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Spacefest IV - Pasadena, CA, May 8-11, 2014
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TVRO - TV Receive Only

Dishing it out...

Just as hot rodders transformed the automobile into a hobby, TVRO (TeleVision Receive Only) enthusiasts turned satellite TV reception into a space hobby.



The TVRO enthusiasts are not 500 channel couch potatoes but people who know how to track different satellites and how to aim their C-Band dish antennas at them, who can receive and decode various types of satellite TV transmissions, who custom build their systems, and who often have more than one dish.

The hobbyist scans multiple satellites, including international ones if in range, and learns how to receive all kinds of free, unscrambled broadcasts outside of commercial TV. Also, 100's of high quality radio channels are available.

For example, NASA TV, which is NASA's own TV system and not available on most cable systems, is a popular unscrambled channel that provides launch broadcasts as well as many space news and education programs.

Many of these broadcasts are not available via commercial packages but must be obtained via technical knowledge of the systems involved.

See Robert Smathers' FAQ for an overview of TVRO.

In the HobbySpace spirit, TVRO enthusiasts are intimately aware of the growing space infrastructure and keep up-to-date on space developments, especially launches, which they often watch on NASA TV and foreign broadcasts (e.g. for Ariane launches), and new satellite technology.

TVRO hobbiests build and modify their systems electronically and mechanically (i.e. automatic scanning of the dish.) Large dishes, 2-3 meters, are used for C-Band reception. Reception of the more narrow beamed KU band transmission is also becoming popular.

Despite popular belief, illegal pirating of scrambled broadcasts is not a significant part of this activity. There are plenty of unscrambled broadcasts to enjoy and legal descramblers are easy to obtain for reasonable monthly fees. See the pirating section in Robert Smathers' FAQ.

Note that TVRO hobbyists essentially created the direct-to-home (DTH) satellite TV industry, which now goes to over 30 million homes in the US. Former Stanford professor H. Taylor Howard started the industry in 1976 when he created a home system that could pick up C-band satellite transmissions. This eventually grew into a sizeable industry. Later most consumers chose small dish digital systems and the C-band market has shrunk drastically from its high point but still includes many thousands of users and hobbyists. See more about this in Space Investing and also The History of Satellite TV A Vision for the Future | TheHistoryOf.net.


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