THE DIY SATELLITE WEATHER STATION

Sample images from the project 

Cloud images of eastern Australia and the Tasman Sea from the Russian Meteor satellite and the American NOAA satellite

the image on the left shows Tasmania with light cloud while the image on the right has Tasmania completely covered in cloud

 

           


 Today"s polar orbiting weather satellites, covering Australia, are the Russian Meteor 3-5 and the American NOAA satellites, they serve us well with pictures of cloud cover taken from about 800 - 1000 kms above the earth. These images are used with other data from geo stationary satellites, radar and land based weather stations to build a basis for interpreting weather over time. Pictures like those shown below can easily be obtained with relatively cheap and simple equipment built by you as a  DO IT YOURSELF PROJECT.


  

The D.I.Y. Satellite weather station project

 

The weather station is an ideal Science based project for school groups and for amateur constructors with skills in building small electronic circuit boards and associated hardware. The project described here uses a kit built receiver coupled to an antenna constructed from easy to get hardware, add a PC with a sound card (minimum specification  a 486 processor and 8 mb Ram). This is all that is needed to start receiving your own satellite weather pictures on your PC.

 

 

 

 The Receiver: The receiver is the RX2 satellite receiver kit available to members of the Remote Imaging Group. Other commercial receivers could be substituted, however, this kit is a value for money proposition that will not break the bank. To obtain the kit you must be a member of the Remote Imaging Group Remote Imaging Group which is a group dedicated to amateur weather satellite watchers, their quarterly journal, RIG, is an excellent, quality publication with projects, articles and images associated with remote imaging.

Cost of RIG membership is Uk 11 pounds and Uk 15 pounds outside of Europe. The RX2 receiver kit is priced at Uk 49.5 pounds 52.00 pounds airmail outside UK. The whole project except for the PC should cost around AUD $200 depending on how resourceful you with the hardware needed for the antenna. The software used is all public domain and costs nothing.

The Kit: Carefully read the instructions before you start building the kit and make sure you have properly identified all the components, take care with soldering the components onto the board and you should have little trouble in

 

                

     The receiver printed circuit board showing the first layer of components mounted and the final assembly of the board.   

     

                    

The printed circuit board was then housed in a metal case with the optional level meter and an external power supply was obtained. Preliminary testing and alignment were done  and are not difficult providing the instructions are followed.

 

                   

     Front and rear views of the finished receiver mounted in a metal case measuring 200 x 130 x 65 mm

 

 

Antennas:  A number of antenna designs can be implemented but perhaps one of the best and most sensitive is the Tall narrow quadrifilar antenna Quadrifilar Helix Antennas  Other antennas such as the J pole J Pole antenna  Lindenblad and crossed dipole designs for the 137.5 MHz band should also work with varying degrees of success. Both the QFA (quadrifilar helix antenna) and the J pole antenna are very easily built using short lengths of copper pipe and a few copper fittings, readily available from plumbing suppliers. The mast for the QFA is a short length of 32 mm electrical conduit. Both of these antennas will give good reception in most areas and will not cost very much to build. The instructions on the web pages for these antennas are well set out and very easy to follow.

I haven't built this one but I include it here as its the best in my opinion.

 

                              

Two images of the tall narrow quadrifilar helical antenna built from the plans found at the above web sites, showing the soldered copper elbows and the 4:1 balun.

 

 

With both the receiver and an antenna built all we need to do is hook them up and feed them into your computer sound card with decoding software and wait for a satellite to pass over to fine tune the receiver.

The Decoder:  Decoding and displaying the images is done simply, with a fairly basic PC and sound card using the WXsat version 2.4* freeware software programme. Remote Imaging Group has a free download facility. Download the software and install it on your PC, plug the receiver output into your sound card and wait for the next satellite to pass overhead.

There are quite a few PC programs that track satellites in real time and these identify when and which satellite is in your stations range, the satellites that interest you are Russia's MET 3-5 and America's NOAA 12 or NOAA 14. Recommended is Les Hamilton's  Footprint tracking software,  this is a free public domain program. Current Kepler elements are needed to maintain accurate tracking on any tracking program, and current elements can be found at Celestrak  

Other equipment: There are other receivers, decoders and software that can be used for weather satellite stations but few packages will be as cheap and as good as the one described here.

Other interesting links:  Communications Software HFFAX       Geostationary Weather Satellite images Geostationary images  

& Mark A Phillips, G7LTT 1997-2005