FUNcube <==> SatPC32


-- Overview --

The following are notes that may help you get your FUNcube dongle working with SatPC32 and HDSDR or SDR-Console. It is written for people who are familiar with the FUNcube dongle, HDSDR or SDR-Console and SatPC32. All of these programs are complex and I would not attempt this unless you are familiar with at least SatPC32. There are many ways to do this so if you find something better by all means use it and please let me know about it.

The goal is to be able to operate full duplex on amateur radio linear satellites with SatPC32 using HDSDR or SDR-Console for a receiver and a conventional radio for a transmitter.


-- Update --

Information on SDR-Console V2.2 Build 1735 has been included. My testing shows that SDR-Console is a better choice for a receiver than HDSDR. HDSDR is much easier to use but SDR-Console has many more features and seems to work better with weak signals. Once you have SatPC32 setup to work with one it will work with the other. Both HDSDR and SDR-Console use the Kenwood CAT commands so if you set both of them up with the same com port number and baud rate, switching is as simple as shutting down one and starting up the other. Note that the cheap RTL dongles can be used with SDR-Console but they do not use the same .dll you may be using with other programs. SDR-Console uses rtl_tcp.exe which is a stand alone program and uses a TCP link to connect to SDR-Console. It is not as confusing as it may sound and is very easy to set up and works fine for me.


-- Connections --

SatPC32 needs to communicate with both the radio you are using for a transmitter and the FUNcube dongle. A normal serial port connection is used to connect SatPC32 to the radio you are using for a transmitter. There are two ways to allow SatPC32 to communicate with the FUNcube dongle (FCD) SDR program. The first method requires two unused hardware serial ports on the computer that is running SatPC32 the second method does not. I have tried this with both methods and they both worked fine.

The HDSDR or SDR-Console program will be used to control the FCD. Both programs are able to receive CAT commands over a serial port from SatPC32 so you need a dedicated serial port for HDSDR or SDR-Console to receive CAT commands. SatPC32 needs another dedicated serial port to send CAT commands to the HDSDR or SDR-Console serial port. If you have two free hardware serial ports on your computer you can simply connect the two serial ports together with a null modem cable.

If you do not have two spare hardware serial ports available you can use the VSP Manager program from K5FR to set up a pair of virtual serial ports that are automatically connected together. VSP Manager has an excellent help page that will guide you through the setup. It works very well.

VSP Manager by K5FR


-- SatPC32 --

I am not a SatPC32 expert but here is what I found that worked for me. Just because it worked for me does not it will work for anyone else.

SatPC32 CAT Menu:
'CAT Tuning' both intervals set to 0
'Speed' set to X1

SatPC32 Setup -> Radio Setup Menu:
'Radio 1' set to Kenwood
'Model' set to TS-2000
'CAT Delay' set to 70
'Com Port' (depends on serial ports used)
'Baud Rate' set to 9600
'RTS +12 V' Checked

'Radio 2' set up for the radio you are using for a transmitter. It is not necessary to even have a radio for transmitting. I would suggest getting the receiver going before dealing with the transmitter.

I have found that the 'CAT Delay' can be set much lower but that depends on your radio. The baud rate usually can be set much higher. I use 57,600 and do not have any problems with it. Depending on your computer the 'Speed' can be can be set to X5 or X10


-- HDSDR --

'Options' --> 'CAT TO HDSR' Menu:

Set the 'Port' and 'Baudrate' to what you setup in the -- Connections -- and -- SatPC32 -- sections of this page. Be sure to click on the 'Activated' line or it will not work. Remember one of the two serial port numbers will be used by SatPC32 and the other one will be used by HDSDR.

At this point you should be good to go. Remember that if you have any problems with your FCD, SatPC32 and or HDSDR before you hook them together connecting them all together will not help anything.

Don't forget to make sure the little C box in the upper left corner of the SatPC32 window is set to C+ to turn the CAT.

It is possible to set the baudrate much higher. I run mine at 57,600 and it works fine. Just remember that the baudrate must be the same as the SatPC32 baud rate.


-- SDR-Console --

SDR-Console is a very powerful and flexible program. It works extremely well but It is not as intuitive as HDSDR or a conventional radio. Simple operations like changing the volume or switching between modes (SSB, CW, FM ...) are not obvious. It will require some time and patience but SDR-Console is well worth the effort.

