Compact satellite tracking device
Targeted at systems integrators and product developers, the RockBLOCK 9603 is a compact, robust piece of kit that can send and receive short messages from anywhere on Earth with a view of the sky.
The RockBLOCK 9603 is the smaller version of our standard RockBLOCK product but with all the same capabilities. It has been designed to be as small and light as possible with a multitude of uses. It is compatible with Arduino, Windows, Mac and Linux computers (including Raspberry Pi), and many other platforms with serial or USB ports.
The RockBLOCK 9603 has a small form factor Molex connector to link the serial, power, and signalling 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 a patch antenna and its power supply requirements. It exposes the modem’s serial interface via a breakout connector over serial. The patch antenna is suitable for applications where the RockBLOCK can ‘see’ the sky; for example, under plastic but close to the top of the enclosure. If the RockBLOCK will be situated deep within your enclosure or have a metal barrier between it and the sky, the optional SMA connector allows you to attach an external antenna.
- Plug and play satellite communication
- Full 2-way communication system
- Optional SMA connector, for external antenna
- Truly Global operation, pole to pole
- Available as a PCB for integration
- Integrated antenna and power conditioning
- Powered via USB or direct-header connection
- Data via e-mail or directly to your web-service
- Powered By Direct Header Connector, 5v
- Weight: 36 grams including antenna
- Waterproofing: RockBLOCK 9603 is not waterproof. If you need a waterproof unit, look at the RockBLOCK Plus
- Built in Antenna: Yes (or use optional SMA connector for external antenna)
- Size: 45.0 x 45.0 x 15.0mm
- Ideal For integration into existing devices
Line rental is paid in blocks of 1 month, and allows the RockBLOCK 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 £13.00 per month and includes access to The RockBLOCK management system for managing your devices.
Credits are used each time you transmit. 1 credit is used per tracking position or per 50 characters of message sent or received. 1 credit is also used if you check your mailbox and there are no messages waiting (A mailbox check). Credits do not expire unless you do not use your account at all for 12 months. Credits are shared/pooled between all of the devices on your account.
For full details of our Short Burst Data airtime plans, including annual contracts, please visit our SBD pricing page.
The RockBLOCK management system allows users to amend their account details, manage RockBLOCKs, top-up accounts, review invoice details, and set-up communication between HQ, individual devices and device groups.
Upon receiving your RockBLOCK(s), first time users will need to log on to our registration page: https://rockblock.rock7.com/Operations.
Having trouble registering?
If you are not registering new units, there’s a very high chance they have been already registered somewhere else. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, mentioning your RockBLOCK serial numbers and IMEIs so that we can look into the issue.
Considering the RockBLOCK 9603?
If you’re using the SBDRT command and the modem appears to ‘hang’ when you issue the command, it’s probably due to flow control configuration. The default state for the RockBLOCK and RockBLOCK+ units has flow control turned ‘on’ in the modem. When running in 3-wire serial mode, flow control should be turned ‘off’, which will ensure you get responses to your requests.
Use the command AT&K0 at the start of your command sequence. This turns flow control off and should solve the problem.
The sleep signal is internally pulled high on the RockBLOCK and RocKBLOCK+ products, so you can leave it disconnected if you want to leave the modem ‘awake’ all of the time.
To turn ‘off’ the modem, pull the line to ground.
RockBLOCK uses the Iridium satellite network. Specifically, it uses an Iridium service called ‘short burst data’ (SBD). There’s some official info here. At the heart of RockBLOCK is an Iridium 9602 modem. The RockBLOCK hosts the 9602 and provides it with an antenna and its power supply requirements. It exposes the modem’s serial interface via USB (or directly – PCB assembly version only). Full documentation for the 9602 modem can be found here: Iridium 9602 SBD Transceiver Product Developers Guide.
RockBLOCK takes its power from the direct header connector or alternatively via the optional FTDI/USB adaptor. If you’re using the PCB assembly version with a direct header, your host needs to supply a minimum of 100mA @ 5V.
340 bytes FROM RockBLOCK.
270 bytes TO RockBLOCK.
Testing shows that it generally takes around 20 seconds from power-up to successful transmission, with a perfect view of the sky. With a very restricted view, it may take several minutes.
You should be able to complete an Iridium SBD session roughly every 10 seconds, assuming a perfect view of the sky.
Yes. There’s a version of the RockBLOCK available with an SMA connector (instead of the built-on antenna) which allows you to attach an external Iridium antenna.
Almost certainly. If you have purchased the optional FTDI-USB adaptor, you’ll need to install the FTDI drivers. You can check on their website (http://www.ftdichip.com/FTDrivers.htm), where you’ll find drivers for Linux, Mac, Windows, Android and others.
The RockBLOCK appears as a serial interface, and you can talk to it using a simple set of AT commands. It is expected that you’ll be able to integrate it into your own software with minimal effort.
There is a Node.js library available and an Arduino library which you can get via the developer docs. There’s also an excellent Python project for Raspberry Pi, which would make a great starting point for any Raspberry Pi users which can be found here. We’re working on publishing some samples for other languages soon.
Messages sent from RockBLOCK can either be delivered to your chosen email address or sent to your own web service as a simple HTTP POST. The message data will be hex encoded so there are no character set problems. Full details of our web service are available in the web service guide.
You can make a simple HTTP POST to our web service. The message is queued on the satellite network almost instantly, ready for RockBLOCK to download (on your command).
Yes, as long as you configure it correctly. Check the 9602 documentation for the ‘Ring Alert’ feature.
The RockBLOCK does not have a GPS chip inside it. It’s envisaged that if you want position reports, you would use an off-the-shelf GPS module with your solution and get position data from that.
However, it’s worth noting that with each Iridium transmission we do get an approximate position report. This varies in accuracy from 100km to 1km, and therefore can’t be relied upon for accurate tracking, but we do provide this information for you (along with the approximate accuracy, ‘CEP’ in km) with your messages. If you’re looking for a dedicated tracking satellite tracking device, you might want to consider our RockSTAR, RockFLEET, or RockAIR products.
Our billing is flexible, and allows you to pay only when you’re using your devices. Line rental is sold in one-month blocks and credits are bought in packs. If you have several RockBLOCKs, credits are shared from a credit pool amongst all your devices. You don’t need to buy separate packs of credits for each device. Similarly, if only some of your devices are being used at any one time, you don’t need to pay for line rental on those which aren’t in use.
Yes. Ground Control has been an Iridium Partner since 2008. We’ve been developing all sorts of products, but most famously we’re the people behind YB Tracking.
Some ways the RockBLOCK 9603 can be used
How RockBLOCK helps deliver medical care via drone
Cancer patients on the Isle of Wight, located just off the south coast of the UK, sometimes experience issues in receiving their chemotherapy treatment. Transporting the chemotherapy via drone – using the RockBlock technology – reduces the transport time to 30 minutes.
Drifting Buoys for Multi-Use Projects
Drifting Buoys are versatile kits that anyone with the know-how can use to retrieve their own oceanic data. Generally, the main purpose of drifting buoys is to measure ocean currents and sea temperatures, the data of which is then transmitted back to research labs on the mainland for analysis.
Preventing Illegal Deforestation
The world’s two largest rainforests, the Congo Basin and the Amazon, are under threat from illegal extraction activities. Unfortunately, authorities have long lacked the means and mechanisms to deal with these illegalities which destroy ecosystems and undermine both forest and indigenous people’s livelihoods.