Thursday, August 27, 2015

Insurance, Bonus Points, and Extra Credit Contacts

Editor's note: I had originally written this months ago and intended to post it when UT1FG was still /MM in 2015, but got busy and never finished it until August.  While it's focused on UT1FG, it applies very well to most rover operations.

You might have seen me or others posting on Twitter about insurance contacts, bonus points, and extra credit contacts.  It's an "inside joke" among satellite operators who are chasing UT1FG/MM as he traverses through wet grid squares in the open ocean.

Basically, it boils down to this:

If a station has already worked UT1FG/MM from a particular grid square, any future contact with him while he's in that same grid square constitutes any of the following options: Insurance, Bonus Points, or an Extra Credit Contact.

Insurance Contact
An "insurance contact" is sometimes used when you didn't get a clean contact on a previous pass.

Maybe the bird was low, you didn't hear Yuri's return QSL, or maybe Yuri was very weak into the satellite.  There are sometimes legitimate reasons why someone might try to work Yuri in the same grid again if their first contact was "iffy."  Just be sure to make your "insurance" contact as quickly as efficiently as possible.  Sometimes Yuri will even comment "Thanks again for contact from grid FKxx after we worked on AO-7."  He is basically saying "I got you in the log on that one" and may even subtly mentioning "WHY ARE YOU CALLING AGAIN?"  He being a gentleman and a top class operator never loses his cool even with bad behavior from some operators.

Bonus Points & Extra Credit
Generally, these contacts serve no other purposes than to give Yuri a "shout out."

It's like "Hey Bro -- We know you are out there and we want you to know we want more grids from you."  Many times those seeking bonus points or extra credit already have the grid confirmed.  While it's entirely their right to make the QSO again, you have to bear in mind the rarity of the operation at hand. If there is a satellite pass where Yuri is CQ'ing for 5 minutes straight, chances are you have time to make a bonus QSO without jeopardizing someone else making the cut.  Also keep footprints in mind. You may think nobody is in the footprint working Yuri, but as the orbit progresses it will potentially pickup more land coverage where others might be who want to work Yuri.  Just be cognizant of this and not try to tie up the captain for extended periods.

Monday, August 17, 2015

VO1ONE (N8TLV) Portable Operation from Canada

Recently, Mark VO1ONE went on a little satellite grid expedition from Canada.  I had worked Mark once or twice on previous trips he took but this time around, I was able to catch him from most of the grids he activated.

Mark did an excellent job and was working passes very low to his horizon on many occasions.  A skilled operator, he also managed the number of QSO's in a contest-like, rapid-exchange -- efficient and effective.

Thankfully Mark quickly QSL'd via ARRL's Logbook of the World.

You can keep up-to-date on satellite rovers and grid expeditions at AMSAT's Upcoming Satellite Operations page:

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Activation of DM57, DM66, DM67, and DM76 Grids

Last week, my family and I took a vacation to New Mexico and Colorado.

I operated from several grid squares during the trip, bringing my total portable grid count to 111.

#108 - DM66 - Chama, New Mexico
#109 - DM67 - Cumbres Pass in Colorado (north of Chama, NM)
#110 - DM57 - Mancos, CO (outside Mesa Verde National Park)
#111 - DM76 - Angel Fire, New Mexico

Though I could probably look at my log and figure out the order in which I worked #1-107, I probably won't.  I can remember one of my first portable ops, however, to DM95.  I had no idea how popular that would become.  That same trip, I was encouraged to try DM96.  It became an addiction.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

My new FT-817+Satellites video

I've had an idea to make some new videos about my experiences in the amateur satellite world for a while.

One idea was to demonstrate how to work my favorite satellite FO-29 using a single VFO multimode transceiver. In my case, I chose the Yaesu FT-817 because it's one of the most popular portable radios in the world today.

Combined with an Arrow or Elk antenna, almost anyone can take an FT-817 with them on their travels or operating from the backyard.

This is my first revision of the FT-817 video.  I'd be glad to field any questions from inquiring minds.

You can click on the video above to view or or visit:

Monday, May 25, 2015

W5PFG/VE2 marks operation from 99th and 100th MH gridsquares

My recent trip to Montreal, Quebec, Canada and the subsequent satellite operations from FN25 & FN26 mark my 99th and 100th maidenhead gridsquares operated via amateur radio satellites.

The map below is a plot of all gridsquares from which I've operated since 2011.

