Over the past 10 months, I’ve made some great new friendships - thanks to AMSAT and its good work to keep amateur radio in space. Many of those friends know that I’ve chosen “a different path to orbit” in my desire to incorporate the concept of emergency communications.
FCC Part 97 is unambiguous in noting that Amateur Radio operators’ abilities to serve the public through provision of emergency communications are, collectively, the lynchpin of the service in the United States. The more I learned about the satellites we all love, the more it became clear to me that it had to be possible to assemble an effective “emergency” station that would be true to that purpose. I began thinking of it as my rechargeable station.
By 03:15 UTC on 27 April, that possibility became a reality. Over the course of the day Sunday and into Monday (UTC), I was fortunate to work multiple contacts in SSB on AO-7, FO-29 and VO-52 using a totally portable (but full-featured) station running on full emergency power. How do I define “full-featured” in this context? My station operates full duplex, incorporates computer-controlled Doppler tuning, and can work CW, SSB, packet and all the digital modes while running on rechargeable batteries.
Sunday started out with a pleasant surprise – DJ8NY in CW on AO-7, making Germany the fourth European country to find Georgia on AO-7 in the past 10-or-so days. Oh … no; I was NOT running full battery power. Given my approach to the antenna here, those low-angle passes of AO-7 call for more than the 5 watts my fully rechargeable station can muster, so I transmit using a Yaesu FT-857D, which provides up to 20 watts out on 70 cm. I need the extra rf muscle because I work AO-7 from my shack, in a second-floor bedroom of my home, and I hand-hold my Elk log periodic antenna. Reaching the satellite when Europe and EM84 share the footprint have me pointing the Elk at a windowless wall, generally at the northeast corner of the house.
The rest of Sunday (and into Monday, UTC), I replaced the FT-857D with a Yaesu FT-817ND for transmitting. Another FT-817ND served as my receiver, as it always does (even with the 857). I use a Diamond MX-72H duplexer to connect both radios to the Elk, and use about 6 feet of RG-8X between the duplexer and the antenna. I have not yet used a receive preamp on either 2 meters or 70 centimeters. Both radios used their internal battery packs for power, as did the Acer Aspire One netbook computer I picked up last fall specifically for radio use. I have been able to configure Orbitron, SatPC 32 and Ham Radio Deluxe (Version 4.1 beta, with the Satellite Tracker software) to provide computer-controlled Doppler tuning.
With multiple CW contacts already in the log on all three satellites using the fully rechargeable station, I wanted to complete the exercise by adding SSB contacts on all three linear satellites in the same day. Thanks to Angelo (N5UXT), Leo (W7JPI), Art (K4YYL), Joe (K3SZH), Bob (KC9ICH) and everyone else I worked Sunday for their signal reports and encouragement. It was pretty neat heading to bed knowing that I had a station I could take down and set up anywhere in a matter of minutes (excluding travel time, of course) that I could use to effectively work virtually any mode available to U.S. amateurs from 40 meters through 70 cm, including all the satellites.
I mention the HF bands and use the phrase “virtually any mode” because I picked up a screwdriver vertical last fall too, and have used it or an end-fed longwire (with a manual MFJ tuner) and a Signal Link USB to make contacts using a variety of sound-card based digital modes, including PSK-31, Olivia, RTTY and SSTV. Having been totally inactive from early 1992 until about 2 years ago, I continue to be amazed at all we amateurs have to enjoy on the air.
My ISS contacts will always be my best QSOs ever. But working Europe on AO-7 and routinely making multiple contacts on passes of all of our satellites running 5 watts rf out or less – all of them with a handheld antenna and many of them from inside – won’t ever get old.
When I told Angelo what I was up to on Sunday during our FO-29 contact, he told me I needed to write it up for the AMSAT-BB. So … here it is.
My primary motivation to share all of this is to suggest to anyone who’s interested that ALL of our amateur satellites are routinely workable from stations that don’t have all the bells and whistles. They don’t even need a lot of power.
Go to the AMSAT Web site (www.AMSAT.org) and look through the descriptions of the satellites we all can work daily. With the exception of the ISS, every satellite we work is transmitting to Earth using QRP power levels – even AO-7. And none of them are using “optimum” antenna systems offering lots of gain and directivity.
Ten months ago today (28 June, 2008), I had my first-ever satellite contact – with KD8ILL in EM99 on AO-51. We both used handheld stations. I never imagined that what started with a brief QSO would have led to so many wonderful contacts and new friendships.
