Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My Satellite Picks for Field Day 2016

In May and June 2013, I posted about Field Day on the satellites:
My Plans for 2013 & "Surviving" Field Day 2013, a postmortem

In June 2014 I posted about my "top picks," satellites to work.  Since the landscape has changed slightly, I decided to create a new post for 2016.

My recommendations for satellites during Field Day 2016:

1. FO-29 - Has the largest passband and large footprint.  Doppler easy to manage.   Don't go overboard with big yagis.  An Arrow is sufficient for Field Day.  FO-29 should be easily heard with 3-7 elements on UHF.  Good coax and a preamp make it even better.  If you are running an amplifier, you should probably be taken out back and beaten with a rubber hose.

2. Chinese XW-2 linear satellites: XW-2A, XW-2C, XW-2F.  If you can't hear them, you should probably give up satellites permanently.  Because they are mode B (U/V) birds, they are easy to hear and should work even on mediocre antennas with bad coax.  However, because they are mode B that means adjusting for Doppler is more challenging for some people.  Remember, tune the higher band (in this case, the UPLINK - 70cm.)

3. AO-73 - Easy to hear as the XW-2's.  Can be difficult to adjust for Doppler for those who are new.  Normally just active when transponder is in darkness.   It should be in transponder mode even in full sun, but very likely will be put there by AMSAT-UK by Friday night.  A solid bird.  Don't try using computer control.

4. UKube-1 - Recently active, we don't know if it will be in transponder mode during Field Day, but you should give it a try if you've made it this far.  It is comparable to the XW-2's and AO-73 but with a quirk: When the primary beacon comes on, everyone is basically shut out of the satellite for a brief period.  Expect this 2-3 times during a pass.  Another easy one to hear and also avoid computer control.

5. AO-85 - FM, likely a zoo.  This will be your best bet for an FM contact.  I'd try a descending pass (coming from North to South.)  Don't expect to use an HT and Arrow, but it could work.  It should be easy to hear with an Arrow, but hard to get in with 5 watts.

6. AO-7 - Easily forced into Mode A during eclipse cycle by Alligators.  Difficult to use when there are several high-powered stations using CW or SSB.  Generally, I'd only recommend this one on very late night passes.  The old bird is especially weak right now and has been known to shift modes unexpectedly due to QRO stations.  My advice: avoid unless you really know what you're doing or you have plenty of time to play and be shut-out.

7. SO-50 - FM. Say no more.  I'd recommend it only for middle-of-the-night (graveyard shift) attempts.  During the day it will likely be a zoo.  Don't bother even trying to make a contact if you are not actually participating in Field Day. Give the other suckers a chance.  And please, don't call CQ.  If you do work SO-50, please make one contact and then remain silent.  Even if others call you, you've made your one QSO.  Let someone else have their turn.

8. AO-51 - FM.  If this satellite is still on your Field Day list, you are a moron and should surrender your license, throw your radios in the garbage, and probably give up driving automobiles, too.

PS: Don't rule out the ISS (packet) and NO-84 (PSK31 transponder.)  This blog post focuses on voice.

I have no bias against FM transponders. In fact, I love them.  I just think they are a poor choice for Field Day.  If it's all you have, good luck to you.  Try AO-85 and possible SO-50.  We will be lucky if LilacSat-2 is turned on for us.

Finally, don't be a turd and run QRO CW on a bird.
If you need to send more than a few dits to find yourself, slow down and look at everything. Chances are, you're doing something wrong!!!

Monday, June 20, 2016

EL18, EL19, and EM20 grid run - June 16-17 (UTC) on Satellites

I took a quick trip down to Houston last week for business.

I managed to stop by the Houston AMSAT Lunch at Pappa's BBQ (on Westheimer near the Beltway) on Wednesday to see the gang.  That was fun.  I saw a lot of the folks who had just been up at Ham-com in Irving.

During the course of planning my short trip to Houston, I decided to active EL18 and EL19. These two grids are somewhat "in between" Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas.  Most of the land is agricultural use or small fishing villages along the gulf coast.  I worked one XW-2A and two SO-50 passes, giving coverage from the east to west coasts.

I brought along my usual setup, the IC-821+Short Arrow.

 The scenery was quite boring for the few hours I spent at the EL18/19 line.
Just some corn fields in view.

On the way home from Houston, I stopped and worked an SO-50 pass that had coast-to-coast coverage from EM20.  This grid encompasses the northern suburbs of Houston (Spring, The Woodlands, Conroe) yet does not have any active satellite operators living there or on the air.

Friday, May 27, 2016

K5L /MM special event satellite operation from grid EL58hx

On Thursday, May 26, I made a visit to gridsquare EL58hx in far southeastern Louisiana.  It was a great adventure.  I intend to write more detail for a future article but I wanted to share a few sneak peeks with my blog readers.

There is plenty of GoPro and DJI Phantom3 footage.  I intend to put together a short montage available on YouTube at sometime in the future.

Until then, here are a few pictures of the operation:

Doing secondary GPS check before we dropped anchor.

Drone footage of me working a western pass.

More drone footage of me working a western pass.

Working an eastern FO-29 pass.

Another view to the west across the Gulf of Mexico.

Working the final FO-29 pass of the day.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tomsk-TPU-120 CubeSat via ISS Event from May 2016

I have made my recordings available from this past week's special event commemorating the 120th anniversary of Tomsk Polytechnic University and their CuteSat awaiting deployment aboard the International Space Station.

