Link Search Menu Expand Document

Hardware Guide

This page explains the hardware components required to assemble a Blockstream Satellite receiver.

There are three alternatives to collect the required hardware. The first and quickest option is to purchase a ready-to-use Satellite Kit. Alternatively, you can buy the Satellite Kit Components on your own. Lastly, you can opt for a completely DIY setup, where you pick a combination of compatible parts on your own. To do so, you will need to understand the hardware requirements. This page covers the three approaches.

Table of Contents

Satellite Kits

As mentioned earlier, the quickest alternative to gather the required parts for a Blockstream Satellite setup is by purchasing a satellite kit. Check the kits available on the Blockstream Store.

There are two main satellite kits:

  1. Pro Kit (Standalone Receiver).
  2. Satellite Base Station (Sat-IP Receiver).

The Base Station is our go-to receiver choice. Its minimalist design, simplified setup, and high performance will fit most Bitcoin users’ needs.

The Blockstream Satellite Pro Kit is available for:

  • Users in some areas of the Asia-Pacific region covered only by the Telstar 18V C band satellite (and not covered by the Telstar 18V Ku band beam).
  • Users who want to use their own dish antennas.
  • Users who wish to use larger dish antennas.

Note the Satellite Base Station is not compatible with the C band. That is, it does not work with the Telstar 18V C band beam covering the Asia-Pacific region. If you are in a location with C band coverage only (i.e., without Ku band coverage), you will need a Pro Kit or a DIY receiver option.

If you have decided to go with a satellite kit and selected the Pro Kit receiver, note you still need a satellite antenna and coaxial cables (not included). Please refer to the requirements for antennas and coaxial cables. After that, you can proceed to the next section, which explains the receiver setup.

If you selected the Blockstream Satellite Base Station (again, compatible with Ku band only), you are all set. Proceed to the next section.

Otherwise, you can proceed to assemble a satellite receiver on your own. Aside from the Pro Kit and Satellite Base Station options, you can gather the required components for the Basic Kit (formerly sold on Blockstream Store) based on a Linux USB Receiver. Refer to the list of Basic Kit components. Alternatively, you can find detailed information in this guide to put together an affordable software-defined radio (SDR) receiver with just under $100.

Satellite Kit Comparison

The following table summarizes the different features offered by each of the satellite receiver options:

  SDR Basic Kit Pro Kit Base Station
Blockstream Kit Available     :heavy_check_mark: :heavy_check_mark:
USB Interface :heavy_check_mark: :heavy_check_mark:    
Ethernet Interface     :heavy_check_mark: :heavy_check_mark:
Requires LNB Power Supply :heavy_check_mark:      
Support for Universal LNB1   :heavy_check_mark: :heavy_check_mark: :heavy_check_mark:
Dual-Satellite Capable2     :heavy_check_mark:  
CPU Utilization3 High Low None None
Multiple Host Connections4     :heavy_check_mark: :heavy_check_mark:
Optional Rack Mountable     :heavy_check_mark:  
Compatible with C-band5 :heavy_check_mark: :heavy_check_mark: :heavy_check_mark:  
Performance6 Limited Excellent Excellent Excellent
Budget Low (< $100) Medium High (> $900) Medium ($500)

1 Support means that the interface provides a 22 kHz signal for switching the Universal LNB between Ku low and Ku high bands. This feature is required to use Universal LNBs when receiving from the Galaxy 18 or Eutelsat 113 satellites.

2 The device can receive from two satellites simultaneously in areas with overlapping coverage. This feature enables greater redundancy, higher bitrate, and faster blockchain sync times.

3 The SDR receiver is implemented in software and runs on the host computer. Hence, it uses the underlying CPU significantly. The Basic Kit receiver uses a dedicated receiver chip and only minimal resources from the host CPU. The Pro Kit and Base Station receivers are entirely standalone.

