Sunday, November 29, 2015

Silly Goals

When I first started operating satellites from gridsquares outside of my home EM21, I set a goal to operate from every gridsquare in the state of Texas.  That's not easy.  Even though I've operated from 117 gridsquares in total, I still lack operating from 3 in my home state.

My trip down to South Padre Island over Thanksgiving put me a little closer to the goal.

EL17 is the greater Corpus Christi area.
DM90 is a stretch of I-10 in the middle of nowhere.
DM61 is a little portion that encompasses El Paso.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Say Hello to My Little Friend - The short Arrow

Reach for the skies!

Long a trick passed down from one roving guru to another, I have decided to share my recent experience with the home-brewed "short Arrow."  I first heard about this from my friend Wyatt, AC0RA.  Others over the years have made this same, basic hack.

Essentially my original Arrow II is unmolested.  However, if you wanted to start with a solid boom Arrow you could easily saw boom to cut off the end 4 elements.  

I took some 3/4 aluminum tubing and created a new boom.  You can buy a 6' piece of this tubing at Lowe's for approximately $20. 

Using the original Arrow boom as a guide, I made holes in the new boom to match alignment and spacing of elements to the factory-made one.  Using a drill press, I made the 6 holes required (2 for 2m, 4 for 70cm.)  The original Arrow elements fit perfectly through my new home-brewed boom.

Photo of new short Arrow, old boom (in it's 2-piece travel configuration) and excess 3/4 tubing.
Ready to test the short Arrow on a 65 degree-elevation FO-29 pass.

The short Arrow performs great, assuming you have a clear view to the horizon.  I was able to work FO-29 AOS to LOS.

During a recent trip to Ohio for the AMSAT Space Symposium, I used AC0RA's short Arrow to work a 3 degree elevation SO-50 pass.  It worked very well in open farm country.

The best part is, I can assembly my original "normal" Arrow using the boom.  I have the option of full or "mini" size.

All in all, this modification goes to prove "bigger isn't always better."

Friday, November 6, 2015

2015 AMSAT Space Symposium Wrap-up

In October I attended the 2015 AMSAT Space Symposium in Dayton, Ohio. It was held at the downtown Crowne Plaza Hotel.  It was a well-attended event and the roster was packed with very technical presentation.  Great fellowship is one of the many reasons I attend these events.

Entrance to the Dayton Crowne Plaza from their parking garage.

Working satellites from AC0RA's pickup truck. He's holding his shortened Arrow.
We operated from the EN70/80 line, EM89, and EM79 before the Symposium.

N8HM working SO-50 from the rooftop of the parking garage.

Enjoying the Friday evening auction.

Saturday lunch at the Dublin Pub (Dayton)

Giving a demo of my remote-controlled satellite station from 13th floor lounge of hotel.

Just a few of the operators who attending this year.

It was nice to meet WB8RJY and K8OE who were also in attendance!

Infamous "Corner Booth" at Denny's approx midnight. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Mad Ditter Strikes Back

Previously, I wrote about the infamous Mad Ditter on my blog.

A Mad Ditter is perhaps the worst kind of lid operator on satellite because he justifies his poor behavior, never seeking to improve, and never caring about how disruptive he is to QSO's on a satellite transponder.

The most common response a Mad Ditter issues when confronted is "I was hearing myself via the satellite fine but you were weak."  This statement can be proven false time and time again.  If ten stations call you, and you claim you were hearing yourself but not those ten stations, it is the voices in your head and not an actual signal coming back from space.

Any reasonably sensible individual would try to determine what element of their station requires attention when kindly mentioned by a fellow operator.  Perhaps the MD is in an RF-noisy environment or perhaps their feed line has issues. There are many options.  The point is, rather than jump on the defense, why not try to find the root of your station's hearing problem?  I realize some things take money to fix but that doesn't justify you running too much power and then wondering why you aren't making any contacts.  This isn't a matter of being an elitist -- it's a matter of knowing your stations capability (and in some cases, limitations.)

Today, I was on AO-7 and decided I'd do some "reaching across the aisle" to contact one of the notorious Mad Ditters.  It was operating in mode B which is normally much more popular for operators than mode A.  Not everyone has a 10m antenna or a station capable of listening on 10m while transmitting on 2m.  Did the MD ever hear me?  No.  Perhaps there was a giant aluminum-foil covered blimp hovering over their antennas because the satellite was at 70 degrees over the MD's QTH at the time.

