Saturday, February 28, 2015

Getting Ready for AMSAT Fox-1 Satellites

If you haven't already noticed, there is growing enthusiasm among the amateur radio community about the upcoming Fox-1 series of satellites from AMSAT-NA.  For several years now, SO-50 (SaudiSat-1C) has been our only FM satellite. FM satellites are very popular.  In the not too distant past, many individuals enjoyed contacts on AO-27 and the mega-popular AO-51.  I cut my teeth on this birds, among others.

I own a variety of equipment for working the current fleet of satellites.  A combination of different radios and antennas gives me great flexibility whether I want to make a casual QSO, grid chasing, or a rare-grid expedition.

One thing I wanted to add in my arsenal to prepare for AMSAT-NA's Fox-1 project is a full-duplex, lightweight HT with capability to run on AA batteries.  An opportunity to acquire one in trade appeared on the QRZ Ham Radio Gear for Sale forum.  For $5, I was able to take a semi-duplex micro-HT I owned and didn't use and trade it for a full-duplex model I preferred.

I now am the owner of a Yaesu FT-530 dual-band FM transceiver.  It works perfectly for SO-50's mode V/U (J) and I anticipate it working equally well for the Fox-1 U/V (B) transponder.  This small HT (with lovely BNC connector) pairs perfectly with the Arrow dual band yagi for satellite use.  I don't need any other equipment.  Well, I do need a pair of headphones. when operating full-duplex you should use headphones to avoid feedback.  A pair of $0.99 earbuds plugged into the radio work fine.

There are great opportunities to acquire full-duplex radios that worked in the past.  Sure they aren't brand new but they can be of great value if you are a smart shopper.  Sometimes used gear fetches exorbitant prices.  Buyer beware!  Do not pay $200-300 for a 20 year old HT!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

UT1FG/MM FK34 on FO-29 February 26, 2015

Yuri, UT1FG is once again Maritime Mobile and operating amateur radio satellites from his ship, the Greenwing.

Here's a good recording of the "pileup" that ensued when Yuri was sailing through grid FK34.  The good stuff starts about four minutes into it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

DK3WN SatBlog posting about FM satellite operation

Mike, DK3WN, has an excellent blog posting about "FM transponder operating techniques" over at his DK3WN SatBlog.   It probably should be printed and posted on the wall of many satellite operators' shacks.

Probably the single most important (and challenging) point he makes is about self-discipline.  Sometimes making a contact is not the best thing to do on a busy satellite pass when you have already worked all the stations previously!!!

Sure, it's tempting to make contacts.  We step into our shack hoping to snag a new grid or a new station in the log and we want results!

I'm guilty of making contacts on an FM satellite pass when I probably shouldn't.

This is a tricky issue.  I'm not the best operator in the world and I assure you that I will continue to make mistakes.  Just hopefully not the same ones daily.  We just need to be reminded sometimes that FM satellites are a precious resource.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

K1N FO-29 success 12 February 2015 at 21:52 UTC

Today, many satellite operators enjoyed the rare opportunity to make a contact with the K1N Navassa Island DXpedition via satellite FO-29.

This is the recording from my station: (fun starts at 0:38 if you want to skip ahead)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

K1N FO-29 attempt 11 February 2015 at 21:00 UTC

Well, here it is folks.  Today the K1N team attempted another afternoon FO-29 satellite pass.

Here is an unedited recording starting at my AOS and running until their near their LOS.

I am amazed how many people double-down on calling K1N when they are transmitting.  Because they are half-duplex, they cannot hear when they are transmitting.  Sometimes it happens by accident but generally if you are hearing K1N transmit, you should stop!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Camping out at 435.850 MHz on FO-29 - Not Advised

You might have read from me and others that avoiding the center of FO-29's passband can be a good thing. Generally, you will have some stations who call CQ there on every pass they work.  The bad news is that often they cannot hear each other.

In this recording you can hear two stations calling CQ practically right on top of each other.

Remember, this is not HF.  On HF, it is easily explainable that the two stations CQ'ing don't hear each other due to many factors (such as propagation.)  On satellites, however, things are a little different.  The general rule is you shouldn't be transmitting if you are not hearing.

My advice would be to spin your VFO's dial a little bit and get away from the center of FO-29's passband if you want to make a contact.  You don't have to go far... Even 5 kHz can make a difference.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

KA4H FM14/15 Grid Satellite Operation

Carl KA4H has been doing a great job operating from grid squares along the east coast of the United States.  Here's a recording of him operating SO-50 from the FM14/15 grid line.

Carl is great about QSL'ing and is very prompt on Logbook of the World uploads.  Much more so than me!