Hacking TV Tuner to Read Earth Photos From Satellites




About: I love to make DIY projects with my son

There are a lot of satellites above our heads. Did You know, that using only Your computer, TV Tuner and simple DIY antena You could recieve the transmissions from them ? For example real time pictures of earth. I'll show You how.

You will need:

- 2 wires (could be from ordinary electrical cable)

- some plywood or wood for an antena

- coaxial cable (TV cable)

- computer (Windows/Mac/Linux)

Step 1: Weather Satellites

We will be picking the signal from NOAA weather satellites because it is the easiest and good for the beginning. It is also possible to recieve the informations from other satellites-I'll write about at the end of this instructable.

The NOA satellites are over 800 km above earth and they are flying around the world in just 100minutes. During this flight they are taking the photos of earth and those imgase are then trasmitted via 137Mhz FM frequency to earth.

Step 2: Antena

To recieve the satellite transmission You will need an antena. The easiest one is just two 53 cm long copper wires connected in V shape under 120 degrees. Such antena is made for a 137Mhz frequencies.

I made antena from plywood as the holder and from ordinary electric copper wires. Those wires are then connected to the TV coaxial cable and thats all. Nothing more is needed. The whole antena took me no more than 20 minutes to built.

Step 3: Reciever

For reciever we can use TV Tuner based on the RTL2832U chipset. Such device cost about 10 USD, so it is very cheap and it allows You to watch the TV on Your laptop.

The tuner is in fact SDR device - Software Defined Radio - it means that it could recieve the FM frequencies and could be controlled with the computer software and that's all we need.

After installing the Tuner on Windows, You have to 'hack' it by replacing the original drivers by Zadig software. Run it and click replace the drivers.

On Linux, the procedure is different and could be found under this link

Step 4: Software to Track the Sattelites

You will need the software to track and predict when satellite will be over Your area. I recommend to use WXTOIMG because this is super easy program, available for all systems and it also decodes the signal from satellite.

To predict the NOAA satellites, You have to set Your ground station in the options for Your location. Then select the Satellite Pass List option and You will see when and on what frequencies You have to listen for the signal (complete step by step tutorial is in the video attachet to this instructable)

Step 5: Software to Record the Signal

You will need another program, to controll Your TV Tuner, recieve and record the signal from satellite.

For Widnows I recommend SDR Sharp, for Linux/Mac You can use GQRX.

Both software works in the same manner.

You select the frequency, on what You want to listen and You will not only hear the signal but You can see it on the diagrams in the SDR software.

Step 6: Recording the Signal and Decoding It

Now we have all we need. So when the satellite is above us, open the SDR software, set the frequency for 137,XXX MHz and set the reciver options like this:
- modulation FM
- band: 44khz

and push the record button when the signals will start appearing.

After You recorded the signal, You have to change it's frequency from 44khz to 11025 Hz. I used the Audacity software for that. Just open the wav file, change the frequency and write it once again.

The last step is to open the WAV in WXTOIMG. After this the program will automatically decode the signal and.. that's all! You have Your pictures of earth.

You can select different types of decoding in Wxtoimg like temperature, continents, seas etc.

Step 7: What Next ?

That's not all. With such configuration (only maybe with additional LNA amplifier) like in this instructable You can pick a lot more.

You can recieve better photos from METEOR 1 and 2 sattelites (different decoding software is needed)

You can listen to ISS SSTV (pictures from International Space Station)

You can pick some local transmissions over wide FM band.



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    36 Discussions

    NiCad Guy

    3 months ago

    Can you go into more detail in how to get pictures from the ISS please?


    4 months ago

    You mentioned that the image was fuzzy due to no amplifier. Would a TV signal amplifier work to make the signal better?
    To extend this thought a little further, could I just use a rabbit ears antenna with the antenna set up at the same degrees and length as in you video?

    1 reply

    Reply 3 months ago

    The signal is a simple VHF frequency... so the better the antenna, the more signal you would pick up. The rabbit ears would work well I think... just remember that they need to lay flat as the signal is coming from overhead (vertically) not horizintally. If the amplifier is designed for that frequency range... it may help as well.


    Reply 3 months ago

    Boy we live in a weird society


    Question 11 months ago

    How do I find my ground station location and call sign?


    1 year ago

    Thank you for this instructable.

    In the past I have decoded wheather charts from the short wave SSB wheather broadcasts and other kind of news pictures. But due to statics the quality was'nt allways good so I quit after a while. The pics you show are really great! And real time!

    I have ordered the same USB receiver you used in this instructable to blow live in this, for me allmost forgotten, aspect of my hobby. You show a very simple and elegant way to distill information out of the EM wave signals that surrounding us allways.

    Thanks again!

    With regards,



    Question 1 year ago

    About the antenna, should we orient it in a particular way ? (Facing north...) or it works in every directions ?

    Thanks for sharing...!


    1 year ago

    This is amazing i love this so much is it possible to hack & receive other pics from diffrent satellites?


    1 year ago

    Very nice work to share with kids, thank you!


    1 year ago

    It's a wonder those sats are still transmitting! I have an RX2 receiver and a QFH antenna in the garage which I used many years ago. It was great fun to see the image appear out of the noise.


    1 year ago

    you are a genius and a good dad!
    Thanks for all


    1 year ago

    All I can say is "wow"


    1 year ago

    Excellent! Great that you can decode satellite and even ISS transmissions. I've wanted to get my feet wet in SDR for some time and this looks like the time. I will have to be careful with my choice of SDR device as apparently the one in this instructable does not support the US, Canada and Japan, the three countries I travel to most often. But thanks for the idea, I'm sure that many others will work fine in my locations.


    1 year ago

    I will absolutely be knocking this up one rainy day, thanks for the heads up on just how easy it can be. Respect!