From AMSAT-UK (https://amsat-uk.org/2016/04/30/tomsk-tpu-120-cubesat/):
In May 2016 Tomsk Polytechnic University celebrates its 120th anniversary. As part of the celebrations from  0755 UT May 10 until 1005 UT May 11 Tomsk-TPU-120 will be activated in the ISS and will transmit a greeting to Earth inhabitants, recorded by students of the university in 10 languages: Russian, English, German, French, Chinese, Arabic, Tatar, Indian, Kazakh and Portuguese.
The greeting signal will be transmitted once a minute on 437.025 MHz FM. One of the Kenwood transceivers (TM D700) on the ISS will provide a cross-band relay, re-transmitting the signal on 145.800 MHz FM.
The recordings can be found on Soundcloud:

Saturday, April 16, 2016

April 11-14 2016 ISS SSTV Images Received

Between April 11-14, 2016, the ISS had another SSTV event.  I was away on business but I managed to capture all of these images with my station on autopilot.

All images were decoded live using MMSSTV straight from the USB soundcard interface on my Icom IC-9100.  Normally I would record everything via SDR (FUNcube Dongle Pro+) and play back the images through something like Virtual Audio Cables but I was very busy and didn't have time to schedule recordings in HDSDR.

Quite a few of these partial images were on passes where the elevation of the ISS at my observation point was never over a degree.

First Series of Images Commemorating 15 Years of ARISS

12-April 21:32 UTC

12-April 21:38 UTC

12-April 2309 UTC

12-April 23:15 UTC

13-April 00:51 UTC

13-April 02:25 UTC

13-April 02:30 UTC

13-April 04:03 UTC

13-April 04:09 UTC

13-April 05:38 UTC

13-April 05:42 UTC

13-April 20:39 UTC

13-April 20:46 UTC

13-April 22:16 UTC

13-April 22:21 UTC

13-April 23:56 UTC

14-April 01:33 UTC

14-April 01:39 UTC

14-April 03:08 UTC

14-April 03:12 UTC

14-April 03:18 UTC

14-April 04:45 UTC

14-April 04:51 UTC

Second Series of Images for the MAI-75 Event

15-April 17:23 UTC

15-April 18:53 UTC

15-April 18:59 UTC

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Tale of Two Antennas: What you can do in ideal locations with a handheld yagi

March 2016, my family took a short holiday to the Quachita Mountain National Forest on the Arkansas/Oklahoma state lines.  The grid square is EM24.  We were camping in our travel trailer at Queen Wilhelmina State Park.

During the week, Dave KG5CCI came to visit.  He lives in Little Rock in neighboring grid EM34. Dave has some family in the area so it was convenient for him to come play in the mountains with me for one afternoon.

While we didn't have the opportunity to work many satellite passes together, we did have a lot of fun on one AO-7 and one FO-29 pass.  Dave made a good contact with the UK on a ~2 degree window from one of the many overlooks along the Talimena Scenic Road (Ark. 88.)

We stopped along another overlook as we made our way to camp and worked one FO-29 pass together.  He setup his station a few meters away.

During station setup, we had a little fun demonstrating polarity (mis)alignment:

We worked a nice FO-29 covering most of North America.  At the end of the pass, Dave and I played a little bit with "how low could we go."  With me using the short Arrow and Dave using the full Alaskan Arrow, we were able to work each other below -1 degrees elevation.  You can hear us talking about it to each other VIA FO-29 on this little clip:

KG5CCI - Icom IC-821h and Alaskan Arrow (10 ele 70cm, 4 ele 2m)
W5PFG - Icom IC-821h and Short Arrow (4 ele 70cm, 2 ele 2m)

Folks, Dave KG5CCI has a great place to play radio.  You can see how this location is excellent for stretching the footprint and making extreme DX contacts in his backyard.

Location, location, location.  

Friday, April 1, 2016

Satellite EO-79 (QB50p1 and FUNcube-3) - March 25, 2016

Over Easter weekend 2016, the ground station team for EO-79 activated the FUNcube-3 transponder on board for amateur radio use worldwide.  I managed to make several contacts over the weekend.  I worked two passes from home using my normal Icom IC-9100 station and two passes operating portable with my Icom IC-821 and Arrow.

During both passes from home, I recorded audio locally using Audacity software and simultaneously recorded the entire transponder passband using a FUNcube Dongle Pro+ and HDSDR software.

You can see some of the fading in this screenshot from HDSDR:

Coincidentally you can see AO-73's beacon.  It was passing over my station at the same time as EO-79.  Notice the "flaming comet" to the right side of the waterfall.  I'm not sure what is it's source.  I listened to it and it sounds like FM noise.

You can clearly see several QSO's taking place on the transponder.  This is why I love SDR and have posted about it previously on this blog.

I noticed with SatPC32 that using computer control, I had to adjust my uplink +13,500-800.  Like AO-73's transponder, this one is a little unstable due to temperature on board, so you are better of manually tuning.  However, you can easily tune with the computer as long as you have your fingers ready to make adjustments during the pass.  

Take a listen to a snippet from the first EO-79 pass I worked over the long weekend:

Overall, I found EO-79 relatively easy to work.  It does tend to fade/shift polarity a little more than AO-73 but signals are overall strong.  I hope that it can be made available to the amateur radio community for permanent use eventually.

Read more about EO-79 here http://www.amsat.org/?page_id=2944 on the AMSAT website.