4 The receiver can feed the data stream received over satellite to multiple hosts simultaneously over the local network.

5 As mentioned earlier, C band support is required to receive the Telstar 18V C band beam in the Asia-Pacific region.

6 The SDR receiver is an excellent option for a budget-limited setup. However, it is expected to have inferior performance due to software limitations.

Satellite Kit Components

Instead of purchasing a satellite kit, you can buy the individual components on your own. The elements of each kit are summarized in this section.

If you have decided to buy the satellite kit components on your own, you can proceed to the receiver setup once you collect them. Otherwise, if you would still like to learn more about hardware requirements or search for alternative compatible parts, including the affordable SDR receiver option, refer to the DIY hardware requirements.

Blockstream Satellite Basic Kit

This kit is no longer available on the Blockstream Store. It has been replaced by the Satellite Base Station.

Components:

  • TBS 5927 DVB-S2 Tuner (see the note below).
  • GEOSATpro UL1PLL Universal Ku Band PLL LNB.
  • Titanium C1-PLL C Band PLL LNB.
  • Titanium CS1 Conical Scalar Kit.
  • Ku Band LNB mounting bracket.
  • C Band LNB mounting bracket.
  • 32 cm flat, bendable flat coaxial TV extension cable used to pass through window and door frames.

Note 1: The TBS 5520SE tuner model is now also supported. You can replace the TBS 5927 with the 5520SE model.

Note 2: the kit includes two LNBs so that it works in the C and Ku bands. However, you can purchase only the LNB required for your location. If you are in a C band location (Telstar 18V C Asia-Pacific region), you will need the Titanium C1-PLL LNB or similar, as well as the optional CS1 Conical Scalar Kit or similar if using an offset dish. Otherwise (in all other regions), you can purchase the GEOSATpro UL1PLL Universal LNB or similar.

The above list does not include the antenna nor the required coaxial cables. Please refer to the requirements for antennas and coaxial cables.

Blockstream Satellite Pro Kit

Available on Blockstream Store.

Components:

  • Novra S400 Professional DVB-S2 Receiver.
  • GEOSATpro UL1PLL Universal Ku Band PLL LNB.
  • Titanium C1-PLL C Band PLL LNB.
  • Titanium CS1 Conical Scalar Kit.
  • Ku Band LNB mounting bracket.
  • C Band LNB mounting bracket.
  • 32 cm flat, bendable flat coaxial TV extension cable used to pass through window and door frames.

Note: the kit includes two LNBs so that it works in the C and Ku bands. However, you can purchase only the LNB required for your location. If you are in a C band location (Telstar 18V C Asia-Pacific region), you will need the Titanium C1-PLL LNB or similar, as well as the optional CS1 Conical Scalar Kit or similar if using an offset dish. Otherwise (in all other regions), you can purchase the GEOSATpro UL1PLL Universal LNB or similar.

Note the kit does not include the antenna nor the required coaxial cables. Please refer to the requirements for antennas and coaxial cables.

Blockstream Satellite Base Station

Available on Blockstream Store.

Components:

  • Selfsat>IP22 all-in-one Sat-IP flat-panel antenna.
  • Power over Ethernet injector.
  • Ethernet Cat5e cable.

DIY Hardware Requirements

This section explains the requirements to assemble a satellite receiver setup entirely on your own. Nevertheless, note this process can be time-consuming. If you prefer a faster solution, check out the available Satellite Kits.

Supported Receiver Options

The receiver is the device or software application that processes the incoming satellite signal and decodes the data stream from it. There are four supported types of receivers. For each of them, specific hardware components are required.

The receiver options are summarized below:

  • Software-defined Radio (SDR): this receiver is entirely implemented in software. You will need an SDR interface connected to your PC (typically via USB). The SDR interface collects and feeds signal samples to the receiver application/software running on your PC. The application, in turn, decodes and outputs the data stream to be fed into Bitcoin Satellite. This is the most affordable option among the three, as it works with inexpensive RTL-SDR USB dongles. However, it is also the option expected to present the most limited performance and reliability among the three. Moreover, this option is CPU-intensive since the receiver application will run in the CPU.

