SatNOGS Strategy - 2018 Edition

Hello all,

As we are about to put more resources towards development of SatNOGS we would like to consolidate our vision and strategy around the project. Please review the following and provide feedback so we can start translating those goals to real actionable items for the subprojects of SatNOGS


SatNOGS to become the best and largest open source satellite ground station network.


  • Promote and explain the vision
    • Detail the mandate
  • Enhance ground station quality
    • Better documentation
    • Better operator expertise
    • Better equipment (rotator, antennas, filters, sdr)
  • Expand a vibrant community
    • Better communication channels
    • More efficient people connections
    • Expand to non-“West” communities/locations
    • Create/Expand community around satellite owners and operators
    • Improve onboarding experience for new developers
    • Better satcom education
  • Minimize manual work on Network
    • Automation of scheduling
    • Automation of vetting
    • Automation of logging and notifications
  • Optimize on-boarding of new stations
    • Better documentation
    • Auto - Provisioning
    • Easier configuration and troubleshooting
  • Close the telemetry loop
    • Create decoding infrastructure
    • Connect Network to DB
    • Create Data Warehouse and visualization
  • Ensure reliability and scalability of our infrastructure
    • Less down-times
    • Status monitoring
    • Stress tests
    • Future proof of storage
    • Concrete and holistic back-up strategy
    • Single-Sign On (SSO) for all our properties
  • Invest in Space Awareness
    • Create a team that tracks new satellites and changes
    • Capture more info
    • Notifications and automation around Space Awareness
    • Create an education initiative, SatNOGS in the classroom
  • Invest in future-proof modern ground-station hardware
    • Open source filter-lna solution
    • Higher frequency antenna solutions (S + bands)
    • Better reference SDRs

+ related goals of onboarding and GS improvements.

There are some opportunities to greatly enhance and promote SatNOGS in this context. Coming up soon is the Space Exploration Educators Conference in Houston, TX.

A hands-on demonstration to K-12 teachers on setting up a SatNOGS station at this conference would go a long way to achieving several of our goals. What if instead of merely watching a station get setup, attendees actually setup their own to take back to their schools.

Partner with CASIS (the manager of the US part of the ISS laboratories, and one of the financial sponsors of ARISS) and their educational outreach Space Station Explorers. Since many of the CubeSats the Network captures are NASA-funded launches, I see great alignment with everyone’s goals.

How about a solar-powered no-rotator station using WiFi connectivity? No cables, plus another technology for things like learning about energy management. … but that’s getting off topic, for this post at least :slight_smile:


The majority of ground stations use no-rotator setups with all sorts of different antennas (turnstile, QFH, Lindenblad, eggbeater, etc…). I think there’s room for a SatNOGS designed omni-directional antenna for VHF and UHF. The main goal would be to use DIY tools and cheap hardware to lower the cost, but also fully document setting up a no-rotator ground station. This would hopefully also make it interesting for schools to join for the space awareness goal.


This is a great document. I find many item of my “wish list” on it.

I would agree with partnering with other organizations. CASIS and ARISS have been mentioned, but there is also AMSAT and the rest of the amateur radio community. As VP Educational Relations for AMSAT-NA, I am working to expand their educational outreach program, and I think SatNOGS is an excellent way to do this.


My wishlist is for a more turn-key solution for those that want to just buy the hardware and get it setup in a matter of days.

The open-source rotor is great, but would be even better if there were partner manufactures that I could buy a fully built one from that is much cheaper than lets say a Yaesu G-5500 for instance.

Other Opensource projects, like Open EVSE both sell parts and fully built units.

I’d also like to see the addition of documentation for microwave / dish based antennas too. Old, small Ku-Band dishes are extremely ubiquitous and ripe for re-use.


Welcome, Brock!

