RockBLOCK – Applications

The RockBLOCK 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.  It works on the top of Mount Everest.  It works in the middle of the Sahara Desert. It works at the North Pole.  And the South Pole too.  It works in the middle of any Ocean.

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 you.


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RockBLOCK can send and receive short messages from anywhere on Earth with a view of the sky.

Compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux computers (including Raspberry PI™) and many other platforms with USB or serial ports.

Rockblock Iridium Modem

Everything you need

RockBLOCK can send and receive short messages from anywhere on Earth with a view of the sky.

Built in power regulation, USB and serial interfaces, and a high-performance Iridium antenna.

RockBLOCK is easy to integrate – and it’s all you need to connect your system to the rest of the world.

Rockblock Rugged

Naked or Rugged

RockBLOCK can send and receive short messages from anywhere on Earth with a view of the sky.

Available ‘NAKED’ as a PCB assembly – ready to integrate into your project.

Or ‘RUGGED’ as a waterproof USB device – just plug and play.


Technical Information

How does it work?

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 Circuit

How is it powered?

RockBLOCK takes its power from a standard (100mA limited) USB port, or alternatively via its ‘direct’ interface header.  If you’re using the PCB assembly version with a direct header, your host needs to supply a minimum of 100mA @ 5V.

How much data can I send/receive?

340 bytes FROM RockBLOCK.

270 bytes TO RockBLOCK.


How quickly can I send a message?

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.


How frequently can I send a message?

You should be able to complete an Iridium SBD session roughly every 10 seconds, assuming a perfect view of the sky.


Can I connect an external antenna?

No, but you can put the ruggedised version outside.


Do you have USB drivers for my XYZ platform?

Almost certainly.  The RockBLOCK uses an FTDI USB to serial convertor.  You can check on their website (, where you’ll find drivers for Linux, Mac, Windows, Android and others.


Can I interface with the Iridium 9602 UART directly?

Yes, the ‘Naked’ version exposed the UART and other signals on its ‘direct’ header connector.  The UART  runs at 3.3V.  In this mode, you must supply a minimum of 100mA at 5V.  Supplying a higher current will (re)charge the module more quickly.  It is possible that you could use a lower voltage, although this will reduce the amount of stored charge and increase the risk of unintentional resets.

Please see our high-level schematic diagram.


What about software?

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.




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