The connection from SatPC32 to SDR-Console is the same as the connection to HDSDR. You can use the same virtual serial ports described in the -- Connections -- section of this page. If you are not an expert with SDR-Console I suggest first setting the number of VFO's to 1. Click on the 'Home' tab at the top of the window and click on 'Options' (on the current release it looks like it is grayed out but it is not). Click on 'Basic' in the left part of the 'Options' window and set the 'Maximum VFO's' to one. I also suggest setting the 'Meter Position' to hide as the meter just wastes space on the screen. You can see more meaningful signal strength information on the spectrum display. We are interested in how far above the noise the signal is and that shows up on the spectrum display and not on the meter. The spectrum display also allows you to see how strong your downlink signal is relative to other signals on the band, the meter does not show this. The meter is useful on HF but I find it of little or no use with the sats.

The next step is to setup the CAT interface. Click on the 'Tools' tab and click on 'Program Options'. Note this is not the same 'Options' as used to set the number of VFO's and hide the meter, this is options for the program the other 'Options' is for something else. Go down to 'Serial Ports' on the left side of the 'Options' window. You may or may not have to click on 'Selection'. Pick the serial port and set the baud rate on the right side of the window. That seems to be all you need to do. SDR-Console emulates the Kenwood CAT command set and it does not appear to be able to handle any other standards so it appears there is nothing else to set. I could not find a way to easily turn the CAT on/off in SDR-Console so just turn it on/off from SatPC32.

SDR-Console connects the same way as HDSDR to SatPC32 so it is possible to switch between SDR-Console and HDSDR without changing SatPC32. If the port and baud rate is set the same in each program SatPC-32 does not care if it talking to HDSDR, SDR-Console or an actual Kenwood Radio. As far as SatPC32 is concerned It is just sending and receiving Kenwood format CAT data.

I suggest not using the Satellite tracking stuff in SDR-Console. It appears to be designed for use only with a receiver so if you have any interest in actually working the linear sats it is not useful. It also uses WISP to handle the rotor with the usual problem with high number com ports. Someone probably has a version of WISP that gets around this problem but since we need to use SatPC32 for frequency control we may as well use it for rotor control and simplify things. The Doppler correction in SDR-Console satellite mode is amazing. It works better than anything else I have seen. The satellite Tle selection and update section in SDR-Console is brilliant and could serve as a model for all tracking programs. The only thing that appears to be missing from SDR-Console is frequency control. I probably have missed something but it appears to be necessary to put the satellite frequency information in as a 'Favorite' or in a memory. This adds an extra step when switching satellites. I could not find any information on controlling a transmitter for the uplink with SDR-Console. If you just skip the SDR-Console satellite stuff and use SatPC32 as the main control program you can avoid the frequency and WISP issues and still gain the benefits of SDR-Console. If you are interested in only receiving the SDR-Console satellite stuff works well.

The audio latency in SDR-Console can be reduced by switching to WASAPI drivers. Go to the 'Tools' menu and select 'Program Options'. Select 'Audio' -> 'Latency' then click on the 'Use WASAPI' radio button. A restart is necessary. The latency on my system dropped from 110 ms to 60 ms after making this change. It will not work on all systems.

SDR-Console is very close to being a total integrated system for satellite operation. With the shift to SDR for receiving there is a weakness in the current system configurations using the traditional Kenwood CAT commands. With a conventional receiver you only need to set the operating frequency, mode, filter bandwidth ... With an SDR you would like to be able to set the operating frequency and the LO frequency to control the position of the operating frequency within the passband. You may also wish to control the sample rate and other parameters. Even the cheap RTL dongles run at sample rates over 3 MHz providing much wider bandwidths as needed for things like FM broadcast stations so the sample rate may need to be adjusted. For the future you need to be able to change more things than are available in the Kenwood CAT commands. SDR-Console is well positioned to be able to do it all at some point in the future.

Compared to all that is currently in SDR-Console the changes/additions needed to make SDR-Console a complete package for operating on the linear satellites (satellite frequency/mode integration, transmitter frequency/mode control and integrated rotor control) are very minor. For now it appears to me that the SatPC32 <-> SDR-Console combination is perhaps the best solution. Remember that my opinion plus about $4.00 will get you a grande cappuccino at Starbucks.

Good Luck and as always 'Have Fun With Your Dongle' - 73 de W9KE