And the list:
  1. EM00
  2. EM01
  3. EM02
  4. EM03
  5. EM04
  6. EM05
  7. EM06
  8. EM10
  9. EM11
  10. EM12
  11. EM13
  12. EM14
  13. EM15
  14. EM16
  15. EM17
  16. EM20
  17. EM21
  18. EM22
  19. EM23
  20. EM24
  21. EM25
  22. EM26
  23. EM30
  24. EM31
  25. EM32
  26. EM33
  27. EM34
  28. EM42
  29. EM44
  30. EM45
  31. EM55
  32. EM54
  33. EM53
  34. EM52
  35. EM63
  36. EM64
  37. EM65
  38. EM66
  39. EL09
  40. EL08
  41. EL07
  42. EL18
  43. EL19
  44. EL28
  45. EL29
  46. EL39
  47. EL98
  48. DL79
  49. DL88
  50. DL89
  51. DL98
  52. DL99
  53. DM12
  54. DM13
  55. DM70
  56. DM71
  57. DM72
  58. DM73
  59. DM74
  60. DM80
  61. DM81
  62. DM82
  63. DM83
  64. DM84
  65. DM85
  66. DM86
  67. DM91
  68. DM92
  69. DM93
  70. DM94
  71. DM95
  72. DM96
  73. EM86
  74. EM96
  75. FM07
  76. FM08
  77. FM09
  78. FM19
  79. FM29
  80. FN10
  81. FN25
  82. FN26
  83. FN30
  84. FN31
  85. FN32
  86. FN33
  87. FN35
  88. FN41
  89. FN42
  90. FN43
  91. FN45
  92. FN51
  93. FN53
  94. FN54
  95. FN55
  96. FN56
  97. FN57
  98. FN65
  99. FN66
  100. FN67

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Remote Satellite Station Operation at W5PFG

Recently, another satellite operator made some general statements (gossip) about how I could possibly be working Yuri, UT1FG/MM, while I am not always at home.  In my professional career, I travel around the states of Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.  During this time, I am not physically able to sit in front of my transceiver and make satellite contacts.  It may therefore seem  that since I am not home, I cannot work stations in new grids for VUCC credit.  That is untrue.

This is 2015.  Remote station operating is alive and well.  Not only is being able to operate my station remotely perfectly legal, others have been doing it long before me.  There are at least three other amateur radio satellite operators in the United States who have such remote capabilities.  Some of those folks have shared ideas and lessons learned with me to improve my own station.  K8YSE wrote a detailed description of his /7 (Arizona) station for the AMSAT Journal.

DXpedition teams for years have use this method or similar so that they can get the rare entity in their own home logs. How else would the whole K1N team members get in the logs on all bands and all modes, even though some of them are on the island themselves?  (within the first couple of days, I might add) They may not be "remoting" to their home stations but someone is operating as their home station under direction of the licensee.

When I am operating remotely, I am utilizing my own equipment.  It is my transmitter, receiver, antennas, rotor, computer, etc., -- all located at my home QTH in EM21hs.  Even if I am in Rome, Italy, I can make an SO-50 contact from my equipment to someone in N America.  The contact would be between my grid (EM21hs) and the other's.

Since Captain Yuri began his 2015 voyage, I have been on many work trips, some international trips, and a week at spring break.  All the while, I was able to work Yuri as he made his journey from one wet grid square to the next.  This would not have been possible without a remote station.

This map represents the grids in which I've worked UT1FG/MM during his 2015 voyage as of April 18.

Thankfully we have modern technology that allows a traveling man such as myself the ability to operate my own station remotely.  I can enjoy amateur radio satellite operations from practically anywhere with an Internet connection.

Many of you know that I have given out grids from most, if not all, of the business travel destinations I've visited over the past four years.  I will continue to do so.  During the times that UT1FG/MM is out and about, I will operate less port-ably and focus more on collecting wet grid squares instead.  Once the Captain is out of range, I'll go back to handing out some of the grids from which I've operated numerous times (some in DM8x, DM9x, EM0x/1x/2x.)

If you have questions about remote station operating, feel free to write me an email.  I am still working the kinks out of my station and trying to implement improvements.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Satellite Code of Conduct? Good idea.

DX Satellite Code Of Conduct

  • I will listen, and listen, and then listen again before calling.
  • I will only call if I can copy the DX station properly.
  • I will not trust the DX cluster and will be sure of the DX station's call sign before calling.
  • I will not interfere with the DX station nor anyone calling and will never tune up on the DX frequency or in the QSX slot.
  • I will wait for the DX station to end a contact before I call.
  • I will always send my full call sign.
  • I will call and then listen for a reasonable interval. I will not call continuously.
  • I will not transmit when the DX operator calls another call sign, not mine.
  • I will not transmit when the DX operator queries a call sign not like mine.
  • I will not transmit when the DX station requests geographic areas other than mine.
  • When the DX operator calls me, I will not repeat my call sign unless I think he has copied it incorrectly.
  • I will be thankful if and when I do make a contact.
  • I will respect my fellow hams and conduct myself as to earn their respect.
We should try to adhere to these great bits of operating wisdom in the satellite community.  I know that none of us are perfect.  However, we must try...