The RockBLOCK 9603 allows you to send and receive short messages from anywhere on Earth with a clear view of the sky. It works far beyond the reach of WiFi and GSM networks. Maybe you want to transmit weather information from mid-ocean? Or use it to control your robot in the middle of the desert? Perhaps you need to communicate in an emergency, when other networks might not be available? RockBLOCK can help.
RockBLOCK 9603 is the smaller version of the standard RockBLOCK Mk2. It has the same capabilities, but is specifically designed to be as small and light as possible. The RockBLOCK 9603 is targeted primarily at systems integrators and product developers, where space inside your enclosure is at a premium.
It has a small form factor Molex connector to link the serial, power and signaling lines to your controller. This may be marginally harder to use for hobbyists than the 0.1" dot pitch header used on the standard RockBLOCK product.
At the heart of RockBLOCK 9603 is an Iridium 9603 modem. The RockBLOCK hosts the 9603 and provides it with an antenna and power supply requirements. It exposes the modem’s serial interface via a breakout connector over serial, and offers an SMA connector for external antenna usage. Please be aware that even though the RockBLOCK 9603 is a fantastic SatComm module, it isn't a GPS device. You will need to use your own GPS if you need accurate positioning data.
Note: The RockBLOCK does require a monthly rental service to exchange information with the Iridium satellite network. You only pay for months in which you wish to use the RockBLOCK. No annual contract is required. Line rental costs £12GBP (about $15USD) per month and includes access to the RockBLOCK management system for managing your devices. The billing system is built-in, and allows you to pay for only what you use. Airtime for Rockblock units must be purchased from Rock Seven via the admin portal once the units are registered. You cannot use the devices with another Iridium airtime provider by default. If you would like to use it with another provider, you will need to pay an unlock fee of $60USD per modem.
The SMA connector for an external antenna is not enabled by default. Instructions for enabling the external antenna connector can be found here.
If a board needs code or communicates somehow, you're going to need to know how to program or interface with it. The programming skill is all about communication and code.
Skill Level: Competent - The toolchain for programming is a bit more complex and will examples may not be explicitly provided for you. You will be required to have a fundamental knowledge of programming and be required to provide your own code. You may need to modify existing libraries or code to work with your specific hardware. Sensor and hardware interfaces will be SPI or I2C.
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If it requires power, you need to know how much, what all the pins do, and how to hook it up. You may need to reference datasheets, schematics, and know the ins and outs of electronics.
Skill Level: Competent - You will be required to reference a datasheet or schematic to know how to use a component. Your knowledge of a datasheet will only require basic features like power requirements, pinouts, or communications type. Also, you may need a power supply that?s greater than 12V or more than 1A worth of current.
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Based on 5 ratings:
1 of 1 found this helpful:
Had this up and running in 30 min or so... Works reasonably well, although the GPS accuracy is very low, and likely unusable for most applications at +/- several kilometers.
Hello, and thanks for the review!
It’s important to know that the RockBlock is NOT a GPS and is not intended to give accurate GPS positions. The coordinates provided are a rough approximation of your true location and not intended for precise positioning. If you need accurate location data, you should look into using a GPS and transmitting latitude and longitude along with any other data you’re sending.
1 of 1 found this helpful:
The Rockblock is easy to work with and its all-in-one architecture can be powered off a LiPo, Plus it has an integrated Iridium antenna. Having worked with other Iridium satellite providers, the best feature of the Rockblock is Rock7's website for provisioning and managing the modems. It is easy to turn them on and off as needed to control the monthly billing, and to control where messages go via email and/or webhook.
Its a good product but has a gps problem with the latitude and longitude are wrong all the times.
Please be aware that even though the RockBLOCK 9603 is a fantastic SatComm module, it isn't a GPS device. You will need to use your own GPS if you need accurate positioning data.
0 of 3 found this helpful:
Beware, the RockBLOCK 9603 comes LOCKED to a single 3rd party service provider in the UK, just like iPhones used to be with AT&T. NO information regarding the LOCK status in the description of the item. No information on the terms and conditions, service pricing. After I purchased it and tried to activate it, it did not work so I emailed RockBlock but did not get any reply. Only after calling RockBlock the in the UK the next day, I got the reply with an offer to unlock it for an additional $60. Negligence on the part of the SparkFun and RockBlock for not listing all the details about LOCK, pricing, terms, and conditions of the service provider. This was a very confusing transaction, be careful and call the RockBlock company first to find what their rates are and most important RockBlock's terms and conditions.
Everything worked as expected. Yes, there are extra fees that you need to pay for each month of use + fees for data. But this was known to me before I purchased, so I can not complain about this. With help of a video made by SparkFun ( for RockBLOCK Mk2 ) I was quickly able to send the first message over satellite network. Now it is waiting for real development.