Wednesday, April 16, 2014

ISS Packet

I enjoy making contacts via the ISS packet digipeater.   I highly recommend you give it a try if you have a terrestrial packet station!  Because the ISS is in Low Earth Orbit (LEO,) it is the only current satellite with amateur capability that I'd say is "easy" with a vertical, omni-directional antenna.  You can even make contacts from your car with an omni.  My only suggestion is do not OVER-BEACON (sending packets repeatedly until you brute force a digipeated packet.)

I do not enjoy copying beacons from unattended stations via the ISS packet digipeater.  It is very annoying.  Any idiot can setup a packet beacon.

For my ISS packet station, I utilize the following:

  • Antenna: M2 2M7 (mounted horizontally)
  • Rotor: Yaesu G-5500 Azimuth / Elevation Rotor
  • Feedline: LMR-400 Ultraflex
  • AMSAT LVB USB Rotor to Computer Interface
  • Tigertronics SignaLink USB Computer Interface/Soundcard 
  • Tracking Software: SatPC32 12.8c
  • Software TNC Interface: UZ7HO Soundmodem Software v45
  • Terminal Software for Keyboard to Keyboard Contacts: UISS by ON6MU v5.3

Monday, April 7, 2014

AC0RA/M EN00 EN01 Recording on SO-50

I try to record passes when I'm in the shack. Here's a good example of what a quiet SO-50 pass sounds like. Normally prime time passes are full of people trying to make contacts. Remember this kind of pass is NOT the norm. It is very unusual for a station in a rare grid to have so few people calling them.

When I called KC3CGT at the end of the recording, I have about one degree of elevation left.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Guatemala (TG9) on FO-29

For about a week now I have heard two stations in Guatemala trying to make contacts on FO-29.  AA5PK, AC0RA, W5PFG, and others have tried making contact several nights.

TG9ADQ and TG9ANF were calling CQ on about the same frequency last night.  Both stations are using omni antennas not designed for satellite use.  I am making an assumption that they might be using semi-duplex, too.

Wyatt, AC0RA, had been exchanging some emails with Mario ADQ and managed a contact with him.  I recorded the tail end of Wyatt's exchange with ADQ.

Bear in mind on this recording you hear both stations and at times it is difficult to distinguish which station is calling "CQ" or saying "QSL."  At one point I am talking over one of the stations trying to get the other to hear me.  It is not a practice I would do intentionally but was a casualty of them both being on the same frequency.

Another station decided to join in the fun and try to work them, so I disengaged.  I don't think he had any more luck than I did since obviously my signal was equally as strong.   Our problem making contact was not getting into the satellite but rather the other stations hearing us via the satellite.

We'll keep trying.  I do believe several stations are in contact with TG9ADQ via email and discussing antenna options.

Friday, March 28, 2014

N American Satellite Activity UP

The past 7 days there has been a noticeable increase in activity on
most satellite passes over North America due in part to a grid
expedition by AC0RA.  Wyatt posted his expedition here on the AMSAT-BB a few
weeks ago.  Over the course of this past week I understand he has made
hundreds of contacts.

Some of the grids Wyatt visited have not been activated on the birds
in several years.  This was evident by the number of people who are
leading the ARRL VUCC Satellite standings needing those grids.
Fortunately Wyatt put forth an effort that accomodated many working
peoples' schedules and whether or not people who needed that grid were
in the footprints he worked.

One thing that can be done to encourage such activity is by mentoring
new stations.  I cringe at the "anti-handheld in the backyard
mentality" because those operators are our future.  Some of them may
take on roles in AMSAT engineering, some may focus on operations (grid
trips,) and more importantly some may desire to educate the next
generation about satellite and space communications.

Last night I worked a station who told me I was one of his first
contacts.  We've exchanged a few emails and now he's looking to
operate from a rare, neighboring grid square situated a mere 5 miles
from his home.

It's been a fun week for many of us chasing these seldom-heard grids.
 If you have the equipment to operate outside the confines of your
shack, I would encourage you to do so.  Not only is it an opportunity
to refresh your basic skills, it attracts others to do so, and gives a
chance for you to activate grid squares absent of any regular
satellite operators.


CQ South America on Satellite

The range of my satellite station in Texas allows me to work most FO-29 and AO-7 mode B passes to my LOS in the south.

Today on AO-7 mode B, I called CQ until I could no longer hear my own downlink at 0.1 degrees elevation.  This would clearly allow me to work stations in South America if they are in a mutual footprint.

My station location is in EM21hs - Texas, USA.   I should easily work stations to 7,500km or beyond.

If you are a South American satellite station, please email me at my callsign at and we can setup a schedule.  My email address is also listed on

The above picture shows the footprint at 0.3 degrees elevation.  I could probably make a quick CW contact in the time between 0.5 and 0.1 degrees elevation.  It would be a very slim chance for contact!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Visiting DL88

I intend to write an AMSAT Journal-worthy article of my grid expedition to DL88.  It was an adventure.

Until then, here's a critical piece of paper you need if you intend to visit DL88 in the United States.

I picked mine up at Panther Junction, Big Bend National Park's Headquarters.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

W5PFG/P Satellite Operation from Rare DL grids in Texas

Some of the rarest grids in Texas lie on the United States' shared southern border with Mexico.  I've once operated from both DL98 and DL99 grids.  During that day I had numerous, pleasant encounters with US Customs & Border Patrol agents.

Once again I will venture into some seldom-heard grids.

March 8 - DL89 evening ops
March 9 - Special operation from border grid DL88 on select morning passes
March 10 - DL79 operations during daylight hours
March 11 - DL89 morning passes
March 11-13 - DM70 / DM80 operations as I'm available

I will be staying near Big Bend National Park, Texas' Big Bend Ranch, and Davis Mountains State Parks.