Almost unimaginable, but true; most passes of AO-51 over Hawaii are "silent." The two of us whom are the most frequent AO-51 users call it "talking to the fish," i.e., no respondents. Luckily, low passes to the east often generate a gratifying west coast contact; overhead passes though are locals only.
My first "session" on the mainland was indeed intimidating! When AO-51 came over the horizon, it was not so much quieting as here in Hawaii but rather scores of voices often so intense that for moments at a time the frequency would actually be nulled. QSO's were fast paced and required careful listening. It was an adrenaline rush! Although I am still a "newbie" or sorts, I have worked AO-51 on the mainland a half a dozen times now. Things have not changed. I am always rewarded with numerous contacts, albeit short QSOs, with friendly, professional hams. In fact, I have not had a "bad experience," while working AO-51 on the mainland. I am sure there are incidents but I agree with some previous commentators that seemingly poor operating procedure typically comes from lack of experience, lack of information, lack of good equipment (esp. downlink) or a combination of the above. I do not believe during my short history on AO-51 that I have heard anything or anyone that I would consider to be blatantly malicious. As aforementioned in previous submittals, I believe education is the answer.
Yes, AO-51 is busy (on the mainland). During my early phase of satellite life, I almost gave up because I was just talking to the fish!! Fortunately, wh6bie appeared one day. With no disrespect to Kyle however, I do look forward to hearing again, the voices of the literally hundreds of hams I have had to the pleasure of talking to during my mainland visits. Much more gratifying than talking to the fish!!
I agree with your premises, but your solution (ceasing to operate via satellite) is not the one I would choose.
Yes, there is a lot of bad operating on AO-51 and other FM birds. Yes, a flying repeater is not the ideal way to put ham radio into space (I don't go as far back as you, but I remember AO-10 with fondness). Yes, a massive mess is predictable when DX like K5D is on the air.
Not that two wrongs make a right, but the K5D situation on HF is not all that much better. People screaming at each other on the air and on the clusters, intentional QRM, calls from fake stations pretending to be K5D, EU and USA stations arguing over where K5D should be listening, etc.
I took an HT with me on a 2008 DXpedition to Swan Island (HQ8R) and was quite pleased overall with the decorum. I was particularly happy to receive several nice emails from folks who thanked me for their first DX contact ever on ham radio.
In my view, the FM sats are an easy intro to this aspect of ham radio. Those who find it interesting and get into the sats will hopefully move up to the linear birds and create momentum for more of these. Those who don't will go away, hopefully without causing too much QRM. As with any type of beginner or introductory mode, we can't expect perfect operators (and boy, did I make a few dumb mistakes during my year as a novice).
You ask why the transponder sats go relatively unused. I think it is largely because of the expense. I've wondered for a long time why there is such a huge price differential between FM only and all-mode rigs. About the cheapest way to get on the transponder sats is to buy a pair of used FT-817s plus a rotatable antenna (I know that Patrick has worked them with an Arrow, but that it is easier said than done). You can put up a respectable HF station for a lower price. Not everyone has that kind of money to spend for a set-up that allows you to operate for only a couple of passes each day.
So I'm sorry that the poor operators on the FM birds have driven you away, but I think I'll stick it out for a bit longer. I agree with you about the need for more teaching and for easier-to read articles about sat operations, and hopefully someday you will join us again on the birds and on this BB.
73, Bill NZ5N
----- Original Message -----
From: "KP1-5 Project/Desecheo 2009"
Sent: Sunday, February 22, 2009 5:39 PM
Subject: 2/22/2009 AO-51 609PM Local Pass
> Here they are:
> We heard lots of others but people were looking for 2nd and 3rd
> and cost other a Q. That too bad. We are having fun.
I'm still trying to digest the extreme poor operating I heard on the last
pass. If it continues we may switch the 2nd repeater off before the end of
the DXpedition rather than to allow the behavior to continue.
73, Drew KO4MA
Anybody with the magic sat phone number know if they will be trying the ISS
repeater, which is reported active? There are some good to excellent passes
in the next few days.
"Are you of the Body?
May you know the Peace of Landru!"
The Return of the Archons
I had another good day in Mexicali today, before returning home
to Phoenix tomorrow. I didn't get up early, and missed the
morning AO-51 passes. I didn't take my FT-817NDs and related
gear to work FO-29 and VO-52 with me, so I was on the two FM
birds and one pass of the ISS cross-band repeater from the late
morning through the evening. A good day, adding 44 QSOs on
6 different passes (1 ISS, 2 SO-50, 3 AO-51) before returning
to California for the night. I was accompanied by Alex
XE2BSS/N2IX - a good friend, and for today the driver as we
went around Mexicali.
I started with the ISS pass around 1050 local time (1850 UTC).
