Getting Started

Visit GitHub to get instructions on how to join the satellite network.

GitHub
Blockstream Satellite
Connect to join the satellite network.

Blockstream Satellite Receiver


This repository contains the development source of the GNU Radio-based satellite receiver. See the Wiki for setup and configuration information.


Go to the #blockstream-satellite IRC channel on freenode for additional help.


This is an initial release and regular improvements will be made to make Blockstream Satellite more user friendly and less technically complex.



Coverage Area


Blockstream Satellite currently covers nearly 2/3rds of the Earth's landmass. To see if you are in the coverage area, use our Interactive Coverage Map

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Hardware Required


To utilize the Blockstream Satellite network, you must have the following hardware at a minimum. These items are available from resellers around the world or you can purchase a complete kit with everything you need from XCVR.net (link).


Blockstream Satellite is designed to work with small antennas only 45cm or larger in diameter. However, a larger antenna is always better. When possible, we recommend installing an antenna larger than 45cm if one is readily available. 60cm, 90cm, and 1.2m antennas are readily available. Other than size, the only other requirement is that the antenna will work with Ku band and higher frequencies.

Blockstream Satellite operates in Ku band:

C band: 3.4 GHZ - 4.2 GHz
Ku band: 11.7 GHz to 12.7 GHz
Ka band: 17.7 GHz - 21.2 GHz


You can always use antennas designed for higher frequencies. For example, an antenna designed for Ka band will work as it is designed for higher frequencies than Blockstream Satellite which operated in Ku band.

However, a C band antenna will not work as it is designed for frequencies lower than Ku band.

The type of LNB used is critical. There are 3 parameters of an LNB that must be met to use Blockstream Satellite:


LNB Frequency Range

First you must verify that the Blockstream Satellite coverage in your area operates within the LNB frequency range. You can check the your coverage area and satellite frequencies here (link to network status).

For example, if you are located in North America and are using the Galaxy 18 satellite, your frequency is 12.178 GHz. Thus an LNB that operates from 11.7 GHz to 12.2 GHz would work. However, if your LNB operates from 10.7 GHz to 11.7 GHz would NOT work.

Note on “Universal” LNB. A Universal LNB supports multiple frequency bands, however it requires a 22khz tone to be sent to the LNB to activate the switch. Blockstream Satellite does not currently support these LNBs as it would require an SDR with transmit capability.


Linear LNB Polarization

Blockstream Satellite requires a LNB with Linear Polarization. While most Ku LNBs are linearly polarized, some popular satellite TV services use circular polarization. A circularly polarized LNB will NOT work with Blockstream satellite.

If an LNB is described as horizontal or vertical polarization, than it is linear.

However, if an LNB is described as Right Hand or Left Hand, then it is circular and will NOT work with Blockstream Satellite.


LNB L.O. Stability

Blockstream Satellite requires a highly stable LNB. Most LNBs will have a stability parameter referred to as either “Stability” or “L.O. Stability” measured in +/- XX Khz or Mhz.

Blockstream Satellite requires the LNB have at stability measurement of <= +/- 200khz. Any higher and the system may not operate reliably.


Most LNBs require anywhere from 13 vdc to 30vdc to be injected on the coaxial port to power the LNB. As this is a common requirement, many power injectors exists for this purpose.

Be sure to check the power requirement of your LNB and ensure that your power injector matches.


There exist many different Software Defined Radio (SDR) interfaces. Currently, Blockstream Satellite is confirmed to work with an RTL SDR model R820T2.

SDRs other than the RTL may be used, but it must be supported by the GNUradio project and be able to receive frequencies from 950mhz to 1450mhz. Additional custom configuration will be required to use non-RTL SDRs.


You’ll need to connect your SDR to the LNB power supply. The powered output of the power supply is then connected to the LNB. You’ll need to ensure that you have the necessary coaxial cable and connectors to make these interfaces.

Note: Not every RTL SDR has the same interface connector. Some use the SMA connector and some use MCX. Be sure to order the correct cable and adaptors to make the necessary connections.

[insert connection diagram]

Many antennas will come with mounting hardware, but you may need additional or different hardware depending on your installation. Check with the antenna manufacturer for the correct mounting hardware.