Yeah this is tough - and for all of the 4? years we’ve been at the dayton hamvention we are asked about kits a hundred times (or even fully built rotators). I would personally love us to get to a point where that is feasible, but at this stage in the project I fear it could also become a huge distraction and fail. Let me try to explain myself a bit, and I welcome additional thoughts from you (and everyone else)

Someone who buys a kit is going to expect a certain level of support and warranty on the kit. Since the rotator is mechanical in nature it presents a bit more of a challenge than something which is purely electrical in nature (like the Open EVSE kits). Gears wear, and 3D printed parts are imperfect. The 2020 extrusion and the ‘hidden inner’ connectors used to mount them together are pretty expensive, and once you’ve got the PCB boards printed and the rest of the electronics the build pushes $300 (I want to say that figure from memory also includes the raspi, rtlsdr, sd card, etc…) So let’s assume that through volume we can pull that down to $250 USD and take no profit. That’s still a decent purchase for someone to make, and so what becomes the expectation for lifespan and support? Who would then be responsible for providing that help, replacement parts, warranty returns, etc? What happens when someone buys a kit, tries slapping a couple of larger commercial antennas on them and realizes the rotator can’t handle the load - before long bad reviews start showing up around the net.

I’m not saying that kits are impossible in the future, and it it definitely a frequent topic, my point is that if we as an open source team try to sell and support them that could pull us away from other tasks on the list above.

I’ll end that topic with the G-5500 comparison: if someone were to come to me today and say “this is cool, I want to buy a 3D printer and build it!” I would have to point out that by the time you’ve spent money on a 3D printer and the rest of the ‘kit’, you should buy the G-5500 and get the commercial quality rotator. (mind you, the G-5500 is not perfect either, I’ve burned through one set of controller relays in a year at the duty cycle we’ve given it) The SatNOGS design is perfect for hackerspaces and people who have the means of building the parts already and like the process of DIY.

Yes!! huge topic here… I think that is covered in the “Higher frequency antenna solutions (S + bands)” initiative.

thanks again for your input!


I think building a vibrant community is key to the future of the network without the community there is no network. Outreach via STEM programs and AMSAT are great.

The other great area of opportunity is the on-boarding of small satellite owners and operators. Need to find small sat projects in development at any stage, make them aware of SatNOGS and offer it to them as a resource. This could possibly lead to the expansion of SatNOGS’ utility as the prospective small sat team would most likely provide the necessary software based demodulators and decoders to be incorporated into SatNOGS. I think the back and forth the other day between the SatNOGS community and BSE was awesome.

Lastly would looking for partnerships opportunity with government agencies (aka NASA, ESA, JAXA) considered out of the question? How about Academia?


Hi, all, nice discussion. I am not an engineer so i only have a non-technical comment to make: when i first read about SatNOGs in the past i was a bit perplexed with regards to their utility. It didn’t take me a lot of effort to eventually grasp what they can do, but I believe that many people who lack a good understanding of space or an engineering background may not even do that tiny bit of effort (and sometimes decision makers can be people like that). People might come across SatNOGs in the media and they would generally be impressed, but i have a feeling that a big bunch of them would still have a small question mark at the back of their head saying “Great, but what does it exactly do? How can this be useful to us? In which way can this open-source network of ground stations change the future?”. Hence my advice would be to integrate into the Strategy for the future of SatNOGs the following:
“Always include a short description of SatNOGs utility, including 2 short and easy-to-grasp examples, at the beginning of any SatNOGs-related presentation / text / article / pitch or personal communication”.
In my opinion it would be important to really get the attention of more people (and future colleagues?) in a meaningful way. Thanks and congratulations from the bottom of my heart for all that you have achieved!


I can see a lot of work in there, hopefully this doesn’t add more. Without too many words…

+1 for @danwhite’s and your comments about schools. I go into a school every week for STEM activities and will carry on doing it until my boss tells me to stop! Hopefully it’ll be a secondary school this year and SatNOGS is on top of the list.

The kitting thing has always been hard and I think the rotator design as it currently is makes it time consuming and prone to a poorer experience than it should. However, there is no reason why a non rotator set up shouldn’t be offered.

The DB could do with some effort to get it to be ‘the standard db’ that may mean partnering with some of the other established db’s. Increasing the data that is in it and ensuring accuracy is important

One thing that has been in the back of my mind is how much of the globe does SatNOGS currently cover? By knowing this areas without coverage can be targeted along the lines of flightaware. They have a wish list somewhere.

