Hacking satellites with Software Defined Radio (SDR)


In this talk we’ll show you how you can download data directly from various satellites in low earth orbit with nothing more than a cheap USB dongle and a makeshift antenna.

Our first target will be US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) series weather satellites to give us live image data of what the earth looks like from about 850km overhead.

If you thought your WiFi signal was bad, you haven’t see anything! SDR USB dongles are cheap, readily available and can listen in on a wide range of the radio spectrum. However, they need a bit of help picking up the 137MHz signal from these satellites, so we’ll be building an antenna capable of picking up these signals.

With that setup, we’ll take you through some of the SDR software needed to analyse and record the signal (SDRSharp, CubicSDR or GQRX). Then we’ll look into how weather satellites encode image and telemetry data, and how you can decode it with a bit of Digital Signal Processing (DSP) software.

Next we’ll target Russian Meteor M class satellites, and see what we can get out of those with some other techniques.

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