Portable Raspberry Pi Tricorder Detects Starlink Satellites

Raspberry Pi
(Image credit: Saveitforparts)

Just when you think the Raspberry Pi community has done it all, one maker boldly goes where no maker has gone before. Today we’ve got an exciting update to share: Maker and developer Saveitforparts is using his homemade Raspberry Pi Tricorder to detect Starlink satellites. If you’re wondering what a Tricorder is, these are handheld gadgets from the Star Trek universe used to scan the environment around them.

Saveitforparts does just that with his Tricorder, using a variety of sensors to scan for things like RF signals and thermal bodies. We first reported on it last year, but today we’re excited to share the project's latest update. There’s something quite appropriate in using a DIY Tricorder to scan for low-orbit satellites. In this case, he’s looking for Starlink satellites which are run by SpaceX and used to provide internet access and intended to reach global support within the coming years.

The new upgrade is possible thanks to an LNB module taken from an old satellite dish. This module is capable of detecting KU-band radio beacons eminating from Starlink satellites. The system won’t allow the Tricorder to connect to the internet, but rather just detects the location of the satellites as they pass by, with a visual indicator of their trails displayed on the Tricorder’s LCD screen.

The hardware is housed inside a waterproof shell. It outputs visual representations of the data it collects for things like its thermal camera module, RF scanner and more. The unit is also completely portable thanks to its battery pack, so it’s possible to take it with you on the go—perfect for away missions.

You can find a more detailed breakdown of the project on the official saveitforparts blog. A recent update showcases the Starlink detecting upgrade. If you want to recreate this Raspberry Pi project, check out the blog post and head over to YouTube to see it in action. You will need a fair bit of hardware to build the project but it’s definitely possible to duplicate at home. This is one of many projects created by Saveitforparts, so be sure to follow him for any additional Tricorder updates as well as future projects.

Ash Hill
Freelance News and Features Writer

Ash Hill is a Freelance News and Features Writer at Tom's Hardware US. She manages the Pi projects of the month and much of our daily Raspberry Pi reporting.

  • Giroro
    Those new Star Trek shows on streaming must have really dropped the ball if even a single person on Earth thinks that tricorders were used to scan for satellites.

    Actually New Trek definitely dropped the ball considering Star Trek Picard is set in 2024, and is about a zombie android Picard complaining about lazy hot-take American politics... But this gizmo is probably being called a tricorder because some desperate YouTuber needed to invent some algorithm friendly lies. YouTube needs to stop their algorithm from forcing people into making the worst clickbait imaginable. It's probably why mainstream advertisers are abandoning the platform. Even though they companies pay to run misleading ad thumbnails, they can't come close to competing with the misleading videos themselves, which also all happen to be informercials designed to do nothing but advertise the creator, their sponsors, and the subject of the video itself. No marketer on earth is smart enough to out advertise that kind of recursive and infinitely-replicating advertising ouroboros. Youtube is the void that we scream into.
  • Darkoverlordofdata
    "Detecting celestial bodies with a homemade tricorder"—it just makes sense.? Not really, that's a job for the ship's computer.Tricorders have limited range. A typical use would be setting broken bones, or scanning the person next to you to determine if they are a Klingon in disguise..

    You should really watch more TOS.
  • When they make a phaser that really disintegrates things, then I will buy one

    this article made me think of ten and Stimpy when they’re lost on a planet and he’s using the tricorded and says the space-time thingy makes the coolest noises