73 to all,
Tim – N3TL
Athens, Ga. – EM84ha
A new version of the AO-27 Schedule lister is now available!!!
The original version required one to toggle back and forth between the
Schedule and List tabs in order to update the "Schedule Time" and "Time
Remaining" values in the scroll box on the Schedule tab. This new version
refreshes these values for you every 10 seconds, automatically. It also
corrects a typo in the list of satellite frequencies on the Schedule tab.
The lister is available for download at
http://sites.google.com/site/ao27satellitescheduler, both in a
cross-platform Java version, and as a Windows executable.
There continues to be a very high interest in AMSAT Awards which means a
lot of new operators on the satellites.
We would like to welcome the following to the satellite community. They
have made their first satellite contact and are now members of the AMSAT
Satellite Communicators Club.
Benigno Gomez, XE2YBG
Chris Lemon, KB9CL
Evangelos Kafetzopoulos SV1EEK
James Cutter, W7OJS
Jim McCullough, KI4TWA
Steve Niles, N5EN
The following have earned the AMSAT Satellite Communications Achievement
L. Val Hanney, KN7D #486
Benigno Gomez, XE2YBM #487
Steve Niles, N5EN #488
(We are approaching number 500 on this award)
To see all the awards visit http://www.amsat.org or
Bruce Paige, KK5DO
AMSAT Director Contests and Awards
ARRL Awards Manager (WAS, 5BWAS, VUCC), VE
Houston AMSAT Net - Wed 0100z on SkyScanner Satellite Radio Network on
Galaxy-25 @97° West, Transponder 23 (12115 Vert), Symbol Rate: 22425,
APID: 1794 (DVB Free To Air)
Also streaming MP3 at http://www.amsatnet.com
Podcast at http://www.amsatnet.com/podcast.xml or iTunes
Latest satellite news on the ARRL Audio News
You can almost always see the power output (and a bunch of other
telemetry channels!!) of AO-51 via this very handy web resource:
So, it *IS* published frequently.
> 4. Re: May AO-51 schedule (Josh Smith)
> From: Josh Smith <juicewvu(a)gmail.com>
> Subject: [amsat-bb] Re: May AO-51 schedule
> To: Luc Leblanc <lucleblanc6(a)videotron.ca>
> Cc: amsat-bb(a)amsat.org
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
> I agree with LUC it would be very interesting if the ouput power was
> published when it was changed.
> Josh Smith
Due to rapidly increasing eclipse lengths throughout May, we need to keep
the satellite in "normal" mode for Whole Orbit Data (WOD) collection via the
BBS. Power output will steadily be decreased throughout the month.
April 27 - May 31
FM Repeater, V/U
Uplink: 145.920 MHz FM
Downlink: 435.300 MHz FM
9k6 BBS and Telemetry
Uplink: 1268.700 MHz FM
Downlink: 435.150 MHz FM
73, Drew KO4MA
AMSAT-NA VP Operations
I will be attending the Cochise Amateur Radio Association's
Larry Warren hamfest on Saturday, 2 May 2009. I'll have an
AMSAT table at this hamfest, and have satellite demonstrations
as WD9EWK during the morning on AO-51, SO-50, and VO-52 (look
for me around 145.915 MHz USB +/- on that downlink). Please
feel free to call me, if you hear me on those passes during
More information about the hamfest is available at:
After the hamfest, I plan on taking a l-o-n-g drive before
returning home late Saturday evening. I have not decided on
that route, and where I might end up for other passes later in
the day (AO-27 in the afternoon, along with AO-51 and maybe one
SO-50 pass in the evening). I do plan on working those passes,
wherever I happen to be at those times. I'm open to suggestions
on which grid(s) I should try to route my drive through. :-)
(please send suggestions directly to me, and not to the list)
Way to go Tim...
Good job, good story . . . very inspirational.
I encourage you to press onward with this, as I indicated by email.
Thank you for your enthusiasm, and making all those contacts that I haven't
been able to make time for. I'm enjoying reading of your adventures...
Keep up the good DX !
73 for now /;^)
<- Licensed in 1976, WB5RMG = Alan Sieg * AMSAT#20554 ->
<- http://www.somenet.net * http://wb5rmg.somenet.net ->
<- http://www.linkedin.com/in/alansieg * My 'Day Job' ->