LoRa, TinyGS and satellites

Another new toy, only small this time. This is a 433MHz LoRa transceiver with TinyGS firmware loaded. More about that below. The device has radios built in – WiFi and BLE built in via an ESP32 chip and LoRa via an SX127x transceiver. It comes pre-loaded with software which I did not investigate as I planned to flash it anyway. It can be powered from a supplied connector or via a micro-USB and has an SMA socket on board.

There is a wealth of info on the web about these devices and some include GPS capabilities.

I got this because I came across the TinyGS project. Quoting directly from their website:

TinyGS is an open network of Ground Stations distributed around the world to receive and operate LoRa satellites, weather probes and other flying objects, using cheap and versatile modules.

This project is based on ESP32 boards and currently it is compatible with sx126x and sx127x LoRa módules but we plan to support more radio módules in the future.

The TinyGS firmware basically does everything. Installation is straightforward provided you have a supported board. The first board I got was a Heltec and sold as V2 but was a V3 when it arrived and would not accept the firmware. The second board worked fine. Instructions are all on GitHub.

One flashed the board sets itself up as a WiFi AP to which you can connect and set basic parameters including access credentials for your own WiFi and credentials for the central MQTT server which aggregates results from every other ground station. Once those are set and it reboots, connects itself, throws up its own web server for status and configuration changes, and gets on with things.

At first I had it connected to the Big Wheel in the loft (hardly big at 70cm) but received nothing at all. Next, I tried the collinear. Again, nothing. So I set the Arrow up for 70cm, mounted it horizontally and about 20 degrees up and pointed south-ish avoiding the house next door and left it all night. Overnight it received 41 packets – success for very little effort.

An example of received data
How that is displayed on the website (list of all stations)

The Arrow was in the way so the board is now connected to the Big Wheel again pending me making an antenna to go outside.

TinyGS is a fascinating project, very easy to get in to for little outlay.

Update: having left the board connected to the collinear it seems to like GaoFen-7 even though at 400.45MHz it is a way off the bottom end of the antenna’s range. Other than that, it has picked up signals from FEES (437.2MHz), Norbi (436.703MHz) and Sapling2 (437.4MHz). 128 confirmed packets as of 12:30 on 27/5/23, not a lot, but some at least.

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