Many years ago, no one in the library seems to remember when, the library acquired a satellite dish. Collective memory suggests that it was part of a continuing education program for library faculty (think webinars before the web). This century, however, it has simply been a forgotten part of the building rusting quietly on the roof until Dr. Brian Kopp, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, noticed it and recognized its potential.

Dr. Brian Kopp, Assistant Professor of Engineering University of North Florida

Dr. Kopp would like to decode weather data from EUMETSAT pointing our satellite just 5° off the western horizon. This will be a challenge for the equipment on the roof of the library but it would be impossible anywhere else on campus. The structure on top of the four story library provides the necessary height and the positioning grants us the line of sight required to target the elusive Eutelsat 5 West A satellite. According to Dr. Kopp, Eutelsat 5 West A is “a commercial geostationary satellite at longitude west 5 degrees over Africa. We would receive a C-band signal carrying the EUMETCast meteorological data products from the EUMETSAT program which is Europe’s version of NOAA.” Although the positioning is technically sufficient, some are skeptical that we will be able to receive data reliably due to the low angle of the dish. This could be exacerbated by rain or other inclement weather.

While the library is focusing on Europe, Dr. Kopp is also pursuing a smaller dish on building 3 that he would like to point at NOAA’s geostationary GOES east spacecraft. This would provide examples of different kinds of satellite signals. Students will also have an opportunity to study several smaller satellites donated by Dr. Kopp.

From left: Steve Lyon, Michael Kucsak, David King, Brian Kopp and Walt Schuller.

According to Dr. Kopp, “UNF is uniquely located on the US east coast and also at the north end of the space coast. We can “see” satellites flying over all of the US but also over South America and even western Europe and Africa. Installing satellite communication reception stations on the UNF library and elsewhere on campus will create unique teaching and outreach opportunities (for the library, engineering departments and environmental sciences departments). These installations will also help establish UNF as an industry space communications hub. It is hoped this will help advance research opportunities to work with NASA and NOAA partners as well as other space industry partners such as SpaceX.”

Upon completion of the installation, Dr. Kopp intends to use the data as a demonstration tool for his EEL4514 Communications Systems class and EEL4514L lab. He is also looking forward to selected topic courses in communication systems where students and researcher will analyze signals and test equipment.

As a partner, the Library hopes to provide more than just a platform for the satellite dish. The project requires computers in order to receive and utilize the data. They will decode and stream weather data across the network. In the short term, the Library may be able to use some surplus computers in storage but the longer term vision may include a large screen multi-touch display in the public area. Such a system could integrate Dr. Kopp’s satellite data with the Library’s vast resources on an open, collaborative tool allowing multiple students to simultaneously search, retrieve and manipulate live data and scholarly resources. We will have more on that in future posts. Until then, we are looking forward to seeing what students do with the data and knowledge of this partnership.