For example: the FUNcube Dongle Pro+ is a USB Software Defined Radio receiver, or SDR. It provides a digitized 192kHz wide chunk of IF (intermediate frequency) via high speed USB interface. Generally your computer, Raspberry Pi or whichever platform supports the required USB data rate and power requirements will then run whatever SDR software you like to visualize the spectrum or demodulate the signal any way you like.

There are some internal provisions to disable reception of some things, so don't open it up and mess with it.

Question: What body of regulations would actually apply to a cubesat with a FUNcube Dongle Pro+ or similar? For this answer, I really need more than speculation, or maybes. Also, I'm not looking for export regulations or voluntary agreements for this particular question. Of course they are important, but I'm asking about regulations that apply to putting my own dongle into my cubesat, and then having a reputable launch provider put it into orbit.

If necessary to identify country of launch, use a country that has a history of managing cubesat launches and following all internationally accepted protocols, rather than one that uses a don't ask, don't tell-like approach.

From their document [FCD2ManualV4.pdf][3]


  • Frequency range 150kHz-240MHz and 420MHz-1.9GHz
  • Sensitivity Typically 12dB SINAD NBFM for 0.15uV at 145MHz
  • Reference oscillator 1.5ppm 26MHz
  • Sampling rate 192kHz
  • Bit depth 16 bits (32 bits used internally)
  • PC interface USB 1.x Male A Full Speed (12Mbps)
  • RF interface Standard SMA female (not Reverse Polarity [RP])

Below: Further screenshots from their document FCD2ManualV4.pdf

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Such an SDR will not be designed and built to operate within a vacuum. If some parts overheat, it may be destroyed. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Jan 29, 2019 at 19:46
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @uwe commercial devices are modified all the time to make them compatible with the space environment. $\endgroup$
    – Carlos N
    Feb 27, 2019 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ @CarlosN both are good points. This particular dongle is packed quite tightly and I'm not sure if this can be modified or heat-sunk very easily, but it may be possible: funcubedongle.com/?p=73 $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 27, 2019 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh if you can open it, you can heat sink it. Regardless, whether it can be operated in a vacuum, which is the question uwe raised, is useful to know but not germane to the OP question. $\endgroup$
    – Carlos N
    Feb 28, 2019 at 17:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh - never mind. It applies to listening in UK, not listening to transmissions fromUK. So if you’re above the Karman line and not rebroadcasting to someone in the UK you’re fine. $\endgroup$
    – IronEagle
    Feb 22, 2020 at 17:08

1 Answer 1


I don't have a great answer to this, because each mission is rather unique, and the response always seems to be "it depends".

You'll likely need to get a frequency allocation from the FCC for your radio transmissions. Now I know there may be ways to get around this if you're low enough power or have a relatively common bandwidth/frequency, regardless it's worth looking into.

The other I know of is licensing to image through the NOAA. Depending on your resolution you may be asked to not capture (any) images without a license. The licensing process becomes more stringent with different wavelengths and higher resolutions. At some points (for some of digitalglobe's spacecraft they need to send their imagery directly to a 3 letter government agency first, before they themselves can see them).

Apart from that you'll need to comply with launch regulations, which are very unique to the launch vehicle, even within the cubesat community. These take the form much more of design requirements than a licensing process. Things that launch vehicles worry about are typically battery size and storage requirements, deployment sequences (including the sequence to power on your transmitter), any sort of pressure vessels, and of course propulsion and any sort of explosives.

There are many more, and you're on the right track reaching out to the community. I would further recommend reaching out to folks who've built and flown a spacecraft similar to yours - that's usually the best avenue for advice.

Good luck.

  • $\begingroup$ It's a receiver. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 29, 2016 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ The same regulations still apply, however being a receiver you can usually waive all of them. What you'll need to worry about is EMI compliance with the launch vehicle - that's really the area that folks would be worried about (you don't want it to have accidental emissions, even being a receiver). $\endgroup$
    – airbear
    Jul 29, 2016 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ Your information is helpful - I appreciate your help very much! Can you first address the question directly - a satellite with a FunCUBE Dongle Pro+ receiver, but no transmitter and no earth-imaging camera, then mention the rest of your helpful information separately - and since you are mentioning organizations related to a specific country, define if those assume the citizenship of the satellite builder, or assume location of the launch? It's a big world and space access is going to be much wider in the near future. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 29, 2016 at 23:05
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I understand, and I apologize that my answer is very specific to the United States. The area that you're venturing into is very murky, especially from country to country. The best answer I can give you is looking that the communications commission from the country of origin of the spacecraft, and where you plan on talking to it from (not such a big deal for just a receiver, but you'll need to verify said communications commission doesn't care about that). Depending further on which country you launch from, you may have to comply with multiple country's regulatory bodies. $\endgroup$
    – airbear
    Jul 29, 2016 at 23:15
  • $\begingroup$ No need to apologize! People actually do read questions and answers here for years. The only reason I suggested some edits is to improve how helpful you answer will be to others reading it in the future. It's a good answer - if you have time and can adjust it a little, it will be even better! There are many nanosatellite-related questions and answers here, and your contribution is appreciated! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 29, 2016 at 23:29

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