Talking to Satellites!

Posted on June 13th, 2013 at 2:19 pm by


We’ve been having lots of fun over the last few weeks playing with a revolutionary new satellite communications device by Rock 7 called the RockBLOCK. I say “revolutionary”, because when you hook it up to an Arduino–and this is super easy–you can inexpensively send and receive short “burst” messages for the first time from anywhere in the planet.

The brand new RockBLOCK Iridium SBD modem

You power a RockBLOCK either directly via USB or through the regulated 5V Arduino power bus. Connecting a RockBLOCK to Arduino involves connecting only five wires–power, ground, transmit, receive, and sleep.

The Arduino library we’ve built to support the RockBLOCK harnesses the Iridium SBD (“Short Burst Data”) service to send and receive short messages up to a couple of hundred bytes.

In the simplest case, you can transmit short text messages using the sendSBDText() method:

   isbd.sendSBDText("Hello, world!")

Our IridiumSBD library also allows you to send and receive binary messages, using sendSBDBinary and sendReceiveSBDBinary. We use these in the “Beacon” sample application that comes with the library source. Every hour Beacon reads the device’s current location from a GPS module, then transmits it to the world using the RockBLOCK. We expect to see derivatives working in high-altitude balloon applications and solar-powered ocean buoys.

And it’s quite likely that Reverse Geocache puzzles will soon be equipped with this tracking technology. Try the library out and tell us what you think below.

The latest version of IridiumSBD is available here.