Thursday, October 1, 2015

Satellite VUCC Update: Follow-up

It appears my Satellite VUCC update from earlier in September has been entered into the ARRL system.  See:  (see Sept 4 posting)

I already have several other grids confirmed via card and Logbook of the World.  I'll wait until I have enough that I feel is an adequate "upgrade" to the amount listed.  Technically, once you have five or more grids in LoTW, you can apply for credits.  Less than 5, and you will be charged a $1 extra fee.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

SatPC32 DOPPLER.SQF for new CAS-3 satellites (XW-2x & LilacSat-2)

With folks wanting to add the new CAS-3 satellites to the SatPC32's DOPPLER.SQF file, I decided to post a copy of the entries that are working for me.  If you want, I can email my entire file to you upon request.  You can copy and paste the text directly into your SatPC32 DOPPLER.SQF file.  A restart of the application is required.

XW-2A,145640,0,FM,,,0,DIGITAL TLM,
XW-2A,145660.0,0,USB,,0,CW BEACON,0,
XW-2B,145705,0,FM,,,0,DIGITAL TLM,
XW-2B,145725.0,0,USB,,0,CW BEACON,0,
XW-2C,145770,0,FM,,,0,DIGITAL TLM,
XW-2C,145790.0,0,USB,,0,CW BEACON,0,
XW-2D,145835,0,FM,,,0,DIGITAL TLM,
XW-2D,145855.0,0,USB,,0,CW BEACON,0,
XW-2E,145890,435280.2,FM,,,0,DIGITAL TLM,
XW-2E,145910.0,0,USB,,0,CW BEACON,0,
XW-2F,145955,435339.4,FM,,,0,DIGITAL TLM,
XW-2F,145975.0,0,USB,,0,CW BEACON,0,
CAS-3G,145475,0,FM,,,0,DIGITAL TLM,
CAS-3G,437950,0,FM,,,0,DIGITAL TLM,
LILACSAT-2,437200.0,144350.0,FM,FM,NOR,0,0,FM VOICE
CAS-3I,437000,0,FM,,,0,DIGITAL TLM,

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Great Satellite Deluge

September brought the amateur radio satellite community a whole new era of voice transponder fun. China's Long March 6 (CZ-6) rocket delivered a series of satellites, most carrying amateur radio transponders.

I was very lucky to be one of the first in the world to receive footprint of the new satellites during their first orbit.  To my amazement, I copied beacons and telemetry from all of the new objects!

I quickly discovered that the transponders on XW-2E and XW-2F were operating. I called CQ for a bit on both but did not receive any responses.  It wasn't until the second orbit that I worked Glenn, AA5PK.

Fast-forward to today and now we have 2 (sometimes 3, depending on LilacSat-2's schedule) new transponders available to work.  XW-2E and XW-2F seem to be great sounding birds with good ears. SatPC32 Doppler correction works flawlessly with the newest set of Keplerian elements.  

LilacSat-2's FM transponder is activated on a schedule.  I've made a handful of contacts on it with stations across the USA.  I think the control stations are still figuring some things out but I have been very grateful for their efforts to give us a workable FM transponder.

As you can see, this is quite a few satellites moving towards my location for AOS.  Which one should I work?  That's a great question to be faced with when it seemed as if a few years ago, the number of amateur satellite transponders was dwindling.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Satellite VUCC Record Update - September 2015

I had some business to do down in Houston, Texas this week which provided me an opportunity to visit AMSAT Awards Manager and ARRL Awards Checker Bruce, KK5DO.  Bruce has been around a long time working the birds and doing a good job managing the workload as Awards Manager.  I believe he has somewhere around 775 confirmed gridsquares on his satellite VUCC, quite commendable!

Some satellite operators confirm their contacts via ARRL's Logbook of the World. That makes adding those new gridsquares to your VUCC record very easy.  You simply login to the LoTW website, select the new grids to apply for your award, pay your money, and wait.

If you are using a paper QSL card to confirm a grid and have it applied to your VUCC credits, you will need to visit a card checker. This is an individual that will review your application and evidence of the new grids.  Bruce, KK5DO, checks each of my QSL cards to verify the callsign and gridsquare worked for credit.

The process is not much different than via LoTW except you need to find a nearby card checker or mail yours to someone.  I would recommend checking to make sure your nearest card checker is still "in business" because I've found some people have given it up over time.

The card checker will also want a listing of each callsign assigned to the gridsquares you are claiming. They will need to be in order by gridsquare.

After Bruce checked and verified by new submission, I will go from 517 to 736 gridsquares on my VUCC Satellite.  Each time you go up 25 grids, this is a new "endorsement" on your award.  I've already accumulated several new gridsquares since I prepared my list and sorted cards for Bruce.  Hopefully next time around I can catch up with him at 775.

In the mean time, a big THANK YOU goes to KK5DO and the other unsung card-checking heroes.

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.