The SpaceX CRS-1 Mission launched from Cape Canaveral on Sunday, October 7 at 7:35 PM CDT. A Falcon 9 rocket carried the Dragon spacecraft into orbit, where it docked with the ISS and stayed for a few weeks before returning to Earth. However, not all went well during the rocket’s ascent through the atmosphere.
Using GNU Radio with a custom receiving antenna may take longer to implement, but the end result can be closely tailored to the project’s needs while minimizing costs. Cheap hardware combined with free software ensures that the final cost of a ground station will be well below the high-end estimate of $1100. But can this low-cost approach achieve the fidelity and performance required to filter hundreds of Sprite signals sent from space, each powered solely by solar panels no wider than a fingernail?
DIY ground stations for receiving satellite signals can be as cheap as $20-$30 or as expensive as $1500, and in this case more expensive is not necessarily better. Sprites are small, powered only by a solar panel, and many of them will be sending signals from orbit at once. Making sure that all of them can communicate with the ground successfully requires carefully selected software and equipment, along with some smart radio tricks.