Of course, the Mad Ditter does what he does because he often suffers from a common disorder referred affectionately by many as C.H.S. or Can't Hear Squat.

I'm going to petition the United States government to recognize Mad Ditting as a disorder worthy of mention in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  This is a serious mental condition.  When combined with CHS, it acts very similarly to a beacon station as defined in Part 97 of the FCC rules.*

* Elements of the symptoms may closely resemble "malicious interference" when not properly addressed or intentionally ignored.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

My Thoughts about the "Alaskan" Arrow 146/437-14

DISCLAIMER: I don't want this posting to come across as being "Anti-Arrow."  I love and use the normal 146/437-10 LEO satellite antenna.  I have two of them! 

However, I do want to share my thoughts about the Alaskan Arrow, model 146/437-14.

J. Boyd, NI3B, recently made this comment on the AMSAT-BB email list about the Alaskan Arrow:
Pros: Having those extra elements makes it so much easier to lock onto a
bird and reach it with less power.

Cons: It weighs as much as a baseball bat. Holding one of those things
up in the air for fourteen minutes and your arms will look like Popeye
the Sailor Man at LOS. You're going to need a tripod, or at least a
camera monopod to brace it against the ground.
Personally, I wouldn't recommend buying an Alaskan Arrow if you already own a regular 146/437-10 Arrow. I recently bought one and have already sold it after some field trials.

Basically, it works well. Nothing is wrong with it. For $140 without the diplexer, it's a bit steep. I think the value proposition is not quite beneficial enough.

For someone who has a regular Arrow, there is little noticeable improvement for 95% of all passes and operating. My normal Arrows can work every current bird from AOS to LOS assuming I have a clear path to the horizon.

If you do not own an Arrow antenna, I would suggest buying the 146/437-10 model.  You can easily hold this antenna in your hand or easily mount it to a tripod if you desire. Mounting the Alaskan one to a tripod is do-able but you'll definitely want some counterweight.

As pointed out by the gentleman mentioned above who claimed "Popeye Arms" are a side effect for using this antenna, he is spot-on. I am not a fan of using tripods and the Alaskan Arrow almost forces you to use one. The Alaskan Arrow is unwieldy and not as easily portable as a regular Arrow.

Having made several thousand contacts with an Arrow in the field, I cannot justify using the Alaskan Arrow as a replacement. I bought one thinking I would use it on our RV adventures.

I'm not dismissing there is extra gain in an Alaskan Arrow. KG5CCI made some great transatlantic contacts with his in 2015.  However, bear in mind that contact distances over 7,000km have been made for years with the regular Arrow.

I'm a fan of the standard Arrow LEO antenna. The Alaskan model, not so much.  For home, permanent mounting, I'm confident it works great.

A great collection of Arrows at the 2014 AMSAT Space Symposium

Saturday, October 10, 2015

My first experiences with AMSAT AO-85 Fox-1A on October 9 & 10, 2015

AMSAT successfully activated the mode U/V FM transponder on their new AO-85 (Fox-1A) satellite sometime early on October 9, 2015.

At approximately 1005 UTC on October 9, 2015, I made my first contact with Wyatt, AC0RA, on the AO-85 transponder. On that pass I also worked KO4MA, KC4LE, N8MH, N8HM, KA4H.

On the following pass at 1141 UTC, I worked AA5PK, and KM4IPF.

Last night, on the 01:51 UTC pass on October 10, 2015, I listened to AO-85 using an Elk 2M/440L5 antenna feeding into a Kenwood TM-D700 using LMR-240.

At the same time, I recorded this pass from my shack with an M2 2M7 antenna, azimuth and element rotor G5500, controlled by SatPC32 -- a fully automated station.  Notice how my home, fixed station experiences a lot of fading since I couldn't move the antennas for optimum polarity.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

First projected Fox-1A Passes over the Lower '48 (USA) - 8 Oct 2015

A look at the first pass of Fox-1A over the USA:
AOS near 23:53 UTC on October, 8

A look at the second pass of Fox-1A over the USA:
AOS near 01:20 UTC on October, 9

A look at the third pass of Fox-1A over the USA:
AOS near 03:13 UTC on October, 9

Source keps:

All are so close together, I grabbed the top one and used it for Fox-1A.