  • Linux USB Receiver: in this setup, the demodulation is entirely carried out in hardware, in the external receiver device connected to your host via USB. Hence, unlike the SDR receiver, the Linux USB receiver is not CPU-intensive. With this option, you will need to install specific drivers and Linux DVB-S2 apps on the host to configure the external receiver and get the data from it. Overall, this option is expected to perform greatly and with negligible CPU usage. On the other hand, it can require a time-consuming initial setup due to the driver installation. You can try the driver installation on your intended host before committing to this receiver option.

  • Standalone Receiver: this is also a hardware-based setup, with the difference that it is entirely independent of the host PC. It connects to the PC through the network and can potentially feed multiple PCs concurrently. This is also expected to be a great option in terms of performance. Besides, this is the only option capable of dual-satellite reception using a single receiver device.

  • Sat-IP Receiver: this is another hardware-based and standalone receiver option. The difference is that it is based on an all-in-one antenna with a built-in DVB-S2 receiver and integrated LNB (see the Satellite Base Station). It is referred to as a Sat-IP receiver because it runs a Sat-IP server, to which your host will connect as a client. Overall, this option offers the easiest configuration and the most minimalist setup, given that it requires a single component (the all-in-one antenna). However, note it does not work with the Telstar 18V C band satellite covering the Asia-Pacific region.

For further insights, refer to the satellite receiver comparison table presented earlier.

Once you pick your preferred receiver option, you should gather all of its required components. The following section explains the common elements required for all types of receivers. Then, the subsequent section covers the specific parts for each receiver option.

Common Required Components

In addition to the DVB-S2 receiver, you will need an antenna and a low-noise block downconverter (LNB) to receive the satellite signal. Furthermore, you will need cables to connect them to each other.

The antenna and LNB components are required in all setups other than the all-in-one Satellite Base Station. The latter, in contrast, consists of an antenna with an integrated receiver and LNB, all in one device.

Refer to the following requirements to select the appropriate antenna, LNB, and cables.

Satellite Antenna

The most widely available antenna option is the regular satellite TV dish with a conventional parabolic reflector.

Blockstream Satellite is designed to work with small dishes. In Ku band, it is expected to work with antennas of only 45 cm in diameter, while in the C band, it is designed to work with 60 cm or higher. However, a larger antenna is always better. When possible, we recommend installing an antenna larger than the referred minimum if one is readily available. Antennas of 60 cm, 90 cm, and 1.2 m are readily available.

Other than size, the only additional requirement is that the antenna works with the frequency band that suits your coverage region. You can always use antennas designed for higher frequencies. For example, an antenna designed for Ka band will work for Ku and C bands, as it is designed for higher frequencies than those used by Blockstream Satellite. However, a C band antenna will not work in Ku band, as it is designed for lower frequencies. For further information regarding frequency bands, please refer to the frequency guide.

An alternative to conventional satellite dishes is a flat panel antenna, which is generally more compact and stylish. A recommended flat panel model is the Selfsat H50D, which was previously available on Blockstream Store before being replaced by the all-in-one Satellite Base Station. The Selfsat H50D includes the LNB internally, and so there is no need to purchase an LNB (nor an LNB bracket) when using it. However, note that this model has limited compatibility. It is an excellent option for:

  1. Linux USB and Standalone Receivers in any Ku band region.
  2. SDR receivers in Ku low band regions (Telstar 11N Africa, Telstar 11N Europe, and Telstar 18V Ku).

In contrast, the Selfsat H50D flat panel is not compatible with receivers (of any type) in the Telstar 18V C (C Band) region. It only works in Ku band.

