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.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New Grid Op: DM71

Last week, my family and I went camping in some of our favorite Texas locations - The Davis Mountains & Big Bend.  This far western area of Texas is not populated with many satellite operators.  As a matter of fact, there are none except for rover stations such as myself.

Normally we camp somewhere either side of the DM70/DM80 line near DM70wn or DM80bo.  It is not really close to DM71 but a few people had requested I travel there.  My wife saw this opportunity to photograph a new area and so she agreed to go along.

Here are a few photos from my operation of FO-29 at DM71.  I was just south of Interstate 10 and Kent, Texas.

Looking south on TX-166.

It was an 80 degree elevation pass.

Yes, I am wearing my infamous "Top 10" Satellite Operator shirt.

Have I ever mentioned I like operating from rare grids?  It is truly better to give than to receive.

The coolest contact was to the XYL of XE1AO.  It was my first contact with a Mexican female satellite operator.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Murphy Strikes W100AW/5 at Ham-Com 2014

While doing various demonstrations on behalf of AMSAT-NA and in support of W100AW/5 operations, I ran into a series of challenges that made operating satellites difficult on June 14.

For demo rigs, we utilized W5IU's FT-1734 (two Yaesu FT-817's):  We had no trouble whatsoever with Keith's trusty demo rigs.  The antennas performed flawlessly on June 13, the first day of Ham-Com.

Murphy strike #1: Feed point on our circularly polarized 70cm antenna became detached from the driven element.

Murphy strike #2: Feed point on our 2m antenna became detached from the driven element.  This is a second antenna!

Murphy strike #3: Match on the Arrow shorting out.  This is because the plastic cap fell out sometime during its journeys..  This is a third antenna!  As AA5PK told me... "We should use Strike-Anywhere matches."

On a positive note, I had a great time working with Keith W5IU, Jerry N0JY, Tom N5HYP, and Ray WA5QGD at Ham-Com 2014.  I look forward to 2015!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Return to DL79/DL89 in the Big Bend Region

I'm visiting the Big Bend area of Texas next week.

I will operate satellite passes as my schedule allows.

June 29 - Small potential for very late evening passes from DL89
June 30 thru July 1 - Random passes from DL79/89
July 2 - Potential morning passes from DL89, evening from DM80
July 3 - Morning passes from DM80, some evening passes from DM70
July 4 - Random passes from DM80

There will be no visit to DL88jx on this trip.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Satellite Picks for Field Day 2014

Every year, many hams venture out to their Field Day sites hoping to make the 100 point bonus for a making a satellite contact.

Every year, many hams are disappointed when they cannot make the 100 point bonus for making a satellite contact.

Normally the latter is a result of poor planning.  Poor execution and lack of skill are often contributing factors but this blog post is aimed at addressing the issue poor (or non-existent) planning.

Choosing the right Satellites for Field Day:

1. FO-29 - Has the largest pass band and large footprint.  Doppler easy to manage.   Don't go overboard with big yagis.  An Arrow is sufficient for Field Day.  FO-29 should be easily heard with 3-7 elements on UHF.  Good coax and a preamp make it even better.

2. VO-52 - Easiest to hear.  May be difficult for people to work who aren't familiar with tuning their uplink.

3. AO-73 - Equally easy to hear as VO-52.  Can be difficult to adjust for Doppler for those who are new.  May not be in transponder mode, but likely will be put there by AMSAT-UK on Friday night.

4. AO-7 - Easily forced into Mode A during eclipse cycle by Alligators.  Difficult to use when there are several high-powered stations using CW or SSB.  Generally, I'd only recommend this one on very late night passes.

5. SO-50 - FM. Say no more.  I'd recommend it only for middle-of-the-night (graveyard shift) attempts.  During the day it will likely be a zoo.  Don't bother even trying to make a contact if you are not actually participating in Field Day. Give the other suckers a chance.  And please, don't call CQ.

6. AO-51 - FM.  If this satellite is on your Field Day list, you are a moron and should surrender your license.

7. AO-27 - FM.  Since AO-51 won't work for you, maybe you will try AO-27.  Not only should you forfeit your license, future generations in your family should be barred from every obtaining a license.

It is important to pick the right satellites for optimal Field Day success.

Some tips:

  1. Generate your list of satellite passes well in advance of Field Day, at least a week.
  2. Ensure your Keplerian orbital elements, time, and location data used to generate the list of satellite passes is accurate.
  3. Do not bet the farm on making an FM contact for your 100 points.  I have personally witnessed many failed attempts.
  4. Pick a good place for the Field Day satellite station.  Realize that some Field Day sites may not accommodate satellite contacts due to local RF noise and structure or terrain the blocks the horizon.
  5. Focus.  Don't turn your satellite contact attempts into a demonstration.  Often this gets people flustered, unable to focus, and opens us up to making rookie mistakes.  If you want to do a satellite demonstration, wait until you've gotten your bonus points.  OR demonstrate listening to telemetry.

Friday, June 20, 2014

My Thoughts on the W4AMI Award from AMSAT

AMSAT-NA has offered the W4AMI award for some time.  I am a holder of the award, having made over 1000 contacts on amateur satellites.  There is an endorsement, available in 1000 contact increments, up to 5000 contacts.  That being said, I will never apply for the 5000.  Below, I will attempt to explain my position.

I am not opposed to simple awards that recognize people for achievements such as "making their first contact," "working all states," and "working all grid squares."  Those are accomplishments that take determination and some level of skill.

I am opposed to an award that is based on simply using a PTT to make a volume of contacts, such as the W4AMI award.  I can understand the need for such an award, on a very limited basis, if satellite activity was down or non-existent.  

The reason I am primarily opposed to the W4AMI award is directed at FM satellite usage on birds such as AO-27, AO-51, and SO-50.  These single-channel, single-user satellites are often congested.  At the time of this posting, SO-50 is our only FM satellite.  Anything we do that encourages users to make more than one valid exchange inhibits others from the ability to make a new contact.

It is not uncommon for some stations to "hog" an entire pass of SO-50, looking to make contact with every station, and every fragment of a call sign that is heard.  It's ridiculous.  I theorize that some of the stations do so at the joys of adding another QSO to their log, regardless if that station is in their log 500 times over.

I'm not saying I'm a perfect operator and only make one contact and disengage entirely from an FM satellite pass.  I also don't make it a habit to contact each and every station heard on every pass.  That's a disease.

By allowing FM contacts to qualify for the award, the door is opened for abuse.  I suggest we eliminate FM contacts for valid entries.  There is often plenty of passband for the kind of people that want to fill their log with simple, grid-exchange QSO's.

If you are interested in petitioning the AMSAT-NA Board of Directors to eliminate FM from a qualifying mode on this award, please contact me.

I'm all for encouraging new operators and the exploration of new modes.  This award does neither.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ham-Com 2014 & Satellites

June 13-14 I will be supporting AMSAT at the Ham-Com event in Plano, Texas.  Last year I helped with some satellite demos but this year my intent is to 100% support AMSAT booth duty and demos.