Saturday, January 23, 2016

2016 Rover Forecast for W5PFG/P Satellite Ops

It is not unusual for me to occasionally work satellites from the following grids:
EL28, EL29, EM02, EM03, EM04, EM12, EM20, EM21 EM22,  DM82, DM83, DM84, DM85, DM92, DM93, DM94, DM95

I'll likely cover those plus some just in my business travels.

And in the forecast for 2016 are the following "special grids" planned:
DM66, DM67, EM60, NL47

There will very likely be others but these I can say are in the forecast with confidence.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

2015 Satellite Operating Stats & Review

Some satellite operators on Twitter (N8HM, AA5PK, WD9EWK, KA4H, and others) have been posting their operating statistics from 2015.  I decided I'd "get with the program" and generate some stats from my station as well.

These numbers include all contacts made by W5PFG from both portable and at home.

Obviously I favor SO-50 and FO-29.  There's one simple reason: that's where the action is!   They are both relatively easy to work portable since you can fix your uplink and make minimal changes to the downlink over the course of a satellite pass.

SO-50 is our most consistent "easy sat" today.  It is operational 24/7 and it's performance is very stable.  It is still difficult to hear by some with sub-par and mediocre stations.  Whips are for lids. Minimal portable gear is an Elk or Arrow for effective QSO's.

FO-29 remains my favorite satellite in general.  Great footprint, easy to work, very reliable.

I think the transponders on XW-2F and XW-2A are very strong and stable and I can work both at negative elevations frequently.  RIP XW-2E.

AO-73 is a fun bird to work but a lot of people are put off by its frequency drift. Personally, that's not an issue for me and I will always utilize AO-73 on portable trips when it's available.

AO-7 remains a workhorse but is very susceptible to people running far too much power and causing the transponder to pulse.   CW stations should take extra precaution to run the absolute lowest power available from their stations and even consider attenuation in some cases.  The mode A/B switching does deter some from using it regularly but it's a solid bird and I'm grateful to have it.

LilacSat-2 is a nice satellite. It's a little weaker than SO-50 but is very consistently performing when it is activated. That in itself is the biggest issue -- scheduling. The sporadic activation of the transponder has turned a lot of people away.  It sounds great and operates well -- when it's on.  Hopefully the ground control team with move to a more consistent schedule or make it available 100% of the time eventually.

As we see more Fox-1 series satellites from AMSAT, I think that will change.  AO-85 is more difficult to work that we'd all hoped and I'm sure the engineering team is working to address the issues in Fox-1C, Fox-1D, and Fox-1B.

And finally, ISS packet is still a reliable way to make 2m-only contacts via satellite.  A lot of stations are over-dependent and confident on their vertical antennas. The worst part of ISS packet is all the moronic lids who leave their station beaconing unattended 24/7. Some things will never change.

Onward to 2016!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Organizing my W5PFG/P Satellite Station for Portable Trips

One thing on my list for a while has been to acquire and setup the right size carrying cases to travel with and protect my investment in portable equipment.

Over Christmas I acquired a Pelican 1500 (yellow, as shown below.)  The Icom IC-821h fits perfectly inside along with the microphone.  I could probably make room for the power cord but at the moment, my cord is a bit long and doesn't coil compactly.

The second case is a Plano Protector Series #1404.  It is not waterproof or nearly as rugged as the Pelican case but it holds all of my accessories and adapters needed for /P securely.

Aside from my coax jumpers and antennas, everything fits neatly into each box.

Box 1:
  1. Icom IC-821h Transceiver
  2. Icom Microphone
Box 2:
  1. Heil Dual Pro-Micro Headset
  2. Heil hand-trigger PTT
  3. Heil adapter for IC-821h
  4. Sony digital recorder
  5. Spare batteries for digital recorder
  6. Icom power cable
  7. Spare power cable and cigarette plug (for emergencies)
  8. Belkin 5-way audio splitter (to take audio out and feed to headset and digital recorder)
  9. Compass
UPDATE: One reader pointed out that my use of the Belkin 5-way audio splitter was hypocritical since I gave him a hard time for using one in his portable setup.  I must confess, he's right.  I normally do not need to split audio more than 2 ways (to headset and recorder) but sometimes it's convenient to be able to have an audience listen. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Central States VHF Society CS-VHF Reverse VUCC Award - Satellite

After operating from over 100 different grid squares, I decided it was time to apply for the Central States VHF Society (CS-VHF) Reverse VUCC Award.

Arliss, W7XU checked my cards and issued the award last week, December 9, 2015.

Thank you, friends, for all the great QSO's while I've been on the road!

The award is issued in increments of 25 starting at 100.  I'm now at 117 grids but don't really plan on increasing my endorsements any time soon.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Silly Goals

When I first started operating satellites from gridsquares outside of my home EM21, I set a goal to operate from every gridsquare in the state of Texas.  That's not easy.  Even though I've operated from 117 gridsquares in total, I still lack operating from 3 in my home state.

My trip down to South Padre Island over Thanksgiving put me a little closer to the goal.

EL17 is the greater Corpus Christi area.
DM90 is a stretch of I-10 in the middle of nowhere.
DM61 is a little portion that encompasses El Paso.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Say Hello to My Little Friend - The short Arrow

Reach for the skies!

Long a trick passed down from one roving guru to another, I have decided to share my recent experience with the home-brewed "short Arrow."  I first heard about this from my friend Wyatt, AC0RA.  Others over the years have made this same, basic hack.

Essentially my original Arrow II is unmolested.  However, if you wanted to start with a solid boom Arrow you could easily saw boom to cut off the end 4 elements.  

I took some 3/4 aluminum tubing and created a new boom.  You can buy a 6' piece of this tubing at Lowe's for approximately $20. 

Using the original Arrow boom as a guide, I made holes in the new boom to match alignment and spacing of elements to the factory-made one.  Using a drill press, I made the 6 holes required (2 for 2m, 4 for 70cm.)  The original Arrow elements fit perfectly through my new home-brewed boom.

Photo of new short Arrow, old boom (in it's 2-piece travel configuration) and excess 3/4 tubing.
Ready to test the short Arrow on a 65 degree-elevation FO-29 pass.

The short Arrow performs great, assuming you have a clear view to the horizon.  I was able to work FO-29 AOS to LOS.

During a recent trip to Ohio for the AMSAT Space Symposium, I used AC0RA's short Arrow to work a 3 degree elevation SO-50 pass.  It worked very well in open farm country.

The best part is, I can assembly my original "normal" Arrow using the boom.  I have the option of full or "mini" size.

All in all, this modification goes to prove "bigger isn't always better."

Friday, November 6, 2015

2015 AMSAT Space Symposium Wrap-up

In October I attended the 2015 AMSAT Space Symposium in Dayton, Ohio. It was held at the downtown Crowne Plaza Hotel.  It was a well-attended event and the roster was packed with very technical presentation.  Great fellowship is one of the many reasons I attend these events.

Entrance to the Dayton Crowne Plaza from their parking garage.

Working satellites from AC0RA's pickup truck. He's holding his shortened Arrow.
We operated from the EN70/80 line, EM89, and EM79 before the Symposium.

N8HM working SO-50 from the rooftop of the parking garage.

Enjoying the Friday evening auction.

Saturday lunch at the Dublin Pub (Dayton)

Giving a demo of my remote-controlled satellite station from 13th floor lounge of hotel.

Just a few of the operators who attending this year.

It was nice to meet WB8RJY and K8OE who were also in attendance!
And I almost forgot my friend and fellow Texan Glenn, AA5PK.

Infamous "Corner Booth" at Denny's approx midnight.