As always happy to help out where I can



Hey @pierros et al - I’m on vacation at the moment, but this is too cool to pass up. :smile:

This is all wonderful. I’ve been watching the activity (so many PRs and issues being worked on!) the last little while and it’s clear that SatNOGS is ramping up. It’s great to watch.

One small addition I would suggest is the possibility of two “easy-entry” tracks into SatNOGS: one for radio enthusiasts, and one for space and/or Free Software enthusiasts.

  • Radio folk would be coming in from AMSAT or other parts of the amateur radio community. Tell them how to hook up a commercial rotator, explain that this is project expands horizons beyond OSCAR sats, and maybe some more explicit instructions about using a non-Windows setup.

  • Space/Free Software folks would be coming in thinking “OMG isn’t this cool?” (There may be some autobiographical influence on this description. :slight_smile: ) Point them at some explanations about different antenna options, give them simple and explicit instructions for a non-rotator setup, and show them what they can get (NOAA images, telemetry from EDU cubesats, etc etc).

I’m sure those could be slotted appropriately into the categories given above.

Oh, and one other thing – it would be interesting to see if there’s a way to do more outreach to cubesat projects about the benefits of open source and open data formats. There’s been some interesting discussion about this recently on the Phase 4 Ground mailing list – the benefits of not just knowing “that’s a one, that’s a zero, that’s 0xdeadbeef”, but what that all means. Tell them about the benefits of having not just one ground station collecting and forwarding their data, but 50. Maybe this means connecting with cubesat initiatives run by space agencies to try to find a place for SatNOGS in their presentations. It would be wonderful to see a mention of SatNOGS in the NASA Cubesats 101 guide, for example…

Off I go…visiting Kennedy Space Center today!


May I suggest an edit…

  • Invest in future-proof modern ground-station hardware
    ** Open source filter-lna solution
    ** Open source notch filter solution (for broadcast and land-mobile signal rejection)
    ** Higher frequency antenna solutions (S + bands)
    ** Better reference SDRs

  • Software upgrades to support future-proof hardware
    ** Upgrades to rotator software allowing DiSEQC control over dish motors and coax switches.
    ** Upgrades to rotator software allowing other orbits besides LEO (eg HEO, Geostat, Geosync) and other mounts such as polar and equatorial.
    ** Upgrades to demodulating software to allow multiple signals to be decoded with different Doppler shift compensation within the same 10MHz band
    ** Upgrades to demodulating software to allow the blanking/notching out of interfering ground signals.
    ** Software images that run on thin client pcs (Linux or Windows)



This document is fantastic! I would love the chance to talk to you more about how we can incorporate these goals into what my library at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is hoping to do in library settings with SatNOGs. I’ve talked to @elkos about this and in particular I think the following align really well with what we’ve been working on but I have some suggested additions.

Little background first: My library in collaboration with a few public libraries wants to augment a curriculum the Media Lab has developed to help high schoolers build cubesats. We want to implement the new curriculum as modules in libraries. Ideally, library communities would be able to help build a ground station and then there could be programming developed around using data collected from the cubesat network. At my library we’re also particularly interested in developing a more standard data infrastructure and set of protocols for gathering data from and about CubeSat missions to make sure this information is available to anyone who can benefit from it. I’d also like to make sure the data from SatNOGs can be linked easily to platforms like the NASA Astrophysics Data System. I think academic entities could also help pilot the expansion of your S + band capabilities.

This documentation piece here would be key to making it realistic for non-technical people (in libraries and elsewhere) to invest in participating in the network. Which I think feeds well into the community component. So below where the on boarding experience could be improved for new developers, I’d also recommend improving the experience of new community members who aren’t developers.

My library is exceedingly interested in supporting this:

I think this should be made a higher priority though. Without an approachable data warehouse that’s well connected to the network it’ll be challenging to engage a broader community and connect SatNOGs to other infrastructure. I’m hoping to start looking for funding for a pilot of what I’ve described here after participating in the OCSW so I’d love to talk more!


Thanks for the input! Look forward to collaborating with you.

absolutely agree on the prioritization, and we are well under way: Data warehouse POC


Here is what a couple of Aussie HAM teachers are doing.
I built 2 of their rotator designs. Very happy with the results.
Bob vk2byf