Satellite Transceiver Breakout - Swarm M138

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Looking for a low-cost way to send and receive data messages via satellite? This is it! With a clear view of the sky, the Satellite Transceiver Breakout - Swarm M138 allows you to send and receive short messages. It works anywhere in the world, including the polar regions, far beyond the reach of WiFi and Cellular networks. It is perfect for a variety of low-bandwidth use cases: from connecting people and tracking vehicles, ships, or packages to relaying sensor data for agriculture, energy, and industrial IoT applications. The built-in GNSS receiver makes it perfect for many tracking applications.

At the heart of our product is a Swarm M138 satellite modem. This is a Mini-PCI Express Card containing both the satellite modem and a very capable u-blox GNSS receiver, all in one integrated package! It can operate from a wide range of supply voltages: 3.0V Min; 5.0V Max. Its standard 3.3V CMOS serial UART interface and NMEA-style command set makes it easy to integrate into your project. Our board includes both a USB-C interface (for power and/or serial data) and a full set of breakout pins. Want to plug it into your laptop or Raspberry Pi and use it to communicate out in the field? You can absolutely do that! We've written a Python3 PyQt5 GUI to get you started. Full details are available in the hookup guide and in the product repo. Want to connect it to your Arduino microcontroller board? You can absolutely do that too! Our Swarm Arduino Library makes that easy.

Our kit contains everything you need to get started:

  • Swarm M138 Modem
  • SparkFun Satellite Transceiver Breakout
  • VHF Antenna and Ground Plane
  • GNSS Antenna
  • u.FL cables, adapter and screws

See below for our recommended extras.

Want to know more? Click the button below to open our hook-up guide:

Each Swarm modem requires a data plan to send and receive data. However, the cost of this is much lower than other networks. A data plan is an annual contract for USD $60 per year (USD $5 per month). Each plan includes 750 data packets per month. Each packet can be up to 192 Bytes in size. You can also stack up to 4 data plans, allowing a single modem to use 3000 packets (576 kBytes) per month. Please see the Registering Your Swarm M138 Modem for full details. Additionally, you can create or login to your Swarm account here.
Swarm provide global coverage over all regions, but there are regulatory restrictions for specific countries.

The current list of approved countries / regions for the M138 Modem is: Antarctica, Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, UK, US, and International Waters (12 nautical miles offshore).

Swarm continues to grow this list of approved countries as quickly as possible. Customers will receive regular updates on approved regions through the Swarm newsletter.
Experimental Product: SparkX products are rapidly produced to bring you the most cutting edge technology as it becomes available. These products are tested but come with no guarantees. Live technical support is not available for SparkX products. Head on over to our forum for support or to ask a question.

  • Swarm M138 Modem
  • SparkFun Satellite Transceiver Breakout
  • Swarm VHF Antenna
  • u.FL - SMA Adapter
  • SparkFun Antenna Ground Plane (PCB, 8" x 8")
  • Molex adhesive GNSS Antenna (u.FL)
  • 2 x u.FL to u.FL cables
  • 2 x M2.5 Screws
  • PCB Dimensions (with modem attached):
    • 3.5" x 1.4" x 0.37" (89 x 36 x 9.5mm)
  • SMA Connections:
    • Separate, robust connectors for VHF satellite communication and GPS / GNSS positioning
  • Serial Interface:
    • USB-C via a CH340E USB-serial converter
    • 3.3V UART via 0.1" breakout pins
    • Split pads allow the TX and RX breakout pins to be isolated from the CH340E
    • TX and RX LEDs (configurable)
  • Power Supply:
    • 3.0V (Min)
    • 5.0V (Max)
    • Power can be provided by USB-C or via 0.1" breakout pins
    • "Ideal diode" power mux circuit with ~0V voltage drop
  • Current Draw @ 3.3V:
    • Sleep: Modem: 80µA (Peak); Power Mux: ~70µA
    • Receive: 26mA (Typ.); 40mA (Peak)
    • Transmit: 850mA (Typ.); 1000mA (Peak)
  • Current Draw @ 5.0V:
    • Sleep: Modem: 110µA (Peak); Power Mux: ~100µA
    • Receive: 25mA (Typ.); 45mA (Peak)
    • Transmit: 550mA (Typ.); 600mA (Peak)
  • Please note:
    • When powering the board from USB, please use a USB-C or USB 3 port
    • USB 2.0 is not supported

Satellite Transceiver Breakout - Swarm M138 Product Help and Resources

Satellite Transceiver Breakout - Swarm M138 - Hookup Guide

April 22, 2022

A hookup guide for the Satellite Transceiver Breakout - Swarm M138 (SPX-19236)

Core Skill: Programming

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.

4 Programming

Skill Level: Experienced - You will require a firm understanding of programming, the programming toolchain, and may have to make decisions on programming software or language. You may need to decipher a proprietary or specialized communication protocol. A logic analyzer might be necessary.
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Core Skill: Electrical Prototyping

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.

3 Electrical Prototyping

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.
See all skill levels


Comments

Looking for answers to technical questions?

We welcome your comments and suggestions below. However, if you are looking for solutions to technical questions please see our Technical Assistance page.

  • plugger.lockett / about 6 days ago / 1

    Hi SparkFun, very interesting product you have here! Could you please confirm what specific uBlox chipset is integrated with this unit? I've checked the manual, pictures, and GitHub and I've not been able to confirm which chipset comes bundled with the board.

    • PaulZC / about 4 days ago / 1

      The u-blox GNSS is built into the modem itself. You only have access to it through the modem's $DT, $GJ, $GN and $GS messages. You can't access the NMEA or UBX data directly... It is almost certainly an M8 IC/module but the manual does not say which one.

  • drazvan / about 2 weeks ago / 1

    Link to the Swarm Data Plan is dead - https://swarm.space/swarm-data-plan/ redirects to the the homepage. I also can't find a way to order just the data plan by navigating their site. They sell the M138 in multiples of 25 on their site (and I suppose they set you up with a plan for the 25 on purchase) but I'm not sure how I'm supposed to activate a single unit bought from Sparkfun.

  • paultech / about 3 weeks ago / 1

    https://swarm.space/

  • lesto / about 3 weeks ago / 1

    What satellite constellation are supported? do they have full coverage full time of the world?

    • Member #435105 / about 2 weeks ago / 1

      They use their own (Swarm) network. Satellites are sun-synchronous so pass over at the same time each day. They come over in about five bands. So you can’t expect instant reception of messages 24 hours a day, but you can guarantee pretty much that a message will get through in a few hours or less. This does depend on how good your antenna is (and if you are building your own board, you must make it a low noise psu).

    • PaulZC / about 2 weeks ago / 1

      The Hook-Up Guide contains more information about the network and predicting the next satellite pass:

      Swarm Network

      Pass-Prediction

      Best wishes, Paul

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