What is the FUNcube Dongle?

The FUNcube Dongle concept was originally dreamt up as a way to open up the world of amateur satellite reception to all, so that for a small cost anyone can try their hand at receiving the FUNcube Satellite that’s due for launch in the next few months.

The key designed criteria was to produce a receiver that is both inexpensive and simple to use, a true integrated plug and play device, capable of receiving FUNcube. The result is a small USB Dongle, similar in size to a USB TV dongle that we affectionately refer to as the FUNcube Dongle, or FCD to the lazy typists among us.


But it doesn’t end there: we realised that, although originally designed as an educational outreach tool to encourage people to become interested in science and technology through space, the FUNcube Dongle had many other applications.

So we came up with two versions, an entry level educational version that covers a limited range of frequencies and the retail “Pro” version  covering 64 to 1,700MHz. Both cover any 96kHz segment within their respective frequency ranges.

To keep things simple, the device is designed to work out of the box without any new device drivers required. It does this by providing a standard combined USB soundcard interface and a frequency programming interface using the USB HID standard.

The firmware for the FCD is also upgradeable by the end user.

Initial street price for the FCD Pro is estmiated to be around £100. So far we’ve built ten units that we’re testing, three were hand soldered and seven were reflowed. We’re pulling out all the stops now to move to the first production run in the next few weeks.

Check my YouTube video here for video of the first pre production unit!

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14 Responses to What is the FUNcube Dongle?

  1. Tom Clark says:

    Dongle looks really good, Howard. Drew was showing it last weekend in Chicago. I’m anxious to get embedded into several projects over here, so let me know ASAP about getting some early “beta” samples!

    73 de Tom, K3IO

  2. admin says:

    Tom, I am concentrating on getting the gain distribution right at the moment. I have compared five different LNAs so far, once I’ve got the right one I’ll be committing another PCB spin and with luck that will be our board for production. Because of the amount of rework that’s involved on the LNAs, and the comparative tests I’m running between LNAs, I have had to limit the number of pre-production samples that have been released. You are among many requesters believe me!

    • W0FMS says:

      Everyone who was at the AMSAT-NA conference in Chicago wants one.. and so does everyone I’ve told about it since! Nice job. Put me on the list. :O)

      Are you going to eventually provide schematics and/or open source code, or will this remain “closed”? I’m fascinated by the USB Audio Device Class compatibility code in the PIC. There are sparse examples out there and I think that part of the building block of this device has massive potential for many ham SDR uses. (For one the CODEC/USB Audio device should become a standard part of “softrocks”.)

      I’d personally would like to build a unit that can RX & TX at low levels at 2m to run all of the Microwave transverters. Seeing how you have done this is making me reconsider the design of what I was going to attempt to do.

      There are a lot of clever SDR projects all coming out at once (example: http://www.sdr-cube.com and for that matter the ARISS/AMSAT-NA “SDX”)… but it looks like your is the most elegant one of the bunch. I can’t wait for one and any information you will release on its design.

      Fred W0FMS

      • admin says:

        Hi Fred.

        Thanks for you posting.

        The USB HID interface specification will be open: indeed it’s already been released to pre production testers/developers.

        I have two posts with source code on the Microchip forum that directly relate to USB audio and how I achieved it on the FUNcube Dongle http://www.microchip.com/forums/tm.aspx?m=400893 and http://www.microchip.com/forums/tm.aspx?m=509010.

        There are lots of future possibilities for future FUNcube Dongle, but right now we are in pre production and characterisation of these devices, so at this time it’s unlikely there’ll be any re-scoping. Staying focussed for us at this point is key or we’ll risk running into weeks of procrastination as we ponder trying to squeeze in new features.

        Howard G6LVB

        • Fred W0FMS says:

          HID is fairly trivial, and the standard Microchip library for USB has that covered in pretty good detail. I still don’t quite get the implementation of the USB audio, though. But I’ll continue to research it. (I’ve done enough on the PIC32 at home and at work now to be dangerous.. but I am no expert yet.) I think I get the USB Device Class 1.0 standard now and the Microsoft end of things (or at least what MS expects which is in the standard). The PIC I could still use a good example for. In general I get it.. but the devil is in the details of that one.

          Anyway, I agree… analysis paralysis can always be a problem with projects of this difficult of scope. I still could really use a 2m SDR exciter stick, though! :O)
          Keep up the good work. I think you’ll need a production line on this side of the pond (may not be a bad idea really), or maybe even China if interest stays at this level!

          Thanks,

          Fred W0FMS

          • admin says:

            Fred,

            The Microchip USB stack has a Microphone example and that’s what the FCD was originally built from.

            Howard

          • W0FMS says:

            Sure Enough.. there is a Microphone *AND* a Speaker example there.

            I’ve spent my time on the PIC32 doing mostly CDC tasks (and I2C), so it doesn’t surprise me that I missed it. Thanks. I’ll see if I can get something going with the Microchip example.

            Fred

  3. Rick KI6RLM says:

    I’d love to get one, too!

  4. Andy Hewat says:

    As would I! Andy G8NTH

  5. Bob W1ICW says:

    Okay, I’m sold.. how do I order one?

    • admin says:

      Bob,

      Thank you for your note. We have a few weeks yet until the production boards will be ready. During the 20 working days we’ll have twiddling our thumbs during assembly, we’ll be considering distribution, and I’ll let you know how to order on this website.

      Howard (G6LVB)

  6. Steve G4ANA says:

    I’ve only just happened on a mention of your dongle, and I want one already – what an excellent thing. I hope you’ve got mass production lined up ready for when the word gets out, though, or you’ll gurzle your eyesight in no time. (A kit version perhaps?)
    Very best of luck with it.

    • admin says:

      Many thanks, Steve.

      There are no plans for a kit I’m afraid, there’s some pretty scary SMD stuff in there that really requires a pretty well equipped workshop.

      Howard (G6LVB)

  7. Michael TI5XP says:

    I would love to have one for our school system here in Costa Rica. Good luck Mr. Howard and thank you.

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