54 years after Sputnik, the UK is getting into the “tiny orbiting satellite” game.
At 10x10x10cm, the “FUNCube” will launch later this year.
There’s a product being developed in concert with the satellite, the FUNCube Dongle, which is a USB device designed to listen to and broadcast through FUNCube’s transceiver. It’s aimed at schools and it’s pretty inexpensive (~$120).
The dongle was originally designed to tune to the specific frequencies used by the satellite, but the guy behind it figured that if he opened up the listening range to go all the way from 64MHz to 1,700MHz he’d have a pretty wonderful tool on his hands. And so he has.
The FunCube Dongle Pro is a full-fledged USB receiver – a Software Defined Radio as the kids say – and it’s dirt cheap. About $160 at the current exchange rate.
You’d need to use one of any number of SDR application suites to actually use it but in the end you’ve got the equivalent of a WinRadio G313e for about a thousand dollars less.
And because SDRs are really just dumb receivers, processing filters and other features normally found on high-end dedicated hardware in the $5,000 to $10,000 range can now be passed off to the host PC’s CPU in software.
That enormous price discrepancy is why these things have been selling out in five minutes or less, and why they’re going for upwards of $500 on eBay.
I don’t know a lot about what makes for “good” SDR software…SDR-Radio seems like a pretty mature product and it’s easy on the eyes. There’s a whole slew of others out there, too. So far the only downside is that they’re all designed to be used by ham radio geniuses and definitely not simple scanner folk like me.
Anything that breaks up the Uniden/GRE duopoly and gets prices down seems like a step in the right direction, though!