WOW! Being that I started out on a Mode K bird (RS12/13) and operated on it for like 6-7 years right up until it's demise in 2002 (google RS-12/13 and you'll likely see my old callsign AC5DK in many of the results), I find the news about HFsat utterly fantastic! I enjoyed Mode K very much despite having to operate semi-duplex and deal with terrestrial stations in the transponder uplink window. The frequencies chosen for HFsat will likely eliminate a lot of the terrestrial station QRM problem (WE had to be careful not to QRM THEM), but I may still have to operate semi-duplex with my current setup. However I am already in the process of putting up a Cobweb antenna at about 30 feet which will likely be an excellent choice for working this bird!
I would say that RS-12/13 was sort of like an 'Easysat' of it's day. Because IF you had an Advanced or Extra license you also likely had an HF station and could try satellites with little to no investment. (That is, whenever it was in Mode K, which was the majority of the time.) My first contact over the bird was using my Heathkit HF rig and a Hustler 4BTV mounted on the back deck. (Later I got a better antenna and added a 10m preamp.) Just like folks today with a $50 HT and a homebrew beam, not everybody that tried it stuck with sats, but at least they had a taste of what it was like and could appreciate satellites in the overall ham radio hobby. It would be great to figure out some award or operating activity to encourage use of the satellite once it is launched and operating. (being positive in my outlook there) =^) It was the pursuit of the CQ 50th Anniversary Award and the category of 'make a satellite contact' that got me to try satellites and develop a love affair with this fascinating mode of operation.
And just to reminisce... RS-12/13 used to have a Robot that you could talk to. If you got in just the right spot in the middle of the uplink window and called the bird on CW, it would answer you on one of the two beacon frequencies and give you a unique QSO number. It was not the easiest thing to do, especially semi-duplex, but I did manage to literally 'work the bird' about 4 months before it went 'end of mission'. Supposedly you could get a QSL card for such a QSO, but it was the infamous 'Box 88 Moscow' which many older ops will recognize. (I think Jerry K5OE is the only one I know to get such a QSL card and I believe it involved hand delivery.) =^D I even received a number of QSL requests by mail for Robot QSOs as some hams thought I was the manager since I ran a website devoted to operating the bird. But alas, I was forced to return them all marked 'Not the QSL manager'. =^(
Anyway, good luck to Bob & crew and know that at least someone is looking forward to the fruit of your efforts with great anticipation! And to all the ops that have never experienced Mode K operation, especially 'Over The Horizon' technique, I'd have to say, you are in for a real treat! Using that method (taking advantage of HF propagation to work stations outside of the footprint) one avid US DXer set up skeds with a number of DX stations and managed to work 100 DXCC entities JUST on RS-12/13... got your attention now?! X^D
73 all, Kevin N4UFO