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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

K5LBJ - School Station Contact

I just so happened to be the first satellite contact of the club station at K5LBJ north of Austin, Texas. I also was recording the pass.  I sent the club sponsor a note with the recording attached and he replied:

Thank you SO much for being our 1st independent satellite contact for K5LBJ!  Our school made an ISS contact back in 2008 using Austin Amateur Radio Club equipment, and in Spring of this year, we began building  a satellite tracking station.  Today, YOU were our first contact!!!  :)   We would definitely love a QSL card if you have one (and we can send one, too.)
And, I really appreciate the .mp3 file preserving our first few satellite contacts.  I hope to get students on the air more this semester, and a lot more in the Spring (when my Amateur Radio elective class is in session).
I am super excited, and can't wait to share this experience and mode with my students.
Ronny Risinger, KC5EES

Friday, September 26, 2014

What is a "Mad Ditter" or "Swisher?"

A Mad Ditter is a station who continuously sends a series of dits on the amateur radio satellites to find their own downlink signal on the transponder passband.  I'm not talking about one or two dits, or even three or four.  A Mad Ditter sends dits continuously so they can find their signal.  I don't know why, because a short dit or even saying "hello" should suffice.  I guess the mad ditters have some kind of hearing problem.  I'm not sure their ears are the problem.  I think it's the hollow space between.  Sometimes they are called "Swishers" because of the sound it makes when they "swish" across the frequency you're using.

On mode B satellites, or as more people call them today, mode U/V - UHF uplink, VHF downlink, it is necessary to tune your uplink frequency because it is the higher of the two bands.  That's the "true rule."  However, it's not an excuse to go wild and spin the dial while transmitting.  That causes you to drift across conversations in progress and generally annoy everyone.

The zig zag signal on this image below is the mad ditter spinning his transmitter's dial.  You can only imagine how ridiculous it sounds.

Here you see the Mad Ditter has ended his reign of terror and is now landing around 435.862.  He called a station who was CQ'ing.  The portable station (K8BL) tried to return the call, but the Mad Ditter disappeared as quickly as they arrived.  Silly!!!

Usually I can identify the Mad Ditter.  He stops ditting, and I go to that place.  He might give his callsign, then go off ditting again.

Friends don't let friends become Mad Ditters.

Friday, September 19, 2014

K8BL Portable - A great op!

Bob, K8BL, is on a trip up to Quebec.  He's operating from some rarer-heard grids on the amateur satellites.  I snagged him this morning in FN24/FN25.   Here's a little recording:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

73 on 73 Award Update

We're a little over a week into N8HM's 73 on 73 challenge.

I have not made as many contacts as I'd like. I'm sitting at 14 unique contacts/callsigns. I've heard about 4 more than I have been able to work, mostly due to the other stations not being very efficient operators on AO-73 and also because I have been playing with SDR.

This is an example of two stations I need to work but usually don't appear until bird is almost into the sun at night, right before the transponder switches to high-power beacon mode.

VA7MM and VE5SWL recording below.  Be warned there is an annoying, high pitched noise.  That is actually another QSO adjacent to these two Canadians.  The other QSO was in progress already when the Canadians showed up calling CQ very close!


SWL has been on CW, but doesn't seem to be hearing me at lower elevations (his.)

Admittedly I would have more stations if I was working the weekend daytime passes.  But I have a life.  I can't live on the radio.  I wouldn't I even if I had the time.