The flat panel requires an extra 22 kHz generator to work with SDR receivers in Ku high band regions (Galaxy 18 and Eutelsat 113). This antenna includes a built-in Universal LNB, which, as explained later, requires a 22 kHz tone generated by the receiver specifically for the reception in Ku high band (i.e., the band used by G18 and E113). Refer to further information and a solution for 22 kHz generation on an SDR setup in the Universal LNB section.

LNB

When choosing a low-noise block downconverter (LNB), the most relevant parameters are the following:

  • Frequency range
  • Polarization
  • LO Stability

In a nutshell, you are advised to use a PLL LNB with linear polarization and LO stability within +- 250 kHz or less. Also, the LNB should be suitable for the frequency of the signal covering your location.

Regarding frequency range, you must verify that the input frequency range of the LNB encompasses the frequency of the Blockstream Satellite signal in your coverage area. For example, if you are located in North America and covered by the Eutelsat 113 satellite, the downlink frequency of interest is 12066.9 GHz. In this case, an LNB that operates from 11.7 GHz to 12.2 GHz would work. In contrast, an LNB that operates from 10.7 GHz to 11.7 GHz would not work. You can check the signal frequencies of each region in the frequency guide.

Regarding polarization, an LNB with Linear Polarization is required. While most Ku band LNBs are linearly polarized, some popular satellite TV services use circular polarization. A circularly polarized LNB will not work with Blockstream Satellite.

If an LNB is described to feature horizontal or vertical polarization, then it is linear. In contrast, if an LNB is described as Right-Hand or Left-Hand Circular Polarized (RHCP or LHCP), then it is circular and will not work with Blockstream Satellite.

Regarding LO Stability, a stability specification of <= +/- 250 kHz is preferable for better performance. Most LNBs will have a local oscillator (LO) stability parameter referred to as “LO stability,” or metrics such as “LO accuracy” and “LO drift.” These are usually specified in +/- XX Hz, kHz, or MHz. An LNB that relies on a phase-locked loop (PLL) frequency reference is typically more accurate and stable. Hence, we advise looking for a PLL LNB instead of a traditional dielectric oscillator (DRO) LNB.

If you would like (or you need) to use a less stable LNB, it can also be used. The disadvantage is that it will likely degrade your setup’s reliability and performance (for example, increase the bit error rate).

A widely available LNB option is the so-called Universal Ku band LNB. However, please note that if you are using an SDR-based setup, a Universal LNB may pose extra difficulties. Please refer to the explanation regarding Universal LNBs. This limitation does not apply when using the Linux USB or Standalone receiver options.

Besides, another parameter of interest is the so-called F/D ratio. This parameter refers to the ratio between the parabolic reflector’s focal length and its diameter. As such, it is a parameter of the dish, not the LNB. Nevertheless, the LNB should be designed for an F/D ratio compatible with the reflector.

For example, an offset dish (the most common dish type for Ku band) typically has an F/D ratio from 0.5 to 0.7. In contrast, a regular “front-fed” parabolic dish typically has an F/D in the 0.3 to 0.4 range. In any case, check the F/D specifications of your dish and make sure to use a compatible LNB. If necessary, attach a flat or conical scalar ring to change the F/D characteristics of the LNB.

Lastly, to avoid confusion, please note that LNBF and LNB often refer to the same thing. You can find further information later in this guide.

LNB Mounting Bracket

The antenna dish likely comes with a mounting bracket, but you will need one designed to accept a generic LNB. Also, it is good to have a flexible bracket to facilitate the LNB rotation and control of its polarization angle. Although all mounting brackets do allow rotation, some can be limited in the rotation range.

Such mounting brackets attach to the antenna’s feed arm and have a circular ring that will accept a generic LNB.

Coaxial Cables

You will need a coaxial cable to connect the LNB to the receiver or, in the case of the SDR-based setup, to connect the LNB to the power supply. The most popular and recommended type of coaxial cable is the RG6 cable.

Setup-Specific Components

This section summarizes the additional components required for each type of setup, according to the receiver choice.

