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Outernet is a free "receive only" satellite based information delivery system, Its original goal was to deliver news and information to areas without good mobile phone coverage or internet access in under developed parts of the world.
Today, Outernet fills the original mission it set out to address and also offers valuable information to the amateur radio community which includes weather, AMSAT news, APRS messages. Even basic games like "Connect 4" are available.
Here are some sample categories in the Outernet Library. All of this information can readily be found on the internet, so you WILL NOT find anything unique to just Outernet, but the collection as a whole is unique.
The major benefit with Outernet is you can get data for free with no internet access which may be helpful in an emergency or as a convenience of sorts. There is evcen a way to create a Wi-Fi hotspot and share it locally with your friends and family.
Each day 20 MB of data is delivered over Outernet, which may not seem like a lot but since it is mostly text based information, 20 MB is a good amount of content to see alongside smaller video or applications,
Currently Outernet provides global coverage from three satellites using L-Band spectrum in the 1539MHz to 1545MHz range. The US focused satellite is on 1539.87 MHz and is one of many services on the Inmarsat-4F3 satellite which is focused on commercial services mostly
How do you gain access to Outernet?
For a very basic receiver to access Outernet content, here is an inventory list and approximate component price list:
Total cost estimate (not including additional storage) - Under $150 if you had to purchase EVERYTHING BRAND NEW!
DIY = Do It Yourself
OTS = Off The Shelf
A detailed 24 page instruction manual on getting set up can be found at at https://outernet.is for the current home made version using the above inventory list. Below is the "K2GOG Super Quick Outernet Set up guide".
Step 1- After you have all the inventory
Download and Install Win32 Disk Imager to your Windows Based PC.
Use Win32 Disk Imager to write the *.img file to the SD card
Step 2 - Assemble the hardware
Insert the SD card with the rxOS loaded on to it
Connect the antenna to the LNA
Connect the LNA to the SDR
Connect the SDR to the Raspberry Pi 3
Connect an ethernet wire to the Raspberry Pi 3 to your home network for initial setup
Connect a power source to the Raspberry Pi 3
Step 3 - Find your local IP address of the Raspberry Pi 3
Access your router to figure out which IP address got assigned to your Raspberry Pi 3
Open up a browser window directed to the IP address assigned to the Raspberry Pi. The device name should come up as rxOS as a DHCP name and follow the prompts for initial set up
Step 4 - Aiming the antenna
In the United States, the Inmarsat 4F3 satellite is what we need to aim towards which is located at about 98 degrees West.
You can get further direction on how to aim the antenna by looking at the Outernet Instruction manual that is pre loaded in the Outernet library after you complete initial set up.
You will be able to fine tune for maximum signal after you log in after initial set up. An example screen capture is below.
Step 5 - Download content
After you align for the best signal, go do something for 30 minutes and you should come back to see what was downloaded.
After your library is first set up, it will then be updated with newer material. So do not worry if you only see content from October 2016.
Here is an example of the recent news feed as of the time of this article on July 23rd 2017.
This is not an article designed to be the authority on Outernet, but a good starting point.
If you are looking for other users for the SDR dongle you may have purchased and want to see what else you can do with it aside from try to listen to the 80m hip replacement net, perhaps this may catch your interest.
Some technical notes:
Its possible to receive the Outernet satellite inside a house, through many walls, just as long as you aim the antenna correctly. Your success may vary, but here is a rudimentary shot of the basic Outernet setup before any sort of permanent installation with better antenna
You can set your Raspberry Pi 3 to act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for those around you with a mobile device to connect to your Outernet device and access the content it has downloaded.
For amateur radio operators, adding an Outernet library to a mesh network can provide some very interesting use cases to explore as example.