are absolutely related and are part of the same program. Why do you continually say they are not related?. If we as operators of a Satnogs ground station use Satnogs’ software (the network) which automatically sends this data to DB by Internet, then the two are one and the same processes. ie: gathering and storing data.

Once again, you limited the discussion to Amateur Radio. You are very good at changing the subject when cornered. Satnogs monitors other satellites as well and stores the data in DB. You also continually argue that comments are irrelevant because DB and Network are not the same thing. Both are in the same process in Satnogs. software. If a Satnogs ground station is setup properly, signal it receives is sent to DB via Internet. Two functions in one software.

If a nation has no lawful control of satellites in space, why are there national and international rules and regulations that control satellite owners and the operation of their satellites?

You seem to be living in a dream world of socialist ownership of everything not nailed to the ground.

For this reason, I have taken my station off-line and will keep it off-line until Satnogs starts living in the real world.

“I think the FCC wants to send a signal to anyone wanting to get into the satellite business that they have the necessary approvals…a signal that people want to get their regulatory house in order before they launch a satellite,” Brian Weimer, a partner at SheppardMullinwho represents clients before the FCC, told Quartz this fall.

The first settlement between Swarm and the FCC, negotiated by attorneys representing the company and the agency’s enforcement bureau, was rejected by agency commissioners as too low. That’s likely because it was difficult for the FCC to identify specific harm to third parties caused by Swarm’s actions beyond the company’s statutory violations, according to lawyers familiar with the FCC.

FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly says that even the new, higher penalty, is still inadequate. “The size of the penalty imposed is probably not significant enough to deter future behavior, but the negative press coverage is likely to prevent this company and others from attempting to do this again,” O’Rielly said in a statement.