Friday, November 21, 2014

Spotted: Building your own satellite station by N4UFO

Kevin, N4UFO has moved some information he had about the construction of his satellite station from his biography to a dedicated blog.  He has a bunch of really good stuff there.  I highly recommend you read about the construction of his station.  I am particularly jealous of the workmanship, time, and detail he put into the station and his write-up.

Kevin, N4UFO's blog:

Dave, KB5WIA's blog, another worth visiting:

One of these days I'll grow out of my laziness and write-up something a little more detailed about my own station.  In the mean time, check out these two fine gents' blogs for ideas.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The "1,2 - We hear you." Incident

During  John/K8YSE's western grid expedition to fill in the missing "holes" on his son Doug/KD8CAO's grid map, it was not uncommon to hear John saying "1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2" to "find himself" while tuning his SatPC32 configuration.  John was utilizing computer control on his expedition.  I am not a huge fan of using computer control when operating rover/portable since it adds to the complexity of your setup and violates my belief that KISS is best when on the move.

Listen carefully to this recording made by AC0RA and you will hear one of our resident comedians answering John's "1, 2"'s.  It makes for a good laugh.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The 2014 AMSAT Space Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland

I had the pleasure of attending the AMSAT-NA Space Symposium, General Meeting, and tours held in Baltimore, Maryland this year.  It was my third year to attend a Symposium and the event did not disappoint.

Howie AB2S and Michael KD8QBA gave a great presentation about $50SAT (MO-76):

As usual, the old folks start to nod off shortly into ANY presentation, even those including pyrotechnics.  Ahh, some day I will be one of these guys.  Sorry, I mean no disrespect...It's just fact:

Patrick WD9EWK not being very stealthy and I am trying to sneak a photo of him:

NERD ALERT!!! Three dorks are going outside to work a satellite pass.  I think this was the first pass we all worked as a group (L-R: AC0RA, N8HM, CO6CBF/KF5YXV)

Post-pass pose (L-R CO6CBF/KF5YXV, N8HM, AC0RA):

Patrick "the pro" WD9EWK after working a pass:

Debriefing after a day of sessions (L-R: N8HM, KO4MA, WD4ASW):


Me, W5PFG, holding the FOX-1 satellite engineering unit:

CO6CBF/KF5YXV holding the FOX-1 satellite engineering unit:

EMike KC8YLD talking about Education: GO EMIKE GO

I received an impromptu award at the annual banquet: (KK5DO's doing)

On the MARC train to Washington, DC for an excellent tour by N8HM:

Breakfast the last day of the Symposium, before our Udvar-Hazy museum tour (L-R AC0RA, WD4ASW, W5PFG):

If you are considering attending a Symposium, I would highly recommend it.  It's lots of fun.  There is a great group of people from a diverse section of society.  You have engineers, operators, nerds, geniuses, dorks, propeller heads, rocket scientists, academics, etc.  There is a place for you!!!

More from the 2014 AMSAT Space Symposium (Part 2)

I'll share a few more pictures of the fun I had at the 2014 AMSAT Symposium:

On Saturday morning we did an awesome AO-73 demo after the morning sessions.

Here's (L-R) CO6CBF/KF5YXV, N8HM, KD8QBA, W5PFG, and AC0RA:

The following are more shots from our AO-73 demo:

Monday, October 27, 2014

The G4HUP PAT + Amateur Radio Satellites

Fellow satellite operator Wyatt, AC0RA, suggested I try out one of the Panoramic Adapter Tap (PAT) kits from G4HUP (see:  This allows for a isolated, buffered connection from the radio's IF to feed into a FUNcube Dongle, RTL dongle, or similar device.  In my case, I needed the PAT-817.  Wyatt ordered one for himself and another for me.  We exchanged dollars for toys at the 2014 AMSAT Space Symposium.  Thanks, pal.

Why is this useful?  For starters, it allows you to use your radio normally without any special settings while at the same time giving you a panoramic view (waterfall) of spectrum near your VFO's frequency, approximately 60 kHz wide.  It lets you visually see who is on frequencies nearby.  Some fancier radios have this kind of "spectrum display" built-in.  The Yaesu FT-817, while it is a great radio, doesn't have this capability.

You may wonder why is the frequency 68.325 MHz.  That is the IF frequency output from the Yaesu FT-817.  I have not had the chance to do any software configuration to match the IF frequency with the radio's actual VFO.  Tricks can be played with the software interface between HDSDR and SatPC32.  You can use DDE or CAT, for example, to coordinate the actual frequency and account for the IF's frequency (possible using transverter mode.)

I tested the use of the PAT+FUNcube Dongle Pro+ on an pass of FO-29.  Because the kit plus FT-817 only allows a view of about 60 kHz, you cannot see the entire passband of FO-29.  Also note the the sidebands are reversed as well as tuning.  It will require some tweaking to make more user-friendly.  However, I didn't buy the kit primarily for satellite operation.  I bought it for weak signal and playing with HF portable.

Below is a picture of the SMA connection.  It is tied to the PAT-817 kit installed inside the radio.  This connection will feed straight into my FUNcube Dongle Pro+:

Here's Hector KF5YXV/CO6CBF installing the final wire of the PAT into my FT-817.  And before anyone asks, the diplexer just happened to be in the picture...It is not related to the PAT project!

Below is the completed PAT kit installed and ready for use.

Overall I think the value of the kit is high and would recommend it to those who wish to experiment with PAN adapters on their radios.  I could have installed it myself but my gracious visitor is more skilled at soldering and did a fine job putting it in my FT-817.

Monday, October 20, 2014

My 2014 AMSAT Symposium Presentation

Thanks to Patrick, WD9EWK, my 2014 AMSAT Symposium Presentation is online for your viewing pleasure, torture, and enlightenment.

I hope to post more about my adventures in Baltimore, Maryland, operating from FM19.

The big question is... Will I receive an OSCAR for my performance?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

So long, 2014 AMSAT Space Symposium

One of the best things about attending an AMSAT Space Symposium is the chance to hang out with fellow amateur satellite enthusiasts.  Here is a rag-tag collection of operators, volunteers, and trouble-makers:

Rear: N8HM & Space Shuttle Discovery