Linux Ham Satellites

Linux has programs to run satellites, but so far, they are not as sophisticated as the other OS's.
We will cover these by catagories.

Satellite Trackers, (or you can't work them if you don't know where they are).

Linux Prediction and Tracking software

Predict Predict is both a server and a console mode or shell ascii client.  It also contains some very nice gui clients, my favorite is gsat.
Mtrack This program is dated, and hard on my eyes, but works well.
Gpredict Gpredict was born from predict, and is part of the Groundstation group of programs, which I hope will end up as a fully capable satellite communications center.
KTrack Ktrack is a Gui sat tracker for the Qt/KDE libraries.
TRK TRK has not shown any development in quite awhile now, I hope it is not abandoned, it had potential.

Programs for the Pacsats

Pacsat programs to work them there Pacsats

A word about the elements.
The Keplarian elements make corrections to satellite trajectory info.  They can be downloaded from some of the satellites themselves, but, I suggest updating from AMSAT.  That will give you an excuse to keep up to date with their fabulous page.  Keps can be updated every 2 weeks or so for casual users, but if you want serious accuracy, it would be best to update the elements every day.

Beacons and Telemetry

There are several AO-40 telemetry programs available, they range from the simple console mode to elaborate overkill.
Sound Modem
This is Thomas Sailers wonderful soundcard program for Linux, and includes an AO-40 demodulator.

WX and other Satellites

There are many satellites out there you can download images from, with weather fax images being the most copied.  The equipment can get quite expensive, but, sometimes very simple equipment is needed.  I recommend starting out by copying the hf wefax pictures.  These are wx pictures sent across hf radio.  They are usually less sophisticated, and easier to copy.  For software I would start with

An SSTV tx/rx -- Fax rx program using Qt/KDE libs
A very nice fax rx/tx program for fax.

For copying the satellites, I would recommend WXTOIMAGE.  It is set up to copy various satellite modes.  This is a very professionally done software package that is available for many computer platforms.

Well, I guess most people have heard about this by now.  The ISS has been putting hams on most crews, and while they don't get a lot of free time, they do chat with hams on 2M when they get the chance.  They also send aprs on occasion.
Official ARISS homepage
ARISS aprs page by K4HG

How to Start working Satellites

The easiest way to get started in Satellites is AO-27,  All you need is a dual band handheld, and a gain antenna , such as the Arrow.  The AO-27 satellite is simply a satellite repeater, one qso at a time.  Make sure you have your computer time as accurate as possible, and use your satellite prediction program to get an idea of where to point the antenna.  LISTEN!  If you can't hear it, don't try to work it.  All you will do is jam the input, and it will be useless to everyone.  And they won't be too happy to work your station  when you do get on air.
With a simple antenna setup, and your arm  for a rotator, you will work many fine amateurs.  It doesn't get any simpler than that.
Next comes the Radio Sputnik series of satellites.  You can work them using an hf rig and a handheld. It can be done using freq splits on an hf radio with 2m, but, it takes a lot of work.  It takes a little research, but these satellites are worth the slight additional effort.
For working digital this is probably the place to start.  Get the PGPB program, install it, and put those satellites to work.
AO-40 and others
It takes more sophisticated antenna arrays and I would recommend an automatic rotator system that can track the satellite.  Due to AO-40's elliptical orbit, you can often keep contact with the satellite for several hours at a time, with excellent earth coverage.  If you can afford the expense, this is the place you want to be.

I have just covered the very basics, and will try to fill in more detail as time permits.  There are many people on the web who are much more knowlegeable on satellites, and I will try to post as many of their pages as I can.

WB8ERJ's AO-27 page
Homestead AO-40 page
PCSAT page

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This page updated by KF8GR on Mar 31, 2004