Thursday, August 21, 2014

The good 'ole days - A reminder

Getting cards like this reminds me of when I made my first satellite contacts. I actually two "first" contacts...Once about a decade ago and then about three years ago when I got bit by the big and became very satellite-active.

I hope that David takes the plunge and joins AMSAT! 

David, if you're reading this blog, it was a pleasure to work you.  We've all been there and had the thrill of that first contact on satellite.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Breaking News - 73 on 73 Award

Via AMSAT-BB,, and forums:

I am pleased to announce that I will be sponsoring a new award to promote
activity on AO-73 (FUNcube-1). The requirements for this award are simple:
1. Work 73 unique stations on AO-73.
2. Contacts must be made on or after September 1, 2014.
3. There are no geographic restrictions on your operating location.
There will be no cost for this award (donations to AMSAT-UK and AMSAT-NA's
Fox program are encouraged though). No QSLs are required. When you complete
the requirements, email your log extract including the callsign of each
station worked, UTC, and date to n8hm at as well as the address where
you'd like the award certificate sent.
Enjoy AO-73's transponder!
Paul Stoetzer, N8HM
Washington, DC
I hope that some of my readers will not only take up the challenge but make donations to AMSAT-UK or AMSAT-NA (preferably both) to support ongoing and future satellite projects.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

When to say "Portable" (follow-up to my "Handheld" post)

I previously had posted about the use of saying "handheld" when you give your callsign on a busy FM satellite.  In short, I think it's a dumb idea, with few exceptions.

See my post from last year about "handheld" at:

Today I will focus on the over-use of another word: "Portable"

I think that a lot of new hams get on satellites and say their callsign followed by "Portable" because other people are doing it.  If you are standing in your back yard with an Arrow or at the local park, "portable" might seem like a reasonable thing to say.  Heck, if you are taking your XYL to the mall two towns over, you are portable, aren't you?


Let's look at this differently for a minute.  To many operators, "portable" gets lost in the proverbial noise. You can say whatever you want.  Heck, I am tempted to say "Ribeye" because it's my favorite steak.  If you want to say "Howdy Doody," that's okay, too except it takes away from precious time on the bird.  Most of the time this "portable" (and "handheld") nonsense is limited to single-channel FM satellites, a place where time is most precious.

The only reason I believe it is worthwhile to say "portable" is when you are operating outside your home grid. This gives grid-chasers notice that you are essentially "away from home" and perhaps somewhere exotic.  Again, say what you want, but to keep saying "portable" from the backyard is no different than me saying "in the shack" every time I transmit my call letters.

John/K8YSE touches on this on his website at <- Look for the "A Word about signing "PORTABLE" heading.  It's worth reading.

My advice is to give your callsign clearly and phonetically... BUT timing should be appropriate.  Don't give your callsign every 3 seconds just because you're not making a contact.  Let some time pass, maybe 30 seconds, maybe 2 minutes - use some common sense.  It depends on the traffic on the satellite.  If there are a lot of stations on, obviously you don't need to give your call sign as often.  Take it easy.  COOL IT.  Otherwise, you will look like a lid.  You don't need to work EVERY station on the pass.

In closing, only use "portable" when it really fits -- portable outside your home QTH, preferably outside your home grid/state/city/etc.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Pass Predictions

Many satellite operators use many different methods to predict when a satellite will pass over them.  These "pass predictions," as they are often referred to, are important when choosing a time to operate satellites.

I've often thought about an easy way to track/predict without the need for computing device.  Sometimes this is handy in wilderness situations.

Interestingly enough, Bob WB4APR posted his thoughts about this on the AMSAT-BB:

Actually, using simple pass-times, it is possible to predict with a simple
pencil, all future pass times for several weeks.
Every satelite REPEATs their daily ground track every few days or so.
AO51 repeated every 5 days, and GO32 every 9.  These were sun synchronous
and so not only the ground track repeated but the time of the passes
repeated as well.
See the examples on:
The ISS is not sun synchronous, but these three rules will predict future
ISS passes without any stinkin-confusor:
1) If you hear one  pass, 5 out of 7 times, the next one is about 90
minutes later.
2) The ISS REPEATS the same ground track every other day but 51 minutes
3) For a given day, the same pass the next day is 23 minutes later.
This makes portable APRS operations in the wilderness easy.  All you need
is ONE PASS time, and you can infer all the others for weeks using the
simple rules, and just keepin notes on pass TIMES when heard.
You don't need no-stinkin-computer.  Satellites are in "orbit" and
completely predictable.
Just take your favorite satellite, print out a week of passes, and then
look for the "RULE" that will predict future passes.  Then all you need to
remember, is the RULE.
Bob, WB4aPR

Normally I use a combination of software to predict passes.  SatPC32 and Nova for Windows on my computers.  HamSatDroid and PocketSat 3 on my Android Phone

If you don't own any prediction tools, I recommend buying SatPC32 from AMSAT.  The proceeds go to building and launching new satellites.  The author is very reachable and supports it very well.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Ham Satellite Ops on Twitter

There is a growing amount of satellite operators who are regularly sharing information, fun comments, and camaraderie on Twitter.

This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but an attempt to list some of the ones I know and am connected with on Twitter.  There are others who are satellite operators, but these individuals post relevant things to satellite operations.  I have intentionally omitted organizations, clubs, and businesses ham-sat-space-related.

@PRStoetzer (N8HM)
@AKA2112 (M5AKA)
@glasbrenner (KO4MA)
@sbelter (N9IP)
@scottxot (N1AIA)
@WyattAC0RA (AC0RA)

I don't list all hams on Twitter - someone else can do that.  These are people who are actively chatting and Tweeting about Ham Radio Satellites.  If I missed you and want to be added, drop me an email.  I didn't leave anyone out on purpose.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Satellite Lid Behavior # 103,354: Calling someone who ISN'T calling you.

It is very annoying when I call someone, only to have another station immediately call me, on a satellite pass. Not only does it disrupt the contact I am attempting to make, it doesn't make any sense.

When you hear someone calling another station, let them make contact.  At least give 5 seconds for the station being called to answer.  Geeze!

It happens frequently.  Sometimes the people calling me are individuals who I've worked and confirmed contact with 5,000 times previously.  They are often the worst offenders.  Maybe let someone else make a contact?  How's that for an idea?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The ERP Blues by W5PFG

The ERP Blues by W5PFG

They tell me I'm runnin' too much power
By golly why did AO-7 switch on me this hour?

If I turn the rig's power dial down real low
I reckon the signal still has a place to go.

Between feedline attenuation and antenna gain
My ERP still gives enough cause for people to complain.

I've got the E--R--P blues
FM'n the linear birds all day and night 'till I blow a fuse.