Software-defined Radio (SDR) Setup

Component Requirement
SDR interface RTL-SDR dongle model RTL2832U w/ TCXO
LNB Power Supply SWM Power Supply
SMA Cable Male to Male
SMA to F adapter SMA Female, F Male

The supported SDR interface is the RTL-SDR, which is a low-cost USB dongle. More specifically, an RTL-SDR of model RTL2832U.

There are two specifications to observe when purchasing an RTL-SDR:

  1. Oscillator
  2. Tuner

We recommend using an RTL-SDR with a temperature-controlled crystal oscillator (TCXO), as the TCXO has better frequency stability than a conventional crystal oscillator (XO). A few models in the market feature a TCXO with frequency accuracy within 0.5 ppm to 1.0 ppm, which are good choices.

Regarding the tuner, the choice depends on the satellite covering your location. The two recommended tuners are the R820T2 and the E4000. The table below summarizes which tuner to pick for each satellite:

Satellite RTL-SDR Tuner
Galaxy 18 R820T2
Eutelsat 113 R820T2
Telstar 11N Africa E4000
Telstar 11N Europe E4000
Telstar 18V Ku E4000
Telstar 18V C R820T2

This tuner recommendation has to do with the L-band frequencies expected in each region, as summarized in the frequency guide. The E4000 tuner is recommended for the areas where the L-band frequency is close to the maximum tuning range of the R820T2 tuner (1766 MHz).

Hence, for example, if you are going to receive from Galaxy 18, you should get an RTL-SDR RTL2832U with tuner R820T2 and TCXO. In contrast, if you are going to receive from Telstar 11N Africa, you should get an RTL-SDR RTL2832U with tuner E4000 and TCXO. Note that the RTL-SDR models featuring the E4000 tuner are marketed as extended tuning range RTL-SDR or XTR RTL-SDR.

The next component of the SDR receiver setup is the LNB Power Supply (or Power Inserter). This component supplies a DC voltage to the LNB via the coaxial cable, typically of 13 VDC or 18 VDC. On a non-SDR setup, the receiver itself can provide power to the LNB, so there is no need for an external power supply. In contrast, this is not possible with an SDR-based setup using the SDR interface alone. Hence, an external supply is required.

The type of power supply that is easy to find in the market is named “Single Wire Multiswitch” (SWM) power supply. You can look for an SWM power inserter and use it as illustrated below. The non-powered port of an SWM power supply is labeled “Signal to IRD,” which means signal to integrated receiver/decoder. This is the port that should be connected to the SDR interface. The powered port, in turn, is labeled “Signal to SWM.” This is the port that should be connected to the LNB.

SDR receiver connections

IMPORTANT: Do NOT connect the powered port of the LNB power supply to the SDR interface. Permanent damage may occur to your SDR and/or your computer.

Also, please check the power/voltage requirement of your LNB and ensure that your power supply matches. It should be noted that some LNBs known as dual-polarization LNBs accept two DC voltage levels. Such LNBs use the supplied voltage to switch between vertical and horizontal polarization. A supplied DC voltage of +18 VDC sets the LNB to horizontal polarization, whereas +13 VDC sets the LNB to vertical polarization. Please keep this in mind when rotating the LNB for a specific polarization angle during the antenna pointing stage.

Further notes:

  • Alternative SDR interfaces: the RTL-SDR is the supported SDR interface and the most popular among Blockstream Satellite users. Nevertheless, other SDR boards/interfaces can be used with minor tweaks, such as USRPs. The SDR interface must support L-band frequencies within the 1 GHz to 2 GHz range and sampling rates of 2 Msps (mega samples per second) or higher.

  • Connectors: not every RTL-SDR has the same interface connector. Some use the SMA connector, while some others use MCX. Be sure to order the correct cable and adapters to make the necessary connections. In the above table, we assume the RTL-SDR has SMA female connector, while the power supply has two F female connectors. In this case, you need an SMA male-to-male cable and an SMA female to F male adapter to connect the RTL-SDR to the non-powered port (“Signal to IRD”) of the SWM power supply.

