MIT Haystack Observatory Releases Software Toolkit for Scientific SDR Use

MIT Haystack Observatory Releases Software Toolkit for Scientific SDR Use

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - 01:17

Editor's note: This toolkit can be used to record SDR data to a standard format for scientific use.

MIT Haystack Observatory is pleased to announce the formal open source release of Digital RF version 2.5 under a BSD license. The software implements a data recording format for scientific radio frequency (RF) instrumentation using the HDF5 scientific data format. The implementation is designed for the management of highly time-dependent data from a large number of radio sensors. Applications include radio science (e.g., radio astronomy, geospace radar) and any project requiring the capture and use of RF data as raw digital samples.

Key Digital RF features include:

  1. Data are written in a very deterministic way that allows for both high-speed linear recording of data and O(1) read-back of arbitrary data intervals.
  2. Consistent metadata is provided and a sub-library offers a robust means of creating time-dependent metadata to annotate the raw RFdata.
  3. Tools, examples, and interfaces are provided to demonstrate use of the software and to allow basic manipulation and visualization of the data.
  4. The Haystack Observatory Recorder (thor) is provided as a data recording example for use with Ettus software radios (i.e., X300, N200, B210, B200mini).
  5. The core implementation is written in the C programming language with a Python wrapper.
  6. A MATLAB interface is provided for reading data.
  7. An interface to popular software radio systems is provided through a plugin for the GNU radio framework.

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under the Geospace Facilities and MRI programs, and by National Instruments/Ettus Corporation through the donation of software radio hardware. We are grateful for the support that made this development possible.

Digital RF is available on GitHub:

We hope you find the software useful and can contribute to its future development. For discussions related to Digital RF, please use our mailing lists ( and


Frank Lind, Bill Rideout, Juha Vierinen, Ryan Volz, John Swoboda, and Phil Erickson
(via Nancy Kotary)

MIT Haystack Observatory
Westford, Massachusetts 01886 USA