Unfortunately, I didn't get set up in time, so I missed the
first half of the pass. I was able to work 4 stations in a
couple of minutes on the last half, so it wasn't a complete
bust. After lunch and some shopping, I went over to the state
university ("UABC", Autonomous University of Baja California -
where Alex worked for many years when I first met him) campus
and parked near a big parking lot for the first of the two
SO-50 passes around 2237 UTC. Nine QSOs in a span of 7 minutes.
I don't know if it's the K5D guys being on FM satellites or maybe
some are looking for me to pop up on the birds while on this trip,
but it has been nice to see more activity on SO-50 passes over the
past few days.
After that pass, and a stop at Starbucks near the UABC campus
(yes, they do exist in Mexico - Mexicali has 3 so far), it was off
to the "Ciudad Deportiva" sports complex where I worked a couple
of passes on Thursday afternoon. This is where I worked the
remaining passes - one on SO-50, plus 3 AO-51 passes. I had
planned to only work two AO-51 passes, but there was a third
pass at 2350-0000 UTC I decided to try. With maximum elevation
of only 6 degrees for this pass from Mexicali, I figured I might
get a couple of minutes where I could even hear the satellite.
Surprise! I could hear it for about 7 of the 10 minutes, and
made 7 QSOs in the 2357-2359 UTC window. A few minutes later,
SO-50 went by - 7 more QSOs in the log. I've been using an Elk
Antennas dual-band log periodic as my satellite antenna over
the past few weeks, and it has worked very well. Especially
on lower passes, or at the start or end of a pass when the satellite
is very close to the horizon - times I would have difficulty
hearing the satellite with my Arrow Antennas dual-band Yagi, if
I could even hear anything at all unless the satellite was up
During this time, I had been going around Mexicali with Alex
XE2BSS/N2IX. We were joined by David XE2DAK in the mid-
afternoon, and we all decided to stay at the sports complex
to chat while waiting for the best pass of the evening on
AO-51 - up to over 65 degrees elevation and to the east around
0127 UTC. This was fun to work. An orderly pass, and 15 QSOs
went in the log. By now the sun was setting, David had to go
home, but Alex and I decided to stick around to try the last
AO-51 pass we had for the evening - a 9-degree pass at 0308-0319
For this pass, Alex and I went up to the top row of bleachers
overlooking a soccer field. Although the height of the bleachers
helped with overcoming some trees to the west of the parking lot
at the sports complex, it brought me in clearer view of one of
Mexicali's TV transmitter towers (the same transmitters that were
causing havoc on SO-50 passes Thursday). I was only able to make
2 QSOs near the end of the pass, when I was pointing away from the
TV transmitter. I even tried the 145.880/435.150 repeater to see if
that made any difference with the local QRM. That didn't help
much. At least I was able to log some QSOs on that pass, instead
of noting an unsuccessful attempt to work the satellite around that
With that late AO-51 pass, that wrapped up my XE2/WD9EWK radio
operating for this weekend. Between the hamfest, visits to Mexicali
on two days (Thursday and today) plus Wednesday evening after I
arrrived, and the after-hamfest quickie road trip to the DM22/DM32
grid boundary on Friday evening, it has been fun. I'll post more
information, and probably a link to a web page with more photos
besides those already referenced in earlier messages, once I return
to Phoenix tomorrow. Sorry if I was not able to work you while I
was out here in DM22-land, and especially if I wasn't able to get
you in the log while across the border. Provided the security
situation where I might go in Mexico is good, there will be more
opportunities in the near future to hear me on the birds as
XE2/WD9EWK. I'm also hoping for more sunspot activity, so I can
have a good reason to try HF while on trips like this (either with
my FT-817NDs, or with an IC-703 - but not mobile HF).
Thanks again to Alex XE2BSS/N2IX for hanging around with me all
day today while I played radio from Mexicali. It was also nice
to see David XE2DAK, who is the secretary of the local Red Digital
del Noroeste radio club I visited on Thursday evening. And thanks
to all the stations that either worked me today and over the past
few days, along with those who tried but were unsuccessful. Even
when it was tough to get through on some passes, it has been fun
to get on from out this area. I'm sure I will find my way back
here in the not-too-distant future...
Good night, and 73!
Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK (also XE2/WD9EWK) - Calexico, California
P.S.: Yes, I am aware that these e-mails I've sent out during my
trip might be a good start for an AMSAT Journal article. I have
a ton of photos, audio recordings from the passes I worked, and
even some video clips from the past few days.
These are the calls that have been indicated to me as "in the log". There
may be more since these. If you are on this list, please don't try to work
them again. I've already heard complaints about two stations that have done
exactly this, and it's not very sportsmen-like.
Congratulations to these stations, and let's try to work together to make
this list much larger.
73, Drew KO4MA
WB4WBAH (busted due to bad handwriting, if this is you, email KO4MA)
I have a SYMEK 9k6 TNC2H which works fine on normal sat trx but does anyone know if it can handle FFSK and/or GMSK in 9k2 and ax25 format?
If not, what is the hard- or soft- ware solution for up and down linking at 9k6 with these modulations?
grateful for any pointers.
73 de andy G0SFJ