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Aligning a satellite antenna is a precise procedure. Remember that the satellites are over 35,000 km (22,000 mi) away. A tenth of a degree of error will miss the satellite by more than 3500 km.

To properly align your antenna, first use the following tool to find the correct azimuth and elevation.

Aim Antenna

This tool will calculate the direction you will need to aim your antenna based on your location.

Simply enter either your address or latitude and longitude coordinates, then select the satellite you would like to calculate aiming parameters.

If you do not know which satellite covers your area, look at the Network Status page.

DISH ALIGNMENT


Latitude: 0°
Longitude: 0°

Your antenna should be aimed:
Elevation:
Azimuth:
Polarity:

X

Once you have your azimuth, elevation, and polarization skew you can place your antenna in the approximate position. You'll then need to use a computer, your SDR, and the included signal meter software to identify the optimal position for your antenna.

Bla blah, explain this tedious process.

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Aligning a satellite antenna is a precise procedure. Remember that the satellites are over 35,000 km (22,000 mi) away. A tenth of a degree of error will miss the satellite by more than 3500 km.

1. Ideal Mounting Location

Before mounting your satellite antenna, it is important to ensure you find the ideal mounting location.

1.To find the ideal location to place your antenna, first use the following tool to find the correct azimuth and elevation. [embed dish alignment tool].

After entering your address or latitude/longitude, this tool will give you three parameters:

Azimuth The azimuth is the side to side adjustment on your antenna. The antenna aiming tool will provide the compass heading your dish will need to point.

Elevation: The elevation is the up and down adjustment of your antenna. The antenna aiming tool provides the number of degrees above the horizon your antenna must point. 0 degrees represents pointing at the horizon and 90 degrees is pointing straight up.

Polarization: The polarization parameter is how many degrees your LNB will need to be rotated. Many LNBs will provide a scale of degrees to assist in setting the LNB skew.

2. Once you have your azimuth, elevation, and polarization, you can identify the general direction your antenna must point. Using a compass or smartphone, visually check the general direction your antenna must point. Ensure that there are no obstacles such as trees or building in the path between your antenna location that the area of the sky that your antenna will point. It is important that you have clear line of sight to that area of the sky.

Call out: There are many useful smartphone apps available for android and ios that will aid in pointing your antenna. Some even have augmented reality features that allow you to see the satellite in the sky so that you can ensure you have good line of sight.

2. Mount Antenna

Now that you have verified you have clear line of sight, it is time to mount your antenna. Install the satellite antenna according to the directions accompanying it, or have it done professionally.

If you install it yourself, confirm the following: Check to be certain the pole the dish is mounted on is completely level. Set the elevation of the antenna to the parameter provided by the antenna aiming tool (above). This is the up and down angle. Many antenna will have an elevation scale on the back of the dish that you can use to set the approximate elevation.

Set the LNB polarization to the parameter provided by the antenna aiming tool. This involves rotating the LNB. There is typically a polarization rotation scale on the LNB or the LNB mounting bracket.

3. Prepare to Locate the Blockstream Satellite signal

To locate the Blockstream Satellite signal and perform fine adjustment of your antenna alignment, you will need the following:

Computer with SDR interface and previously downloaded Blockstream Satellite Receiver and GNUradio. LNB power supply with electricity to power it. Coax cable to connect LNB to LNB power supply SMA to F connector cable to connect the SDR to the LNB power supply

Note This process is performed easiest with a laptop than can be watched while moving the antenna. If you are not able to have a computer at the antenna, you’ll need two people: one to move the antenna and one to monitor the laptop.

4. Connect equipment

With power disconnected from the LNB power supply, connect the SDR to the non-powered port on the LNB power supply using the SMA to F connector cable.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT connect the powered port of the LNB power supply to the SDR interface. Permanent damage may occur to your SDR and/or your computer.

b. Connect the powered port of the LNB power supply to the LNB using coaxial cable.

(insert connection diagram)

c.

Once you have your azimuth, elevation, and polarization skew you can place your antenna in the approximate position. You’ll need to use a computer, your SDR, and the included signal meter software to identify the optimal position for your antenna.

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This is a bunch of steps to write when I'm awake.