Linux USB Receiver Setup

The only specific component in this setup is the external USB-based DVB-S2 receiver. The supported receivers are the TBS 5927 and the TBS 5520SE models, which connect to the Linux PC via a USB2.0 connection. In this case, the LNB is connected directly to the LNB IN interface of the TBS receiver. Also, the TBS device is powered up either directly by the host via USB (TBS 5520SE) or with a dedicated power supply that comes with it (TBS 5927).

Linux USB receiver connections

NOTE: although the TBS 5927 and 5520SE receivers offer Windows support, we currently do not support Windows as an operating system for a Blockstream Satellite setup.

Standalone Receiver Setup

In this setup, a standalone DVB-S2 receiver connects to the host PC (or to the network) through an Ethernet cable. The standalone receiver that is currently supported is the Novra S400 PRO DVB satellite Receiver. Other than this receiver, you only need an Ethernet Cable.

Standalone receiver connections

Sat-IP Receiver Setup

The Sat-IP receiver that is currently supported is the all-in-one Selfsat>IP22 Sat-IP flat-panel antenna. It requires an Ethernet cable (Cat5e or superior) to connect to a switch/router or directly to your host. Furthermore, it requires Power over Ethernet (PoE). Hence, you will need a PoE injector if the switch/router or network adapter connecting to the Sat-IP antenna does not support PoE.

Further Notes

Universal LNB

A Universal LNB, also known as Universal Ku band LNB, is an LNB that supports both Ku low and Ku high bands. With such an LNB, the receiver becomes responsible for switching the Ku sub-band as needed. More specifically, the receiver sends a 22 kHz tone to the LNB when tuning to a Ku high band carrier. Otherwise, when tuning to a Ku low band carrier, the receiver simply does not send any tone. The absence of a 22 kHz tone configures the LNB to its default sub-band, the Ku low sub-band.

An important limitation applies to the SDR setup when using a Universal LNB. Note the SDR setup described in this guide is receiver-only. Hence, it cannot generate a 22 kHz tone to configure the Universal LNB. Consequently, a Universal LNB connected to an SDR receiver operates in Ku low band only. Thus, we recommend using this type of LNB only within Ku low band regions, i.e., within the areas covered by Telstar 11N Africa, Telstar 11N Europe, or Telstar 18V Ku.

Meanwhile, in contrast to an SDR setup, both Linux USB and Standalone receiver options support the generation of 22 kHz. Hence, it is perfectly acceptable to use a Universal LNB in any Ku band region when using one of these receivers.

Besides, there are workarounds to switch the sub-band of a Universal LNB even with an SDR setup. For instance, you can place a 22 kHz tone generator inline between the LNB and the power inserter. In this case, the tone generator will use power from the inserter while delivering the tone directly to the LNB. Such tone generators can be found in the market as pure generators. Alternatively, you can get a satellite finder device containing the 22 kHz generation functionality.

If choosing a satellite finder, it is essential to note that the finder must be one that can be used inline between the power supply and the LNB. In other words, it must be one with two connectors, one for signal input (from the LNB) and the other for output (towards the power inserter). Some finders contain a single connector, as they are not intended to be used inline. Furthermore, be aware that most finders do not include a 22 kHz generator. You must pick a satellite finder that supports the generation of a 22 kHz tone.

LNB vs. LNBF

The feedhorn is the horn antenna that attaches to the LNB. It collects the signals reflected by the satellite dish and feeds them into the LNB towards the receiver. The acronym LNBF stands for “LNB with feedhorn” and refers to the LNB that already contains an integrated feedhorn. This is the most typical type of LNB nowadays. Hence, almost always, the term LNB already refers to an LNBF implicitly. To avoid confusion, we advise looking for an LNBF.


Prev: Home - Next: Software Requirements